Author(s): Fred Durso. Published on November 1, 2010.

Codes 101
Codes and standards take center stage at NFPA’s December conference in Orlando 

NFPA Journal® , November/December 2010 

By Fred Durso, Jr.

Curious about the controversy stemming from wet locations in health care facilities? Need advice on the egress requirements specific to your facility? Unclear about the details surrounding a proposed code change?


For additional conference details, including the most up-to-date event schedule, visit

Mike Hazell, NFPA director for Web Publishing, will be blogging during the conference, providing as-it-happens news and highlights. Follow him at

Nearly 20 NFPA staff and committee members will address these and other timely issues at NFPA’s Fire and Life Safety Conference, December 13 to 17 in Orlando, Florida. The event will provide guidance and technical know-how during more than 50 education sessions divided into four tracks: building and life safety, codes and standards, fire suppression, and detection and alarm.

“This conference is a great way for us to combine some of the most sought-after code topics in a single week,” says Kim Fontes, NFPA’s division director for Product Development. “It will provide participants an opportunity to hear directly from NFPA staff experts and committee members who work directly with the codes and standards.”

Hot topics at the conference include a session by Christian Dubay, NFPA’s vice president of Codes & Standards and chief engineer, on the recent Standards Council action to prohibit the use of antifreeze in residential sprinkler systems. NFPA staff liaisons will give an updated report on the status of the new recommended practice, NFPA 3, Commissioning of Fire Protection Systems. They will also provide updates on NFPA 10, Portable Fire Extinguishers, and NFPA 25, Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems, and will review revisions to NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code.

Dubay will join Robert Solomon, NFPA department manager for Building and Life Safety Codes, and Guy Colonna, NFPA division manager for Industrial and Chemical Engineering, for a panel discussion on the emerging fire protection issues facing clean energy, gas purging, and health care. Sessions on sprinkler hydraulics, code requirements for fire and life safety systems, explosives, and property-loss prevention will be expanded into one- and two-day post-conference seminars. Participants are eligible to receive continuous education units toward professional certification during each session.

The conference also offers six networking sessions, as well as special luncheon speakers: Tom Moses, city manager of Lake Buena Vista, Florida, who will discuss the development of Walt Disney World Resorts (see the related feature story, “Future World,” on page 58); and Hank Blackwell, retired deputy fire chief and fire marshal for the Santa Fe (New Mexico) County Fire Department, who will share his personal accounts of front-line battles with wildfires.

“The conference is a great opportunity for members to expand and enhance their knowledge of the codes they use every day,” says Victor Bishop, NFPA marketing project manager for training. “Where else can you hear 20 or so experts in the same place, at the same time?”

East Meets West
Discussions on fire-safe cigarettes, code translation, and electric vehicle safety training highlight NFPA China trip

By Fred Durso, Jr.

NFPA President James Shannon and staff met with China’s Fire Service Bureau—Ministry of Public Security in October during the China Fire 2010 Conference in Beijing to discuss the successes of NFPA’s Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes. “They were intrigued by the idea that fire-safe cigarettes can have a significant impact in saving lives,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Communications, who attended the event. “They asked the same questions that we got when we started the coalition regarding cigarette taste, cost, and readily available technology. Those were all issues we were able to address in order to move our efforts forward.”

NFPA will offer Chinese officials statistics and information on combating fire-safe cigarette myths as well as relevant legislative support, adds Carli.

China is the world’s leading producer of tobacco, according to, and the cigarette industry is state-owned and state-run. Approximately one-third of the cigarettes smoked worldwide each year are consumed by China’s roughly 300 million smokers.

NFPA and China’s fire service also extended an agreement to translate five additional codes into Chinese, bringing the total number of converted NFPA codes to 23. The additions are NFPA 268, Test Method for Determining Ignitibility of Exterior Wall Assemblies Using a Radiant Heat Energy SourceNFPA 285, Test Method for Evaluation of Fire Propagation Characteristics of Exterior Non-Load-Bearing Wall Assemblies Containing Combustible ComponentsNFPA 551, Evaluation of Fire Risk AssessmentNFPA 1582, Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments; and NFPA 1583, Health-Related Fitness Programs for Fire Department Members.

The Chinese Fire Protection Association was also interested in details on NFPA’s Electric Vehicles Safety Training Project during the conference. Funded with a $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the new effort trains first responders on potential emergency situations involving these vehicles. “There is a huge focus in China on increasing the number of electric vehicles,” says Carli. “They were very willing to work together to come up with ways where we can collaborate.” 

Hill Savvy
Gregory Cade, former USFA administrator, named NFPA’s new Government Affairs director

By Fred Durso, Jr.

Gregory Cade, former administrator for the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), has been appointed NFPA’s new Government Affairs director and will oversee the association’s legislative operations in Washington, D.C.

“I understand how some things are done on Capitol Hill, and I can bring not only my boots-on-the-ground experience but also my broad experience as a fire chief and USFA administrator,” says Cade, 60. “I see working with NFPA as a continued extension of my fire service career.”

Cade succeeds Nancy McNabb, who is now manager of building and fire codes and standards of the engineering laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

In addition to his USFA work, Cade’s 43-year fire service career has included posts as bureau chief for Maryland’s Prince George’s County Fire Department, where he spent 24 years, and as fire chief for Virginia’s Hampton Division of Fire and Rescue and for the Virginia Beach Fire Department. Immediately following his USFA appointment by former President George W. Bush in 2007, Cade turned his support for residential sprinklers into a USFA official position, emphasizing the impact sprinklers have on minimizing fire loss.

He pushed the Fire Service Intelligence Enterprise Program, developed by the Department of Homeland Security, to ensure that the fire service had access to intelligence that would assist decision makers in providing protection to local jurisdictions. While outlining the administration’s strategic plan, Cade also initiated conversations on how USFA could further address wildfires.

After leaving USFA in 2009, he became associate director of National Programs for the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), where he oversaw the National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System, Emergency Management Programs, and Intrastate Mutual Aid Programs, where his responsibilities included developing mutual aid resources in every state. “There’s certainly a lot of synergy around what IAFC is looking to accomplish for America’s fire service and the codes and standards that NFPA produces,” he says.

Cade says his personal goal while on the job is to safeguard the fire service from an economy that is still recovering from a recession. “Hopefully, we can figure out a way to help America’s fire service do its job in a safe manner, and either hold costs where they are or reduce them,” he says. “There certainly is a lot of support on the Hill, both in the House and Senate, for the U.S. Fire Administration, the fire service, and the work that it does.”

Cade’s passion for the job is evident. “I was in the first firefighter career recruit school in Prince George’s County, and it started me off with what has been an absolutely wonderful career,” he says. “There’s never been a day when I’ve gotten up and said, ‘You know what? I wish I’d done something else with my life.’”

Don’t Wait for the Beep

New survey underscores shortfalls in smoke alarm testing and maintenance  

Most U.S. homes may have smoke alarms, but most Americans don’t test them as often as they should.

That’s one of the findings of a new NFPA survey highlighting apparent misunderstandings surrounding these devices—particularly, the number required in a home, how they should be tested, and when they should be replaced. The results were released in conjunction with NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week in October, with the theme “Smoke Alarms: A Sound You Can Live With.”

Of the more than 1,000 adults randomly surveyed by phone, 96 percent said they have residential smoke alarms, but fewer than half said they test the devices every few months. One in four tested their smoke alarms twice a year, and 11 percent of participants said they rarely or never checked them. NFPA recommends such testing at least once a month.
“Over the past 30-plus years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of homes that have at least one smoke alarm, which represents a big step toward increased home fire safety,” says Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of communications. “But this survey demonstrates that, even with those gains, confusion persists about smoke alarm placement, maintenance, and testing, confusion that ultimately puts the public at continued risk for home fires.”

Only 42 percent of respondents—most of them living in single-family homes—had two to three smoke alarms in their residences. Hallways were the most popular areas for placement, but less than half of the residents had a device in each bedroom. NFPA advises the placement of at least one smoke alarm on each level of the house, including the basement and outside sleeping areas.

NFPA also suggests replacing smoke alarms every 10 years or sooner if they’re not correctly responding to tests. One-third of survey respondents said their devices are six years old or older, while 28 percent said they were unsure when smoke alarms should be replaced. 
For more information and guidance on the proper placement, testing, and maintenance of smoke alarms, visit

From the Source
Devising fire-safety strategies for high-risk populations by talking directly with the people most endangered. 

By Fred Durso, jr.

When they learned that residential fires and associated deaths were increasing in Hamilton, Ontario, city officials took a somewhat unusual approach to addressing the problem. Hamilton’s Emergency Services, with assistance from NFPA, decided to ask the city’s high-risk populations for their take on fire-prevention efforts and what was needed to combat the trend.
The findings are outlined in “Fire Prevention and Safety in the City of Hamilton: A Qualitative Research Project,” a new report that examines the responses of nearly 30 residents living in four wards experiencing an upsurge in home fires. Hamilton, located near Toronto, is one of 20 cities taking part in NFPA’s Urban Fire Safety Project, which examines the challenges facing fire- and life-safety educators, including outreach to high-risk audiences in cities with populations of 250,000 or more. 

Hamilton’s high-risk residents included students, renters, immigrants, retired seniors, homeowners living in older homes, and low-income residents. According to the report, most participants indicated they were “in the know” regarding house fire prevention, but expressed concern about the safety of their neighbors’ homes, particularly in multiple-unit dwellings where fires can easily spread. 

Low-income residents said they learned about the importance of prevention the hard way—either by experiencing a fire themselves or knowing someone impacted by a blaze. When comparing this group to residents in a higher-income bracket, fewer of the higher-income residents smoked or had experienced a fire in their home. Low-income residents also indicated frustration with landlords who they said failed to keep rental units fire-safe. Students who were interviewed said they have sufficient fire-safety knowledge, yet some could not provide details on such basics as smoke detectors or fire-escape plans.

The majority of residents deemed firefighters the most prominent and effective communicators of fire-safety messages, but said actual burn victims would also be ideal candidates. When asked what could motivate the public to take fire prevention more seriously, several residents recommended repetitive messaging on the radio and Internet, messaging that underscored a fire’s devastating outcomes.

Sharon Gamache, NFPA’s program director for High-Risk Outreach Programs, says NFPA plans to heed the advice. “I can see us using more radio to reach people, and doing more for renters by giving them information on how to negotiate for safer conditions, whether it’s with landlords or neighbors,” she says. “We are also sharing the information with fire departments to give them additional information on how best to reach people in their communities.”

To download the full report, visit