Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on September 14, 2021.

Air Supply

Firefighter air replenishment systems in high-rises, money for firehouse repairs, and more


New report looks at air replenishment for firefighters

Fire departments are mixed in their reaction to a novel new air-replenishment technology for fighting high-rise fires.

That’s one of the findings in a recent report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation that examines firefighter breathing air replenishment systems (FARS)—a new technology that would provide firefighters battling blazes on the upper levels of high-rise buildings with supplies of fresh air without the need to replace tanks.

“The two crucial elements necessary for firefighters to fight any fire are water and air. While water standpipes are readily accessible to firefighters in high-rises, allowing them to have a reliable immediate water source, the same is not true for air,” the foundation report reads. “Firefighter air replenishment systems are essentially standpipes for air.”

FARS technology is in its infancy, and there are no examples of it in use in high-rise buildings. Still, by surveying 200 fire departments across the country, the report found that nearly 60 percent of firefighters are already familiar with the technology. About 40 percent said they would be interested in using it, but more than 60 percent said they had some concerns over air quality and system maintenance.

“While FARS seems to be a possible replacement for conventional bottle-brigading techniques, the fire service needs information about the appropriateness, usage, quality, applicability, safety, and maintenance of the system,” the report concludes.

Bill would fund US fire station upgrades

In 2019, NFPA released a report that shed light on America’s aging fire and EMS infrastructure. It found that more than 40 percent of the nation’s fire stations are over 40 years old, with deficiencies in ventilation systems and backup power and other significant shortcomings.

Now that report has spurred national legislation to help correct the problem.

A bill introduced by three United States representatives in June would authorize $1 billion in federal funding to upgrade aging fire and EMS facilities across the country. The bill represents a bipartisan effort by US Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Michael Bost (R-IL), all co-chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

“NFPA’s 2019 research report identified significant issues such as mold and other firefighter health issues at fire stations across the United States,” said NFPA President Jim Pauley. “Too many stations lack proper ventilation, backup power, and facilities for the growing number of female firefighters. We are pleased to support this important effort by Congressman Pascrell and other leaders of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus to invest in improvements to our nation’s fire stations.”

In addition to NFPA’s support, the new legislation has also garnered praise from the International Association of Fire Fighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

NFPA names 2021 award winners

NFPA recently announced the winners of a number of annual awards, including the James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal and Life Safety Educator of the Year.

Gary Keith, former president of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) who also spent years working at NFPA and FM Global, won the 2021 Shannon Advocacy Medal. Throughout his career, Keith was a staunch advocate for home fire sprinklers; less than a year after he joined NFPA in 1995, he spearheaded efforts that would eventually lead to the formation of HFSC. He also helped lead NFPA’s efforts to pass fire-safe cigarette legislation, among other accomplishments.

Lauri Volkert, a fire inspector from Windsor, Connecticut, won the 2021 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year award. “Creating and implementing an effective fire prevention program is critical to increased safety, but that’s often a lot easier said than done given today’s stretched budgets and staffing,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach & Advocacy at NFPA. “Lauri’s passion, creativity, and hard work have generated measurable, impactful results for the town of Windsor. We’re proud to recognize and celebrate her impressive efforts and continued commitment to safety.”

Among Volkert’s accomplishments are bringing NFPA’s Remembering When™ fall and fire prevention program to about 200 households in her community, as well as strengthening the town’s fire safety education outreach to pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students.

Also in May, NFPA, along with HFSC, announced Paul Eichler, an operations battalion chief with the Anne Arundel County Fire Department in Maryland, as the winner of the 2021 Bringing Safety Home Award. The award is given each year to individuals for excellence in advocating for home fire sprinklers. Eichler also chairs the Delaware Fire Sprinkler Coalition.

“On any given day Battalion Chief Eichler can be found talking about the need for built-in fire protection in Delaware’s new homes,” said Carli. “He uses his voice to educate, encourage, and inspire safer communities, and we are pleased to recognize these life safety efforts.”

ANGELO VERZONI is a staff writer for NFPA Journal. Follow him on Twitter @angelo_verzoni. Top photograph: Pixabay