Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on January 2, 2019.



NFPA releases new drone standard

In November, NFPA released a new standard offering guidance for first responders on the use of small unmanned aircraft systems, often referred to as drones, in public safety.

The standard—NFPA 2400, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) Used for Public Safety Operations—was developed by a committee of public safety leaders, including fire, police, and EMS professionals, who already use drones in their line of work.

“NFPA 2400 provides an [American National Standards Institute]-accredited roadmap for public safety entities to create a drone program that is based on the most current industry knowledge,” Michael Wixted, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 2400, said. “The standard is designed to help public safety officials define criteria, understand program elements, train staff accordingly, and plan for various scenarios long before a drone program launches or any technology takes flight.”

An NFPA Journal article on the development of NFPA 2400, published in July 2017, shed light on the many ways drones can be used in public safety. “Their numerous applications include searching for missing persons and locating disaster victims; inspecting hard-to-reach locations, such as the underside of bridges; scanning hundreds of square miles of forest for early signs of wildfire; securing buildings and rooftops ahead of parades or large public events; and allowing incident commanders to see important details of fire scenes,” the article reads.

Read the full article, “Real Guidance,” and learn more about the new standard online.

Responders who died from 9/11 illnesses eligible for honor

Thanks to a bill proposed by a Democratic U.S. representative from Queens in 2017 and signed into law by President Trump in November, first responders who died of illnesses related to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City are now eligible for the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor.

The medal was originally created in 2004 to honor first responders who died at Ground Zero. As the ongoing toll of that response has become better understood, the proposal was made to expand its scope.

“In the hours, weeks, and years after September 11, thousands of brave men and women worked tirelessly at Ground Zero and elsewhere to search for survivors and clean up the wreckage,” Rep. Joe Crowley (D-New York), who sponsored both the 2017 bill and the bill in 2004 to create the original medal, said in a statement. “They dug through rubble, clawed through cement and metal, and breathed in dust loaded with chemicals and toxins. They were told that the air was safe, but it wasn’t. And now, many of our public safety officers are gravely ill, and thousands have died. These brave public safety officers answered the call in our city’s—and our country’s—darkest hour. They, too, are heroes and deserve this recognition.” In 2016, NFPA Journal interviewed a doctor from Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York on the high rates of cancers and respiratory illnesses being reported in first responders—as well as rescue and recovery workers, construction and utility workers, and even residents—who spent time at Ground Zero. Read the interview online.

Ghost Ship lawsuit to move forward

The California Supreme Court declined in November to hear an appeal of a judge’s decision to let a massive lawsuit related to the deadly December 2016 Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland, California, move forward. The suit, which involves over 80 plaintiffs suing the city and others, could spell trouble for Oakland, which had appealed the original court ruling by arguing that it is immune from liability for the fire.

“It’s a case that could end up costing the city and setting a precedent for other California public agencies who also have been protected by broad immunities in civil lawsuits,” the East Bay Times reported in December.

“It seems like so many people knew about the conditions, we just want justice, we want the truth to come out,” a parent of one of the 36 victims of the fire told the newspaper. The warehouse, which had been illegally converted into a living and performance space, had never been inspected by the city.

The incident shed light on the widespread issue of the undocumented repurposing of buildings, which can be hard to contain. “It can fly under the radar of enforcement,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley told NFPA Journal for an article published a month after the fire. Read the story online.

NFPA recieves award for exterior wall tool

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat has given NFPA an Innovation Award for its Exterior Façade Fire Evaluation and Comparison Tool (EFFECT).

EFFECT was released in early 2018 in response to fires occurring worldwide in high-rises with exterior walls containing combustible components like plastic cladding, such as the Grenfell Tower fire that killed over 70 people in London in June 2017. The tool lets users input data about a group of buildings to determine which ones are at the highest risk for a fire involving combustible exterior wall assemblies.

“EFFECT is a great tool to further the conversation of combustible cladding risk mitigation,” one user told NFPA Journal. “Cladding replacement is invasive and expensive and it can be challenging to highlight existing risks and incentivize building owners to invest in addressing these issues. EFFECT is an easy, and arguably proactive, way to input data about a building and get a clear and concise rating that is unbiased.”

EFFECT and other resources from NFPA on combustible exterior wall assemblies can be found online.

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