Topic: Code Enforcement

Impairment Procedures for Sprinkler Systems That are Out of Order

NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, provides the criteria for the routine activities that must be conducted to ensure that water-based fire protection systems can be relied upon in the event of a fire. These activities range from simple visual confirmation of some things such as valve position and room temperature on a more frequent basis, to much more complex activities such as full flow tests and internal assessments at longer intervals.  All of these activities are intended to keep sprinkler systems in working order. But what about when a system needs to be shutoff for repair or maintenance? What about when a water main is broken, a frozen pipe has burst, a fire pump has failed, or another major issue has been found during inspection or testing? At that point, the building contains a compromised sprinkler system and is no longer protected at the level that is expected while the system is in service. In NFPA 25, the term for a system that is out of order, is impairment, regardless of whether or not it was planned (see Deficiencies and Impairments of Sprinkler Systems). Impairments need to be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible in order to provide the expected level of protection for life and property. If the impairment is prolonged, additional measures need to be taken in consideration of life and property protection. Planning ahead Chapter 15 of NFPA 25 is dedicated to addressing the requirements that include the measures to be taken to ensure that increased risks are minimized, and the duration of the impairment is limited. A key provision here is that the property owner or designated representative must assign an impairment coordinator to comply with the requirements of the chapter (see Responsibilities of the Building Owner for Fire Sprinkler System Inspection Testing and Maintenance). The impairment coordinator should have a detailed plan, ahead of time for how they will handle both preplanned and emergency impairments and meet the requirements detailed below. Any preplanned impairments need to be authorized by this individual prior to removing the system from service. Tag Impairment System A tag must be used to indicate that a system, or part of the system, has been removed from service. The tag must be posted at each fire department connection and the system control valve, and other locations required by the authority having jurisdiction, indicating which system, or part, has been removed from service. Anyone who is shutting down a system should use tagging procedures even if the owner does not. Tags can also be itemized in a list to facilitate proper restoration of the system to working order. As tags are retrieved, they can also be used for verification that a valve or system has been restored to service. Impairment program While the system is out of service, NFPA 25 provides details on impairment programs and what they should cover: Determination of the extent and expected duration of the impairment Inspection of the area or buildings involved and determination of increased risks Submission of recommendations to mitigate any increased risks Notification of the fire department Notification of the insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction Notification of supervisors in the areas affected Implementation of a tag impairment system Prolonged impairments In addition to these steps, what may be the most important or impactful provision is arranging for one or more of the following measures when the fire protection system is out of service for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period: Evacuation of the building or portion of the building affected by the system out of service Implementation of an approved fire watch program Establishment of a temporary water supply Establishment and implementation of an approved program to eliminate potential ignition sources and limit the amount of fuel available to a fire Restoring systems to service When repair work has been completed and the system is restored to service, the following items need to be confirmed: Any necessary inspections and tests have been conducted Supervisors have been advised that protection is restored The fire department has been advised that protection is restored The insurance carrier, alarm company, property owner, and other authorities having jurisdiction are notified that protection is restored The impairment tag(s) are removed While we certainly hope that fire sprinkler systems can be maintained in continuous service there are times where planned service, maintenance activities or unexpected circumstances cause the system to be out of service. Assigning an impairment coordinator, planning ahead, and understanding Chapter 15 of NFPA 25 will help to minimize the risk posed while the system is impaired.

2021 “Ecosystem Year in Review Report” Highlights Successes and Tragedies and Resources Needed to Help Improve Global Community Safety

Fire and life safety deaths, injuries, and losses may be unexpected, but they do not happen by chance, according to the newly published 2021 Ecosystem Year in Review report by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute. The year 2021, says the report, was one of modest improvements and tragic setbacks that included massive wildfires, a fatal collapse of an elevated subway rail, and a hospital fire that all highlight how gaps in our global fire and life safety system can lead to tragedies. These and other examples illustrated in the seven-page report are the product of weaknesses in a community’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework NFPA developed in 2018 that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, life, electrical, and other hazards. A lack of attention to any one of these elements results in greater risks and can create a significant safety threat. If just one element breaks down, people can be hurt. The Ecosystem is a key to understanding how decisions made over time can either exacerbate or control threats to safety. There are many steps to improving safety and more work to be done. But the key to reducing losses in the years to come is starting now to make these changes. Download the report to learn more. This year, the report is also available in Spanish and for the first time since the report’s inception, fire and life safety advocates can read the report in Arabic. Find additional resources and information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem on our webpage.  

NFPA Electrical Inspection Membership: Building the Future One Connection at a Time

NFPA’s commitment to electrical safety has not wavered since our founding in 1896. Over the last 125 years, we have supported many different stakeholder groups (architects, contractors, designers, engineers, first responders, and inspectors, to name a few!), each with a unique role and different objectives, but all with the shared bond of a commitment to the elimination of death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and other related hazards. Over the last several years, we heard a message loud and clear—the unique and independent voice of the electrical inspection community was being lost in a chorus of other sounds.  So we formed our Electrical Inspection Section, a member benefit available only to qualified individuals, in order to create a community for like-minded professionals to support each other in keeping communities safer through efficient and effective enforcement programs.We built the community so people could share ideas, network, help each other, and support the development and use of codes and standards.Today we are more committed than ever to supporting the electrical inspection community directly—so that NFPA can better understand the unique and diverse needs of a unique and diverse group of stakeholders, and we can work together in support of improved community safety through code compliance. A critical first step in connecting more directly is building a program to formalize these relationships, and so I’m thrilled to be able to talk about our new offering, the Electrical Inspection Membership.  This offer enables qualified electrical inspection professionals to enjoy a number of member benefits, including:  An introductory annual price of $99 A print copy of the 2023 edition of NEC as soon as it is available Access to NEC Changes Online Training (2017 and 2020 editions now; 2023 when available) Automatic enrollment in the Electrical Inspectors Member Section, including exclusive access to members-only content Access to expert 1-on-1 help with technical questions about NFPA codes and standards Subscription to NFPA Journal® with news and analysis of emerging issues Voting privileges after 180 days of membership We hope you’re as excited as we are to start building an engaged community so that we can drive compliance through collaboration and make the world a safer place! For more information and to apply, visit our page of resources for electrical inspection professionals

Improving Global Community Safety through the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem

Over the years, I have heard people say that when news of a tragedy from a fire, electrical, or other life safety hazard makes headlines, it’s unexpected and shocking. They’re partly right. These incidents are horrifying and incredibly heartbreaking. But do they really happen by chance? I don’t believe they do. Because over time, as we come to learn what caused such a disaster, almost always it was the result of pieces of a process or system that slipped through the cracks. NFPA launched the concept of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem a few years ago to drive this notion forward: we need specific components in place, working in unison, to better protect individuals, our infrastructure, and our communities worldwide. For the last few years, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute has published, “The Year in Review,” a report that highlights at some of the year’s most notable ecosystem failures and successes to see where we can improve. The latest 2021 report continues this theme of introspection, looking into several fateful events and the contributing factors that led to their deadly outcome. One story in the report about the housing situation in Chicago, caught my eye. For years we have known that cities around the world struggle with providing quality, affordable housing; Chicago is no different. When people can’t afford the cost of living, they search for less expensive accommodations, which often come with safety risks. The Chicago Tribune through an in-depth investigation found that of the city’s 170 home fire fatalities from 2014 – 2019, almost half took place in buildings where serious safety violations existed. Hazards like exposed wiring and blocked exits, nonworking or absent smoke alarms, and faulty heating were repeatedly reported to officials. The Tribune’s examination of the facts revealed that over time authorities closed hundreds of complaints without providing a follow-up to ensure repairs were completed. Further, if landlords were brought to court, the cases often dragged on for months or years while tenants continued to live in unsafe conditions. While investing in safety and government responsibility are recognizable components of the Ecosystem related to housing safety, we have to look beyond the one or two answerable roles and see fire safety as a collective system. In this case, while government must not allow special interests and cost cutting measures to override its responsibility to protect citizens, it should also lead the way and champion efforts to address code violations in a timely manner. But it doesn’t stop there. If we are to move the needle and minimize fire risks in rental housing, we must also insist on ongoing compliance with fire, life safety, and building codes and continue aggressive public education and smoke alarm distribution programs in areas that need the help the most. Another theme of note in the report focuses on a critical world-wide need for skilled tradespeople. For some time now, we have been aware of a shortage of building inspectors, first responders, skilled electricians, and construction workers, to name a few examples. In January 2021, half of the subway lines that carry Mexico City’s four million daily commuters shut down when a fire broke out in a control center. One person was killed and 30 more were injured. Less than six months later, the troubled system was hit again, this time with the collapse of an elevated rail, killing 26 people. According to investigators, inferior workmanship and the political pressure to get the job done as quickly as possible proved a deadly combination that led to this tragedy. A lack of skilled workers has a real impact on safety of everything from new housing developments to infrastructure improvements. The Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem works to bring together all these roles. Incidents like this one in Mexico remind us that to keep workers safe, we must institute programs that recruit, train, and mentor professionals, that encourage and empower more diversity in areas that were once thought to be out of reach and strengthen apprenticeship programs and education networks. We need the workforce to be able to perform their jobs safely in order to help protect the people who depend on them. The role of safety is a complex issue. But understanding where and how to start to ensure the system we have in place is working, is the key to better outcomes. Through collaboration, improved communication, and a full understanding of the principles of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, we can tackle this challenge and help reduce further loss in our communities. It’s a big world and we must protect it together. I encourage you to read these and other stories featured in this free report. Download it today, along with new versions now available in Spanish and Arabic, on our Ecosystem landing page.

Boston Author Examines the Great Boston Fire of 1872 Through the Lens of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem

Above photo courtesy of Stephanie Schorow The Great Boston Fire of 1872 exemplified the 19th-century conflagrations that were blazing across the United States at that time. The massive fire, which came just nearly a year after the Great Chicago Fire, burned for two days in November. It swept through Boston, leaving the downtown in ruins and a population devastated and in shock. It turned out to be one of the most expensive fires per acre in U.S. history. But most people were unaware of just how close Boston came to destruction. So said Boston-based author, Stephanie Schorow, who took the opportunity at this year’s Conference & Expo to use the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem concept to examine the conditions that led to that fire 150 years ago. Her session, built on the material in her newly published book, “The Great Boston Fire: The Inferno that Nearly Incinerated the City,” took us back to this fateful time in history and helped distill the lessons we can learn from today. “When you examine the fire [from the point of view of the Ecosystem], we can see why it was so devastating,” Schorow told a packed room of attendees, “and why the solution to urban conflagrations has to be multi-faceted.” Disasters, she said can be interpreted as a series of events or a system, rather than one single event. In addition to her research, Schorow, a former reporter for the Boston Herald, the Associated Press, and the Stanford Advocate, and a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, introduced a wealth of archived materials to help tell her story. Items such as period photos, drawings, and maps, gave attendees a first-hand look into the 1872 fire and how it greatly impacted the Boston community. At the start of the presentation, NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute Director, Meghan Housewright, introduced the Ecosystem concept to help set the stage for Schorow’s story. Stephanie Schorow and Meghan Housewright Following the session, attendees joined Schorow in the 125th Anniversary Lounge where she signed copies of her book. You can learn more about Schorow and the Great Boston Fire of 1872 by visiting her website. More information about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem is available at nfpa.org/ecosystem. 
Structural reinforcing steel that serves as the pool shell bonding

Code Compliant Electrical Installation the Key to Swimmer Safety and a Secure Electrical System in Pools

Now that summer has arrived, many of us will be taking advantage of the nice weather to jump into swimming pools to cool off. But what many people don’t realize, is there’s a lot to keeping us safe from electrical hazards in these wet environments. Much of this depends on the initial electrical installation. Something that is often overlooked after the pool has been installed and inspected, is maintenance of the pool and associated pool equipment. As we all know, Father Time is not always kind to electrical installations, which may require re-inspections for safety. Based on changes to the 2020 National Electrical Code® (NEC®) the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) is permitted to periodically inspect and test pools. If they so choose, municipalities can now implement a process to periodically inspect and test pools, associated pool equipment, and the equipotential bonding after the initial installation inspection to help ensure reliability and continued safety. A code compliant electrical installation for a pool, completed by a licensed qualified electrician, is vital to the overall performance of the electrical system and the swimmer’s ability to cool off safely. The conductive pool shell, perimeter surfaces, metal forming shell for underwater luminaires, ladder cups, diving board bracket, the water, and other metal surfaces are where the equipotential bonding system is found. This equipotential bonding system surrounds the pool with connections to a #8 AWG solid copper conductor. This solid copper conductor is terminated to all the above points then routed underground or within the concrete, back to the pool pump motor and terminated on the grounding lug located on pump motor. The NEC in Section 680.26(B)(6) requires sufficient length in the equipotential bonding conductor for future pump replacement. Best practice would be to provide enough additional conductor to terminate it anywhere on the motor in the event the lug is not in the same location. These connections are crucial to equalizing the electrical potential of all conductive surfaces, ladders, diving boards, underwater luminaries, and water that are all found with pools. Because pools are subject to corrosion and use corrosive chemicals, terminations, many of which are underground or within concrete, must be listed and labeled for the environment they are being installed in. People often think that once a pool is installed, all they need to do is add chemicals to the water and clean the pool. This myth is where problems arise as maintenance and periodic inspection and testing of the pool equipment is a very important part of the overall electrical safety of the pool. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) need to be tested in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions, which is typically monthly. Also, as a part of the maintenance, grounding connections should be checked for corrosion, loose connections, or rust; all of these can inhibit the functioning of the equipotential bond, which could result in an electrical shock or an electric shock drowning (ESD). If corrosion is seen on any terminations, those points should be cleaned and or replaced by a qualified person as these connections are crucial to the safety of the people who use the pool. Pool pump motors do not last forever and therefore must be replaced, which requires the disconnection and reconnection of the equipotential bonding conductor from the motor. As previously mentioned, additional slack in the solid copper conductor is required at the motor location for motor replacement because consideration was taken for bonding lug location. When a state chooses to legislatively adopt the 2020 NEC, which makes it enforceable by an AHJ, Section 680.4 permits the periodic inspection and testing by the AHJ of the pool system. This may help encourage the maintenance and repair of the pool system and equipotential bond.   Maintenance on pools, associated pool equipment, and the equipotential bonding system is no different than maintaining a car by getting the oil changed. It is not difficult to do; the 2020 NEC provides this direction and is instrumental in helping to prevent a fun day at the pool from turning into a tragedy. Find additional information and resources for electrical inspection professionals at nfpa.org/electricalinspection. NFPA 70 the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) is now available in NFPA LiNK™, the association’s information delivery platform with NFPA codes and standards, supplementary content, and visual aids for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners. Learn more at nfpa.org/LiNK.   
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