Author(s): James Pauley. Published on March 1, 2019.

Who Needs Research?

BY Jim Pauley

By now you’ve heard me talk a lot about the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem™: eight key components that have to work together to ensure that we protect people and property.

But consider where the information and knowledge comes from that informs those eight elements. Certainly, the experts and volunteers that make up our NFPA technical committees are a key source of that information. Equally important, though, is research—it’s a component that we all know exists, but we sometimes take it for granted.

Over the last five years, NFPA has significantly expanded its research efforts and capabilities. We have also changed how we convey those findings to you. For example, in the past, when we conducted our research of the US fire problem, we focused on the numbers. Today, we also focus on what the numbers are telling us. We are finding better ways to convey that information to you through what we call the “insights” to the research. For instance, in our recent report on home fires started by smoking, we note that the increase in indoor smoking bans has been accompanied by an increase in home smoking material structure fires that began outside. The leading area of origin for home smoking fires during the period 2012–2016 was exterior balconies or porches. You can see our new approach to presenting the information by visiting

In addition, our Fire Protection Research Foundation has dramatically expanded its work in recent years, crossing over into some new and very interesting areas. Those subjects include safety system cybersecurity; electrical circuit data collection to support new designs and installations; the creation of an inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) data exchange model; and the development of training materials for our new standard-in-progress, NFPA 1700, Guide to Structural Firefighting.

Lastly, we know that our mission and our reach are global, and research is no different. We are engaging the research community around the world on a project-to-project basis, and we are also creating a continuous dialogue with the global research community to help shape the future of fire and life safety research.

So, who needs research? We all do. I am proud to say that NFPA is rising to the challenge and changing to meet the needs of the future.