AUTHOR: Susan McKelvey

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.
Fire boat

America’s Fireboat, Fire Fighter, will visit the Boston Harbor this June in support of the NFPA Conference & Expo® and our 125th anniversary

Courtesy of Telgian Inc., the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum will be coming to Boston on June 6, docking at the Moakley Courthouse Dock in the Boston Harbor. The Fire Fighter is the most award-honored fireboat in the world and a true embodiment of the commitment and sacrifice of firefighters and fire protection professionals across the nation. While showcasing its historic importance and the value of its preservation, the vessel’s arrival in Boston next month represents its support for the NFPA Conference & Expo® (C&E) and our 125th anniversary. To kick things off, an event will be held on Monday, June 6 at 10am. Guests will hear from NFPA and Fire Fighter representatives, including Jim Pauley, NFPA president and CEO; James Tomes, who serves on The Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum Board of Directors and is president and CEO of Telgian; and Charles Ritchie, president & founder of the Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum. Remarks addressing the shared commitment to protecting people and property from fire throughout the decades will be followed by a pageant-filled water display. In addition, public tours of the fireboat will be offered from June 6 through June 11, with tickets available online. Known as America’s Fireboat, Fire Fighter has provided courageous service protecting the US for more than seven decades during some of the most harrowing incidents in American history, including: 9/11 Terrorist Attacks: Fire Fighter spent three weeks in a marathon pumping operation for firefighting and recovery efforts at Ground Zero. US Airways Flight 1549 Hudson River Landing: Fire Fighter participated in the rescue efforts of passengers aboard US Airways Flight 1549 when it landed in the Hudson River. World War II: Fire Fighter stood ready to protect the New York Harbor as ammo-laden ships were preparing to depart for war in Europe and provided courageous service during fires on the historic SS Normandie and munitions ship El Estero. Decommissioned in 2010, today The Fireboat Fire Fighter Museum is a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the fireboat as a fully operational vessel, memorial, and teaching museum.  Learn about all the NFPA Conference & Expo events and activities scheduled in Boston this June 6-8 at www.nfpa.org/conference.
Jack Wells and Henry Zylstra

Special panel presentation on GFCI technology, the recently announced winner of the 2022 Philip J. DiNenno Prize, to be held during NFPA C&E

Electrical Shock Hazard Protection by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Protection was announced as the winner of the 2022 Phillip J. DiNenno Prize, which honors pioneering innovations that have significantly impacted building, fire, and electrical safety. The prestigious award is named for the late Philip J. DiNenno, the greatly respected former CEO of Hughes Associates, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to fire safety. The (GFCI) concept has evolved since its inception in the 1940 into a series of sophisticated protection devices that have increased protection of people from electric shock. It has also allowed for greater degrees of safe electrical power usage among numerous applications in all types of environments. In addition, widespread installation of GFCI protection throughout the built environment has directly led to significant, quantifiable increases in society’s current levels of electrical safety. Furthermore, GFCI technologies will continue to prevent tragedies attributable to electrocutions even more so in the future. This year’s DiNenno Prize will be officially presented at the NFPA “Stars at Night” award ceremony in coordination with the NFPA Conference and Expo (C&E) in Boston this June. Jack Wells and Henry Zylstra, who each played a critical role in the advancement of GFCI technology, will serve as its legacy presenters, as the technology’s innovators are no longer living. In addition, a special panel presentation on Ground Fault Circuit (GFCI) Protection will be held at C&E on Monday, June 6 at 8:00 a.m. Wells, Zylstra, Alan Manche and Steve Rood will serve as presenters, reviewing the role GFCI has played in electrical safety; Wells and Zylstra will share stories about their involvement in the development and commercialization of GFCI technology. The DiNenno Prize typically features a $50,000 award to its recipients. In absence of living recipients, the Phoenix Burn Society for Burn Survivors and the Electrical Fire Safety International (ESFI) have been selected as the beneficiaries of the prize and will each receive a cash donation to support their work in reducing loss from electrical hazards. About the legacy presenters Jack Wells As the primary associate at Pass & Seymour (P&S), Wells worked to ensure that commercialization of the GFC within the receptacle embodiment became accepted in the marketplace (once GFCI receptacle installation requirements became mandated within the National Electrical Code®.) Wells drove acceptance of the GFCI receptacle installation mandates by arranging and conducting numerous seminars and presentations with the various respective engineering, inspection, contractor and distribution supply constituencies over several years. As the GFCI product line manager, he simultaneously ensured that P&S engineering continued to incrementally improve the initial receptacle GFCI product offering, and managed the subsequent product launches to drive market development and acceptance. These efforts to gain technical and application experience of the new technology were central to the successful commercialization of receptacle GFCIs within residential and commercial installations, leading to the consistent increases in safety as exemplified by the CPSC electrocutions graph and ESFI summary of GFCI-protected homes. Henry Zylstra Zylstra was the primary engineering lead driving the subsequent development of the two-pole GFCI circuit breaker and fostered the continued development to improve the utility and robustness of the initial single-pole GFCI breaker embodiment. He is the author and holder of numerous patents pertaining to single-pole, two-pole and other types of GFCI breakers, ensuring the continued commercialization of the breaker embodiment driven by consistent miniaturization and improvements in robustness, reliability, and capability. Zylstra continued his engagement in the technical expertise for GFCI through the turn of this century, serving on the UL STP that continued to enhance GFCI protection. These and other efforts led to ensuring product and marketplace acceptability as installation mandates have continued to expand, leading to the realities of increased public safety.  
Grilling steaks

Use our grilling safety tips to stay fire-safe this Memorial Day weekend and beyond

For many of us, Memorial Day weekend represents the unofficial kick-off to summer, often including lots of outdoor celebrations, cookouts, and grilling. As the holiday and summer months near, follow grilling information, safety tips, and recommendations from NFPA to help lower the risk of grilling fires and associated hazards. NFPA data shows that U.S. fire departments responded to an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues. This includes 4,900 structure fires and 5,700 outside or unclassified fires, resulting in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage. The peak months for grilling fires are July (18 percent), June (15 percent), May (13 percent), and August (12 percent), though grilling fires occur year-round. Leading causes include failing to clean the grill, the heat source being located too close to combustible materials, leaving equipment unattended, and leaks or breaks in the grill or fuel source. On average, 19,700 patients went to emergency rooms each year because of injuries involving grills. Nearly half (9,500 or 48 percent) of the injuries were thermal burns, including both burns from fire and from contact with hot objects; 5,200 thermal burns were caused by contact or other non-fire events. Children under five accounted for an average of 2,000, or 39 percent, of the contact-type burns per year. These burns typically occurred when someone, often a child, bumped into, touched, or fell on the grill, grill part, or hot coals. NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season: For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use in the months ahead. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks.) Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches. Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it. Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area. If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have or are finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container. Never leave your grill unattended when in use.

NFPA has received a $225K grant from General Motors to deliver free online electric vehicle training to 12,000 volunteer and underserved U.S. fire departments

NFPA has received a $225,000 grant from General Motors to deliver its electric vehicle (EV) training for free to 12,000 volunteer and underserved fire departments throughout the U.S. The funding comes at a critical time, as more EVs continue to enter the roadways but many fire departments remain untrained in effectively mitigating associated incidents. “While firefighters have had more than 100 years to learn how to handle incidents with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, they’ve had very little time to understand and train for those involving EV and hybrid vehicles,” said Andrew Klock, emerging issues lead manager at NFPA. “As electric vehicles increasingly dominate our roads in the coming years, ensuring that fire departments are adequately trained and equipped to deal with them is critically important.” A 2020 report published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) states that the U.S. fire service is not prepared to fight electric vehicle fires. This issue is more prevalent among volunteer and underserved departments, which often don’t have the resources to receive the needed training; about two-thirds (67 percent) of U.S. fire departments are served by part-time or volunteer firefighters, according to NFPA data. Through the General Motors grant, NFPA will work in coordination with U.S. fire service organizations and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Clean Cities Coalitions to conduct outreach among targeted audiences to maximize participation in the NFPA Electric Vehicle Safety training program, which will be provided online at no cost for one year. Fire departments that would like to register for the course can do so via the NFPA catalog and apply this coupon code: gmev1 (not case sensitive). “Providing free access to our training plays a pivotal role in helping ensure that volunteer and underserved fire departments are adequately trained and prepared to handle EV incidents,” said Klock. “Thanks to General Motors’ generous support, we’ll be able to provide the needed training to thousands of fire departments that otherwise would not be able to access it.” NFPA is an ANSI-accredited national codes and standards developer for emergency responder qualifications, equipment, and tactics. Over the past 12 years, the association has worked to develop and refine its EV safety program in collaboration with NTSB, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), the National Highway and Transportation Safety Association (NHTSA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), the National Institute of Standards Technology (NIST), and numerous national research laboratories. These and associated efforts have earned NFPA widespread recognition among the major fire service organizations in North America as the leading EV safety training program for first responders. NFPA also serves on the SAE J2990 Committee for EV Safety and continues to engage with the U.S. DOE, DOT, and NHTSA to conduct testing and determine new methods to combat EV incidents.

May is National Electrical Safety Month

Electricity helps make our lives easier, but its potential for shock and fire-related hazards is real and often underestimated. NFPA actively supports National Electrical Safety Month, an annual campaign sponsored by (ESFI), which raises awareness of potential home electrical hazards, the importance of electrical fire safety, and the safety of electrical and non-electrical workers, each May. This year’s theme, “Energy Resilience,” focuses on how emerging technology, including photovoltaics, electric vehicles, and energy storage systems, can provide energy resilience to homes and businesses and help communities adapt to these changes safely. With technological advancements in many areas of our lives, such as efficiency and green benefits associated with alternative energy sources, not everyone is aware of the fire and electrical hazards associated with them. National Electrical Safety Month helps educate people about these new technologies and the risks they pose to structures, occupants, and first responders. In fact, contact with electricity is a leading cause of home and workplace injuries and fatalities, and with new technologies comes added dangers. Take advantage of Electrical Safety Month to better educate communities about these risks and take the needed steps to prevent them. Homeowners can take these steps to reduce risk: Have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician to ensure a home’s electrical system is installed to meet local codes and can accommodate additional loads imposed from charging electric vehicles. Use surge protective devices to help guard against voltage surges that may occur during power shut-offs and restarts, negatively impacting electronics and other sensitive equipment in the home office. Perform regular testing of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and breakers, based on manufacturers instruction, to ensure systems operate safety and efficiently. Resources for professionals: Free energy storage systems safety fact sheet Research, articles, tip sheets, and videos for high-risk hazards like energy storage systems and solar safety and photovoltaics systems Training, response guides, and videos for alternative fuel vehicles (AFV) NFPA offers a photovoltaic and energy storage systems training series In 2021, NFPA launched Faces of Fire/Electrical, a video awareness campaign focused on electrical hazards and created in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. The series worked to remind everyone about the importance of taking action – at home and in the workplace – to stop electrical incidents from happening. The videos and related resources such as fact sheets, tip sheets, and reports can be found at nfpa.org/facesoffire.  For more tips and resources including infographics, fact sheets, videos, and podcasts related to home electrical fire safety, visit the NFPA electrical safety webpage.
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