Topic: Emergency Response

Wildfire with houses in the forefromt

Time Is Running Out! Apply for Your Community Wildfire Defense Grant Today.

With tens of thousands of communities in the United States located in wildfire-prone areas, there is an urgent need to invest in mitigation measures that will reduce the risk to people and homes. Responding to this, last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act established a $500 million Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) program to help local governments and other groups plan and implement mitigation projects. After several months developing guidelines and eligibility rules for the program, the US Forest Service has opened up the grant application process. Communities with high or very high wildfire hazard potential, those that have been impacted by a severe disaster, and those that are low-income are especially encouraged to apply. Information on the application process, award size, timing, match requirements, and other basics can be found on the Forest Service’s website. One key thing to know is that applicants will need to ground their proposed projects in their Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs). Communities without a CWPP, or those with a CWPP over 10 years old, can use the grants to develop these plans. In addition to this planning process to assess the scope of the wildfire hazard and prioritize mitigation actions, the grants can be used to build other fundamentals, like sound land-use and building practices, a skilled workforce, and an educated public. Grants can be used to support implementation and enforcement for wildfire-related codes and standards including NFPA 1140, Standard for Wildland Fire Protection, to train and certify public officials and others in the community on mitigating wildfire hazards, and to educate the public through programs like Firewise USA®. Large-scale projects, like clearing fuel breaks and defensible space on private and public land, are eligible, too. But developing the foundational tools for mitigation ensures prevention and preparedness are part of the community fabric. The deadline to apply for the CWDG is October 7. However, communities that miss out this year will have an opportunity next year, as the program is set to run for five years. The Infrastructure Act provided a valuable down payment to help lower wildfire risk for millions of homes with significant exposure. Now, it will be up to communities to sustain it. Learn more about the grant program—and download a fact sheet on how the grant money can be used to invest in NFPA resources—at nfpa.org/wildfire.

First draft of NFPA 1970 proposes changes to firefighter PPE standard and will be open for review and Public Comment through January 4, 2023

In my continuing effort to keep interested parties apprised of the latest standards activity related to firefighting gear and conversations about the presence of PFOAs, the first draft of the upcoming edition of NFPA 1970, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Structural and Proximity Firefighting, Work Apparel and Open-Circuit Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services, and Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS) has been posted online and is now available for review and Public Comment through January 4, 2023. One of the proposed changes within the draft includes the elimination of the light degradation resistance test on the moisture barrier layer of jackets. It will be replaced by a multi-environmental conditioning procedure (9.1.22) that will be applied to composite test samples before certain tests. Some of the additional changes in the NFPA 1971 portion (protective ensembles) of NFPA 1970 include: Added new requirements for manufacturer indication of “PFAS FREE” gear. (6.1.7.6 & 6.4.13) Added new requirements for acceptable levels of specific restricted substances and added a test method to determine the presence and quantity of specific restricted substances. (7.1.14, 7.4.9, 7.7.6, 7.10.10, 7.13.7, 8.20, & 9.83) The Correlating Committee recommended to consider adding similar requirements for SCBA in Chapter 17 of NFPA 1970 (NFPA 1981 portion). Added requirements to test for ease of cleaning. (8.1.29, 8.4.17, 8.7.26, 8.10.19, 8.13.12, & 9.81) Added requirements to test for effectiveness of cleaning. (8.2.7 & 9.82) Added requirements to test for liquid repellency and penetration resistance of persistent contaminants. (8.2.8 & 9.84) Added requirements to test for leaching of material substances. (8.2.9 & 9.85) It’s important to note that these proposed changes and additions reflect the recommendations of the Technical and Correlating Committee on Hazardous Substances in the NFPA 1970 First Draft Report. As I outlined in a previous blog, NFPA does not create or dictate the provisions within our codes and standards. NFPA is the neutral facilitator of the standards development process; each standard is developed by balanced voluntary technical committees. It is an open and transparent process in which anyone (except NFPA staff) can review and provide input and comment. I strongly encourage everyone who has opinions, perspectives, and insights on these proposed changes to make sure their voices are heard by the committee. Comments will be accepted through January 4, 2023. Anyone who believes the first draft of the standard should be changed to address these and other topics is strongly encouraged to submit proposed changes (public comment) to the next edition of the standard. You do not have to be an NFPA member or on an NFPA Technical Committee to provide comment and propose additional changes.  Anyone (except NFPA staff) can propose a change to the standard by suggesting specific wording and providing a technical rationale through our online submission system, which is accessible at nfpa.org/1970next.  The deadline for Public Comment is January 4, 2023. In the following months, the Technical and Correlating Committees will consider all of the proposed changes received by the deadline and will develop a Second Draft of NFPA 1970.  NFPA anticipates that the Second Draft Reports will be posted for public review in the Fall of 2023. Throughout the process, the latest information on this standard can be found at nfpa.org/1970next.

Fire Fighter Safety Building Marking Systems

There are two main ways in which fire fighters currently receive information about fire protection features and construction types of a building they are responding to. The first is from a pre-incident plan (see NFPA 1620 for information about pre-incident planning) which is available as a result of prior building inspection and the second is through signage on the building. The most widely adopted signage which most fire fighters are familiar with is the NFPA 704 hazard diamond, which provides information about hazardous materials present and the fire, health, instability and special hazards which they pose. However, there is a lesser-known marking system that has been developed and incorporated in Appendix C of NFPA 1, which if utilized can provide fire fighters the basic information about fire protection features and building construction quickly and concisely as they’re arriving on scene of an emergency. Let’s look at why this type of marking system is important to fire fighters. Modern buildings are designed with fire protection features to protect both occupants and the building itself. Some of these features provide active protection, such as fire suppression systems, while others provide passive protection such as fire resistive construction. The required protection level is dictated by the codes incorporated by reference into law by the authority having jurisdiction at the time the building was designed and constructed, or under a retroactive requirement after the building is occupied. The specific fire protection features in a building, combined with the construction type will play a role in the tactical approaches to suppressing a fire in that building. So, having this information quickly and concisely displayed on the exterior of the building can enhance the fire department’s effectiveness. Although some states have adopted signs identifying construction type and location of truss construction, the fire fighter safety building marking system (FSBMS) in Appendix C of NFPA 1 goes further to include the hazard level of the contents, presence of fire sprinkler and standpipe systems, occupancy and life safety issues and other special designations. What does it look like?   The Maltese cross, which draws its origins from the Knights of Malta, has been widely adopted as a symbol of the fire service. The eight-pointed cross can be easily identified by its curved arcs between the points which all converge on a center circle. The FSBMS utilizes a rating system in each of the arms of the cross and the center circle to concisely display the hazard level, fire suppression systems, occupancy life safety issues and special hazards of a given building. The image above is an example of a FSBMS symbol. These signs should be located “in a position to be plainly legible and visible from the street or road fronting the property or as approved by the fire department.” To aide in visibility the signs should incorporate a white reflective background and black lettering.  Now let’s look at what each of the letters in the four sections of the cross identify. Rating System Construction Type The construction type is identified utilizing letter combinations in the top section of the Maltese cross as follows: FR — Fire-resistive construction NC — Noncombustible construction ORD — Ordinary construction HT — Heavy timber construction C — Combustible construction These construction types provide firefighters a general understanding of how well the building will resist collapse under fire conditions. Fire resistive construction would theoretically resist collapse the longest and combustible construction has the potential for the earliest collapse. Hazards of Contents The hazard of the building’s contents as it relates to fire conditions will be displayed on the left section of the Maltese cross as follows: L — Low hazard. Low hazard contents shall be classified as those of such low combustibility that no self-propagating fire therein can occur. M — Moderate hazard. Moderate hazard contents shall be classified as those that are likely to burn with moderate rapidity or to give off a considerable volume of smoke. H — High hazard. High hazard contents shall be classified as those that are likely to burn with extreme rapidity or from which explosions are likely. The hazard level will provide fire fighters with a general idea of how rapidly a fire will grow and spread through the building contents. This information can be used to anticipate the amount of water and firefighting resources needed to effectively control the fire. Automatic Fire Sprinkler and Standpipe System The presence of automatic fire sprinklers and standpipe systems will be displayed in the right section of the cross as follows: A — Automatic fire sprinkler system installed throughout P — Partial automatic fire sprinkler system or other suppression system installed S — Standpipe system installed N — None The general understanding of what active fire suppression systems are located in the building will guide firefighter’s tactics including apparatus positioning and hose line selection. Occupancy/Life Safety Issues The occupancy and life safety issues will be displayed in the lower section of the cross as follows: L — Business, industrial, mercantile, residential, and storage occupancies M — Ambulatory health care, assembly, educational, and day care occupancies H — Detention and correction facilities, health care, and board and care occupancies This information about building occupants/occupancy type will allow firefighters to gauge the difficulty in evacuating occupants from the building. The L occupancies representing those where the occupant load is lower, and occupants can most effectively evacuate unassisted. The M is of moderate concern where the occupant load is higher and/or the occupants may need additional assistance due to age or health conditions. The H is of high concern where the occupants may not be able to self-evacuate and considerable resources will be needed to evacuate the building. Special Hazards The center circle has been left empty to allow the inclusion of special hazards or provisions. This may be a location to include such things as truss type construction or even the hazardous materials information for example an NFPA 704 diamond, as long as the provisions for size of 704 are met. Summary Having the information on construction type, hazard level of contents, presence of sprinkler and standpipe systems and occupancy/life safety issues has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of firefighters arriving on scene. These responders would be equipped with the knowledge needed to best address an emergency in the building. States which have incorporated NFPA 1 into law should take the extra step to specifically name Annex C in the incorporating ordinance, thus incorporating a national standard the firefighter safety building marking system into law in their jurisdictions. Unless specifically incorporated by refence the FSBMS in Annex C would be a recommendation rather than a requirement. A national system has the potential to increase firefighter effectiveness while decreasing the number of fire fighter injuries and deaths by providing important information quickly and concisely as they arrive on scene. 

Fire Protection Research Foundation publishes “Firefighting Foams: Fire Service Roadmap” report

Fire incidents involving flammable liquids have historically resulted in dire consequences. Incidents can occur in aircraft hangars, shipboard spaces, flammable liquids fueling facilities, large fuel storage tanks, and other settings and can range from small, short spill fires to large tank farm fires which can burn for multiple days. A prominent example of the latter is the Intercontinental Terminals Company Deer Park petrochemical facility fire in Texas in March 2019. That fire started on March 17 and was finally brought under control on March 23. Class B firefighting foams are the primary agents used for the vapor suppression and extinguishment of flammable liquid fires in both manual and fixed system applications. Firefighting foams form a film and/or a blanket of bubbles on the surface of flammable liquids and prevent the fuel vapors and oxygen from interacting and creating a flammable mixture. For nearly five decades, Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) have been used as the dominant and effective Class B firefighting foam. Prior to the adoption of AFFF, the primary agent for flammable liquid firefighting was Protein Foams, which are derived from the hydrolysis of protein products and then delivered as aspirated foam to produce a smothering blanket of foam bubbles on the fuel surface. AFFF contains fluorosurfactants (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances [PFAS]) that provide the essential characteristics of fuel repellency, heat stability, low surface tension, and positive spreading coefficient so that an aqueous film formation can be formed on the fuel surface. AFFF has traditionally been recognized for its effective fire control characteristics. However, today these foams are now of significant concern in light of potential adverse health and environmental impact. The potential environmental, safety and occupational health risks associated with the use of fluorosurfactants such as some PFAS present in AFFFs started to become evident to the scientific community in the early 2000s. The unique chemical nature of the carbon-fluorine bond in PFAS make some of these compounds persistent, bio accumulative, toxic and have emerged as “contaminants of concern” as considered by the EPA. As a result, the ability to use AFFF to extinguish Class B fires continues to be greatly restricted due to bans in numerous States in the United States and in countries across the world such as Australia. Recently, Federal and State authorities have implemented health and environmental regulatory actions for PFAS and PFAS-containing AFFF. These regulations will ultimately impact, if not eliminate the production, distribution, and use of legacy AFFF in upcoming years. As more regulations come into place to address this issue, fire departments and other industrial end users are seeking AFFF replacements. In the meantime, the capabilities and limitations of the replacement foams and agents are continuing to be investigated through various research and testing programs to better understand their characteristics and effectiveness for various applications. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA, facilitated a research testing program (2018-20) to evaluate the fire protection performance and effectiveness of multiple fluorine free Class B firefighting foams on fires involving hydrocarbon and alcohol fuels. This study provided guidance to inform the foam system application standard, i.e., NFPA 11, Standard for Low−, Medium−, and High− Expansion Foam based on the testing conducted at the time of this research, and identified knowledge gaps and research needs so that we can better understand the capabilities and limitations of fluorine free foams. Additionally, there are multiple other ongoing research efforts. There are research programs led by the US Department of Defense’s SERDP and ESTCP underway, including  testing on the development of PFAS-free firefighting formulations, studying the fire suppression performance and ecotoxicology of these formulations as well as the cleaning technologies for firefighting equipment. LASTFIRE (Large Atmospheric Storage Tank Fires), an international industrial end user consortium, has also been focusing on the selection and use of firefighting foams for large storage tank applications. Additionally, the Firefighter Cancer Cohort Study is developing a national framework to collect and integrate firefighter epidemiologic surveys, biomarkers, and exposure data focused on carcinogenic exposures and health effects. Part of the long-term cohort study will look at the health effects of firefighters that have been routinely exposed to firefighting foams during their activities and careers. Clearly, this is a complex problem, with concerns that include fire control/extinguishing performance, health exposure, and environmental contamination. And for the fire service, challenging Class B flammable liquid fires are not going away and must be addressed. The learning from these ongoing studies have been promising and demonstrate a step in the right direction to develop a full understanding of this complex problem so that we can transition to firefighting foams of the future without experiencing “substitution regret” (i.e., to avoid multiple repeated replacements over time). The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently published the report titled “Firefighting Foams: Fire Service Roadmap.” This project was initiated with the funding support from FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, with an overall goal to provide guidance to the fire service community by developing a roadmap to transition from AFFFs to a suitable, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and effective alternative. The roadmap document is based on the information available at the time of the program. The roadmap and associated documentation have been assembled in a systematic path that covers current regulations, considerations for transitioning to replacement foam, cleaning of equipment and disposal of effluents and legacy concentrates, foam selection and implementation considerations, minimizing firefighter exposures, and ways to handle foam discharged from a cleanup and documentation perspective. A key element of this project entailed a three-day virtual workshop hosted by the FPRF late last year, October 2021. Subject matter experts delivered 28 presentations on the state of knowledge and related issues. If you missed this FPRF workshop, please visit the project website for workshop presentations, and final proceedings. Did you know the Research Foundation is celebrating its 40th year in existence in 2022? Learn more about this noteworthy milestone at www.nfpa.org/fprf40.

Five reasons why high-stakes education has a role in safety

High-stakes education refers to learning and development that results in attaining a credential.  This credential may come in many forms, including: Traditional degrees and certificates from a higher education or professional institute (i.e., Masters, PHD, or Professional Certificate Programs, etc.) Professional licenses or qualifications that allow holders to perform specific tasks and/or roles (i.e., driver license, licensed electrician, or qualified electrical worker, etc.) Contemporary micro-credentials that signify an educational or performance achievement (i.e., digital badges that can be found on BADGR or Credly and shared online) Internal or external professional certification programs and designations with qualification requirements, rigorous examination, and continuing education and renewal requirements (i.e., NFPA Certified Fire Protection Specialists, Scrum masters, Society of HR Management or Project Management Institute Certifications, etc.) Credentials can be used to prequalify candidates for jobs, projects, and promotions; bolster a company’s qualification for bidding on client projects; and in marketing campaigns to prove the company’s commitment to quality.  Regulators and employers have also used credentials to set the baseline for competency to improve performance and safety. High-stakes education and credentials help ensure that facilities, fire protection and life safety systems, and work safety programs are well designed, managed, and maintained.  This in turn keeps productivity disruption- and incident-free; lives and property safe; and operator and employer reputations free of citations, fines, and bad press. Here are five more reasons why high-stakes education are helpful within the NFPA Fire and Life safety Ecosystem™: Vigilance: Vigilance is the opposite of complacency, and complacency is the enemy of a safety culture. As workplaces and communities evolve, companies must be vigilant in their pursuit of best practices and emerging codes and standards related to safety. Training aligned with certifications developed by subject matter experts that require continuing education help to ensure that their people are getting the right training to pass a rigorous certification exam and maintaining that high bar through continuous professional development. Investing in people: The retirement of the baby boomer generation and the great resignation from the workforce have left many organizations with deep experience gaps. However, organizations can make up for some of this gap by investing in high-stakes education to consistently set and raise the baseline of knowledge and skills for less experienced professionals. An investment in high-stakes education is also an investment in the workforce, which leads to higher employee engagement, loyalty, and quality of their work. When organizations and individuals spend time and energy on high-stakes education, they become more invested in its outcome. There is a direct correlation between pride and performance for having achieved a credential through high-stakes education. Raising the bar: Employers do not want to suffer financially and reputationally for avoidable incidents. Clients do not want disruptions or rework caused by failed inspections. Code enforcers do not want to waste limited resources and time reviewing recurring non-compliant designs and installations. Credentials earned through high-stakes education and certification help skilled professionals to stand out among their competition and provide peace of mind to key stakeholders. Companies investing in high-stakes education for their workforce are signaling to internal and external stakeholders that safety is part of their brand promise and that they intend to get the work done right the first time. Compliance: Regulators demand formal training as part of safety programs. High-stakes education signals to regulators that the organization is serious about its compliance with regulatory requirements. While organizations should always complement external programs with internal education on policies and procedures, externally managed credential and high-stakes education help to alleviate internal resources for program development, maintenance, and management. Safety culture – Credentials that have regular recertification or renewal periods and continuing education requirements help to keep workforce knowledge and skills relevant. Professionals who maintain their credentials are keeping up with emerging issues, changes in codes and standards, and the latest best practices in their respective fields. These requirements promote ongoing learning and curiosity as part of an effective safety culture in today’s disruptive environment. Competent and skilled professionals are critical for any business providing services or operating with fire, life, and electrical hazards. By incorporating high-stakes education into the workforce safety curriculum, an organization is investing in its people, results, and future. Find out more on how NFPA training and certifications can deliver high-stakes education to your business and workforce.

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.  
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