Author(s): Fred Durso. Published on May 1, 2012.


Free Samples
With more than 130 topics divided into 12 tracks, the education sessions at NFPA’s Conference & Expo provide a veritable smorgasbord of fascinating topics, from a safety makeover of the Statue of Liberty to the demise of landline telephone networks and what it means for alarm signals. Here’s a short list of highlights designed to whet your appetite.

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2012

By Fred Durso, Jr.

Statue of Liberty: A Fire Risk Analysis
Eric Rosenbaum, Hughes Associates, Inc.
Wednesday, June 13, 8 – 9 a.m.

The task seemed monumental: Take a 19th-century structure towering 305 feet (93 meters), implement an assortment of safety improvements that comply with today’s codes and standards, and make sure the upgrades only minimally impact the structure’s historic fabric.



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If anyone could endure such rigor, it’s Lady Liberty. Celebrating her 126th birthday this year, she’s withstood the test of time (with the help of a facelift in 1986 for her centennial) and is now undergoing needed repairs and upgrades to her interior. The U.S. National Park Service (NPS), which maintains the monument, has initiated a series of fire and life safety improvements (at an estimated cost of $30 million) in advance of allowing visitors to once again access observation areas in the statue’s pedestal and seven-point crown. 

But upgrading such a unique and historic structure wasn’t as simple as following provisions in relevant codes and standards. What actually occurred was a constructive integration of safety and historical preservation—a task that was achieved with assistance from NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code; and NFPA 13, Installation of Sprinkler Systems. “It was the goal of the Park Service to make [the monument] as code compliant as possible without losing key historic elements,” says Michael Ferreira, senior engineer at Hughes Associates, the consulting firm that developed a series of recommended improvements to the Statue of Liberty. “One of the unique aspects of this project was that decisions were made with numerous types of stakeholders, not just engineers.”

Ferreira’s colleague, Eric Rosenbaum, will explain how a team of engineers, preservationists, and NPS officials decided on improvements to staircases, elevators, and an alarm system in this beloved landmark while keeping its historical significance intact.

Watch for a feature story in the July/August issue of NFPA Journal that provides further details on the upgrades at the monument, which attracts an estimated 3.5 million visitors annually.

Ordinary People and Fire Extinguisher Effectiveness
Kathy Notarianni, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; William Hicks, Eastern Kentucky University
Monday, June 11, 8 – 9 a.m.

“We know that fire extinguishers are useful in putting out a fire, but can ordinary people use them?” asks Kathy Notarianni, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “There are lots of anecdotal stories going around — people can’t use them, they’ll never get water on the fire, they’ll get hurt. We want to know if that’s really the case.” 

Along with Assistant Professor William Hicks from Eastern Kentucky University, Notarianni recruited 250 students, faculty, and staff from both campuses, handed them an extinguisher, and documented their “surprising” responses. “Most people could pull the [fire extinguisher’s] pin and get an extinguishing agent out of the extinguisher,” Notarianni says. “Come to the lecture and find out the rest.”

All-Hazard Readiness and Response: A Look at the Georgia & Alabama April 2011 Tornadoes
Cortez Lawrence, U.S. Fire Administration
Monday, June 11, 8 – 9 a.m.

The deadliest tornado event in U.S. history occurred during a four-day period last April, when more than 200 twisters touched down in five states, killing more than 300 people and injuring 2,400 others, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Cortez Lawrence, of the U.S. Fire Administration, will focus his session on the half dozen tornadoes that touched down in Alabama and Georgia and the lessons learned from senior fire officials and emergency managers on the scene.

Swing Into Summer Safety
Arthur Pullan, Consultant; Stephen Welowszky, Toronto Fire Services      
Monday, June 11, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

How did Canadian fire safety officials convince the Toronto Blue Jays to host a Fire Safety Day at Rogers Centre last year that included the distribution of baseball cards with NFPA safety messaging and an appearance by Sparky, NFPA’s spokesdog? Learn how Canada’s Fire Marshal’s Public Fire Safety Council developed its Swing Into Summer Safety Campaign, which has educated families on fire safety and injury prevention through a series of public service announcements, community presentations, and a partnership with a Major League Baseball team. After the session, you may feel inspired to initiate a similar campaign in your city.

Firefighter Health Hazards in the New Fire Environment
C. Stuart Baxter, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
Monday, June 11, 11 a.m. – noon

As if firefighters didn’t have enough on-the-job dangers to worry about, here’s one more: Today’s household fires involve heavily synthetic furnishings that can disrupt a person’s biology if absorbed into the body as the products of combustion. “These plasticizers are getting a lot of press because they’re known as endocrine disrupters,” says C. Stuart Baxter, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “They can affect actual hormones … and may cause reproductive defects.”

Baxter will highlight the dangers of these contaminants and how firefighters can protect themselves from exposure. Hint: adequate bathing is key.

Lithium-Ion Battery Assessment
Richard Long and Celina Mikolajczak, Exponent, Inc.
Tuesday, June 12, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Chances are that lithium-ion batteries — one of today’s more advanced power sources due to their superior quality and rechargeability — are already powering the majority of your electronic devices. As their usage increases, so do the concerns related to storing them in bulk quantities. Hear the findings from a literature review developed for the Fire Protection Research Foundation on the hazards associated with these batteries and how this research will aid the development of fire protection strategies.

Comparison with NFPA Codes and Standards of the 10 Largest Fires Worldwide in the Last Decade
Jaime A. Moncada, International Fire Safety Consulting 
Tuesday, June 12, 11 a.m. – noon

Jaime Moncada has an idea as to why many of the fires resulting in the largest losses of life over the past 10 years have occurred in developing countries. “The developing world is copying the architecture of the First World without really understanding what goes behind walls — fire compartmentation, sprinkler systems, fire detection,” says Moncada, director of International Fire Safety Consulting. “They’re developing this architecture very quickly … without taking into account what allowed those buildings to be built in the U.S. or Europe.”

While reporting and verification challenges can make international fires difficult to quantify as “largest” or “deadliest,” Moncada’s examples — including a recent prison fire in Honduras that killed more than 350 inmates—are nevertheless stark illustrations of the global problem, and they serve as valuable comparisons with the fire and life safety features that would have been in place had NFPA codes and standards been utilized.

Improving Workplace Electrical Safety Through Self-Assessment
Brett Brenner, Electrical Safety Foundation International
Monday, June 11, 11 a.m. – noon

If efforts to address electrical safety at your workplace need a bit of a jolt, attend Brett Brenner’s session that will highlight a new program by the Electrical Safety Foundation International that uses a self-assessment tool to identify problem areas and the resources to help correct them — including relevant NFPA codes and standards.

The Sunset of the Public Switch Telephone Network
Gregory Lapin, King-Fisher Company; Brian Daly, AT&T
Tuesday, June 12, 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The trend of more and more people disconnecting their landline phones in favor of cellular and IP technology is causing the fire alarm industry some concern. According to the session’s presenters, alarm signals might not transmit as effectively via newer technologies as they do using landlines. Hear their thoughts on how this industry can prepare itself for future changes in communications.

The 1969 Rocky Flats Fire — We Should Not Forget
Bruce Campbell, Hughes Associates, Inc.
Tuesday, June 12, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m.

The 1969 fire at the 6,000-acre (2,428-hectare) Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility in Denver, Colorado, is considered one of the largest nuclear fires in U.S. history. Though there were no serious injuries or deaths, the event required heroic action from firefighters to control the blaze and resulted in nearly $500 million (in 2012 dollars) in damage. Bruce Campbell, vice president of Department of Energy (DOE) Services for Hughes Associates, discusses the fire as well as other DOE incidents that have become important history lessons.

Looking Back on Five Years of the Fire Protection Research Foundation/NFPA Code Fund
Casey Grant, Fire Protection Research Foundation
Tuesday, June 12, 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.

Since 2006, NFPA has contributed more than half a million dollars to the Fire Protection Research Foundation/NFPA Code Fund, which stimulates research projects specifically for technical committees. Take a stroll down memory lane with Casey Grant and revisit some of the Code Fund’s achievements and unusual projects, including one that studied fire safety for “boatels” (think high-rise accommodations for boats). “One of the intended purposes of the Code Fund is to solve problems through research, and for this the Code Fund has been dramatically successful,” Grant says.

Fred Durso, Jr. is staff writer for NFPA Journal.