Topic: Emergency Response

U.S. fire administrator, Philadelphia and FDNY fire officials, and NFPA CEO will discuss recent events and US fire problem during live January 25 event

NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley recently penned a thought leadership blog that touched on the steps that need to be taken, right now, to educate policy makers and the public about the US fire problem. As follow up to that communication, Pauley will facilitate a timely live discussion with top emergency response leaders about recent home fire tragedies in the news and ways that community leaders can bolster fire prevention, fire protection, life safety, code enforcement, and other critical safety efforts in their cities and towns. Joining Pauley for the forward-thinking conversation at 9 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday, January 25 will be: Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator Adam Thiel, Fire Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia Joseph Jardin, Assistant Chief with the New York City Fire Department, Chief of Fire Prevention  A Special Live Event entitled Taking the Lead after Tragedy has been added at the beginning of the FREE virtual NFPA Leadership for Emergency Responders Conference which had already attracted nearly 2,000 registrants. This new dynamic addition to the professional development program is certain to resonate with fire service officers, future commanders, emergency responders, and other up-and-comers who have expressed an interest in being forward-thinking, community-focused leaders. “As we often see with catastrophes, there were breakdowns in the Ecosystem that not only precipitated the fatal events in Philadelphia and the Bronx but compounded them. In the aftermath of these incidents, there have been pressing questions about how we can help connect the dots on safety at this pivotal moment in time,” Pauley said, referring to the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™, a framework that features eight interconnected components that must work together in the interest of safety. “In response, NFPA is inviting three of today’s foremost fire authorities to take part in a live exchange that will focus on persistent fire safety challenges and what can be done to enhance safety.” Register for the live discussion or the full 10-session program (both FREE) here. The day’s educational content, including video of the live discussion, will also be available on-demand for up to one year. Attendees can earn 11 continuing education units (CEUs) upon successful completion of all the available programs.  MDM Publishing, Ltd., publisher of International Fire Fighter, International Fire Protection, UK Fire, Gulf Fire, and Asia Pacific Fire, is the sponsor of the FREE Leadership for Emergency Responders program, including the live leadership discussion.  
Malden Fire Department discussing CRR

CRR Week: An opportunity to reflect on your leadership

On January 25, NFPA is hosting a virtual event, Leadership for Emergency Responders, which will provide opportunities to dig into three dimensions of leadership specific to emergency responders: personal, technical and community leadership. My colleagues, Meredith Hawes and Chelsea Rubadou, and I will be presenting at the event to share some of our insights related to Community Risk Reduction (CRR). As we worked to figure out what messages to focus on, these are some of the leading questions we wanted to address: What does it mean to be a CRR leader? How do we meet the needs of fire department leaders and also engage a wider group of responders across a community? How can we serve motivated CRR champions who do not yet wear bugles on their shirts? What if attendees work in a role that doesn’t require a uniform? Could our message be important to them? As we filtered our thoughts through real-world examples, it became clear that role and rank are secondary to passion, dedication, and the ability to inspire others to explore the value that CRR brings to the toolkit of any safety-focused agency. While we have lots of CRR leadership examples to look to, one particular group of motivated professionals provided this clarity. These are the folks who dreamed of holding a national event to elevate CRR across the fire service and brought CRR Week to life. CRR Week arose out focused problem-solving, energetic networking, and pencil-sketched bar napkins. This celebration is a now solidified as an annual event designed to heighten awareness of the role and impact of the CRR process as a result of passionate leadership. The third annual CRR Week begins on Monday, January 17 intentionally aligning to a National Day of Service that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. CRR Week is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. It can help you start the conversations in your community about the importance of making data-driven decisions to guide risk reduction plans; encourage the fire chief to support a prevention initiative designed to support high-risk residents; and help operations crews understand the important roles they play in community safety before, during, and after 9-1-1 calls are made. To learn how to best achieve these and other CRR goals and objectives, I strongly encourage everyone to register for the Leadership for Emergency Responders virtual event taking place on January 25 or one of the many face-to-face conferences taking place this year to learn more about NFPA 1300, the industry standard for CRR. Show your passion and dedication. Inspire others to take action. Be a CRR leader. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.
Research Foundation endowment

Fire Protection Research Foundation celebrates 40 years of reducing risk in the world by collaborating with industry experts and informing audiences

Celebrating four decades of investing in safety Last week, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF or Foundation), the research affiliate of NFPA, marked its 40th year of managing projects that summarize best practices, identify gaps, and further the development of technologies that reduce risk in our world. When the Foundation was established in 1982, the objective was to protect people and property by improving fire protection systems and life safety messaging for practitioners, policy makers, and the public. The scope of the FPRF’s work has increased significantly over the decades given the all-hazards role of responders, new and persistent building and life safety challenges, evolving outreach needs, and emerging issues domestically and abroad. Like NFPA, the Foundation is an independent, nongovernmental, self-funded organization. It has its own separate board of trustees and a small but effective team that manages dozens of projects at any given time. These efforts cover everything from fire suppression systems, emergency response, public education, detection and signaling, industrial hazards, wildfire, electrical services, and the built environment. Collaboration is key to the Foundation’s 40-year success. Working with NFPA staff, FPRF trustees, professionals, and organizations around the globe, the team plans, facilitates, and releases research that helps to inform diverse audiences. In fact, FPRF research has been downloaded in more than 160 countries because of the valuable insights found within. A primary responsibility of the FPRF is to support the NFPA mission of eliminating loss in the world, and they can’t do that in a vacuum. The team relies on project sponsors to fund efforts; contractors to do the research; and advisory panels to provide subject matter expertise.  To shed further light on the 40-year FPRF milestone and the important work being done, with the help of so many others, we asked a couple of Foundation trustees to share their thoughts on efforts to make the world safer from harm. First responder skills and safety Gavin Horn, a research engineer with Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), recently concluded two terms as an FPRF trustee. During that time, he watched executive director Amanda Kimball and her predecessor Casey Grant oversee forward-thinking research that will have long-lasting safety benefits. Horn explains, “Research is important for first responders and firefighters, in particular, because it helps to provide a deeper understanding of risks that are faced on today’s emergency response calls and those that might be faced in the future. The world that firefighters respond to is continuously evolving, and sometimes those changes can have important impacts on how emergencies might unfold and how they might be resolved.  Research – along with on-the-job experience – is important as we strive to learn about risks and help first responders to understand how to mitigate an emergency effectively and safely.” Horn has been involved in several NFPA standards committees over the years including the Special Operations Protective Clothing & Equipment technical committee as well as the relatively new committees that developed NFPA 1700, Guide for Structural Firefighting (Fundamentals of Fire Control within a Structure Utilizing Fire Dynamics). He is also involved in work underway now for NFPA 1585, Standard on Contamination Control (Emergency Responder Occupational Health).  Both NFPA 1700 and NFPA 1585 have a strong basis in fire service research and have benefited from FPRF projects. The former FPRF trustee also shares that Fire Fighter Equipment Operational Environment: Evaluation of Thermal Conditions and Fireground Exposure of Firefighters: A Literature Review are two key documents that help to frame the typical environments in which firefighters work. These reports, per Horn, provide insights for firefighter training, PPE specification and selection, and help manufacturers with design. FPRF findings also provide a foundation for researchers to work from.  Scientific research and engineering expertise “Research provides the knowledge needed to ensure a safe, secure, and prosperous society. Timely knowledge from technically sound research is more important than ever as the world changes at an unprecedented rate, producing new and more complex risks. The ability to make informed decisions for policy and practice relies on scientific research to understand risks and produce practical solutions to manage them,” Lou Gritzo, Ph.D. explains. Gritzo is one of nine current FPRF trustees. The vice president of Research for FM Global became familiar with the Foundation 16 years ago when he was invited to get to know the organization by then NFPA president Jim Shannon. He has been a FPRF trustee for a year and served on the Foundation’s research advisory board for five years prior to taking on the trustee role. He also serves as the FM Global management contact for the Property Insurance Research Group and the Energy Storage Research Consortium – two advisory groups that are part of the respected FPRF consensus-building process.  In other words, he has had a front row seat to how the Foundation works and makes an impact. Gritzo points to the Foundation’s work on Li-Ion batteries as a perfect example of a series of projects, performed in partnership with the right stakeholders and technical communities, that resulted in an understanding of risks and the development of viable solutions. He hopes that audiences understand that the Fire Protection Research Foundation serves an indispensable purpose of bringing stakeholders together to develop new knowledge in a credible and timely manner. “Innovation moves faster than standards and the codes that adopt them, and the risks of today include problems that are almost always too complex for any single entity to solve at a sufficient pace. Moving forward, the ability to see these emerging risks and assemble the right talent base and stakeholders to address them in partnership, will be key to keeping pace,” he said. More on FPRF funding and deliverables With an eye toward the future, the self-sufficient FPRF works to raise the necessary funds for research in a couple of ways. The Foundation derives its funding from management fees from consortia projects; direct labor rates for grant-funded projects; attendance fees at FPRF-hosted symposiums; sponsorship of their popular online webinars; and occasional projects that are handled directly by FPRF staff. The Foundation also hosts the Suppression, Detection and Signaling Symposium (SUPDET®), which every three years becomes a joint conference with the International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection (AUBE) hosted by the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). To learn more about SUPDET, how the Fire Protection Research Foundation works, current FPRF projects, research reports, recent RFPs, upcoming webinars, and more, visit www.nfpa.org/foundation. In addition to regular blogs about upcoming and recent FPRF webinars, Foundation staff will be blogging about important research efforts underway in its 40th year. Be sure to check out the NFPA Today blogs regularly and bookmark www.nfpa.org/foundation to keep apprised of new content.
A collage of fire victims

Who dies in fatal home fires?

According to the new NFPA report, Home Fire Victims by Age and Gender, the risk of home fire death and fire injury varies by age, gender, and cause of fire. During 2015–2019, an estimated average of 2,620 civilians died and 11,070 were injured in reported home fires annually, accounting for 75 percent of the total civilian fire deaths and 72 percent of civilian fire injuries (the remaining deaths and injuries did not occur in homes). The majority of home fire victims were male (57 percent of the deaths and 55 percent of the injuries). More than one-third (37 percent) of the fatalities were 65 or older. Only 17 percent of the non-fatally injured were in that age group. The largest number of deaths (20 percent) in a single age group was among people 55 through 64 years old. Thirteen percent of the population was in that age group. Children under 15 accounted for 11 percent of the home fire fatalities and 9 percent of the injuries. Children under five accounted for only 5 percent of the deaths and 4 percent of the injuries. Three-quarters (74 percent) of the 150 people who died in home fires that began with clothing ignitions were at least 55 years of age. Only 6 percent were under 15. While smoking materials were the leading cause of home fire deaths overall, this was true only for people in the 55-84 age groups. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the victims of fatal smoking material fires were in the area of origin when the fire occurred. Three of every five (61 percent) were in the area and involved in ignition. Thirty-five percent of the smoking fire fatalities had been sleeping and 17 percent had been unable to act. Cooking is the leading cause of non-fatal home fire injuries throughout life. Eight percent of the civilians who died and half (52 percent) of the civilians non-fatally injured in home cooking fires were hurt while trying to control the fire themselves. Only one-third (32 percent) of the cooking fire fatalities had been in the area of origin when the fire started. Cooking was the leading cause of fire death among adults 85 and older. Males had twice the risk of females of dying in an intentionally set home fire. Nearly half (46 percent) of all victims of intentionally set home fires were acting irrationally when fatally injured. According to death certificate data, 64 percent of all intentional fire or flame deaths in 2015–2019 (including non-home fires) were suicides. Three of every five fatal candle fire victims (59 percent) were female, as were 55 percent of the non-fatally injured. Almost three of every five victims of fatal candle fires (57 percent) were at least 55 years old. Learn more about the characteristics of home fire victims.

It Is Time to Do More: Community Risk Reduction

Recent news out of Philadelphia tells a tragic story about the devastating fire in which 12 people died on Wednesday. While investigators work to uncover the cause of the fire and neighbors mourn those who perished, this tragedy is truly heartbreaking for all of us work each and every day to reduce the likelihood of fire in our communities. It also makes us question where the cracks within our own communities remain, and how we can do more to ensure that no one suffers this type of loss moving forward. The fire problem is complex and there are no easy answers. Risk is inherent and exists in every building. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate the risk of home fires, we can certainly work strategically to gain traction in the fight against fire. We can build on our existing knowledge. Working smoke alarms provide an important piece of the safety puzzle and provide critical early warning in a home fire. We also know that planning and practicing home escape plans helps family members learn the route to safety ahead of a scary, disorienting event. These are messages all of us well know, and they’re ones we continually work to promote among our audiences time and again. When a devastating fire like this happens, it’s a resounding signal that it is time to do more, and that it’s a time to do things a bit differently from the way we’ve long done them. Derrick Sawyer, the former Commissioner of the Philadelphia Fire Department, is a long-standing advocate for Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process of identifying local risks and planning targeted interventions to reduce those risks. In the article, Connecting the Dots, Chief Sawyer explains how data are important fire prevention tools that provide insights into the unique needs of neighborhoods across a community. The data should be considered in a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) alongside input from local stakeholders and partners to get a comprehensive view of the risks and capacity at the neighborhood level. Community Risk Reduction arms prevention specialists with a deeper understanding of the unique qualities and characteristics of each neighborhood and the people who live, work, learn, and play there.  This knowledge guides tailored interventions designed to meet specific needs and ensure resources are deployed to address those experiencing the highest levels of risk. It is an equitable approach to prevention that leads to impactful, multifaceted initiatives. Data-informed assessments, rich community partnerships, and targeted plans guided by the CRR process reduce the likelihood and the impact of home fires. It is time to embrace this new approach to fire prevention. Do you have all the data you need to accurately identify where risks within your community exist? Do you have the partnerships to effectively connect with your communities to address them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into capturing that information and making those impactful connections. But for the many fire departments and safety officials that still need more information and support to truly ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of fire in their communities, please consider what actions will you take today to better prevent fire in your communities. Taking the first steps can be daunting, but there are many ways you can begin to more effectively identify and address risks within your communities. Our CRR resources can help get you started and move toward better understanding and responding to the biggest safety threats impacting specific populations with your jurisdiction. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.
Firefighters at a catastrophic fire in Philadelphia

Tragic Philly home fire kills 13, underscoring the dangers of fire and importance of working smoke alarms*

*After this was published, local authorities updated the death toll from what was reported earlier in the day by media to 12 casualties and eight children. It’s never a good day when you get an email like this. “Hello, we have had a tragic day in Philadelphia. Thirteen people, including seven children, died in a row home fire. Twenty-one people were living in two apartments in the building and the fire department says there were smoke alarms, but they were not working. Is anyone from NFPA interested/available to speak with us about this type of situation?” And yet on so many days, year after year, this is common correspondence between NFPA and the media. While we don’t know all the details of today’s devastating incident yet or the circumstances that may have impacted this morning’s harrowing outcome, our hearts go out to the people of Philadelphia and particularly to the eight reported survivors, the victims’ loved ones, and the first responders who undoubtedly have been affected by this tragic incident. What we do know is that WPVI-TV in Philadelphia reports that fire broke out after 6:00 a.m. in a three story rowhouse in the Fairmount section of the city where 18 people lived in a second floor apartment and eight more resided on the first floor. Despite quick response from the fire department and suppression of the fire within 50 minutes of arriving, news reports indicate that there was a lack of working smoke alarms in the crowded units, despite the city testing and replenishing the units in the spring of 2021. Today’s heartbreaking incident is tied for the fifth most deadly home fire in the United States since 1980. The tragedy underscores the importance of working smoke alarms in homes – whether they are in one and two-family residences, rowhouses, or any other occupancy setting. From years of conducting research on the effectiveness of smoke alarms, we know the following: Smoke alarms were present in three-quarters (74 percent) of reported home fires in 2014–2018. Almost three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in properties with no smoke alarms (41 percent) or smoke alarms that failed to operate (16 percent). The risk of dying in reported home structure fires is 55 percent lower in homes with working smoke alarms than in homes with no alarms or none that worked. When present, hardwired smoke alarms operated in 94 percent of the fires considered large enough to trigger a smoke alarm. Battery-powered alarms operated 82 percent of the time. Power source issues were the most common factors when smoke alarms failed to operate. Additional insights gleaned from the landmark NFPA Fire Safety in the US report that was released last year shows that the biggest single factor contributing to fire safety progress in recent decades has been the use of smoke alarms, as mandated by fire and building codes, as well as continued public education about their significance. That same report shows that the largest share of reported structure fires and most of the civilian fire deaths and injuries today consistently occur in homes, where people tend to feel safest. In fact, if a home fire is reported these days, occupants are more likely to die than they were 40 years ago due to flammable contents and more open design plans, which have greatly increased the speed at which fire grows. And yet, sadly, even with this research and ongoing efforts to educate audiences on the changing fire dynamics due to modern day building materials and contents, there are still nearly 3,000 home fire deaths annually in the U.S. – far too many. We must vigilantly remind the public about the importance of installing, testing, and replacing smoke alarms – and emphasize that tampering with these life-saving units presents grave risks to safety. Furthermore, we will reduce home fire death and destruction by increasing the numbers of new one- and two-family homes built with fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers control 97 percent of the fires in which they operate, and more specifically, the risk of dying in a reported home fire is 85 percent lower if sprinklers are present. This blog posted in 2018 by the City of Philadelphia shows that officials there recognized the value of home fire sprinklers. At that time, nearly 5,000 one- and two-family dwellings in Philadelphia were outfitted with home fire sprinklers – a number that the Philadelphia Fire Department and Licenses & Inspections Department hoped would grow as the public learned more about the lifesaving benefits of these critical fire suppression systems. As we mourn the loss of these lives today, we have to use this tragedy to continue efforts to ensure the public and communities prioritize fire safety – in particular the use of smoke alarms, escape planning, and building with home fire sprinklers.
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