Author(s): Fred Durso, Scott Sutherland. Published on May 1, 2013.

Here, There Everywhere
Education sessions at NFPA’s Conference & Expo emphasize the association’s expansive reach

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2013

By Fred Durso, Jr. and Scott Sutherland

Peruse the titles of the education sessions at NFPA’s Conference & Expo and you’ll notice NFPA’s presence across a range of occupancies, issues, and professions. Curious how the legal system is utilizing an NFPA guide on fire and explosion investigations? Interested in a new push to safeguard theaters using NFPA’s codes and standards? Want to know how to fund home fire sprinkler operations in your city despite legislation prohibiting statewide sprinkler adoption? They’re just a few of the questions that will be addressed in Chicago via more than 150 education sessions, divided into 12 tracks.

2013 NFPA Conference + Expo
NFPA Conference Schedule
NFPA Conference + Expo Blog

To help you navigate all the possibilities, we’ve compiled our annual list of selected ed session highlights. For a complete listing, visit


Health Care Hot Topics and AHJ Interpretations
David Hood, Russell Phillips & Associates; James Merrill, CMS; George Mills, The Joint Commission
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

The Ripple Effects of the Adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code on the Health Care Industry
Tom Gardner, The Fire Protection Engineering Group
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

Moving Beyond RACE: The Next Step in Health Care Fire Safety
Susan McLaughlin and Steve Spaanbroek, MSL Healthcare Consulting
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

Looking into the Future of Regulations
Chad Beebe, ASHE; James Peterkin, Heery Design
Wednesday, June 12, 8–9 a.m.

The big news in the health care arena is the intended adoption of the 2012 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and others. Tom Gardner of the Fire Protection Engineering Group outlines the must-know specifics of the newest edition and how these provisions mesh with other NFPA codes and standards. Other sessions tackle more immediate concerns, including commonly cited code deficiencies and what’s needed for an effective staff response to fire. (Hint: Think RACE — Rescue, Alarm, Contain, and Extinguish/Evacuate.)


Wildfire in the Built Environment: A Case Study of the Waldo Canyon Wildfire in Colorado Springs
Brett Lacey and Christina Randall, Colorado Springs Fire Department
Monday, June 10, 8a.m.–9 a.m.

Bushfire and Community Safety in Australia
Rob Llewellyn, International Fire Protection Pty, Ltd.
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Colorado and Australia are a world apart, but they’ve both felt the wrath of wildfire (called bushfire by Aussies) and have learned some valuable lessons in the process. The costliest wildfire in Colorado history may have devastated portions of Colorado Springs in 2012, but the city’s decade-long preparatory efforts saved 82 percent of its homes. Similarly, disastrous bushfires in 2009 prompted the Australasian Fire Authorities Council to piece together a “position” on preparedness. Learn key takeaways from both incidents and why becoming wildfire-safe shouldn’t be an afterthought in your community.


Large Loss Fires and Their Connections with Fire Sprinkler Performance
Andrew Blum and Richard Long, Exponent
Monday, June 10, 8–9 a.m.

Performance of Smoke Detectors and Sprinklers in Commercial Occupancies
Jim Milke, University of Maryland
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Fire Sprinkler Initiatives: A Case Study of Creative Implementation
Maria Figueroa, NFPA; Scott Somers, City of Mesa
Wednesday, June 12, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Legislation prohibiting the adoption of home fire sprinklers got you down? Don’t fret — the education session hosted by Maria Figueroa and Scott Somers aims to reenergize the sprinkler push by providing case studies on communities funding sprinkler initiatives amid statewide bans on implementation. If you’re fancying the latest research on sprinklers in other settings, Jim Milke’s presentation will discuss how these systems and smoke detectors perform in educational, industrial, and commercial occupancies. Moreover, get the latest data on sprinkler performance in large-loss fires (damages exceeding $10 million) from Exponent, the engineering and scientific consulting firm.


The Risk of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) Exposure, Colonization, and Infection in EMS Personnel and the Patients They Treat
Thomas Walsh, Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Tuesday, June 11, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

The Intersection of Fire Safety and Sustainable Building Design
Louis Gritzo, FM Global; Amanda Kimball, Fire Protection Research Foundation; Brian Meacham, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Daniel O’Connor, Aon Fire Protection Engineering; Tracy Vecchiarelli, NFPA
Tuesday, June 11, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Firefighter Health Hazards in the New Fire Environment
C. Stuart Baxter, University of Cincinnati Medical Center
Tuesday, June 11, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

Bullets, Gun Powder, and Primers — Oh My! What Really Happens to Small-Arms Ammunition in a Fire
Richard Bielen and Derek Duval, NFPA
Wednesday, June 12, 8–9 a.m.

Sustainable design features and fire safety. Staph infections. Whizzing projectiles. Firefighters face a dizzying array of hazards, and it seems like they add more to the list every day. NFPA experts will underscore recent burn tests and related videos by the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute that analyze fire’s effect on small-arms ammunition found in sporting good stores, gun shops, big box stores, and homes. Attendees will obtain an “awareness of what the real dangers are so firefighters can make informed decisions on how to attack a fire that contains small-arms ammunitions,” says Rich Bielen, NFPA’s division manager for Fire Protection Systems Engineering. The discussion includes an overview of storage requirements in NFPA 495, Explosive Materials Code. Other sessions describe the health and safety threats posed by synthetic and “green” building materials, as well as risks from a new “superbug,” methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, which is now seen as a major public health threat.


Behind the Curtain: Safety Backstage in Live Event Theatrical Productions
Kent Jorgensen, Eddie Raymond, and Alan Rowe, IATSE
Wednesday, June 12, 11 a.m.–noon

Get a behind-the-scenes peek into how NFPA’s codes are safeguarding live theater venues. Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) will spotlight the use of NFPA codes and standards, including NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code®, as well as a recent push to instruct fire and public safety officials on what dangers may lurk backstage. “We’re increasing our involvement with NFPA,” says Alan Rowe, safety and training director for IATSE Local 728 in Hollywood, California. “There’s been a lot of high-profile accidents in the entertainment industry lately. I want to make sure everyone knows we’re out there…leading the charge in being safe. We have a responsibility of setting a safety standard, and we want to make sure people know what that standard is.” 


Case Study: Staying in Business — Holding Back a Flood for 111 Days
Tom Lentz, Aon
Tuesday, June 11, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

Record snowfall amounts and spring showers combined to swell the Missouri River in 2011, causing six dams to release water into towns from Montana to Missouri. Amid the flooded streets and impacted industry in hard-hit Omaha, Nebraska, stood nearby Warren Distribution, a manufacturer and wholesale distributor of chemical products. For nearly four months, the company staved off severe flood damage. How? “Floods typically last for a couple of days,” says Tom Lentz, chief technical officer with Aon Risk Solutions. “Their initial preparedness helped them, but they had to come up with another series of fixes and they didn’t have time to sit back and say, ‘Will this work?’” Learn all of the specifics, and why Mother Nature’s havoc is demanding emergency preparedness plans with long-term solutions. 


Investigating Fires and Explosions: How Courts Utilizing NFPA 921 Judge the Conduct of Investigators, Engineers, and Insurance Companies
Glennon Fogarty, Husch Blackwell, LLP
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

The Myths and Mysteries of NFPA 921 and 1033
Patrick Kennedy, John A. Kennedy and Associates
Tuesday, June 11, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

More than 60 court cases since 2010 have referenced NFPA 921, Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, a figure representing increased scrutiny of evidence connected to these incidents. However, not everyone has followed suit. Glennon Fogarty, partner with Husch Blackwell, LLP, explains through actual court rulings the ramifications of investigators, engineers, and insurance companies failing to fully comply with NFPA 921 guidelines. “The implications can be extraordinarily significant, ranging from the exclusion of an expert to dismissing the entire case,” says Fogarty. Myth busting is the name of the game during another session that aims to clear up all misconceptions about the content and use of NFPA 921 and its complement NFPA 1033, Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator.


Mass Notification System Maintenance: A College Perspective
Angelo Miranda and David Sylvester, Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

Canada’s Seneca College encompasses four campuses throughout the greater Toronto area. Reaching that many people during an emergency required an extensive mass notification system, which the college launched in 2010. Hear from Seneca officials about ongoing maintenance challenges and serviceability requirements, as well as lessons learned from implementing a system that keeps approximately 100,000 students in the know.


High-Rise Evac for People With Special Needs
Quentin Maver, Charlotte Fire Department; Mike Tobin, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Emergency Management Office
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

The Basics Every First Responder Needs to Know About the Disability Community
Allan Fraser, NFPA; Stacy Everson; SEEDS Educational Services, Inc.; Kate McCarthy-Barnett, FEMA; Kathryn Turner, MediPal Inc.; Jack Hudgens, Friedman Place; Chris Littlewood, St. Petersburg College
Tuesday, June 11, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Imagine the challenges involved with helping people with disabilities in an emergency. Then imagine what those challenges can be like in a high-rise setting. Monday’s high-rise session features lessons learned from a full-scale evacuation of a 12-story building for persons with special needs, while Tuesday’s interactive session will feature five experienced panelists discussing the primary needs of people with disabilities for an audience of fire service, first responders, and emergency managers.


A Risk-Based Decision Support Tool to Assist in Managing Unwanted Alarms
Marty Ahrens and John Hall, Jr., NFPA
Tuesday, June 11, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Let’s Make This the Year to do Something About the Response to Unwanted Alarm System Initiated Incidents — Collaborate to Solve Some Issues
Peter Bryan, Bryan and Associates Consulting
Tuesday, June 11, 4:15–5:15 p.m.

From 1980 to 2009, fire service emergency responses to false alarms more than doubled, from 900,000 to 2.2 million. The problem has changed from one of malicious false alarms to non-fire activations of automatic detection and alarm systems. Many fire service agencies are already working with budgets stretched thin, and the false-alarm problem only adds to demands for service that are rapidly exceeding available resources. The morning session takes a broad look at the problem and presents a risk-based tool to help agencies develop strategies to address the issue, while the afternoon session looks at a public–private partnership that helped one California agency reduce unwanted responses by 13 percent in one year.


Management of Time-Sensitive Reactive and Unstable Chemicals
Andrew Minister, Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratories
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Flammability Characterization of Lithium-Ion Batteries for Storage Protection
Kathleen Almand, Fire Protection Research Foundation; Benjamin Ditch, FM Global; Richard Long, Exponent, Inc.
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

As the recent devastating explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas illustrated, the storage of chemicals and other materials can be risky —a nd sometimes deadly — business. Two sessions Monday morning look at a pair of timely issues. The earlier session will show participants how to recognize and manage the risks for four groups of reactive or unstable chemicals that can become hazardous during storage by showing lessons learned from chemical events that have occurred due to improper storage and management. The later session will review a research and testing program designed to characterize the hazard of small-format lithium ion batteries in storage to develop sprinkler protection criteria.


Designing Fire and Life Safety Education Programs on a Dime
Maria Bostian, Kannapolis Fire Department; Marsha Giesler, Downers Grove Fire Department; Dena Schumacher, Champaign Fire Department
Monday, June 10, 8–9 a.m.

TVO Kids Push the Button Campaign
Samantha Hoffmann, Barrie Fire And Emergency Service; Marney Malabar, TVO Kids
Monday, June 10, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Buyer Beware: Counterfeit Electrical Products
Brett Brenner, Electrical Safety Foundation International
Monday, June 10, 11 a.m.–noon

The Critical Role of Prevention in Reducing Youth Firesetting in a Community
Dean Hunt, Layton City Fire Department; Angela Prawzick, Regina Fire & Protective Services; Paul Schwartzman, Fairport Counseling Services & Finger Lakes Regional Burn Association
Tuesday, June 11, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

The public is often the first line of defense in many fire-safety initiatives, from home smoke alarm programs to teaching kids about the dangers of fire to mitigating home fire risk in wildfire-prone areas. But how can you reach the public most effectively, and how can you do so on a limited budget? How do you best reach groups that are at higher risk, like younger children or older adults? An assortment of sessions addresses these kinds of questions and more, while zeroing in on specific topical issues like counterfeit electrical products and strategies for reducing youth firesetting.