Monday, June 18, 2018

Don't Leave It In Vegas - NFPA Conference & Expo 2018

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”,  may be a great slogan for your evening activities, but not for the content of the 2018 annual NFPA Conference and Expo. Every attendee receives valuable knowledge, tools, and resources that they should bring back to their respective fire departments and organizations. Educational sessions, vendors, and networking opportunities abound for all functions and components of fire protection and life safety:
  • Healthcare
  • Fire Service
  • Emergency Management
  • Fire Protection Engineering
  • Fire Protection and Alarm Systems
  • Facilities Management

General sessions featured two speakers that focused on the theme of future innovations. Futurist, Jim Carroll, provided a broad overview of the future of technology, and how that future is already here. He challenged attendees to stay attuned to the world around us and strive for continuous growth and development with the quote, “The future belongs to those who are fast.”

Keller Rinaudo inspired the audience with the accomplishments of his company, Zipline. Zipline is utilizing “futuristic” drone technology to bring life saving medical supplies to the most remote parts of the world. The company is currently in the process of opening its second distribution center which will provide the entire country of Rwanda with readily available blood and medicines.

NFPA President, Jim Pauley, introduced the “fire and life safety ecosystem” concept. The ecosystem is eight elements that must work in harmony to protect people and property. Pauley stated, “We have forgotten that safety is a system – not a singular action, piece of equipment, or event.”

My particular interests led me to presentations on pre-incident planning, human factors and behaviors, risk and resilience, media relations, and training and development.  Two of the most impressive presentations were case studies, one from Uber and the other from Carvana.

In “The eVTOL Revolutions: How the Next Generation of Air Travel Will Impact Fire and Life Safety”, representatives from Uber presented the next phase in their growth strategy and its impact on the fire and life safety industry. Celina Mikolajczak, Director of Engineering, painted a picture of the what Uber plans to do with electric VTOL travel and transportation. Rex Alexander, Head of Aviation Infrastructure, discussed the impact that this new form of public transportation would have on codes, standards, and FAA regulations.

Carvana, the online-only used car dealer, created the innovative concept of the car vending machine.  Their presentation, “Carvana: Performance-Based Design of an Automated Vehicle Storage and Retrieval System” demonstrated how they were able to implement the performance-based design process to create a product that would garner acceptance from a variety of local officials and regulatory agencies.  

The NFPA Conference & Expo is one of the world’s biggest and most comprehensive fire, electrical, and life safety events. It's an opportunity to gain valuable insights, meet with industry experts and learn about new products and solutions.  With 110 knowledge enhancing presentations, several hundred vendors exhibiting in the expo hall, and more than 1,000 attendees to network with, the NFPA Conference and Expo should be the primary event on the fire and life safety professional’s calendar.  

Handouts of the all presentations are available for download from,

Featured New Developments:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Inspectores de Bomberos abrumados

Fuente: Oakland Post  - San Pablo Apartment Fire

El Bay Area News Group publicó recientemente un artículo titulado, “Quemado: Cómo los abrumados inspectores de bomberos nos protegen. Este es un informe de investigación que detalla cómo los departamentos de bomberos del área de la bahía de California no están logrando los requerimientos anuales de inspección de incendios. Este artículo muestra las deficiencias de los organismos de prevención de incendios y pide respuestas a los oficiales de bomberos locales.

Los autores del artículo analizaron las estadísticas de un período de ocho años y muestran
que las inspecciones anuales requeridas en las escuelas K-12 (nota del traductor: desde
Kinder hasta grado 12) y en las propiedades residenciales multifamiliares no se llevan a cabo. Varios departamentos de bomberos admiten que ni siquiera saben dónde están estas propiedades o cuántas existen en su jurisdicción. Estas brechas en las inspecciones se atribuyen a los bajos niveles del personal y a los inadecuados sistemas de recopilación de datos. Estos dos elementos críticos conducen fácilmente a "departamentos de bomberos abrumados y a menudo desorganizados". Un Fire Marshal (Inspector de Bomberos)  afirma que los hallazgos en este informe de investigación revelan "una falla sistemática de los programas de inspección en su departamento y en otros".

Este es un artículo importante para que todos los inspectores de incendios lean: →

El libro “Fire Prevention Blueprint: Seven Disciplines for Building Effective
Fire Prevention Organizations”, (disponible en, aborda estos problemas y proporciona siete disciplinas que los departamentos de prevención y seguridad de los cuerpos de bomberos deben implementar para lograr un rendimiento eficaz y eficiente.

Las siete disciplinas descritas en el Fire Prevention Blueprint, están estructuradas para
ayudar a los departamentos de bomberos a evitar el abatimiento y crear un camino claro
de acción para sus organizaciones en la prevención de incendios.

Disciplina # 1: Conocer a la comunidad.
Disciplina # 2: Tener un plan.
Disciplina # 3: Hacer cumplir los códigos (normatividad).
Disciplina # 4: Realizar revisión del plan e inspecciones de campo.
Disciplina # 5: Investigar incidentes de fuego.
Disciplina # 6: Educar al público.
Disciplina # 7: Tener el personal adecuado.

Puede utilizar nuestra herramienta "FPO Effectiveness Tool"
para evaluar dónde se encuentra su institución y qué áreas deben mejorarse para lograr la
máxima efectividad.

Autor:  Aaron Johnson
Traducido por:  Fernando Castillo, Colombia

Monday, June 11, 2018

Overwhelmed Fire Inspectors

San Pablo Apartment Fire - Oakland Post
The Bay Area News Group recently published an article entitled, “Burned Out: How Overwhelmed Fire Inspectors Fail to Protect Us.”  This is an investigative report that details how California’s Bay Area fire departments are not achieving annual fire inspection requirements.  This article shows the deficiencies of the fire prevention organizations and calls for answers from the local fire officials.

The article’s authors looked at statistics over an eight year period, and show that annual required inspections in K-12 schools and multi-family residential properties are failing to be conducted. Several departments admit to not even knowing where these properties are or how many exist in their jurisdiction.  These inspection gaps are blamed on low staffing levels, and inadequate data collection systems. These two critical elements easily lead to “overwhelmed and often disorganized fire departments”. One Fire Marshal states that the findings in this investigative report reveal “a systematic failure of inspection programs in his and other departments”.

This is an important article for all fire inspectors to read →

Fire Prevention Blueprint: Seven Disciplines for Building Effective Fire Prevention Organizations addresses these issues and provides seven disciplines fire prevention organizations need to implement for effective and efficient performance.

The seven disciplines outlined in the Fire Prevention Blueprint are structured to help fire departments prevent overwhelm and create a clear path of action for their fire prevention organizations.

Discipline #1: Know the community.
Discipline #2:  Have a plan.
Discipline #3:  Enforce the code.
Discipline #4: Conduct plan review and field inspections.
Discipline #5:  Investigate fire incidents.
Discipline #6:  Educate the public.
Discipline #7:  Be adequately staffed.

You can utilize our "FPO Effectiveness Tool" to assess where your organization is, and what areas need to be improved on to achieve maximum effectiveness.

More about the Fire Prevention Blueprint:

Monday, June 4, 2018

When Is A Fire Watch Required

The Fire Code (NFPA 1) provides the authority to require standby and firewatch personnel to the AHJ.  Standby and fire watch personnel can be required “when potentially hazardous conditions or a reduction in a life safety feature exist”. Section 1.7.17 provides an exemplary list of situations in which this may occur, and clearly states the cost of these personnel is not to be incurred by the AHJ.

Though this section provides the blanket statement allowing AHJ’s to require a standby or firewatch personnel there are eight situations  within the fire code where the requirement for a standby or firewatch is expressly stated.

  • Special outdoor events, carnivals and fairs. Section 10.14.4 states, “where required by the AHJ, standby fire personnel shall be provided…”
  • As part of a fire protection system impairment plan, for systems that will be out-of-service for more than 10 hours within a 24-hour period, a fire watch is one of the options that can be required to adjust for the increased fire risk. []
  • Facilities with impaired or chronic nuisance prone fire alarm systems. Chronic nuisance alarms are defined as those that produce “5 or more nuisance alarms within a 365-day period”. []
  • During building demolition operations and at hazardous demolition sites. [16.5.4]. Section 16.2.2 requires construction sites utilizing trash chutes to submit a safety plan to the AHJ. A component of this safety plan is fire watch personnel.  This can be found in the Annex, and refers the reader to NFPA 241.
  • Fire watch and standby personnel can be required in any assembly occupancy []. The annex section provides guidance as to what specific types of assembly occupancies a fire watch may want to be implemented, “such locations would include...the spaces underneath grandstands and the areas inside and outside tents and air-supported structures”. [25.1.8]
  • Soundstages and motion picture production facilities when pyrotechnics are being used or during other hazardous operations and activities require firewatch and standby personnel. [32.4.4/32.5.4]
  • For storage occupancies, section states that a fire watch “shall” be required whenever the sprinkler system is out-of-service. Additionally, anytime hot work (cutting, welding, soldering, brazing, etc) is being conducted, a fire watch must be in place. []
  • A fire watch is required during hot work operations in which combustible materials, or wall openings are within 35 feet of the work area, or if the material is greater than 35 feet but easily ignited by sparks. [41.3.5]
The following list represents a compilation of fire watch personnel responsibilities and requirements.  These are listed throughout the various code areas and annex sections.

Fire watch personnel shall:

  • Be properly trained on their specific duties and responsibilities
  • Be equipped with fire extinguishers or extinguishing equipment
  • Have emergency services and fire department notification capabilities
  • Be assigned no other duties, fire watch only
  • Continuously patrol the affected area
  • Remain on-site throughout duration of the work and up to 2 hours upon completion of work
  • Detect and document the presence, or lack of, fire
  • Confirm other systems and egress are functioning properly
  • Prevent accumulation of flammable materials
  • Maintain work area in fire-safe condition
  • Possess authority to stop work if unsafe

Orr Protection has created a great toolkit for conducting a fire watch. This free download includes, standard fire watch rules and patrol patterns, a fire watch log, and a complete checklist for personnel and responsibilities.

Access the Orr Protection Fire Watch Toolkit here -->

Monday, May 28, 2018

NFPA, IBC, and ISO Construction Classifications, in Comparison

Building construction classifications are determined based on the buildings structural elements and the fire-resistance rating of those elements.  These elements include, structural framing, exterior and interior bearing walls, and floor and roof construction and their supporting features.

There are three governing “bodies” that provide building construction classifications.  Each group provides a different classification designation, however, they all contain the same construction elements and fire-resistance ratings of materials. These three organizations are:
The National Fire Protection Association defines each construction type and classification in NFPA 220, Standard on Types of Building Construction. The International Building Code defines these construction types and classifications in Chapter 6, Types of Construction. The Insurance Services Office defines these construction types and classification in its Construction Briefs page on its website.

The chart below shows a side-by-side comparison of all three construction type classifications.

Type I and II - Fire Resistive, Noncombustible

NFPA: “...those types in which the fire walls, structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are of approved noncombustible or limited combustible materials.”

IBC: “...those types of construction in which the building elements...are of noncombustible materials.”

ISO Class 6 (Fire Resistive): “The exterior bearing walls and load-bearing portions of exterior walls must be of noncombustible materials or of masonry, but exterior nonbearing walls and wall panels may be slow burning, combustible, or with no fire-resistance rating.”

ISO Class 5 (Modified Fire Resistive): “...Building construction consists of fire resistive materials such as masonry and protected steel materials not less than 4” thick.”

ISO Class 4 (Masonry Noncombustible): “...Buildings with walls made of masonry, consisting of concrete block, reinforced masonry and can be combined with steel framing..”

ISO Class 3 (Noncombustible): “...Buildings with exterior walls, floors and roofs of noncombustible or slow-burning materials.”

Type III - Ordinary

NFPA: “... that type in which exterior walls and structural elements that are portions of exterior walls are of approved noncombustible or limited-combustible walls, interior structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are entirely or partially of wood…”

IBC: “...that type of construction in which the exterior walls are of noncombustible materials and the interior building elements are of any material permitted by this code.”

ISO Class 2 (Joisted Masonry): “...Buildings with exterior walls of masonry or fire-resistive construction rated for not less than one hour and with combustible floors and roofs.”

Type IV - Heavy Timber

NFPA: “...that type in which fire walls, exterior walls, and interior bearing walls and structural elements that are portions of such walls are of approved noncombustible or limited combustible materials...other interior structural elements...shall be of solid or laminated wood without concealed spaces…with the allowable dimensions of [this code]...”

IBC: “...that type of construction in which the exterior walls are of noncombustible materials and the interior building elements are of solid or laminated wood without concealed spaces.”

Type V - Wood Frame

NFPA: “...that type in which structural elements, walls, arches, floors, and roofs are entirely or partially of wood…”

IBC: “...that type of construction in which the structural elements, exterior walls and interior walls are of any materials permitted by this code.”

ISO Class 1 (Frame): “...Buildings with exterior walls, floors and roofs of combustible material.”

Monday, May 21, 2018

The FPO Effectiveness Tool

Listen to an audio presentation of this post.

In my latest book, Fire Prevention Blueprint, I outline seven disciplines that are required for building an effective fire prevention organization. But, how can you rate your current level of effectiveness? To answer this question we have developed the “FPO balance wheel”.

The “FPO balance wheel” addresses each of the seven disciplines required for an effective fire prevention organization. This tool will help to assess where your organization is, and what areas need to be improved on to achieve maximum effectiveness.

How to use the wheel:
  • Use the questions below as a guide to accurately rate yourself on each discipline. 
  • See the center of the circle as 1 and the outer edge as 10. (1 is the worst, 10 is the best)
  • Rate your organization on its effectiveness in that specific discipline, by placing a dot in the numeric range. Also, write the rank number beside the dot.
  • After you have ranked each section with a dot, connect all the dots with a straight line. This new ‘shape’ is a visual representation of current balance in your organization.

Example of Completed FPO Balance Wheel

Know Your Community
  • Have you completed a CRA (community risk assessment)?
  • Do you know the seven content areas that need to be assessed for the CRA?
  • Do you know the specific risks and hazards within each area of your community?
  • Do you know where to get data from and how to use it?

Have a Plan
  • Do you have a specific and separate ‘operations manual’ for your fire prevention organization?
  • Does this manual fully outline all the tasks and responsibilities of your organization?
  • Do you have a strategic plan in place that effectively addresses the communities fire protection and life safety needs?
  • Does your fire prevention plan accurately outline the programs and strategies that will be utilized to reduce, mitigate, or eliminate risks posed to the community?
  • Is your plan or strategy made up of realistic and achievable goals?
  • Have you created a long-range plan for the success of your organization?

Enforce the Code
  • Are you currently conducting inspections in all buildings at regular intervals?
  • Have you classified the occupancy risk of each structure?
  • Do you know how many inspections are required annually, biennially, and triennially?
  • Have you pre-planned your structures so you know the risks and hazards they pose?
  • Have you established inspection frequency for all buildings?
  • Do your personnel have the ‘soft skills’ necessary for gaining compliance?

Conduct Plan Review and Field Inspections
  • Do you know the nine elements of effective plan review?
  • Do your personnel have a clear understanding of the functions and benefits of plan review?
  • Is your organization involved in the commissioning and integrated systems testing process?

Investigate Fire Incidents
  • Do you have personnel in place to conduct fire investigations?
  • Are company officers properly trained to conduct preliminary fire investigations?
  • Are you maximizing the data gathered from these investigations?
  • Are you familiar with NFPA 921 and the six-step investigation methodology?
  • Are your personnel equipped with all the necessary tools to conduct a thorough investigation?

Educate the Public
  • Are your public education programs interactive and engaging?
  • Are your public education programs relevant to community needs?
  • Have you built strategic partnerships with community stakeholders?
  • Do your public educators know how to communicate effectively?

Be Adequately Staffed

Review your balance wheel rankings for each section. After looking at your whole wheel consider the following questions for improvement.
  1. List four things that this wheel exercise tells you about your FPO.
  2. Did you rate the majority of sections as a 5 or less, or 6 or higher?
  3. How many sections are 5 or less?
  4. What areas do you want to most change or improve?
  5. What actions do you need to take to balance out your wheel or make needed changes?
  6. What resources will you need to make this happen?