Press conference about the Bronx fire
FEATURED ARTICLE

NFPA resources speak to fire and life safety issues as the nation grapples with catastrophic residential fires in Philly and the Bronx

Sunday's fire in the Bronx, N.Y. represents the second most deadly U.S. home fire in nearly 40 years. The tragedy comes on the heels of another harrowing incident in Philadelphia just four days before. Approximately 100 miles away from each other, the two fires and the tragic death tolls incurred place them both in the top 10 residential fires since 1980. The incidents present a stark contrast to the fire progress that has been documented in recent decades and is reflected in last year’s Fire Safety in the United States report. These incidents, once again, underscore that safety is a system as outlined in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™. NFPA has been responding to a high volume of media inquiries and pointing reporters to the Association’s breaking news box at www.nfpa.org/pressroom. Policy makers, professionals, practitioners, and the public will also find great value in these resources. US home fires involving multiple fatalities The full list of home fires involving 10 or more fatalities can be found in NFPA research related to catastrophic multiple-death fires. US home heating equipment fires Late today, the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) confirmed that a space heater was responsible for the start of yesterday’s tragic fire. Heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths and injuries. Overall, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment per year in 2014-2018, accounting for 14 percent of all reported home fires and 19 percent of home fire deaths. These fires resulted in an annual average of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage. Space heaters are the type of heating equipment most often involved in home heating fires. Between 2014 and 2018, space heaters annually accounted for more than two out of five heating fires and the majority of heating fire deaths (81 percent) and injuries (80 percent). The NFPA U.S. Home Heating Fires report provides more data on when, where, and how home heating fires happen, while the NFPA home heating safety tip sheet offers guidelines for safely heating homes during the winter months. Here are some of the key takeaways on the tip sheet: Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater. Have a three-foot “kid-free zone” around open fires and space heaters. Never use your oven to heat your home. Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions. Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional. Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters. Other safety considerations We also feature several other related resources that may be of interest as other factors for both these catastrophic fires are considered. They include: Closed door safety messaging – Open doors can intensify the spread of fire, smoke, and toxic gases. Smoke alarms – The importance of having working smoke alarms and to respond immediately to them is critical to fire safety. Fire sprinklers – Fire sprinklers significantly reduce the number of deaths, injuries, and property loss in a fire. Our US Experience with Sprinklers report underscores their effectiveness. NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code® – Benchmark guidance within NFPA 101 addresses requirements for high-rise buildings, doors, exits, stairways, fire protection systems, and the role of the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).

NFPA Today

U.S. fire administrator, Philadelphia and FDNY fire officials, and NFPA CEO will discuss recent events and US fire problem during live January 25 event

NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley recently penned a thought leadership blog that touched on the steps that need to be taken, right now, to educate policy makers and the public about the US fire problem. As follow up to that communication, Pauley will facilitate a timely live discussion with top emergency response leaders about recent home fire tragedies in the news and ways that community leaders can bolster fire prevention, fire protection, life safety, code enforcement, and other critical safety efforts in their cities and towns. Joining Pauley for the forward-thinking conversation at 9 a.m. (ET) on Tuesday, January 25 will be: Dr. Lori Moore-Merrell, U.S. Fire Administrator Adam Thiel, Fire Commissioner for the City of Philadelphia Joseph Jardin, Assistant Chief with the New York City Fire Department, Chief of Fire Prevention  A Special Live Event entitled Taking the Lead after Tragedy has been added at the beginning of the FREE virtual NFPA Leadership for Emergency Responders Conference which had already attracted nearly 2,000 registrants. This new dynamic addition to the professional development program is certain to resonate with fire service officers, future commanders, emergency responders, and other up-and-comers who have expressed an interest in being forward-thinking, community-focused leaders. “As we often see with catastrophes, there were breakdowns in the Ecosystem that not only precipitated the fatal events in Philadelphia and the Bronx but compounded them. In the aftermath of these incidents, there have been pressing questions about how we can help connect the dots on safety at this pivotal moment in time,” Pauley said, referring to the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™, a framework that features eight interconnected components that must work together in the interest of safety. “In response, NFPA is inviting three of today’s foremost fire authorities to take part in a live exchange that will focus on persistent fire safety challenges and what can be done to enhance safety.” Register for the live discussion or the full 10-session program (both FREE) here. The day’s educational content, including video of the live discussion, will also be available on-demand for up to one year. Attendees can earn 11 continuing education units (CEUs) upon successful completion of all the available programs. 
Philly fire aftermath

Recent fires shed light on home fire problem

The horrific residential fires in Philadelphia and the Bronx thrust fire and life safety in the United States into the spotlight. And while the stories out of these two cities are absolutely heartbreaking, the collective, heightened interest in the protection of people and property that we’ve seen among policymakers and the public may be somewhat encouraging – if it prompts needed changes and more awareness. Overall, we have made great strides in reducing the home fire problem. In fact, the recent tragedies we saw in Philadelphia and the Bronx present a stark contrast to the fire progress that has been documented over the last four decades and summarized in last year’s seminal Fire Safety in the United States report. That research picked up where the landmark America Burning research left off and highlighted substantive declines in hotel, hospital, and school fires over the years. Conversely, home fires have become more deadly as home fire escape times have dramatically decreased – due to a variety of factors. Combustible building materials and synthetic contents in homes burn hotter and faster. The danger of fire is compounded by open floor plans that are prevalent in newer homes and the lack of sufficient fire safety measures in older buildings, large and small. The headway made in these and other occupancies is, in large part, due to an effective policy and regulatory environment that sponsored and supported specific fire, electrical, building, and life safety guidelines and systems. But that same level of accountability and leadership has not been as evident when it comes to solving the fire problem we have today. In 2017, the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute surveyed U.S. residents about their perceptions surrounding government roles and responsibilities for building, fire, and life safety efforts. American citizens overwhelmingly conveyed that they expect and trust that local, state, and federal policymakers are acting in the interest of safety. Two key takeaways from that outreach show that 74 percent of respondents trust their state and local leaders to adopt the latest fire and electrical safety codes for safety in residential construction, while 65 percent trust those same officials to maintain code requirements, and to not weaken them by removing provisions that apply the latest knowledge and safety advancements. Government officials everywhere should be guided by these survey sentiments, as well as this month’s devastating fires, to focus their energies on: Earmarking funds for safety infrastructure, staffing, and protocols Using and enforcing current editions of fire, life safety, building, and electrical codes Inspecting and testing systems to address issues before things take a turn for the worse Ensuring there are ample professionals to enforce codes Prioritizing community risk assessment Making the right decisions in the true interest of safety, not special interests, convenience, or cost-cutting Policymakers, however, cannot stem the tide of tragedies alone. Everyone plays a role in safety, making it more important than ever to educate the public about their true risk to fire and the steps they can take to increase their own safety. And yet, the biggest obstacles we see, time and again, when it comes to reducing loss are the issues of over-confidence and complacency. The reduction in most fires over the years has led policymakers and citizens alike to erroneously think that fire is no longer a significant issue in our country. There is a prevailing mindset that tragic incidents like the ones that recently occurred happen to other people, in other communities, and in other homes. Until, of course, it happens to them. These sentiments were highlighted in results of a survey from the American Red Cross, which showed that people think they are more likely to win the lottery or to be struck by lightning than to have a home fire.   That over-confidence toward fire presents serious risks and concern, and should intensify our efforts to educate the public about the importance of fire and life safety. One of the slim silver linings of the two high-profile fires is that they have captured the public’s attention for a short time and have brought fire safety to the forefront. I strongly encourage everyone to capitalize on the recent groundswell as catalysts for change, and to better educate communities about the critical importance of: Properly installing, testing, and maintaining all smoke alarms in the home Developing and practicing home escape plans that include closing doors to rooms, hallways, and stairwells when exiting to slow the spread of smoke, heat, and fire Using heating equipment safely Looking for and advocating for the increased use of sprinklers in all buildings and homes If the occurrence of two of the most fatal home fires in the last 40 years over the course of four days and just 100 miles apart does not serve as a substantial wake-up call, what will spur policymakers and the public to take action? The time has come for changing people’s perceptions of risk and proactive strategies for fire prevention and response. The best way we can do that, at this moment in time, is to challenge our government officials and citizens to take fire safety seriously.

Fire Break

Mom and child raking leaves

Take action to protect homes and neighborhoods on May 7 during Wildfire Community Preparedness Day

Research shows risks can be lessened when we invest time in preparing our homes and landscaping to reduce the damage caused by embers during a wildfire. That’s why NFPA and State Farm are pleased to announce the launch of Wildfire Community Preparedness Day (Preparedness Day) on May 7, 2022. Thanks to the generous support of State Farm, NFPA will be able to provide up to 100 applicants from across the country with $500 funding awards to complete a wildfire risk reduction project on event day and we make it easy for you to apply! Learn more about the application process and apply directly on our website. Since the inception of Preparedness Day in 2014, we continue to be inspired by the hundreds of individuals and groups of all ages from across the country who participate every year. Everyone can get involved and have fun, too! If you’re new to the event, or even if you participate every year, we make it easy to get involved. The following can help you get started: Check out information about how you can play a role in wildfire safety at home and download the home improvement project guidelines that apply to any residence and can be accomplished all year long. Learn about the May 7 Preparedness Day event and related information on the Preparedness Day webpage. Check out past success stories to learn how others have participated on event day. Listen to a video interview with residents and firefighters about how their preparedness efforts helped protect their community during a wildfire. Download a home ignition zone checklist and additional related resourcesthat you can use to guide you through your projects on event day and throughout the year. Download the 2022 Preparedness Day toolkit to get project ideas, tips, and ways to share your accomplishments with the community. Apply for a $500 funding awardto help with the cost of your project. There’s so much to learn and ways to get involved that we can’t wait to get started! Won’t you join us! For more information about Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, how to apply for funding awards, and for project ideas and free resources to download, please visit www.wildfireprepday.org.
house on fire

Hard truths about a hard time: Marshall Fire devastation illustrates conditions leading to wildfire disaster

The fires just before the New Year in Boulder County have been devastating in terms of property loss and human suffering. I join with all my colleagues in sympathy for those who have been left homeless and those who have been traumatized by the experience of fleeing their homes with minutes to spare. In our world of wildfire and disaster resilience, we sadly know there are many others who are retraumatized by watching this event unfold, as they have so recently experienced similar losses. In addition to supporting our friends and neighbors as they recover, it is of the utmost importance that we use this time to understand what happened and to communicate how we might change future outcomes. The Marshall Fire illustrates an important truth about wildfire disasters. For decades, attempts at disaster reduction and mitigation have relied on a definition of “wildland/urban interface” to try to describe the location, or the line, where we might take protective steps when building in areas prone to nature’s fire. And for at least 20 years, NFPA has argued for an alternate description of the so-called interface, as a set of conditions that can exist nearly everywhere. In other words, wildfire disasters (what happens when homes and other structures ignite during wildfires) can happen almost anywhere given just the right conditions of vegetative and structural fuel, weather and topography. The destruction caused by the Marshall Fire, with nearly 1,000 homes and other structures obliterated, was the result of a veritable perfect storm of fire conditions. Unseasonable warm and dry conditions have persisted in the Front Range area of Colorado for months, with virtually no snow in fall or early winter. As described in a recent New York Magazine Intelligencer interview with climate scientist Daniel Swain, the region is subject to strong winds, especially in winter, that materialized on a sunny day at the end of December. With an ignition on a warm and windy day, in bone-dry vegetation, the wildfire took off through grass and brush and began to ignite the other plentiful fuel source in the form of homes and commercial buildings. With wind gusts that would qualify for a strong Category 2 hurricane along the coastline, there was no stopping the spread of flames and especially embers that penetrated vulnerable buildings through vents, cracks, garage doors and other openings. Outside, once any combustible material – grass, shrubs, mulch, a rattan doormat, a parked vehicle – ignited, it was bound to burn and to then ignite the next combustible fuel – porches, decks, combustible siding on exterior walls, outbuildings. In the dense development throughout Superior, Louisville and surrounding areas, buildings aflame easily ignited the next home, the next business, and so on. The result was urban conflagration that Swain described in the interview as not unlike the Great Fires of history (London, Chicago, and the list goes on). The reality that home destruction from wildfire can happen nearly anywhere complicates attempts to regulate new construction and to reach vulnerable residents with vital safety information. As the past week has shown, however, safety advocates and policymakers must embrace the complexity of this problem, tell the hard truths, and recommit to ending wildfire disasters. NFPA launched Outthink Wildfire last year for this very reason. We owe it to our friends and neighbors to work to make this kind of destruction rare instead of recurrent.

Safety Source

Malden Fire Department discussing CRR

CRR Week: An opportunity to reflect on your leadership

On January 25, NFPA is hosting a virtual event, Leadership for Emergency Responders, which will provide opportunities to dig into three dimensions of leadership specific to emergency responders: personal, technical and community leadership. My colleagues, Meredith Hawes and Chelsea Rubadou, and I will be presenting at the event to share some of our insights related to Community Risk Reduction (CRR). As we worked to figure out what messages to focus on, these are some of the leading questions we wanted to address: What does it mean to be a CRR leader? How do we meet the needs of fire department leaders and also engage a wider group of responders across a community? How can we serve motivated CRR champions who do not yet wear bugles on their shirts? What if attendees work in a role that doesn’t require a uniform? Could our message be important to them? As we filtered our thoughts through real-world examples, it became clear that role and rank are secondary to passion, dedication, and the ability to inspire others to explore the value that CRR brings to the toolkit of any safety-focused agency. While we have lots of CRR leadership examples to look to, one particular group of motivated professionals provided this clarity. These are the folks who dreamed of holding a national event to elevate CRR across the fire service and brought CRR Week to life. CRR Week arose out focused problem-solving, energetic networking, and pencil-sketched bar napkins. This celebration is a now solidified as an annual event designed to heighten awareness of the role and impact of the CRR process as a result of passionate leadership. The third annual CRR Week begins on Monday, January 17 intentionally aligning to a National Day of Service that honors Martin Luther King, Jr. CRR Week is an opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. It can help you start the conversations in your community about the importance of making data-driven decisions to guide risk reduction plans; encourage the fire chief to support a prevention initiative designed to support high-risk residents; and help operations crews understand the important roles they play in community safety before, during, and after 9-1-1 calls are made. To learn how to best achieve these and other CRR goals and objectives, I strongly encourage everyone to register for the Leadership for Emergency Responders virtual event taking place on January 25 or one of the many face-to-face conferences taking place this year to learn more about NFPA 1300, the industry standard for CRR. Show your passion and dedication. Inspire others to take action. Be a CRR leader. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.

It Is Time to Do More: Community Risk Reduction

Recent news out of Philadelphia tells a tragic story about the devastating fire in which 12 people died on Wednesday. While investigators work to uncover the cause of the fire and neighbors mourn those who perished, this tragedy is truly heartbreaking for all of us work each and every day to reduce the likelihood of fire in our communities. It also makes us question where the cracks within our own communities remain, and how we can do more to ensure that no one suffers this type of loss moving forward. The fire problem is complex and there are no easy answers. Risk is inherent and exists in every building. While it is nearly impossible to eliminate the risk of home fires, we can certainly work strategically to gain traction in the fight against fire. We can build on our existing knowledge. Working smoke alarms provide an important piece of the safety puzzle and provide critical early warning in a home fire. We also know that planning and practicing home escape plans helps family members learn the route to safety ahead of a scary, disorienting event. These are messages all of us well know, and they’re ones we continually work to promote among our audiences time and again. When a devastating fire like this happens, it’s a resounding signal that it is time to do more, and that it’s a time to do things a bit differently from the way we’ve long done them. Derrick Sawyer, the former Commissioner of the Philadelphia Fire Department, is a long-standing advocate for Community Risk Reduction (CRR), a process of identifying local risks and planning targeted interventions to reduce those risks. In the article, Connecting the Dots, Chief Sawyer explains how data are important fire prevention tools that provide insights into the unique needs of neighborhoods across a community. The data should be considered in a Community Risk Assessment (CRA) alongside input from local stakeholders and partners to get a comprehensive view of the risks and capacity at the neighborhood level. Community Risk Reduction arms prevention specialists with a deeper understanding of the unique qualities and characteristics of each neighborhood and the people who live, work, learn, and play there.  This knowledge guides tailored interventions designed to meet specific needs and ensure resources are deployed to address those experiencing the highest levels of risk. It is an equitable approach to prevention that leads to impactful, multifaceted initiatives. Data-informed assessments, rich community partnerships, and targeted plans guided by the CRR process reduce the likelihood and the impact of home fires. It is time to embrace this new approach to fire prevention. Do you have all the data you need to accurately identify where risks within your community exist? Do you have the partnerships to effectively connect with your communities to address them? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you’ve likely put a lot of time and energy into capturing that information and making those impactful connections. But for the many fire departments and safety officials that still need more information and support to truly ensure that they are doing all they can to reduce the risk of fire in their communities, please consider what actions will you take today to better prevent fire in your communities. Taking the first steps can be daunting, but there are many ways you can begin to more effectively identify and address risks within your communities. Our CRR resources can help get you started and move toward better understanding and responding to the biggest safety threats impacting specific populations with your jurisdiction. NFPA 1300, Standard on Community Risk Assessment and Community Risk Reduction Plan Development provides guidance for professionals working to improve community safety. Also, CRAIG 1300 is a new digital tool that can help communities conduct an effective CRA and establish a well-informed CRR plan.

Fire Sprinkler Initiative

Firefighters watching virtual reality

Fire Sprinkler Side-by-Side Burn Brings Reality Closer to Home with New Virtual Reality Video

I did not truly understand just how effective fire sprinklers were until I saw the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s (HFSC) virtual reality live fire video demonstration. I have interned at NFPA for a few months, so I knew going in that fire sprinklers are key for fire safety. However, this video showed me that fire sprinklers are so much more effective than I originally thought and have the power to save one’s belongings, home, and even life. They should be installed in every home. The other week in Ashland City, Tennessee, the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) and HFSC teamed up to record a live fire video shoot at a single-family home. The video they made was produced for virtual reality, allowing the user to get a 360-degree view during the video so they can see every angle of the house and what is happening. In the past, fire departments have conducted side-by-side live burns to demonstrate the power of fire sprinklers. However, doing a live burn demonstration is not always practical. They would require at a minimum construction of the units and EPA burn approval. Having access to virtual reality technology brings fire sprinkler education to a whole new level that is not only more personal, powerful and memorable, but eliminates the added layer of physical set up, rehab and travel. The demonstration takes place in two identical rooms. One room has a fire sprinkler and the other doesn’t. Both fires were started on the window curtain. The video starts with the room with the fire sprinkler. The impact of the sprinkler is almost immediate. The sprinkler, activated by the heat of the fire, goes off after about 30 seconds. At this point, the fire has engulfed one side of the window curtain. When the sprinkler activates, the fire is put out entirely. Once the fire is put out, I could see that the damage from the fire is limited to a small corner of the room. While the room is soaked, the video notes that a family would be able to move back into the room within a couple of days. The video then switches to the room without the fire sprinkler. The fire again quickly engulfs the window curtain. However, with no fire sprinkler, there is nothing to slow the fire down. After one minute, the fire is raging. After 90 seconds, one side of the room is completely engulfed in flames. Flashover takes place just over two minutes. The room becomes completely black with smoke and so hot that one of the cameras stopped operating. The sheer speed that flashover took place was eye- opening. The video shows the aftermath of the room. It is completely destroyed. Everything is black. It is completely unhabitable. After watching the video, it is easy to see how fire sprinklers can save lives. This live fire video shoot further demonstrates the need for every home to have a fire sprinkler system installed. According to NFPA's "U.S. Experience with Sprinklers" report the civilian death rate was 81 percent lower in homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them. the average firefighter injury rate was nearly 80 percent lower when fire sprinklers were present during fires. when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time. the home fire death rate was 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms were present. By comparison, this death rate is only 18 percent lower when battery-powered smoke alarms are present but automatic extinguishing systems weren't. The virtual reality video is scheduled to be completed later this year and will allow people to experience firsthand a fire with and without fire sprinklers, right in their own living room. A 2D version of the video will also be created for free, on-demand access via Internet. Watching the video will change your outlook on home fire sprinklers; I know it changed mine. Learn more about HFSC’s virtual reality education kit through this short video. Photos with captions are also available.

Lewes Becomes Second City in Delaware to Require Fire Sprinklers in all New Homes

The fight to put fire sprinklers in every home took a step in the right direction earlier this month as the city council for Lewes, Delaware approved an ordinance to require fire sprinklers to be put in every new home constructed in the city. This ordinance comes at the response of Lewes and the surrounding area having dealt with several major fires over the past few months. Lewes joins Newark as the only cities in Delaware to have strict requirements for fire sprinklers in homes. Council member Andrew Williams told Delaware Public Media that this new requirement helps protect the city as it continues to rapidly grow. “As the county develops and Lewes continues to develop and we rely on a volunteer fire team, many of them are coming from outside the city and it’s more congested for them to get to fires, therefore, it’s becoming more and more dangerous for our residents,” said Williams. Fire sprinklers have repeatedly been proven effective at preventing large scale fires, thus saving lives and properties. According to NFPA's "U.S. Experience with Sprinklers" report:  the civilian death rate was 81 percent lower in homes with fire sprinklers than in homes without them. the average firefighter injury rate was nearly 80 percent lower when fire sprinklers were present during fires. when sprinklers were present, fires were kept to the room of origin 97 percent of the time. the home fire death rate was 90 percent lower when fire sprinklers and hardwired smoke alarms were present. By comparison, this death rate is only 18 percent lower when battery-powered smoke alarms are present but automatic extinguishing systems weren't. By reducing the threat of a large fire, fire sprinklers also help protect firefighters from onsite injuries and cancer. Cancer in firefighters is a serious issue. According to two studies from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, they find that: Firefighters face a nine percent increase in cancer diagnosis. Firefighters also face a 14 percent increase in cancer related deaths compared to the general US population. Lewes took a step in the right direction to protecting their city. They join hundreds of cities across the country in requiring this life saving element. In addition, California, Maryland, and Washington D.C. require fire sprinklers in all new homes. Learn more about NFPA’s fire sprinkler initiative on our website.

Latest Articles