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Fire Department Use of Sprinkler Systems

At the first NFPA meeting in 1896 the first consolidated set of sprinkler installation rules were established, becoming what is today known as NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. Formalizing the sprinkler installation standards increased fire sprinkler effectiveness, however, a gap still existed in the use of fire sprinkler systems. In 1933 a brochure titled “Use of Automatic Sprinklers by Fire Departments” was published providing fire departments with guidelines on how to best capitalize on the effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems during incidents. This brochure evolved over the next 33 years into the Recommended Practice for Fire Department Operations in Properties Protected by Sprinkler and Standpipe Systems, NFPA 13E first published in 1966. Today NFPA 13E provides the information necessary to ensure fire departments are trained on and operate effectively with automatic fire sprinkler systems. Although some fire sprinkler systems are designed to suppress a fire, most are designed to control a fire. The main difference between fire control and fire suppression is related to the fire sprinkler systems impact on the fires heat release rate. The graph below depicts fire control (dotted line) versus fire suppression (solid line). Fire sprinklers controlling a fire result in a steady heat release rate, keeping the fire from growing, and fire sprinklers suppressing a fire will result in a decreasing heat release rate. The three principal causes of fire sprinkler system failures identified in NFPA 13E are a closed control valve, inadequate water supply for the system and occupancy changes that render the installed system unsuitable. Beyond the primary causes found in the recommended practice, NFPA has conducted research on the U.S. Experience with Fire Sprinklers to help understand fire sprinkler effectiveness. Let’s take a second to review the three main causes found in the recommended practice all of which responding fire department personnel can impact positively. Closed control valve Familiarization with the types of control valves and their layout in a system allows firefighters to both understand what valves will disrupt water flow and what position have they should be in for effective operation. Should they encounter a valve which is not in the correct position during a fire, placing that valve in the correct position may restore the system effectiveness. This is not a hard and fast rule however, since the fire may have already operated more sprinkler heads than the available water supply can support, making the system ineffective. Additionally, fire departments should never turn off a sprinkler system that has activated until they have confirmed the fire is fully extinguished and overhaul has taken place. Even if ventilation is needed to increase visibility and conduct search and rescue, the system should remain operational to control the fire as these tasks occur. Once this occurs, steps should be taken to identify if only a portion of the system needs to be shut down (a zone) rather than the entire system. Anytime the system is shut down a firefighter with a portable radio should remain at the control valve to immediately open the valve should the fire not be fully extinguished. Simply turning the system back on may not reestablish fire control. Fire sprinkler systems are designed to control a fire utilizing a specific number of sprinklers at a design pressure and flow. If the system is shut off prior to the fire being extinguished the potential exists for additional heads beyond the design to activate. When the system is turned back on the available water supply may not cover the operated heads leading to ineffective water application and a fire that is no longer controlled. Inadequate Water Supply The water supply may be inadequate due to a lack of available water flow, lack of available pressure or both. Since fire department pumpers often have the capacity to supply water at higher flow rates and pressures than the normal water supply, utilizing a fire department pumper to supply water to the fire department connection (FDC) can address most inadequate supply concerns. The FDC will often bypass many of the control and check valves in the system, supplying water directly to the operating sprinklers. NFPA 13E recommends a pressure of 150 psi (10 bar) to effectively suppl fire sprinkler systems, unless additional signage is provided to indicate a different pressure. The fire department can also have a negative impact on the water supply to a fire sprinkler system. Although fire sprinkler systems are designed with a hose stream allowance or amount of water the fire department may potentially need to fully extinguish the fire, this may not be sufficient. For more information on fire flow check out this blog Calculating the Required Fire Flow. The hose allowance accounts for water needed at the base of the fire, which if the fire department cannot effectively apply water to the base of the fire, more may be needed. Utilizing more water from the supply than accounted for has the potential to reduce the sprinkler system effectiveness, eliminating its ability to control the fire, resulting in fire growth and the need for more water. Supporting the system through the FDC ensures that even if more water is needed than the original allowance, the sprinkler system still has an available supply at an effective flow and pressure. Occupancy changes Although the fire department does not have an ability to impact occupancy changes during a fire incident, an effective preplan and inspection program has the potential to identify occupancy changes which can adversely impact fire sprinkler system effectiveness before fires occur. Training those conducting these inspections to understand what types of commodities would represent a high heat release rate fire and how to identify if a sprinkler system could be designed to deliver the necessary water density can reduce this potential cause of failure. Summary As with all NFPA recommended practices, the language is less rigid than a standard or code, utilizing “should” instead of “shall” as to not limit the individual fire departments, allowing them to adopt more effective procedures. Familiarization with NFPA 13E provides anyone who may be utilizing a fire sprinkler system the knowledge necessary to positively impact the systems effectiveness.  Check out NFPA 13E to help your department identify the recommended training and operations for those responding to emergencies involving activated fire sprinkler systems. Interested in learning more, check out the resources below for additional information on fire sprinkler systems and fire department access. Sprinkler system Basics: Types of Sprinkler Systems The Basics of Sprinkler Thermal Characteristics Types of Sprinklers NFPA 1: When is Fire Department Access Required?

Fire Break

A facilitator listening to a group

Outthink Wildfire summit works to build a bridge between barriers to wildfire mitigation and strategies to overcome them

As the past several years have shown, the mounting wildfire crisis in the U.S. presents a significant danger to people, homes, and communities, particularly those in wildfire urban interface (WUI) settings. While we know what’s needed to measurable reduce these risks, putting them into action requires buy-in and support from individual property-owners, communities, and policymakers at each level of government. Therein lies the challenge. Motivating these audiences to do their part isn’t always easy. But to truly increase safety from wildfire, we need to identify viable pathways to better combat the growing wildfire problem and put those measures into action. As a next step toward that end, NFPA hosting its first Outthink Wildfire™ summit last week in Sacramento, CA. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year as a major policy initiative to stem the tide of wildfire-caused human and property losses through significant changes at all levels of government. Outthink Wildfire is about how we build, where we build, and bringing policymakers, fire service and the public together to solve the problem. The summit focused on developing a set of recommendations for the built environment, primarily tackling ways to get existing homes better protected from wildfire. Representatives from nearly 40 organizations were invited to share their input, insights, and recommendations, and to help create a template for effectively reducing wildfire risks in WUI communities. While space for this event was limited, it serves as a launchpad for many more individuals and organizations to participate going forward so that we can collectively move the needle on wildfire mitigation. Outthink Wildfire participants (in alphabetical order) American Property Casualty Insurance Association Brian Meacham Associates Build Strong America CAL FIRE California Association of REALTORS® California Building Industry Association California Building Standards Commission California Fire Safe Council California Fire Science Consortium/Cal Poly San Luis Obispo California Governor's Office City of Austin (TX) Fire Department Colorado Div. of Fire Prevention & Control Colorado Wildfire Partners Desert Research Institute Fire Marshals Association of Colorado U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) Insurance Information Institute International Code Council Munich Reinsurance America, Inc. National Association of State Fire Marshals National Disability Rights Network National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST) National Volunteer Fire Council National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) NorCal Fire Prevention Officers Oregon Building Codes Division, Dept Consumer & Business Svcs Oregon Fire Marshals Association Oregon State Fire Marshals Office Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) Foundation Sonoma County (CA) Fire Prevention & Hazardous Materials Div. Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment U.S. Fire Administration UL Fire Safety Research Institute USDA Forest Service Western Fire Chiefs Association Wildland Fire Leadership Council A full report on the summit and next steps will be released in the coming months. In the meantime, a tremendous thank you to the 50-plus representatives who attended the summit this week. The enthusiasm and commitment displayed reinforces my hope and belief that we will truly be able to meet the ultimate Outthink Wildfire goal of eliminating wildfire hazards in 30 years. I also look forward to hearing from all the wildfire safety advocates and officials who were not at the summit but would like to get actively involved in the Outthink Wildfire initiative. It takes buy-in and engagement from all of us to make holistic, impactful wildfire mitigation a reality.
Hands holding a house

Spring in to action: financial preparedness for wildfire

As we work through the last month of spring, NFPA wants to make sure you are ready for wildfires.  There are many actions when it comes to preparation ahead of a wildfire, one important step that often gets overlooked is financial preparedness. Homeowners and renters need to have property insurance in place to help recover from a wildfire or other disaster. Recent wildfire losses are highlighting a real problem of underinsurance. According to a posting on insurance.com, "Most homes are underinsured. Nationwide estimates that about two-thirds of American homes are underinsured. Some homes are underinsured by at least 60 percent and the average is about 22 percent. CoreLogic estimates that three out of five American homes are underinsured by an average of 20 percent." This means that when a loss from wildfire or other disaster occurs, much of the repair or rebuild cost will fall on the homeowner as an out-of-pocket expense. To ensure your coverage is update to-date, our friends at American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) recommend doing the following each year: Update your policy after remodels or home improvements. Ask if your policy has coverages for three key things to prevent underinsurance: Extended replacement cost; Building code upgrade coverage; and Annual inflation adjustment. Be sure your policy reflects the correct square footage, number of bedrooms / bathrooms and doors and windows. Make sure your policy reflects your home’s finishes like granite countertops or hardwood floors. Renters need property insurance too. Consider bundling renters’ insurance with your auto coverage. Add comprehensive coverage to your auto policy to protect car in a wildfire Another important step to determine if you have enough coverage to replace your possessions is to create a home inventory. This task may seem daunting, especially if you've been in your home for many years, but it can be manageable. Some simple steps from the Insurance Information Institute include: Pick an easy spot to start, an area that is contained such as a small kitchen appliance cabinet or sporting equipment closet List recent purchases Include basic information – where you bought it, make and model, what you paid County clothing by general category Record serial numbers found on major appliances and electronic equipment Check coverage on big ticket items Don't forget off-site items Keep proof of value – sales receipts, purchase contracts, appraisals Don't get overwhelmed – It's better to have an incomplete inventory than nothing at all When creating your home inventory, embrace technology! Take pictures or videos, back them up digitally. There also many apps available to help organize and store your records. The current wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico remind us that wildfires can occur any time of year when the conditions allow.  Start your financial preparedness now – visit APCIA to download the How to Update Your Insurance and How to Create a Home Inventory tip sheets to guide your annual insurance review.  Share with your friends and family so they can be ready too!

Safety Source

National Electrical Safety Month works to keep people safe from electrical hazards, including those associated with “smart” technologies

As National Electrical Safety Month continues this May, it’s worth taking a moment, it’s worth taking a moment to be grateful for all the ways electricity keeps our daily lives buzzing and humming as we expect and assume it will. And because we rely on electricity every day, most often without incident, we tend to forget that electricity does pose real risks. In fact, people are killed or injured by electrical hazards each year, but many people aren’t aware of these dangers. Sponsored by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), National Electrical Safety Month works to raises awareness around potential home electrical hazards and the importance of electrical fire safety. This May’s theme, “Connected to Safety,” focuses on emerging technologies that make our homes safe and efficient and ways to use them safely - from understanding how to charge electrical vehicles at home and use household electrical safety devices to working safely with or around solar panels and temporary power. During National Electrical Safety Month, households are encouraged to take these simple steps to reduce risk: Arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs) shut off electricity when a dangerous condition occurs. Consider having them installed in your home. Use ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) to reduce the risk of shock. GFCIs shut off an electrical circuit when it becomes a shock hazard. They should be installed inside the home in bathrooms, kitchens, garages and basements. All outdoor receptacles should be GFCI protected. Test AFCIs and GFCIs once a month according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You do not need a flame to start a fire. Fires can start when heat builds up near things that burn. This can happen when a hot light bulb is near things that burn, such as cloth or paper, or a cord has been placed under a carpet.  In addition, residents should have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician, including scheduling electrical inspections when buying or remodeling a home. Even during this time of social distancing, electricians are still working and considered essential businesses in every state. At the NFPA C&E this June, a special panel presentation on Ground Fault Circuit (GFCI) Protection will be on Monday morning at 8:00am, reviewing the role GFCI has played in electrical safety.  ESFI has offers great resources on its landing page, while the NFPA electrical safety webpage provides tips and information as well, including infographics, fact sheets, videos, and podcasts related to electrical fire safety. In the weeks ahead, please use and share information about National Electrical Safety Month and its electrical safety messages when and where possible.

Burn Survivor and His Brother Find Healing and Purpose After Tragic Home Fire

Josh Gropper was experiencing a day like any other and preparing for a final exam for law school in Boston, when his father called to tell him that Danny, his younger brother, had been badly injured in a house fire. While the cause of the fire has not been fully determined, at the time of the incident, there were no working smoke alarms in the building. Danny, Josh was told, had suffered severe injuries, with burns covering 78 percent of his body. Danny survived but his recovery would be slow and take many years. In the ensuing days after the fire, Josh moved closer to home in New York, changed schools, and dedicated himself to helping his younger brother heal. One of the first things Josh did was find a good lawyer to guide Danny and their family through the legal process. Josh says this experience made him realize how critical it is to have a quality, caring lawyer by his family’s side, someone who was a strong advocate for Danny and others like him whose lives have been tragically altered by severe injuries. Through this revelation, rather than continue to pursue his path in corporate law, Josh changed the course of his professional career and moved into personal injury law. His work and devotion to helping his brother live a full life led him to the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors where Danny and their family found the ongoing peer support and resources they needed and a place to connect with others. It also opened the door for Josh to see how he could combine his knowledge and expertise in the law with his true passion for helping people in need. As Josh tells it, his entire adult life has been shaped by his and his brother’s experience. Today, through his law practice he has been able to support survivors and empower them to live their best life; his law firm has also become partners of the Phoenix Society’s mission and programs. Together with other fire and life safety advocates, Josh continues to educate people about effective burn prevention, burn care and equality, and raise awareness of fire safety, including the importance of having working smoke alarms in homes as a first line of defense in saving lives. Read Josh and Danny’s powerful story on the Phoenix Society’s website. Resources including tip sheets, videos, and related information is available on NFPA’s smoke alarms webpage.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

A family sitting on a bed

Wisconsin Firefighter/Paramedic Receives “Bringing Safety Home” Award for Longstanding Home Fire Sprinkler Advocacy

The NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) are pleased to announce they have awarded Michael Wos with the 2022 “Bringing Safety Home” Award. With this award, Wos, the executive director of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin Charitable Foundation and a fighter/paramedic with the City of Oshkosh, receives a $1,000 grant to further fire sprinkler advocacy and educational efforts throughout state. To those who know him, Wos has been a champion for the lifesaving benefits of fire sprinklers for many years. Among his advocacy work, he has included home fire sprinkler information in the Newspapers in Education program every year, reaching more than 500,000 readers, including students in 2,000 schools.  He worked with coalition partners to build a 700-square foot educational structure with installed home fire sprinklers at the Metropolitan Builders Association Home Show. Wos also has conducted live fire sprinkler demonstrations at the State Capitol and at Madison’s Brat Fest, which is attended by more than 150,000 people. Wos is currently the chair of the Wisconsin Fire Sprinkler Coalition. The Bringing Safety Home Award is great opportunity to raise awareness of home fire sprinklers for those who may not otherwise know about this life-saving technology. Each year, the award recognizes outstanding efforts by a safety advocate who diligently promotes the importance of home fire sprinklers. It honors members of the fire service and other fire sprinkler advocates in North America who use HFSC educational material, NFPA data, and Fire Sprinkler Initiative resources to educate decision-makers about the importance of home fire sprinklers. NFPA and HFSC congratulate Michael Wos on his award and for his continued commitment to making new homes safer from fire! Learn more about the benefits of home fire sprinklers and how you can become a safety advocate in your area by visiting the HFSC website.

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