FPRF to Host Free Webinar on Firefighter PPE Cleaning

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA®, will host a free webinar on September 28, 2023, titled “Fire Service PPE Cleaning Validation.” Firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) is exposed to a wide range of toxic chemicals, biological pathogens, and other hazardous substances and contaminants. Those contaminants soil firefighter PPE and other fire service gear. Cross-contaminated equipment and gear are suspected of adversely influencing immediate and long-term firefighter health and wellness. To lessen the risk of these exposures, PPE and other gear are being cleaned more frequently. NFPA 1851, Standard on Selection, Care, and Maintenance of Protective Ensembles for Structural Fire Fighting and Proximity Fire Fighting, address general cleaning procedures, but more science is needed to support, clarify, and enhance those procedures. Major research efforts are addressing the question of “How clean is clean?” In late 2015, FPRF initiated PPE cleaning validation research through a 3-year assistance to firefighters grant (AFG) for developing comprehensive procedures to evaluate cleaning in removing both chemical and biological contaminants that ensure optimum contaminant removal from firefighter PPE. As part of this larger effort, FPRF is leading a unique research team partnership that also includes International Personnel Protection, Inc. (IPP, Inc.) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). This research established validated cleaning procedures focused on PPE textile garments that are traditionally cleaned in commercial laundering extractors that led to the implementation of gear cleaning and sanitization verification procedures adopted as part of NFPA 1851. A second phase effort was undertaken in late 2018 to establish a validated and scientifically based cleaning methodology for the primary spectrum of potentially contaminated fire service PPE, including turnout clothing and equipment not addressed by previous work such as helmets, gloves, footwear, and SCBA. The research in this project has expanded the available knowledge on fireground contamination, particularly to where it is likely to be found at the highest concentrations and how effectively it can be removed from the range of different firefighter PPE. The findings from this work show that different protective clothing and equipment items being of distinctive designs and comprised of dissimilar materials show varying affinities for becoming contaminated and in being able to be decontaminated. A third phase effort is now ongoing that augments the prior two phases of research to establish and communicate comprehensive best practices the fire service can apply to effectively clean and sanitize firefighter PPE. The principal aim for this new effort is to comprehensively identify the most effective and practical decontamination approaches for each element of the firefighter ensemble to create simple, easy-to-implement tools that fire departments can use to assess PPE contamination from individual structural fires and the effectiveness of their internal cleaning procedures. This webinar will provide an update of findings from this multi-year research effort. Jeffrey Stull, International Personnel Protection, Inc., and Crystal Forester, NIOSH NPPTL, are the presenters of this webinar. Webinar registration is free and required to attend live; register for this webinar using the direct link here, or by visiting nfpa.org/webinars, where you can also watch archived FPRF webinars on demand. The Fire Protection Research Foundation acknowledges the support from the FPRF 2023 Webinar Series Sponsors: ·       AXA XL Risk Consulting ·       Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc. ·       Telgian Engineering and Consulting ·       The Zurich Services Corporation ·       Worcester Polytechnic Institute Fire Protection Engineering Program   To learn more about this project, visit nfpa.org/ppecleaning.
The world

As Populations Grow and New Hazards Emerge, Understanding Global Trends and Research Can Help Us Chart the Course

SEPTEMBER 6, 2023 UPDATE: The fire that broke out in a ramshackle five-story apartment building in Johannesburg, South Africa, on August 31 killed at least 73 people, including many who were homeless. The fire underscores global concerns about fire and life safety, particularly among developing nations and areas where housing pressures create additional risks for the poorest and most vulnerable populations. The conditions in which the Johannesburg occupants were living directly contributed to the large loss of life, reinforcing the need for established building codes and provisions that work to effectively protect people and property. This blog, which I originally wrote almost two years ago, touches on this and associated issues. Additionally, the NFPA Journal article “Ultra Urban,” published in the Winter 2021 edition, speaks to a wide range of fire and life safety concerns that have emerged as populations increasingly move to more urban settings. The following blog was originally published October 8, 2021. More people living on the planet creates pressure, on so many levels, in society. Fire and life safety is one of those pressures. Some fire safety challenges are directly related to the increase in population and urbanization, while others stem from our desire to mitigate the impact of having more humans on the planet. Population  growth overall has precipitated an upward shift in the number of people living in urban areas. In fact, the UN estimates that the world’s population living in urban settlements will increase to 60 percent by 2030 with one in every three people opting to reside in cities that have at least half a million inhabitants. Furthermore, it is projected that 2.5 billion will be added to the world’s urban population by 2050, with almost 90 percent of this growth happening in Asia and Africa. The magnitude of this population growth puts enormous pressure on our built environment and has already spurred the construction of more tall buildings and denser cities. As population grows, it is important that we mitigate the impact we have on our planet by ensuring that current and future development is done in a sustainable way. This shift has resulted in significant changes to our built environment in recent decades, and has ushered in new products, alternative energy sources, unique energy storage solutions, and the use of more lightweight materials with higher levels of insulation. The need for sustainability and energy efficiency is clear but unfortunately prioritizing the impact on our fire and life safety in the process is less so. We continue to see solutions developed with sustainability and/or energy efficiency in mind but fire and life safety components for these technologies are not being adequately explored. Need some examples? Just think about the dramatic fires we have seen running up the facades of high-rise buildings in the last decade. Or explosions in modern energy storage systems. How about the car fires that are challenging parking garage structures? And don’t forget the fires caused or complicated by the integration of photovoltaic panels on our buildings. While fire and life safety should always be at the forefront, we must also choose solutions that are sustainable for the long haul. When identifying and implementing new fire protection solutions, it is most critical to avoid any “substitution regret”. Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) are an example of a solution, which had been used as dominant Class B firefighting foams for decades, and eventually were found to have an adverse environmental impact due to its chemical composition. Today, replacements foams and agents are tested and studied for its effectiveness to satisfy the immediate needs, as well as the long-term safety of all involved. To complicate matters further,  life safety challenges are often most prominent in areas where income levels are lower. So, with rapid growth in cities, it is inevitable that there will be insufficient affordable housing thus prompting larger numbers of people to live in informal settlements where housing may not comply with planning, building, and safety regulations. It is tempting to dismiss this as a systemic issue in low- and middle-income countries but the fact is that low income areas exists in all countries, including the United States, and are often where the fire problem is the most significant. If we want to eliminate the fire problem, we simply cannot ignore its impact in low-income areas. Reading all this, one can easily get discouraged and think that we will never be able to eliminate the fire problem. But do not despair, because researchers have been working on all the issues mentioned above and more, so that we can continue to come up with solutions that will help us to improve safety.
A stormy sky

September is National Preparedness Month: Is Your Community Ready to Respond to a Severe Weather Event or Emergency?

While the warmer months of the year signal a time when we can indulge in vacations, beach days, and outdoor activities, the summer and fall are also when hurricanes, thunderstorms, wildfires, and other potential natural disasters make their impressive mark across many areas of the United States, often disrupting the rhythm of our daily lives. According to weather reports, the Atlantic hurricane “season” has already witnessed more hurricanes than is normal for this time of year. Hurricane Idalia, which made landfall last week as a Category 3 storm, caused significant damage across parts of the southeastern United States, most notably in Florida’s Gulf Coast, and parts of Georgia, and South Carolina. Hurricane Lee is expected to gain strength as it travels toward the Caribbean and Bahamas at the end of the week. Excessive heat warnings and heat advisories are in effect across the southern states, prompting red flag warnings and the potential for more extreme fire behavior. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) is pointing to the possibility of significant wildland fire potential for August and September in the northwest and midsection of the country. Hurricane season began June 1 and ends in late November, but according to the National Weather Service, most storms peak in mid-September and October. And it’s not just hurricanes or wildfires that make the news; the Plains and Great Lakes regions often start their battle with freezing conditions and snowfall during the fall months, too. Ready, a national public service campaign, has earmarked September as National Preparedness Month and urges those of us tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and related hazards, to work together, help educate, and empower the public to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate emergencies before they become tragedies. The theme for this year’s campaign, “Take Control in 1, 2, 3” focuses on preparing older adults for disasters, specifically those who live in communities that are disproportionally impacted by all-hazard events impacting many areas of the country. NFPA has a wealth of information to help guide building owners and facility managers, first responders, health care facility managers, electrical professionals, and public educators, as they prepare ahead of weather events in their area and work closely with communities to develop emergency plans. These resources are free and can be easily shared. For facility managers and business owners: Hurricanes can cause significant damage to chemical facilities, potentially leading to environmental and safety hazards. A recent blog post highlights resources for facility managers. For answers to bigger emergency planning challenges and questions, NFPA 1600®, Standard on Continuity, Emergency, and Crisis Management, is a vital guide for the development, implementation, assessment, and maintenance of disaster/emergency management and continuity of operations programs. Business owners can also utilize the NFPA Emergency Preparedness Checklist, which helps people identify where to focus their emergency preparedness efforts. With the peak of hurricane and wildfire seasons upon us, government agencies and aid organizations may need to shelter potentially thousands of storm and fire evacuees. A recent episode of the NFPA Podcast, Disaster Planning During a Pandemic, introduces two emergency management experts who share lessons learned from responding to past incidents during the pandemic, including several new strategies that will likely remain in place long after the pandemic is over. For first responders: First responders face many hazards when working with vehicles that have been submerged in water, particularly with hybrid or electrical vehicles. The Submerged Hybrid/Electrical Vehicle Bulletin from NFPA breaks down the safety issues to help keep first responders safe when working in flooded areas. A free toolkit is also available for first responders, which provides the information and resources needed to help local residents prepare ahead of weather events. For electrical professionals: Electrical professionals are often tasked with equipment maintenance for electrical, electronic, and communication systems and equipment found in multifamily residential complexes, industrial plants, and commercial buildings to prevent equipment failures and worker injuries. The NFPA Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist builds off recommendations in Chapter 32 of the 2019 edition of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, and provides a useful framework for recovering electrical equipment and systems after a disaster. For health care providers: New criteria require health care providers to have extensive plans in place for numerous types of events including hurricanes as part of an emergency preparedness rule passed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in November 2017. Requirements for emergency and backup power supplies as well as consideration of other logistical needs for long-duration events are an important part of the rule. Find information that can help medical providers with their emergency preparedness needs. In September 2019, an NFPA white paper was introduced to help health care facilities meet the requirements of the CMS emergency preparedness rule. For the public: A fact sheet and related information provide residents and businesses with easy wildfire risk reduction steps they can do around their homes and buildings to make them safer from wildfire and blowing embers. An escape plan activity sheet helps families prepare and practice an escape plan in case of a fire in the home. An emergency supplies kit checklist provides a list of items a family may need in case of an evacuation due to an emergency weather event. A tip sheet provides the facts and steps homeowners can take to safely use portable generators in the event homes lose power after a storm. With so much severe weather happening across the country, the time to start preparing communities is now. Make Preparedness Month the jump start you need to put plans in place. For these and other related information sources, visit the NFPA emergency preparedness webpage.

Preparing Chemical Facilities for Hurricane Season

Recently, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board issued a call to chemical facilities to prepare for a harsh hurricane season based on an “above average” outlook on hurricane activity from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This year, NOAA has stated that there’s a 30 percent chance of an above-average-intensity hurricane season. NOAA’s predictions also estimate a range of 12 to 17 total named storms this season. NOAA gave its predictions a 70 percent confidence rating.  Just last week, Hurricane Idalia collided with the Gulf Coast of Florida, where the storm is estimated to have caused $12 to $20 billion in damage and lost economic activity, according to CBS News. Chemical facilities pose a special risk Hurricanes can cause significant damage to chemical facilities, in particular, and potentially lead to environmental and safety hazards. Chemical plants are complex facilities that often handle hazardous materials and if not properly managed during a hurricane can pose serious risks to the people working at the facility and nearby communities. There have been many fire and explosion incidents over the years due to lack of preparedness during hurricanes. One, for example, was the Arkema, Inc. chemical plant fire in Texas in 2017, during which a hurricane disabled the facility’s refrigeration system and water flooded the equipment and caused the stored chemicals to burn. Another incident occurred at Bio-Lab’s Lake Charles facility in Louisiana in 2020 after water from a hurricane came into contact with chemicals stored inside the facility, causing a chemical reaction which initiated a fire. NFPA offers solutions There are plans that can be put into place that cover what can be done to reduce the possible impact of hurricane damage causing fire or explosions. One of the plans that can be used is NFPA 1660, Standard for Emergency, Continuity, and Crisis Management: Preparedness, Response and Recovery, which provides guidelines for creating, implementing, assessing, and maintaining effective disaster/emergency management and business continuity programs. It covers a wide range of topics related to disaster preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation, as well as continuity planning to ensure the continued operation of organizations in the face of disruptions.    RELATED: Read a blog about bringing electrical systems back online after major storms   NFPA 1660 emphasizes a comprehensive approach to emergency management and continuity planning, encompassing various aspects such as risk assessments, planning, communication, training, and ongoing improvement. More specifically, NFPA 1660 addresses hurricanes in multiple chapters in Annex A, along with multiple chapters advising incident pre-planning processes. Preparation for natural disasters often goes beyond evacuating the plant and may even require additional isolation and containment measures. Some facilities may be required to have an emergency action plan from NFPA 1, Fire Code, or NFPA 101, Life Safety Code. Those plans should address hazards that are normally outside of the scope of the Code to the extent practicable. Other NFPA codes and standards that address hurricanes are NFPA 110, Standard for Emergency and Standby Power Systems, NFPA 1250, Recommend Practice in Fire and Emergency Service Organization Risk Management, and NFPA 59A, Standard for the Production, Storage, and Handling of Liquefied Natural Gas, just to name a few. Utilizing any of the NFPA codes and standards that address hurricane hazards can help to create a framework for developing emergency management and business continuity plans. Overall, the interaction between hurricanes and chemical plants underscores the importance of comprehensive disaster preparedness and response plans. These plans should be regularly reviewed, updated, and tested to ensure that the facilities can effectively manage the risks associated with hurricanes and minimize their potential impact on both human safety and the environment.

CFPS: What It Means, Why It Matters, and What Changes Are Coming Soon

The Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS®) is a world-renowned program from NFPA® that recognizes individuals who demonstrate wide-ranging skills and knowledge of fire protection. The program is set to undergo changes soon. This blog reviews what the CFPS credential signifies, its value to the fire protection community, upcoming changes, and why individuals might want to take the exam before the end of the year. What Is CFPS? The way in which we protect people and property from fire is complex and takes many different forms. Individuals who have earned the prestigious designation of Certified Fire Protection Specialist understand this in ways that many others within the fire protection field are unable to. Fire protection includes the following aspects: ·       Measures to stop fire before it starts ·       Public education to inform people of the risks and safety measures that can aid in prevention ·       Fire detection methods to know when a fire has started ·       Suppression systems to try to suppress or extinguish a fire ·       Building construction measures to limit the spread of fire and smoke ·       Fire department setup and structure to respond to fires and other emergencies All of these approaches are used to protect a huge variety of materials, equipment, processes, and facilities that all pose unique hazards and challenges. Together, all of the factors listed above form a comprehensive fire protection strategy. Many different stakeholders contribute to that strategy and are often responsible for only one aspect or component of that strategy. In many cases, the different people working on providing key components of fire protection have very little insight into what the other people are doing. This is not inherently wrong and can often be managed well enough through a construction or renovation project, but when issues arise and hard questions are asked, those who understand—and can communicate how interconnected the different fire protection components are—will be able to find a solution or reach a resolution more efficiently. What Value Does CFPS Hold? The skills and knowledge required to attain the CFPS credential add value to the individual, the company they work for, the clients they serve, potential future employers, and the people they are working to protect. Understanding the full picture of fire protection and how one aspect or component plays into the complete fire protection strategy allows for better problem solving when unique situations arise, improves communication between all stakeholders, including authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and can help avoid costly mistakes. Individuals with this certification can demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge to provide this value on projects that they are involved in. What Changes Are Coming? The CFPS exam will be updated in January 2024, and at that point, the body of knowledge will change to the 21st edition of the Fire Protection Handbook® (which just came out this year, read more about that here). Additionally, there will be changes made to the CFPS exam blueprint, which lays the foundation for the exam. To ensure its accuracy and relevance, subject matter experts from our Certification Advisory Group (CAG) have been working on updating the job task analysis, and that process is nearly complete. Following that update is a validation survey that aims to gather feedback and input from CFPS-certified professionals to ensure the blueprint accurately represents the skills and knowledge required in the field. The survey allows professionals to share their insights and experiences, which helps validate the relevance and effectiveness of the exam blueprint. By taking these steps, we strive to create an exam blueprint that is truly representative of the skills and knowledge required in today’s dynamic fire protection landscape. This means that starting in January 2024, the body of knowledge will be changing from the 20th edition to the 21st edition of the Fire Protection Handbook. The breakdown of topic areas and the types of questions will also be revised from the current exam to reflect the most current topics and challenges in the field. Why Should Someone Consider Taking the CFPS Exam Before the End of the Year? The upcoming changes to the CFPS program are positive and exciting, and the new 21st edition of the Fire Protection Handbook reflects the latest and greatest in technology and safety practices.  If you’ve been considering taking the CFPS exam and have done preparation or are intimately familiar with the content in the 20th edition of the Fire Protection Handbook, or you need to retake the exam, consider taking the exam in 2023 before the updates and changes take effect. Get all the details you need to apply now.

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Part IV – Two Types of Exposure to Electricity Fatalities

There are two ways to contact energized electrical parts or equipment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) database, and those are direct or indirect. Direct exposure to electricity includes contact directly from the power source to the person, such as touching a live wire or getting caught up in an arc-flash. Indirect exposure typically occurs when an object is unintentionally electrified. Indirect exposure to electricity includes when a ladder being carried contacts a power line, when contact is made to an enclosure that is energized, or when electricity is transmitted through a wet surface. Exposure to electricity has been associated with 1,653 fatalities since 2011, according to the BLS. Of those fatalities, 858 were reported to be due to direct contact while 688 were reported as due to indirect contact. The following chart shows the total fatalities associated with each type as well as the voltage associated with those fatalities since 2011. SOURCE: BLS It may seem odd that the number of fatalities for greater than 220 volts is the same for both contact types. However, you may remember from reading last month’s blog that powerlines and transformers account for over half of all electrical fatalities. Many of those fatalities are attributed to contact through a conductive component, such as a ladder, boom truck, or dump trunk. It is probable that these account for many of the indirect exposures above 220 volts. Perhaps employers should evaluate how their electrical safety program addresses risks and tasks when any employee is around a powerline.   RELATED: Download the Key Components of an Electrical Safety Program fact sheet   The direct exposure fatalities for both voltage ranges are troubling since employers are required by Federal Law and NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, to protect employees from known electrical hazards. Electric shock has been recognized as a hazard for over 100 years and arc-flash has been for over 40 years. It is uncommon to have electrical hazards exposed during normal operation of equipment or with equipment that is properly maintained. Making direct contact with an exposed, energized part typically occurs when an employee is knowingly exposed to an industry recognized electrical hazard. Direct exposure fatalities below 220 volts could be due to the perception that household voltages are not as dangerous as over 220 volts and, therefore, an ESWC is not necessary. Lower voltage fatalities could be due to complacency since these voltages are commonly encountered. An employee performing a task near a powerline is as knowingly exposed to a hazard as an employee performing energized work in a panelboard. Whether it is justified or not, the exposure could be due to an assigned task. It could be due to an employee not being trained to recognize electrical hazards for the task assigned to them. It could be due to exposed hazards in equipment that has not been properly maintained. If your electrical safety program does not address what is required by NFPA 70E, every employee could be routinely exposed to electrical hazards since nothing is being done to ensure that they are not.   Fatalities due to indirect exposure to 220 volts and less are substantially fewer than for direct exposure. A lot of equipment in this voltage range is consumer type products. Manufacturers of this equipment often use product standards to evaluate the equipment for safety. These products typically undergo third-party listing due to the risk associated with the consumer use. Often, there are no exposed conductors or parts to make indirect contact with at these lower voltages, which are commonly referred to as household voltages. Although, it is often assumed that direct contact is the focus of NFPA 70E, both contact methods are addressed. Proper application of the conditions of normal operation, approach boundaries, and Section 130.8 could decrease the number of indirect contact fatalities. Establishing an electrically safe work condition, justifying energized work, and using personal protective equipment could decrease the number of direct contact fatalities. Make sure your electrical safety program addresses preventing all possible exposures to electricity from any piece of electrical equipment wherever your employee works.
Partial list of Wildland Fires in U.S. History with Ten or More Fatalities

Maui wildfire one of deadliest in U.S. history

*Since this blog was first published, the death toll has continued to climb. As of August 25, the reported number of deaths is 115.   According to NFPA research, this week’s Lahaina Fire death toll, now at 80 people, is among the top ten deadliest wildfires on record since 1871.   “Through a deadly combination of human and natural causes, we now see unprecedented wildfires in every corner of the globe and in communities that were previously not viewed as high risk,” said NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley. “This painful and tragic reality was on full display in Maui as wind driven fires overwhelmed the small island.”   Pauley’s statements are reinforced in additional facts from NFPA research including that four of the deadliest wildfires in the U.S., including this one, have occurred since 2017.   He continued, “While voluntary actions to mitigate property have proved successful to an extent, the sheer volume of communities at risk requires changes to where we build, how we build, and what we do to existing properties through stronger policies to create a built environment better able to withstand such massive devastation.”   Today there are nearly 45 million homes in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). According to the National Interagency Fire Center, some 71.8 million properties in the U.S. are at some level of risk from wildfire. Each year some of the largest-loss fires occur in the WUI.   In the past five years, wildfires have destroyed nearly 63,000 structures in the U.S., the majority of which were homes. Record high temperatures, serious drought conditions, and high winds from severe weather events such as thunder and lightning storms have been blamed for the recent increase in wildfire activity in Canada, Europe, and in high-risk areas across the U.S. Officials predict more wildfires will erupt in the coming months due to continued dry heat and increased storm activity, prompting residents to look for information on what they can do to reduce their risk before a wildfire.   In a media advisory this week, NFPA provided resources for media and the public on various aspects for the wildfire problem.   Additional information, resources, and articles: Outthink Wildfire™, a comprehensive strategy that lays out five key policy changes that need to be made at the federal, state, and local levels and if followed, will end the destruction of communities by wildfire over the next 30 years. Firewise USA® recognition program that empowers residents to work collaboratively in reducing wildfire risks. Prepare Your Home for Wildfire Fact Sheet Home Ignition Zone Checklist Wildfire Preparedness Tips NFPA/IBHS Wildfire Research Fact Sheet Series Blog: Clearing the Five-Foot Zone Around Your Home is Critical to Safety from Wildfires NFPA Journal, May 2023 Wildfire Column: Inflection Point   For additional resources and information, and to learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners’ risk for wildfire damage, please visit NFPA’s wildfire  webpage.   For those seeking information on federal disaster assistance, please visit FEMA.  
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