Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on July 1, 2017.



Navy research could lead to safer batteries

Faulty or ill-fitted lithium-ion batteries in tablets, laptops, toys, and phones have been blamed for multiple fires and injuries, and recently caused an airplane to be diverted mid-flight. Now, researchers think they may have found a safer solution: refined, rechargeable zinc-based batteries.

Previous versions of rechargeable zinc batteries, which contain a nonflammable, water-based electrolyte (lithium-ion uses a flammable organic electrolyte), were known to short-circuit and fail because of the formation of tiny spikes made of zinc atoms known as dendrites, which build up over time on the electrode, the part of the battery through which electricity flows. The dendrites grow and replicate and can pierce parts of the battery.

To get around the problem, chemists at the United States Naval Research Laboratory recently developed a zinc battery with a three-dimensional, sponge-like electrode that prevents dendrites from forming on it, according to an article published in Science in April. Researchers are now testing the new batteries in the hope that they could one day be a suitable replacement to lithium-ion for everything from consumer electronics to electric vehicles.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation has published a series of reports on lithium-ion battery safety.

DEA issues guidance on fentanyl response

As use and supply of the deadly opiate fentanyl continues to rise, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has issued guidance for first responders.

The written guide and accompanying video, released in June, stress the importance of taking precautions, including the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). Just 2 to 3 milligrams of fentanyl—roughly the equivalent of five to seven grains of table salt— is potentially fatal, the DEA said.

As chronicled in “Chasing a Killer” in the January/February issue of NFPA Journal, fire, police, and EMS departments across the country have been hit with a wave of overdose calls, with some departments responding to multiple calls per day. The increasingly powerful drugs put responders at risk of accidental overdose. In May, a patrolman in Ohio had to be revived with four doses of the opioid-reversal drug Narcan after he brushed fentanyl powder off his shirt without wearing gloves. A similar incident involving two emergency medical technicians occurred in Maryland later in the month.

FPW message focuses on escape planning

Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out,” is the theme for this year’s Fire Protection Week, which will be held October 8–14.

According to a recent NFPA survey, nearly half of all Americans have not developed a home fire escape plan, and do not practice one regularly. Evidence suggests, however, that planning and practice can mean the difference between life and death in a home fire. “Every Second Counts: Plan Two Ways Out” will not only seek to teach the public what a home escape plan entails, but also about how quickly home fires can spread and how little time residents have to escape safely. “People tend to think they have more time to escape a home fire than they actually do, and that over-confidence may play a role in why some people don’t develop a home escape plan or practice it regularly,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA vice president for Outreach and Advocacy.

More information about Fire Prevention Week and this year’s campaign can be found online.

Bryant tapped as next U.S. Fire Administrator

Longtime Oklahoma City Fire Chief G. Keith Bryant is the choice to be the next U.S. Fire Administrator, the Trump administration announced on May 18.

The U.S. Fire Administration, part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, provides national leadership on issues such as fire prevention, preparedness, and response for fire and emergency services stakeholders, according to the administration’s website.

Bryant is an NFPA member and has served on NFPA committees and other bodies, including as past president of the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, a section of NFPA. He has been chief in Oklahoma City since 2005. Bryant is also a past president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and currently serves on the National Fallen Firefighters Advisory Committee and the Advisory Board for the Municipal Fire Protection Program.

JESSE ROMAN is associate editor for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: AP/Wide World