Ahead of the holiday weekend, NFPA offers tips to stay safe in short-term rentals, hotels, and elsewhere

  This Fourth of July weekend, nearly 48 million Americans are expected to travel, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA).  Many of those travelers will forgo traditional lodging in a hotel and opt for something more unique—perhaps a beach house, an urban apartment unit, or a remote cabin on the lake. Over the past several years, companies like Airbnb and VRBO have grown in popularity, promising travelers unique stays in properties like this, which are known collectively as short-term rental properties. But unlike hotels, short-term rentals often don’t have the same code requirements and enforcement as hotels. Fire and life safety protection measures as basic as smoke alarms can be missing.  That’s why experts say it’s critical for guests to be mindful of the spaces they’re in, checking for things like working smoke alarms, two ways out of a building, and more. “Safe travel and lodging needs to be a component of your overall travel plans,” says Andrea Vastis, director of the Public Education division at NFPA. “Choosing places with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, bringing travel alarms with you, and making sure everyone knows how to safely escape with an agreed-upon meeting place at your destination is critical.” An injury ‘every 44 seconds’ It’s unclear exactly how many people get injured—or worse—in hotels or motels each year, but it does happen with some regularity. The internet is littered with websites for injury lawyers who specialize in cases involving injuries that occurred at hotels. In January, comedian Bob Saget died after reportedly falling and hitting his head in a Florida hotel room.  But according to Justin Ford, guests in short-term rental properties get injured at a higher rate than guests in hotels. Ford has been involved in the short-term rental industry for decades and has advised companies like Airbnb on creating safer environments in short-term rentals.  “We know the home is the most dangerous place. More than 50 percent of our accidents happen in the home. Now we’re taking people who aren’t familiar with that home, and we’re putting them in that home, and that amplifies and makes the accidents even more common,” Ford says on a recent episode of The NFPA Podcast. “I’ve come up with a number that I believe is accurate: Every 44 seconds someone is injured in a short-term rental.” While some communities have made strides to enforce fire and life safety codes and standards in short-term rental properties—Palm Springs, California, is one example, Ford says, where even pools being rented within properties must pass electrical inspections—many short-term rentals never get inspected by a safety professional.  “I’ve stayed in a lot of rentals, and I’ve seen more than most people,” Ford says on the podcast. “I’ve looked up and realized, hey, that smoke alarm up there doesn’t have a flashing light, and I pull it down and it doesn’t have any batteries in it, and it’s because the last renters burned some popcorn and pulled the batteries and no one checked.” To stay safe, Ford advises renters to be proactive about taking safety into their own hands. “You’ve got to do your due diligence if you are a renter to look around and take a minute and ask, is this a safe place for me to stay?” he says. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are present and working; make sure fire hazards like matches and lighters aren’t accessible, especially to children; ensure there are two ways out of the building in case of a fire or other emergency; take note of where fire extinguishers are located; if you can, eliminate any trip or fall hazards on the property. NFPA offers similar recommendations for short-term rental guests and a number of additional ones in two tip sheets, “Fire Safety at Your Home Away from Home” and “Take Safety with You!” Ideally, Ford envisions a future where guests don’t need to take as many steps to ensure their safety. Owners of properties would be more dedicated to investing in and maintaining fire and life safety protection equipment in the first place. “We can make these short-term rentals as safe as possible with very little financial impact on the owner,” Ford says. “We’re not talking about a lot of money to put in these safety features. So we’re not saying to get rid of them—they’re great—but let’s put a little effort into making sure they’re a safer experience for the guest.” NFPA resources for short-term rentals and beyond  In addition to its tip sheets on short-term rental safety, NFPA also offers tip sheets for staying safe in traditional hotels and even recreational vehicles.   At hotels, for instance, NFPA recommends guests take steps similar to what’s advised for short-term renters. If fire or smoke prevents you from safely evacuating the hotel, though, there are steps you can take to stay safe, including shutting off your room’s fans and air conditioning, stuffing wet towels in any cracks around the door, calling the fire department, and staying by the window. Read more in the “Hotel & Motel Safety” tip sheet from NFPA.  Recreational vehicles, or RVs, can also present risks to occupants. A report released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation in 2020 found that on average, 24 people die and 64 people are injured in nearly 2,000 RV fires in the United States each year. “Most fatal fires occur in older models of RVs, as they have fewer and less advanced fire safety measures,” the report reads. “They also have older engines and equipment that are more likely to fail, which is a common cause of fires.”  RELATED: Read an NFPA Journal article and listen to an NFPA Podcast on RV fire safety   To stay safe, NFPA advises RV renters and owners, among other steps, to make sure vehicle maintenance is up-to-date and performed by a qualified mechanic and that propane tanks and tubing are code compliant. Read more in the “Motor home, camper, and recreational vehicle safety” tip sheet from NFPA.

Water Mist Systems Overview

Water mist systems are fire suppression systems that use very small water droplets to extinguish or control fires. These droplets are effective at controlling fires while using less water and having smaller piping than a standard sprinkler system due to the increased cooling effects, oxygen displacement and pre-wetting that the droplet size and distribution provide. Some additional benefits of water mist fire protection systems include reduced water damage and low environmental impact, while one of the trade offs include higher system pressure. This blog will review some of the basics about these systems to help add these systems as an option in your fire protection design portfolio. The droplet size for water mist systems can vary between 1000 microns and 10 microns. This small droplet size decreases the required application rate, enhances evaporation, and helps reduce oxygen levels to extinguish visible and hidden fires. Water mist systems have been used for specific applications (such as maritime) for a long time but starting in the mid-1990’s advancement in the use of water mist systems was propelled by the phasing out of halon and their use as a fire safety system for spaces where the amount of water that can be stored or discharged is limited. In addition, there is a long list of applications in which water mist systems have been listed for use including the following: Machinery spaces Combustion turbines Industrial oil cookers Computer room raised floors Data processing equipment rooms Chemical fume hoods Continuous wood board presses Shipboard passenger cabins and corridors Shipboard accommodation and public space areas Road tunnels Cable conduit tunnels Application There are a few different ways to apply water mist fire protection systems in your building or facility. These types of system configurations will look similar to clean agent system applications because the two systems share several commonalities in how they protect against fires. Local Application – This configuration is used to protect a specific hazard or object. An example may be the protection of a piece of equipment in a large compartment. The system would be designed to discharge water mist directly onto the object. Total Compartment Application - This type of system provides protection to all fire hazards and all areas in a compartment. The open nozzles are positioned in a grid so that water mist discharges approximately uniformly throughout the entire volume. Zoned Application - This type of system is configured to discharge mist from portions of a larger system as required to control fire in a specific part of a compartment. It would be installed in circumstances where the water demand for a total compartment system (i.e., a deluge system), would be beyond the capability of the water supply. Zoning the water mist piping network, however, requires the installation of a detection system that can accurately find the location of a fire. Occupancy Protection Systems - A water mist system utilizing automatic water mist nozzles installed throughout a building or a portion of a building and intended to control, suppress, or extinguish a fire. Nozzle types There are several different types of nozzles that can be found in a water mist fire protection system. Automatic - Nozzles that operate independently of other nozzles by means of a detection/activation device built into the nozzle. This activation device is typically a heat responsive element or actuator. Nonautomatic - Nozzles that do not have individual actuators or heat-responsive elements. These types of nozzles are used in deluge systems where the nozzles are always open. Multifunctional - Nozzles capable of operation using both automatic and nonautomatic means. The actuation of a multifunctional water mist nozzle can be by a built-in detection and activation device and/or by an independent means of activation. Electronically-operated automatic - Nozzles that are normally closed and operated by electrical energy that is initiated and supplied by fire detection and control equipment. System types There are various types of water mist systems which are the same categories as the different types of sprinkler systems. Since we recently posted a blog covering the types of sprinkler systems that goes into the details about each type, I’m going to keep this section brief and just give a quick overview. Deluge System - A water mist system utilizing nonautomatic mist nozzles (open) attached to a piping network connected to the fluid supply(ies) directly or through a valve controlled by an independent detection system installed in the same area as the mist nozzles. Wet Pipe System - A water mist system using automatic nozzles attached to a piping system containing water and connected to a water supply so that water discharges immediately from nozzles operated by the heat from a fire. Pre-action Systems - A water mist system using automatic nozzles attached to a piping system that contains air that might or might not be under pressure, with a supplemental detection system installed in the same areas as the mist nozzles. The actuation of the detection system opens a valve that allows water to flow into the piping system and discharges through all opened nozzles in the system. Dry Pipe Systems - A water mist system using automatic nozzles attached to a piping system containing air, nitrogen, or inert gas under pressure, the release of which (as from an opening of an automatic nozzle) allows the water pressure to open a dry pipe valve. The water then flows into the piping system and out through any open nozzles. Droplet production methods Water mist fire protection systems have the option of being either a single fluid (water) or twin fluid (water & atomizing media) system. Single-Fluid - A single-fluid media system requires one set of distribution piping to transport the fluid to each nozzle. The droplets are then formed in one of the following ways: Liquid should be discharged at a high velocity with respect to the surrounding air. The difference in velocities between the liquid and surrounding air should shear the liquid into small droplets. A liquid stream is impinged upon a fixed surface. The impact of the liquid on the surface breaks the liquid stream into small droplets. Two liquid streams of similar composition collide with one another. The collision of the two streams breaks the individual streams into small droplets. Liquid is either vibrated or electrically broken into small droplets (ultrasonic and electrostatic atomizers). Liquid is heated above its boiling point in a pressure vessel and released suddenly to atmospheric pressure (flashing liquid sprays). Twin Fluid – Twin-fluid media systems produce water mist (droplet production) by impingement of two fluids delivered from separate piping systems. One set of piping provides a liquid (water) to the nozzle, and the second piping network provides an atomizing fluid/media. Both single-fluid and twin-fluid systems can be operated in the low, intermediate, or high pressure range, which is based on the greatest pressure that the distribution piping is exposed to, as shown in the table below.     Low Pressure System Intermediate Pressure System High Pressure System Imperial Units Under 175 psi 175 – 500 psi Over 500 psi Metric Units Under 12.1 bar 12.1 – 34.5 bar Over 34.5 bar Conclusion Ultimately, while water mist fire protection systems have not yet outpaced the prevalence of traditional sprinkler systems there are numerous benefits associated with them to justify their use in many applications. For information on the requirements associated with water mist systems please see NFPA 750, Standard on Water Mist Fire Protection Systems and for more information on the systems themselves check out the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook, Chapter 16-8.
Person jumping into a pool

Know the Risks and Signs of Electric Shock Drowning and Ways to Stay Safe This Summer

Each year as the warm weather approaches we are struck here at NFPA by the number of news headlines we read about deaths related to electric shock drowning (ESD). Most people have never heard about nor are they aware of ESD and the electrical dangers posed in water environments, and each year people are injured or killed from these hazards. As we head toward the July 4th holiday weekend, a time when more people travel to the water’s edge, head out on their boats and enjoy time at the pool, we remind everyone about potential electrical hazards that exist in swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, onboard boats and in waters surrounding boats, marinas, and launch ramps. Electric shock drowning occurs when faulty wiring sends electric current into the water that can pass through the body and cause paralysis. When this happens, a person can no longer swim and ultimately drowns. To help explain ESD in more detail and how to avoid it, NFPA Journal created the following short video:     Swimmers, pool and boat owners can also familiarize themselves with the following information and share it with people they know before embarking on any water activities: Tips for swimmers Never swim near a marina, dock, or boatyard, or near a boat while it is running. While in a pool, hot tub or spa, look out for underwater lights that are not working properly, flicker, or work intermittently. If you feel a tingling sensation while in a pool, immediately stop swimming in your current direction. Try and swim in a direction where you had not felt the tingling. Exit the water as quickly as possible; avoid using metal ladders or rails. Touching metal may increase the risk of shock.  Tips for pool owners If you are putting in a new pool, hot tub, or spa, be sure the wiring is performed by an electrician experienced in the special safety requirements for these types of installations. Have a qualified electrician periodically inspect and — where necessary — replace or upgrade the electrical devices or equipment that keep your pool, spa, or hot tub electrically safe. Have the electrician show you how to turn off all power in case of an emergency. Make sure any overhead lines maintain the proper distance over a pool and other structures, such as a diving board. If you have any doubts, contact a qualified electrician or your local utility company to make sure power lines are a safe distance away. Tips for boat owners Avoid entering the water when launching or loading a boat. Docks or boats can leak electricity into the water causing water electrification. Each year, and after a major storm that may affect the boat, have the boat's electrical system inspected by a qualified marine electrician to be sure it meets the required codes of your area, including the American Boat & Yacht Council. Make the necessary repairs if recommended. Check with the marina owner who can also tell you if the marina's electrical system has recently been inspected to meet the required codes of your area, including the National Electrical Code® (NEC®). Have ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) installed on the boat; use only portable GFCIs or shore power cords (including “Y” adapters) that are Marine Listed when using electricity near water. Test GFCIs monthly. Join NFPA this holiday weekend and throughout the summer by sharing resources and important information with people you know about electric shock drowning and ways to reduce your risk. For more information about electric shock drowning, please visit nfpa.org/watersafety.

NFPA featured in Global Business Leaders Magazine

NFPA is featured as one of Global Business Leaders Magazine’s “20 Companies Everyone Should Know in 2022”. The issue’s cover story on our organization and CEO Jim Pauley is centered around the transformative ways that NFPA is revolutionizing the safety and standards industries, by building on a rich 125-year history to chart its future. It begins with our past, detailing the events that lead to the creation of our first standard, NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems and then chronicles more than a century and a quarter of our continued work to advance fire, life, and electrical safety by pioneering new practices to support those who work to protect people and property from fire and other hazards. The piece highlights the ever-evolving nature of NFPA, and our efforts to continually adjust to meet the most urgent needs and expectations of the time. More specifically, the article calls out NFPA LiNK®, our one-stop digital platform which offers not only complete access to all NFPA codes and standards, including legacy editions for the most referenced publications, but a comprehensive array of contextual and situational information. On the heels of our 125th anniversary and another successful annual conference, it’s thought-provoking to read such a concise history of NFPA, connecting our past, present and future. If you’re interested in reading more about how we are working to transform the industry, check out the full article.

Five reasons why high-stakes education has a role in safety

High-stakes education refers to learning and development that results in attaining a credential.  This credential may come in many forms, including: Traditional degrees and certificates from a higher education or professional institute (i.e., Masters, PHD, or Professional Certificate Programs, etc.) Professional licenses or qualifications that allow holders to perform specific tasks and/or roles (i.e., driver license, licensed electrician, or qualified electrical worker, etc.) Contemporary micro-credentials that signify an educational or performance achievement (i.e., digital badges that can be found on BADGR or Credly and shared online) Internal or external professional certification programs and designations with qualification requirements, rigorous examination, and continuing education and renewal requirements (i.e., NFPA Certified Fire Protection Specialists, Scrum masters, Society of HR Management or Project Management Institute Certifications, etc.) Credentials can be used to prequalify candidates for jobs, projects, and promotions; bolster a company’s qualification for bidding on client projects; and in marketing campaigns to prove the company’s commitment to quality.  Regulators and employers have also used credentials to set the baseline for competency to improve performance and safety. High-stakes education and credentials help ensure that facilities, fire protection and life safety systems, and work safety programs are well designed, managed, and maintained.  This in turn keeps productivity disruption- and incident-free; lives and property safe; and operator and employer reputations free of citations, fines, and bad press. Here are five more reasons why high-stakes education are helpful within the NFPA Fire and Life safety Ecosystem™: Vigilance: Vigilance is the opposite of complacency, and complacency is the enemy of a safety culture. As workplaces and communities evolve, companies must be vigilant in their pursuit of best practices and emerging codes and standards related to safety. Training aligned with certifications developed by subject matter experts that require continuing education help to ensure that their people are getting the right training to pass a rigorous certification exam and maintaining that high bar through continuous professional development. Investing in people: The retirement of the baby boomer generation and the great resignation from the workforce have left many organizations with deep experience gaps. However, organizations can make up for some of this gap by investing in high-stakes education to consistently set and raise the baseline of knowledge and skills for less experienced professionals. An investment in high-stakes education is also an investment in the workforce, which leads to higher employee engagement, loyalty, and quality of their work. When organizations and individuals spend time and energy on high-stakes education, they become more invested in its outcome. There is a direct correlation between pride and performance for having achieved a credential through high-stakes education. Raising the bar: Employers do not want to suffer financially and reputationally for avoidable incidents. Clients do not want disruptions or rework caused by failed inspections. Code enforcers do not want to waste limited resources and time reviewing recurring non-compliant designs and installations. Credentials earned through high-stakes education and certification help skilled professionals to stand out among their competition and provide peace of mind to key stakeholders. Companies investing in high-stakes education for their workforce are signaling to internal and external stakeholders that safety is part of their brand promise and that they intend to get the work done right the first time. Compliance: Regulators demand formal training as part of safety programs. High-stakes education signals to regulators that the organization is serious about its compliance with regulatory requirements. While organizations should always complement external programs with internal education on policies and procedures, externally managed credential and high-stakes education help to alleviate internal resources for program development, maintenance, and management. Safety culture – Credentials that have regular recertification or renewal periods and continuing education requirements help to keep workforce knowledge and skills relevant. Professionals who maintain their credentials are keeping up with emerging issues, changes in codes and standards, and the latest best practices in their respective fields. These requirements promote ongoing learning and curiosity as part of an effective safety culture in today’s disruptive environment. Competent and skilled professionals are critical for any business providing services or operating with fire, life, and electrical hazards. By incorporating high-stakes education into the workforce safety curriculum, an organization is investing in its people, results, and future. Find out more on how NFPA training and certifications can deliver high-stakes education to your business and workforce.

Are you working with or operating an Energy Storage System site? Help us define the landscape, by participating in this questionnaire

Battery Energy Storage Systems (ESS) are a critical part of today's dramatic push for sustainable & renewable electrical energy.  As a result, these systems are proliferating at an exponential pace. While the fire protection and emergency response communities are working with ESS providers and others to ensure acceptably safe installations, there are still gaps in the fundamental understanding of the hazard of li-ion ESS and serious safety questions remain unanswered. Thus, it is imperative for the full landscape of battery ESS hazards and mitigation strategies to be thoroughly defined, reviewed, and communicated to the energy storage and fire safety communities to support safe proliferation of these units. To further advance the safe proliferation of these systems, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA's research affiliate, initiated a research study, in collaboration with Jensen Hughes, to establish an understanding of the landscape of lithium-ion battery-based energy storage system deployments, their hazards and consequences, and the factors that should be considered for comprehensive protection and hazard mitigation strategies, in addition to developing a research roadmap to address existing knowledge gaps. For more information, a summary of this project is available here. This research, funded by the Foundation’s Energy Storage Research Consortium, will support the development of best practices and inform updates to relevant safety standards around energy storage systems. To meet the objectives of this study, we invite owners, operators, manufacturers, installers/commissioners of battery energy storage systems, or other affiliated representatives to participate in an international questionnaire conducted as part of this study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, NFPA's research affiliate, to collect information that establishes a comprehensive understanding of the full landscape of lithium-ion battery-based energy storage system installations/deployments. The questions seek to identify and categorize the types and non-proprietary characteristics of commercially available li-ion battery ESS installations, applications, use cases and the environment in which they are deployed (indoors or outdoors, type of construction, distance to combustibles, protection systems, etc.). This information is intended to support the assessment of ESS hazard mitigation strategies and the development of comprehensive protection strategies for the vast array of ESS deployments, in addition to exposing knowledge gaps in need of further research. Your participation in this research questionnaire is voluntary. You may skip any question that you are not able to answer. Any information provided through this survey is completely anonymous. If you have installations to report, we ask that you participate in this survey. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. The deadline is July 15, 2022. Thank you in advance for your participation!
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