Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on May 1, 2017.



Orlando chiefs share lessons learned from Pulse shooting

Although the Orlando Fire Department had trained for active shooter events, nothing prepared the department for the chaos of an event like the Pulse nightclub shooting that left 49 dead last June.

That was one of the messages from Orlando fire officials at the 50th annual meeting of the New England Division of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, held at NFPA headquarters in Massachusetts in March. The two-day event concluded with a presentation by Orlando Deputy Fire Chief Richard Wales and EMS Chief Hezedean Smith on the Pulse shooting.


The June 12, 2016, shooting was the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. But the tragedy proved to be a learning opportunity for the department, Wales and Smith said. One takeaway was learning to embrace the involvement of outside organizations like the FBI. “We were successful because of all the people we had surrounding us,” Wales said. The shooting also led to changes such as the adoption of bulletproof vests on all of the fire department’s emergency vehicles for use in active shooter events, Smith said.

An NFPA standard addressing active shooter preparedness and response is currently in the works.

Study links heat exposure to firefighter heart attacks

Sudden cardiac events are the leading cause of death among firefighters in the United States, according to NFPA’s most recent report on firefighter fatalities. That’s not surprising, given the physically taxing nature of the job.

But a new study suggests it’s not just physical exertion that contributes to heart attacks among firefighters—it’s also exposure to extreme heat.

The study, published in the journal Circulation in April, found that after a short time in fire simulation training, firefighters’ blood becomes more concentrated with platelets and more susceptible to clotting, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack. This heat-induced thickening of the blood, coupled with the physical exertion of firefighting, makes cardiac events more likely in firefighters, according to the study.

“Exposure to extreme heat and physical exertion during fire suppression activates platelets, increases thrombus [blood clot] formation, impairs vascular function, and promotes myocardial ischemia [reduced blood flow to the heart] and injury in healthy firefighters,” the study concludes. “Our findings provide pathogenic mechanisms to explain the association between fire suppression activity and acute myocardial infarction in firefighters.”

Click here to read the full study.

Defects on oil train routes abundant, inspections find

Recent government inspections of railroads that carry crude oil trains across the United States found nearly 24,000 safety defects, the Associated Press (AP) reported.

The inspections began two years ago as a result of a spate of crude oil train derailments in North America, including one that killed 47 people in Quebec in 2013. Inspections covered almost 58,000 miles of track in 44 states, and found problems such as worn rails and other equipment; broken, loose, or missing bolts that keep tracks in place; and cracks in steel bars that hold tracks together.

While the results are troubling, federal officials told AP that they hope the inspection program will make railroads more responsive to correcting issues.

Crude oil train derailments are a major concern for fire and life safety officials. Accordingly, NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) have partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and Transport Canada to help communities prepare for crude oil train derailments. “Crude oil train derailments … have the potential to overwhelm even the best equipped and trained emergency responders,” Casey Grant, executive director of the FPRF, wrote in “Off the Rails,” his “Research” column in the March/April issue of NFPA Journal.

Click here for more information.

Food truck safety makes its way into NFPA 1

The 2018 edition of NFPA 1®, Fire Code®, will include a new section on mobile and temporary cooking operations, like those in food trucks.

The changes to NFPA 1 mainly draw upon provisions in the 2017 editions of NFPA 96, Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations, and NFPA 58, Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code. Food truck safety was addressed in a new annex chapter of NFPA 96 after a food truck explosion killed two people in Philadelphia in 2014.

The changes to NFPA 1 will address a number of criteria. For example, food trucks will be required to park at least 10 feet away from buildings, combustible materials, and other vehicles or cooking operations.

Click here for more information on food truck safety.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Getty Images