NFPA Today


NFPA and IBC Occupancy Classifications when Hazardous Materials are Present

Hazardous materials are those chemicals or substances that are classified as a physical hazard material or a health hazard material (see this blog for more information). There's often some confusion around what the appropriate occupancy classification is when hazardous materials are present. Unfortunately, there isn't a straight answer. It is going to depend on what code is applicable in your particular situation. This blog is going to take a closer look at the differences in occupancy classification when using NFPA Codes and the International Building Code (IBC). For some basic information regarding the differences in occupancy classification check out this blog. Before digging into the actual differences between the codes it's helpful to understand the concepts of maximum allowable quantity (MAQ) and control areas. Although NFPA Codes and the IBC both address these concepts in their own documents, the overall approach is similar. For a closer look at how to determine a MAQ using NFPA 1, Fire Code, be sure to look at this blog. NFPA Approach One of the major differences between the way the IBC and NFPA codes address occupancy classification for spaces using hazardous materials, is the actual creation of a unique occupancy classification within the IBC. NFPA codes do not create a separate occupancy classification specific to hazardous materials. Instead, regardless of whether they contain hazardous materials or not, all buildings are given an occupancy classification(s) based on how the space is being used and the expected characteristics of the occupants. Then, if the building contains hazardous materials additional provisions must be met. If the hazardous materials in a given control area exceed the MAQ, additional protections are required. These are called Protection Levels and they range from Protection Level 1 to Protection Level 5. It is important to note that although a building must comply with the additional protection levels, the occupancy classification itself does not change. This means when the MAQ is exceeded and NFPA documents apply, you are required to comply with both the requirements specific to that occupancy as well as the appropriate protection level requirements for that hazardous material. NFPA Approach- Protection Levels Features for Protection Level 1 through Protection Level 3 are intended primarily to provide protection from physical hazards. Protection Level 1 is the highest level of protection. This protection level is required when high hazard Level 1 contents exceed the MAQ. These materials are unstable and can pose a detonation hazard. Examples of high hazard level 1 contents include Class 4 oxidizers; detonable pyrophoric solids or liquids; Class 3 detonable and Class 4 unstable (reactive) solids, liquids, or gases; and detonable organic peroxides. This protection level requires that the materials be stored in a one story in height, detached building that is used for no other purpose. Protection Level 2 is designed to limit the spread of fire from materials that deflagrate or accelerate burning. Additionally, the protection features are designed to limit the potential for fire to spread from an outside source and affect the hazardous materials in the building. This protection level is required when high hazard Level 2 contents exceed the MAQ. These materials present a deflagration hazard or a hazard from accelerated burning. Examples of high hazard Level 2 contents include Combustible dusts that are stored, used, or generated in a manner that creates a severe fire or explosion hazard; Class I organic peroxides; flammable gases; nondetonable pyrophoric solids, liquids, or gases; and Class 3 water-reactive solids and liquids. Protection Level 3 is one of the most common protection levels encountered in the general inspection of storage and industrial operations that use hazardous materials. These types of operations and storage facilities normally operate with amounts of hazardous materials greater than the MAQ while conducting business. This protection level is required when high hazard Level 3 contents exceed the MAQ. These materials readily support combustion or present a physical hazard. Examples of high hazard level 3 contents include Class IIA, Class IIB, and Class III organic peroxides; Class 2 solid or liquid oxidizers; Class 2 unstable (reactive) materials; and oxidizing gases. Protection Level 4 is intended to mitigate the acute health hazards resulting from the storage, use, or handling of high hazard Level 4 materials. These contents include corrosives, highly toxic materials, and toxic materials. The objective is to protect evacuating occupants and arriving first responders from being injured by these hazardous materials. Protection Level 5 applies to semiconductor fabrication facilities. Buildings that require Protection Level 5 must comply with NFPA 318, Standard for the Protection of Semiconductor Fabrication Facilities. IBC Approach The IBC uses a High-Hazard Group H, occupancy classification for buildings that, among others, manufacture, process, generate, or store hazardous materials in excess of the MAQ in a control area. There are 5 sub-categories within the High Hazard Group H occupancy, H-1 through H-5 which closely resemble the protection levels in NFPA documents. IBC Approach- Occupancy Subclassifications H-1 is the subclassification for buildings that contain hazardous materials that pose a detonation hazard. H-2 is the subclassification for buildings that contain hazardous materials that pose a deflagration hazard or a hazard from accelerated burning. H-3 is the subclassification for buildings that contain hazardous materials that readily support combustion or that pose a physical hazard. H-4 is the subclassification for buildings that contain hazardous materials that are health hazards. H-5 is the subclassification for semiconductor fabrication facilities and comparable research and development areas. Although at first glance it seems like NFPA and the IBC handle things extremely different, the overall concepts are actually not all that different. The IBC creates an entirely separate occupancy classification while NFPA uses protection levels. In both cases, compliance with additional provisions is going to be required to minimize the risk associated with the presence of hazardous materials in those quantities.  
House on fire with firefighters on the scene

Register to attend free Research Foundation 40th anniversary webinar series

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA®), is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In support of celebrating four decades of facilitating research in support of fire and life safety community, the FPRF will conduct a two-day free webinar series on August 24 and 25, 2022, which will cover research topic areas and themes that are aligned with research priorities of FPRF and the fire and life safety industry. This two-day webinar series consists of presentations by subject matter experts addressing the following themes: Day 1: August 24, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET Reduce Residential Fire Losses Fire Safety in the US since 1980 Cooking fires Impact of Medications on Older Adult Fall and Fire Risk Strategies for Community Resilience Wildland & Wildland Urban Interface Fires CAREDEX: Disaster Resilience in Aging Communities via a Secure Data Exchange Global Community Resilience Data Collection and Data Analytics to Inform Policy Global Fire data standardization Insurance Data – openIDL CRAIG 1300TM National Firefighter Cancer Registry Day 2: August 25, 11 a.m.– 3 p.m. ET Hazards of New Materials and Systems Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings Energy Storage Systems Hazards of Modern Vehicles in Parking Structures Increase Effectiveness and Reliability of Safety Systems Impact of Research on NFPA 13 Impact of Research on NFPA 72 Effectiveness of fluorine free firefighting foams Fire Fighting Safety & Effectiveness Fire Service Contamination control & PPE Cleaning validation Firefighting foams: fire service roadmap Firefighter immersive learning training Read the full agenda here. Registration is free and is required to attend the live webinar series. CEUs will only be provided to live attendees upon request. We look forward to you joining us for this webinar series. Register now!

Fire Break

Lessons learned on wildfire communication and community initiatives

Isabeau Ottolini is a PhD candidate from the Open University of Catalonia (Spain) and the European project, PyroLife. She is researching Community-based Wildfire Communication, and has recently done her research stay at NFPA’s Wildfire Division. In this blogpost, she takes us along her visit across the USA, and shares lessons learnt on communicating about wildfires. Recently NFPA hosted me for a research stay to allow me to learn first-hand about community initiatives on wildfires, and specifically NFPA’s communication activities in the USA. I started my journey in California, with Bethany Hannah - founder of The Smokey Generation and the American Wildfire Experience. Together, we visited recent wildfire sites such as the 2021 Caldor Fire and the KNP Complex Fire; met the Division Chief of Prescribed Fire and Fuels at Yosemite National Park to learn how prescribed wildfire is used in one of USA’s most emblematic national parks; and observed the impact of the recent wildfires in the Sequoia National Park. At the IAWF Fire & Climate Conference in Pasadena, Bethany and I also presented together on Fire Stories: a case for Community-based Communication. Creating viewscapes across Yosemite with the help of prescribed burns. Photo: Isabeau Ottolini   In Colorado, Megan Fitzgerald-McGowan and Aron Anderson from NFPA’s Wildfire Division took me on field visits to Boulder and Colorado Springs. We visited the Sites of Excellence site, Red Rock Ranch, as well as diverse other Firewise and Wildfire Partners communities, to learn which wildfire prevention and mitigation activities are happening at the community level. We also visited diverse areas affected by wildfires in the past 30 years (from the Berry Fire in 1989, the Waldo Canyon Fire in 2012, to the most recent Marshall Fire), to learn how ecosystems and communities are impacted and recovering after wildfire disaster. Lastly, I had the great opportunity to present her research at the NFPA C&E in Boston. Here I shared Lessons from the US and Europe on Wildfire Communication with Communities at Risk. During my last days in the US, I partook in the day-to-day of the NFPA office, and together with Michele Steinberg visited a recent wildfire-affected area in the Blue Hills as well as the Six Ponds Firewise community in Plymouth. Lessons learned On my visit, I crossed the USA from west to east, observing very different fire landscapes and being inspired by many great community-based wildfire initiatives – including Firewise, the Sites of Excellence, Fire Adapted Communities, and Wildfire Partners – that make wildfire mitigation and prevention possible on the community level. Here are four lessons on how to communicate about wildfires and support community-based wildfire initiatives. There are no silver bullets nor quick fixes to prevent and mitigate wildfires. Wildfire communication needs to be adapted to local contexts, and this requires actively engaging with communities, listening to them, and reading the room. For instance, if a community has just lost homes to a wildfire, it is likely not the best time to talk about good fire. As wildfire communicators, we need to meet people where they are at. Take the time to first learn about their needs, knowledge, and interests, and then jointly develop wildfire actions that are most feasible, relevant and rewarding for each community. Sharing responsibility: the wildfire issue is too big to be addressed only by certain groups, like the fire service or public administrations. Experience shows that community-led initiatives can achieve so much in mitigating and preventing wildfire disasters, so it is crucial to involve and empower them to take action. In addition, recognizing and celebrating community achievements helps maintain motivation, such as by making visible their efforts (e.g. by putting up Firewise signs, sharing success stories in the media, etc.) as well as providing support (e.g. how to get grants for fuel reduction efforts). Lastly, it is essential to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships between communities, fire departments, public administrations, etc. Especially in informal settings, people can genuinely listen to each other, understand each other's challenges, find ways to help one other, and build great collaborations. Because at the end of the day it is all about building this human connection and working together on creating a more hopeful wildfire future.
People putting debris in the chipper

“Sites of Excellence” Pilot Program and Report Highlight Challenges, Best Practices, and Recommendations for Firewise USA Sites

In 2019, NFPA began working with seven active Firewise USA® sites in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin, challenging them to improve their resilience to wildfire. These efforts formed the basis of a two-year pilot program, “Sites of Excellence,” designed to increase participation in active wildfire risk reduction through a more focused approach. Over the course of the two years, the communities concentrated on these goals: To have 100 percent participation of homes within the designated pilot boundary (sites were able to self-identify up to 100 co-located homes in each pilot site). To complete identified mitigation tasks within 30 feet of every home, based on recommendations from individual assessments. At the end of the two years communities reported higher levels of engagement and interest in the Firewise program and wildfire mitigation efforts, and helped prove that community wildfire resilience is achievable. It was challenging work, but according to Michele Steinberg, NFPA wildfire division director, the program underscored the true power and impact of Firewise communities working together to reduce their collective risk to wildfire. A free report and interactive story map are now available. Each provides a view into the challenges, successes, and best practices discovered during the pilot. The findings will be used to help direct future Firewise program changes as well as inform policy that can support increased implementation of risk reduction practices in communities facing wildfire threats to life and property. Download the free report and take some time to navigate through the story map to learn more about the communities and their work. We hope the lessons learned in the program can help enhance your own community’s wildfire risk reduction efforts.

Safety Source

Kids with fire hats

Register Today: Fire Prevention Week™ Webinar

“Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” is the theme of this year’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW) held October 9 – 15. The theme highlights the speed with which fire and smoke spread in a home fire, giving residents as little as two minutes or less to escape from the time the smoke alarm sounds. In addition, this October represents the 100th anniversary of FPW, the longest-running public health observance on record in the U.S. Join us Thursday, August 18th, 12 - 1 p.m. ET to learn about this year’s theme which reinforces the critical importance of developing a home escape plan with all members of the household and practicing it regularly. Learn about the fire science behind the theme along with tools and resources to help your organization have a successful FPW, and what you can do to celebrate 100 years of fire safety. Special guest speaker Wendy Shields, Ph.D., MPH, from Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy, will discuss the “The intersection of housing, socioeconomics, and fire.” Register today for this free webinar designed specifically for fire and life safety, injury prevention, burn prevention, and public health education professionals to support your efforts to raise awareness of critical fire safety issues, expand your reach in your community, and make an impact on fire injury and death rates.  Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis, Sparky the Fire Dog® on Twitter and Facebook and NFPA on Instagram to keep up with the latest in Fire and Life Safety education.

Use our FREE Fire Prevention Week (FPW) toolkit to make this October a true success in your community!

With Fire Prevention Week™ (FPW™), October 9-15, just over two months away, now is the time to plan for successfully launching the campaign in your community. We have everything you need to put your plans into action. From social media cards, sample news releases, and safety tips sheets to lesson plans, videos and much more, our FPW materials can help you reach your entire community with age-appropriate messages that support this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” Here's a sampling of the resources available from our FPW toolkit: Social media cards: Use our social media cards to promote home escape planning and practice messages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Available in English and Spanish, all cards have been properly sized for the associated platforms. FPW logos: The official FPW logo highlighting this year’s theme, “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape.™” is available in multiple sizes and formats; English and Spanish versions are available. Lessons and activities: A home fire escape grid, fire safety action plan, and a smoke alarm safety calendar are just a few of the many educational activities and resources for all ages that you can download and share. Media and communications resources: Ready-to-use press releases, fundraising letters and proclamations can help promote FPW in your community with “fill-in-the-blank” areas to customize information for your community. Ideas and recommendations: If you’re not sure about how to implement FPW in your community, check out our “Out of the Box” section, which offers a host of events, projects, and programs to get your FPW campaign up and running. Of course, this is just a small sampling of all the resources available at Visit the site to see everything we offer to help support your FPW efforts. Also, the site is updated periodically, so make sure to check it regularly for new resources and information! Last but not least, the FPW catalog features a wide range of materials you can purchase to support your efforts this October. Products like brochures, banners, and stickers - to name just a few - make it easy to promote and distribute time-tested, age-appropriate information throughout your community.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Family in living room

Home Fire Sprinklers, Working Smoke Alarms, and Family Escape Plan Prove Vital in Protecting Homes and Lives in Maryland and Massachusetts Fires

For fire safety advocates, home fire protection success stories are big news for us. Home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Recent successful saves in both Maryland and Massachusetts help illustrate this message. In July, a family in Fallston, Maryland experienced the unthinkable when a home fire broke out while an infant was in an upstairs bedroom. What could have gone so tragically wrong that day went perfectly in this case, thanks to fire sprinklers and signaling smoke alarms. The infant was saved. In fact, no injuries occurred in this fire and property damage was limited to the kitchen, where an unattended candle was determined to be the fire’s cause. The Fallston Volunteer Fire Company arrived at the scene at 10:15 a.m., discovering a fire in the kitchen with a single activated fire sprinkler. According to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, the homeowner had been outside the home at the time of the fire. She heard the smoke alarm, and because the activating sprinkler had controlled the candle fire, she was able to safely evacuate her infant from the second floor.  Why was this family so fortunate when every day we read the tragic news stories about other home fires? Maryland requires fire sprinklers in all new-construction homes. In a press release, State Fire Marshal Brain S. Geraci pointed out that fire sprinklers are proven to save lives, prevent injuries and protect property. The best home fire safety practice is a combination of working smoke alarms, fire sprinklers and an escape plan. This story’s happy ending proves these are a winning combination. Naturally, we celebrate each home fire sprinkler save as if it is the first. Happily, these saves are reported more frequently as more homes are being protected with fire sprinklers. Sometimes, the reports provide bittersweet real-life, side-by-side education examples. That was the case this spring, when the Hopkinton (Massachusetts) Fire Department responded to two similar home fires. Both homes were under construction and both fires were caused by the careless disposal of oily rags. Fortunately, no occupants were in either home at the time. One home was protected with fire sprinklers while the other was not.   When firefighters arrived at the sprinklered home, they found a single sprinkler had activated, confining the fire and damage to a small area in the dining room. The home had just received its certificate of occupancy and workers had been preparing for the homeowner to move in. According to Hopkinton Fire Chief William Miller, the sprinkler save was the third in that development in the past three years. Each one has involved a single sprinkler containing the fire and limiting its damage. Unfortunately, it was a very different outcome for the unsprinklered home. Upon arrival, Hopkinton firefighters found smoke and flames coming from the house, which was built in an area outside the water district and therefore had no fire hydrants. The need to bring in tankers resulted in delays in extinguishing the fire, even with mutual aid coming from multiple nearby departments. Ultimately, the house was a complete loss. The moral of these stories is that when it comes to new construction, home fire sprinklers are vital to protecting the people who live in the homes as well as our first responders. Fire sprinklers, smoke alarms and escape plans are a win-win for every community, large or small. And as the Hopkinton fire loss showed, homes built in areas without fire hydrants are a particularly strong argument for the installation of home fire sprinklers. Learn more about home fire sprinklers by visiting

Virtual reality makes home fire sprinklers a local reality

It’s not always practical to conduct a live burn to showcase the true value and impact of home fire sprinklers, but as we all know, seeing is believing. At the NFPA Conference & Expo®, HFSC Communications Manager Peg Paul and I led an education session about a powerful way to conduct a side-by-side sprinkler demo that doesn’t involve actual flames: virtual reality (VR). HFSC’s new VR home fire and sprinkler activation video is changing the way we fire and life safety educators reach our audiences, especially the ones that are hard to reach. That’s because this side-by-side is truly portable; it requires no construction, no permitting and no live fire. And because the attendees at our session had such a positive reaction to the new VR resources, I wanted to share them with you. State-of-the-art virtual reality The VR video was produced using state-of-the-art cinematic technology to capture actual house fires in two identical living rooms. In one room, viewers experience the fire in real time until flashover occurs. In the other room, they see how the high heat from the fire activates the sprinkler, controlling the fire and smoke. The comparison video showing the difference with sprinklers is especially memorable. The attendees in our session agreed that one of the strongest features is that what viewers see is real. Unlike VR animation, this resource offers a realistic educational opportunity to understand what a home fire is like, and how vital fire sprinklers are to escape, survival and property protection. Intended for adults, the dramatic video is available at no cost on HFSC’s YouTube channel for anyone to view in 2D. This gives them the ability to experience the video by using a smart device to “move around” in the fire rooms. We encouraged attendees to consider using the VR video to reach and educate future homebuyers in their communities. Through digital advertising, HFSC is targeting people planning to build new homes, primarily millennials – the demographic making up the largest share of homebuyers of any generation. In a survey of homeowners, 80% of millennials who were educated about how sprinklers worked said they would prefer a to buy a home with home fire sprinklers. With a strong new-home construction market, that finding underscores the importance of widespread education in most communities. Advertising the facts about home fires and fire sprinkler technology, and the new, free virtual reality video online, is proving effective. Since the video was posted five months ago, it has been viewed more than 350,000 times with the average view time of three minutes. We invited attendees to link to HFSC’s YouTube channel, website and post the VR video on their department websites directly and I encourage you to do the same. Social media is another smart method to reach consumers. HFSC offers a variety of downloadable social media cards to simplify posts to any social account. Virtual reality in 3D To explore the value of an enhanced 3D experience, HFSC has been evaluating cost-effective 3D glasses that are used with a smart phone. With the smart phone open to the YouTube video, the user clips their phone onto the reusable glasses and experiences the VR video in dramatic 360-degrees. Our session attendees loved them! In addition to offering the glasses through fire and life safety conferences, including C&E, HFSC recently shared the glasses with 50 Built for Life Fire Departments that are using and evaluating them as part of their community risk reduction outreach. HFSC Immersive Virtual Reality Kit for fire educators The most immersive experience with this virtual home fire and flashover video is achieved by wearing VR headsets. HFSC has produced a small number of full-scale VR kits complete with 15 headsets, a presenter laptop and a self-contained rolling case.  Using the kit, the presenter can show the new VR video to a group or use the headsets with individuals. The kit can be transported and used indefinitely. HFSC is currently evaluating the effectiveness of the immersive kit in five regions throughout the country. Using funding from a 2021 FEMA FP&S grant, this evaluation is targeting varied stakeholders who play a role in determining if new-construction homes will be protected with fire sprinklers. In addition to the fire service and AHJs, these stakeholders include developers, builders, planners, building officials and other local decision-makers and water purveyors. By bringing the immersive VR experience to them, fire and life safety educators are finding it much easier to reach and educate these stakeholders. Based on 400 evaluations to date, local results are promising. More than 90% of users said it was a realistic experience and gave it high marks for the ability to “move around” in the rooms. When asked to rank the educational benefit of the experience, 85% gave it the highest rank. A few members of the fire service said the immersive experience was so realistic they could almost smell the smoke. Incentives can seal the deal Peg and I devoted a lot of our session to talking about how this new virtual educational tool can enhance local AHJ outreach to builders and developers. We shared HFSC’s developer incentive program, which provides free information and case studies on AHJs who have used it successfully to increase sprinklered new-home construction in their jurisdictions. We had an active discussion with attendees about the challenges fire departments face dealing with sprinkler myths, code update challenges and other negativity that impacts even voluntary sprinkler installations. As a result, in communities without new- construction home fire sprinkler requirements, local developer incentives are an essential strategy for AHJs to achieve protection of entire developments. Fortunately, the incentive approach is effective. Regardless of code restrictions, AHJs have the authority to offer valuable incentives (aka trade ups) and they are using this power with increasing success. Developer incentives, best negotiated at the pre-approval stage, are offered in exchange for full sprinkler protection to facilitate profitable infrastructure flexibility. By taking advantage of these, developers can utilize land better for higher revenue and reduce infrastructure and other construction costs. The upshot? A local AHJ-led developer incentive program is a mutually beneficial strategy that helps achieve Community Risk Reduction goals, protecting residents, firefighters and the entire community. See for yourself why this new virtual reality home fire and sprinkler activation video is a better side-by-side! And please, share your experiences with us so we can keep improving this resource.

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