Topic: Research

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.

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!

2021 “Ecosystem Year in Review Report” Highlights Successes and Tragedies and Resources Needed to Help Improve Global Community Safety

Fire and life safety deaths, injuries, and losses may be unexpected, but they do not happen by chance, according to the newly published 2021 Ecosystem Year in Review report by the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute. The year 2021, says the report, was one of modest improvements and tragic setbacks that included massive wildfires, a fatal collapse of an elevated subway rail, and a hospital fire that all highlight how gaps in our global fire and life safety system can lead to tragedies. These and other examples illustrated in the seven-page report are the product of weaknesses in a community’s Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework NFPA developed in 2018 that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, life, electrical, and other hazards. A lack of attention to any one of these elements results in greater risks and can create a significant safety threat. If just one element breaks down, people can be hurt. The Ecosystem is a key to understanding how decisions made over time can either exacerbate or control threats to safety. There are many steps to improving safety and more work to be done. But the key to reducing losses in the years to come is starting now to make these changes. Download the report to learn more. This year, the report is also available in Spanish and for the first time since the report’s inception, fire and life safety advocates can read the report in Arabic. Find additional resources and information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem on our webpage.  
Electrical worker outside

New NFPA research reports Shine a Spotlight on Fatal and Non-Fatal Electrical Injuries at work

Each May, NFPA actively supports National Electrical Safety Month, a campaign sponsored by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), which raises awareness of potential home electrical hazards, the importance of electrical fire safety, and the safety of all electrical and non-electrical workers. As a step towards this end, NFPA recently published two reports using data from the Bureau using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Fatal Work Injuries Caused by Exposure to Electricity in 2020 and Nonfatal Work Injuries Caused by Exposure to Electricity in 2020,separately examine fatal and non-fatal electrical injuries at work. The reports find that many electrical injury victims are not “electrical workers” and are unlikely to have received training in recognizing and working safely around electrical hazards. Data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries show that 126 workers in the U.S were fatally injured in 2020 because of exposure to electricity. Hispanic workers accounted for two in five (40 percent) of the victims. It’s also worth noting that the vast majority (99 percent) of worker who were fatally injured through exposure to electricity were male.  Workers who were 25 to 34 years of age accounted for one-third (33 percent) of the fatal injuries.  Almost three in five injuries (56 percent) were caused by direct exposure to electricity, while two in five fatal injuries resulted from indirect exposure to electricity. The report also found that private residences were the leading location of fatal electrical injuries, followed by industrial premises and streets or highways ranking third. Data from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses indicate that workers in private industry and public administration experienced 2,380 nonfatal electrical injuries in 2020, an average of 46 injuries every week. The report finds that seven in 10 of the nonfatal injury victims were male (72 percent) and 27 percent were female.  Three-quarters of the victims were 44 years of age or younger. The vast majority (85 percent) of victims were injured through direct exposure to electricity at work while eight percent of victims were injured through indirect exposure to electricity. Take time during Electrical Safety Month to learn more about electrical hazards in the workplace and help us to share crucial information about ways we can reduce the risk of electrical injuries and create a safer world for everyone. 

Symposium to Focus on the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and How Professionals Can Apply its Principles to Help Solve Today’s Fire Safety Challenges

When NFPA unveiled the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in 2018, stakeholders told us they were drawn to the idea. Over the last few years, they’ve asked poignant questions and examined ways they could work more closely together to help minimize risk and prevent loss, injuries, and death from hazards associated with fire, electrical, and other dangers in their communities. This fall, NFPA and the University of Maryland Department of Fire Protection Engineering will co-host their first Ecosystem symposium, inviting professionals from all disciplines to share their knowledge and ideas, and engage in more action-oriented collaboration between groups. From understanding the principles of the Ecosystem to the importance of working collectively, attendees will come away with the understanding and the tools to apply the Ecosystem to the challenges in our modern-day built environment. If you are a researcher, academic, risk manager, code official, engineer, architect, or member of the fire service, or you’re in involved in policy or urban planning, or other related profession, we invite you to attend. The event, which runs from September 28-29, 2022, in College Park, Maryland, also features some special guest speakers, including: John Barylick, Author, KILLER SHOW: The Station Nightclub Fire, America's Deadliest Rock Concert Chris Connealy, former Texas State Fire Marshal Benjamin Ditch, AVP, Sr. Lead Research Engineer, FM Global Professor Margaret Mcnamee, Division of Fire Safety Engineering, Lund University, Sweden Birgitte Messerschmidt, Director, Applied Research Group, NFPA Jim Pauley, NFPA President and CEO The event is limited to 180 participants so reserve your seat today. For more information about the event and to register, visit the University of Maryland event webpage. We look forward to seeing everyone in September!

The Human Toll: Understanding the Physical, Emotional, and Psychological Issues Associated with Electrical Burn Injuries

NFPA has dedicated its efforts to raising awareness and helping educate workers, employers, and the public about the hazards associated with electricity both on the job and at home so that one day no one will have to suffer the effects of electrical burn injuries. Supporting ESFI and its annual Electrical Safety Month campaign provides an important platform for us to remind people about these hazards, but it is also an opportunity to share critical information about the physical, emotional, and psychological toll electrical injuries can take on a person and his/her families for months and years to come. NFPA created a video campaign series in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors called Faces of Fire/Electrical that is devoted to telling the personal stories of people affected by electrical injuries. Survivors like Don Johnson, who suffered third-degree burns on his face, neck, and arms due to an arc flash event that happened at work and who spent years recovering from his injuries; and Pam Elliott who shares her personal story of resilience after suffering major burns over 50 percent of her body after a fire ignited by a damaged lighting fixture destroyed her family home when she was just a young girl. Electrical hazards can affect anyone at any time if we are not careful. These stories and many more highlighted in the campaign serve as powerful reminders about the need for more recognition and understanding of the electrical hazards that exist in our daily lives. Here are a few additional resources we are highlighting this month that feature stories from survivors and the doctors who treat them: NFPA has a podcast called the Mysteries of Electrical Injuries. In the interview, we speak with three renowned doctors from the Chicago Electrical Trauma Rehabilitation Institute about what an electrical shock can do to the human body, the treatments available, and how our understanding of the resulting injuries continues to evolve. It’s a discussion you definitely don’t want to miss. One of the doctors featured in the “Mysteries” podcast, Dr. Neil Pliskin, is part of a lineup of experts in the “Empowering Electrical Design, Installation, and Safety” program as part of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series. Dr. Pliskin discusses his work with electrical injury patients and the research associated with neuropsychological issues that can arise following electrical shock injuries. The program is available on demand through the end of May.  In a separate video, and as part of the Faces of Fire/Electrical campaign, we interviewed Dr. Victor Joe who works at UCI Health Regional Burn Center and sits on the Phoenix Society’s Board. In his interview, Dr. Joe discusses his passionate work to treat the complete physical and emotional healing of patients suffering from burn injuries. Join us during Electrical Safety Month in sharing this crucial information and spreading the word on how we can all reduce the risk of electrical injuries and create a safer world for all. You can find these resources and more like videos, checklists, and tip sheets, on our website.
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