Topic: Building & Life Safety

Massive blaze at apartment building in New York underscores critical importance of an educated public

Last week, a massive blaze at six-story apartment building in Queens, NY displaced approximately 240 residents and injured six people. According to Daniel Nigro, commissioner of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), the door to the apartment unit where the fire began had not been closed when the resident exited, a misstep that contributed to the fire’s rapid spread. "The door was open," Commissioner Nigro said. "The occupant fled, left the door open. We've stressed over the years the seriousness of that if you do unfortunately have a fire in your home or apartment, how important it is to close that door. The fire (traveled) out to the hallway, the units were unable to make a quick advance." Much research has been done in recent years underscoring this point, including fire tests by Underwriters Laboratories which show that closing doors upon exiting a fire can make a substantive difference in slowing its spread. Nigro also noted that a delay in calling 911 furthered the fire’s spread and the damage incurred. According to an FDNY video posted on the department’s Facebook page, residents smelled smoke and smoke alarms were sounding, but no one called the fire department for 10 minutes. This delayed response reflects a complacency around fire that can lead to devastating outcomes. In a broader context, incidents like this reinforce the critical importance of the NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. If any component is missing or broken, the Ecosystem can collapse. In this incident, an educated public – one of the eight components of the Ecosystem – wasn’t in place and directly contributed to the magnitude of the fire and the damage it incurred. NFPA offers a wealth of public education resources that address the fundamentals of home escape planning and practice, including the importance of promptly responding to the sound of smoke alarms and the smell of smoke. We also have a safety tips sheet that provides specific guidance for people who live in apartment buildings and high-rise structures. Share this information with your communities to help ensure that people know what to do in a fire situation and have the skills to help minimize the extent of a fire’s impact on people and property.
A row of homes

Help Spread the Word About the Life-Saving Benefits of Home Fire Sprinklers During Home Fire Sprinkler Week May 16 – 22, 2021

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! To commemorate this great milestone, HFSC is developing new innovative tools and materials to support community outreach. One example is the popular Home Fire Sprinkler Week campaign set to launch on May 16 – 22, 2021. A project of HFSC and the NFPA Fire Sprinkler Initiative, this week-long campaign is the perfect opportunity to get the tools you need to help further the life-saving educational message of home fire sprinklers. Building on the great success of last year’s event, Home Fire Sprinkler Week will again go digital in 2021. The campaign is designed to help you virtually share messages and resources every day of the week on both a website and social platform such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you’re a member of the fire service, take advantage of materials and more social media graphics to share during the week or at any time of the year. Additional assets you will be able to use during the Week include: A brand new HFSW digital campaign to reach younger homebuyers to help emphasize the need for home fire sprinklers in communities A new video to highlight the green benefits of installing home fire sprinklers With each day of the campaign, you will find a different theme and related content like videos and graphics with posts, to share. You can choose one message or share all messages on any given day. The daily themes are: Monday, May 17: Fire is Fast Tuesday, May 18: Fire Sprinklers Are Part of Fire-Safe Communities Wednesday, May 19: It’s Easy to Live with Home Fire Sprinklers Thursday, May 20: Fire Sprinklers are Smart and Green Friday, May 21: Protect What You Value Most As we ramp up to Home Fire Sprinkler Week, stay tuned to the HFSC website for more campaign information and resources. We look forward to you joining us on May 16!  

Join NFPA as we Celebrate 125 Years of Protecting People and Property; Anniversary Conference Series Kicks off on May 18 with Electrical Program

NFPA is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year and we want to commemorate this momentous milestone with you! Since our founding in 1896, NFPA has been devoted to eliminating death, injury property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. Working side-by-side with our members, colleagues, and countless other fire and life safety advocates from every industry across the globe, we have had a major impact on the public’s safety – we’re proud of the strides we have made over the past few decades in reducing the fire problem worldwide.  So it is with great excitement we’re announcing NFPA will be hosting a series of events and initiatives throughout the year that pay homage to the Association and its long history of dedication and collaboration. Key to the celebration is the launch of a virtual 125th Anniversary Conference Series that replaces the traditional in-person 2021 NFPA Conference & Expo. The series features 10 one-day programs for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners that collectively offer more than 100 informative education sessions, engaging content, industry roundtable discussions, networking opportunities, live chat sessions, and exhibitor demonstrations. Led by leading industry experts, the program sessions cover a broad range of topic areas from the impact of new technology on codes and standards and the use of data to drive safety, to community risk reduction and public education strategies aimed at protecting people and property. The sessions are designed to help you adjust to changing industry needs and more effectively and efficiently perform your daily work. The online conference series runs from May 2021 through March 2022 and will be available on demand during the year to allow for more schedule flexibility.  For those in the electrical industry, you do not want to miss the first program of the series that kicks off on May 18. The “Empowering Electrical Design, Installation, and Safety” one-day program has two learning tracks and nine sessions that focus on issues related to design and installation, new and emerging technology, and workplace safety in the electrical landscape. Whether you attend the live event in May or view the content on demand, the program will help you sharpen your skills and improve your knowledge as you earn CEU credits. Find out more on our webpage. With so much to celebrate, we hope you’ll join us for this year-long, unique educational opportunity. A safe world is our priority, and we look forward to our continued progress, working with all of you, during the next 125 years and beyond! Visit nfpa.org/conferenceseries to learn more about the series, the electrical program, and to see the full roster of upcoming events.
Exit doors

The Basics of Swinging-Type Egress Door Operation

Door assemblies serve multiple purposes that relate to the comfort and safety of building occupants. They provide protection from weather, reduction of noises from adjoining areas, prevent trespassing by unauthorized persons and slow or stop the spread of fire and smoke. While seemingly so commonplace, door assemblies can become an impediment to occupants if they are locked or inoperable.  Doors within a means of egress include those non-fire-rated, fire-rated and smoke-resisting door assemblies. None of these will perform properly if left open during a fire. There are many examples of fires where fatalities resulted because of doors that were left open. There are also examples of fires where lives were saved because a door leaf was closed. Unfortunately, there are those fires in which door openings needed for escape were blocked or locked, resulting in devastating losses. Just this week, an eight-alarm fire in Queens, New York City, displaced 240 residents and injured people, including 16 firefighters. The fire was reported to start in a unit on the top floor.  An occupant fleeing the building left the door open to the apartment unit, causing the fire to spread into the hallway and to other areas of the building.    To help ensure safe door operation during an emergency, considerations must be given to the type of door, width of opening and door leaves, door swing direction, encroachment, the force required to operate the door, and the locking and latching devices. Here we will focus on those fundamental operational features only for side-hinged or pivoted-swinging type egress doors as these include the majority of doors an occupant will likely face while egressing a building. Other door types may be permitted in lieu of swinging doors but these will be addressed separately.   Minimum Width Door openings must be of sufficient width to ensure that enough people can pass through the openings quickly and safely during egress. Too narrow of an opening, or not enough total available capacity can create bottlenecks, and obstruct the flow of occupants leaving as they move towards a safer area.   Minimum door width is prescribed as (1) clear width, (2) egress capacity width, or (3) leaf width and when a specific minimum width is required by the Code, the specific width will be refenced. Specifying a door leaf width (the width of the door leaf, not the opening) is the least common case, and more often a minimum clear width or egress capacity width is mandated. Door width measurements might be used in calculating egress capacity or in determining if a minimum door width requirement is met. Depending on the purpose for which the door width measurement is used, the allowable encroachments on opening width vary.   Measuring egress capacity width for a new door leaf that opens 90 degrees (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition)   Measuring egress capacity width for a new door leaf that opens 90 degrees (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition) Clear width of a door opening is used for meeting minimum door-opening requirements, not for determining egress capacity. In some cases this minimum clear width value is based on the need for occupants traveling in a wheelchair to be able to move the wheelchair through the door opening. The egress capacity width, used to determine how many occupants can be credited with passing through the opening safely, will be less than the actual door leaf width because deductions in width are made for certain encroachments that extends into the door opening. Note: This describes the types of various door width measurements, but users should reference Section 7.2.1.2 of NFPA 101 for further details about how to obtain these measurements in both new and existing conditions. Door Swing Direction Door leaves are required to swing in the direction of egress travel only if any one of the following three conditions exist:   The door serves a room or area with an occupant load of 50 or more,   The door assembly is used in an exit enclosure,  The door opening services a high-hazard contents area.    These three conditions address situations where it is undesirable for an occupant to take time to pull the door open in the direction they are moving from. This could be due to the higher number of occupants, or where conditions exist that could require instant and immediate access to the path of egress travel due to extreme fire or explosion risk.   Ideally, all door leaves in a means of egress would swing in the direction of egress travel. However, because of operational concerns, there are cases where door leaf swing in the direction of egress travel is not desirable. For example, a classroom door leaf that swings into a corridor serving as an exit access for several classrooms might open against another door leaf or against the flow of people and possibly restrict the width available as corridor exit access. The Code recognizes this danger and permits the classroom/corridor door leaf from a room with an occupant load of fewer than 50 persons to swing against the direction of egress travel.  Encroachment To minimize the risk of a door restricting the width available of other egress components, the Code establishes maximum encroachment allowances. During its swing, any door leaf in a means of egress is required to leave not less than one-half of the required width of where it is opening. When the door is fully open, is cannot project more than 7 in (180 mm) into the required width of the aisle, corridor, passage or landing unless the door is equipped with a proper self-closing device and swinging in the direction of egress travel. These two conditions help to ensure that the door leaf does not become an obstruction in the egress path onto which it opens which could reduce capacity and delay egress travel. There are no encroachment limitations for a door opening that provides access to a stair in an existing building. Door leaves capable of swinging a full 180 degrees have a greater utility than door leaves capable of swinging only 90 degrees. The 180-degree-swinging door leaf can be fully opened into a corridor without significant intrusion on corridor width. The 90-degree-swinging door leaf, however, might have to open into an unusually wide corridor, be set into an alcove, or otherwise be recessed so as not to exceed the maximum encroachment. Door leaf swing into a corridor (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition)   Door leaf encroachment on landing in new building. (Credit: NFPA 101 Handbook, 2021 edition) Unlatching Force  Several movements are necessary to move a door leaf from its closed to its fully open position. The force needed to unlatch the door assembly cannot exceed 15 lbf (67 N) for hardware that may push pull or slide and 28 in.-lbf for hardware that requires rotation. Additional limits are placed on the force to start the door leaf in motion and on the force necessary to move the door leaf to its required open position. Consideration must be made for persons with severe mobility impairment, such as someone using a wheelchair, who might find it difficult or impossible to exert excessive force to unlatch the door and put it in motion. Additional scenarios may render others incapable of exerting larger forces, so values as high as 50 lbf which were recognized in earlier editions of the Life Safety Code, are now only acceptable for existing installations.     Locking and Latching Doors within an occupant’s means of egress cannot be locked beyond their control but must also be designed to accommodate building’s and occupant needs for security.  If done incorrectly, door locking and latching can become a severe impediment to free and safe egress. The details and permissions for door locking and door latching are extensive, and must not be overlooked. We will address this subject in its entirety in a future blog (stay tuned!)    In conclusion, leaving a building or moving within a building to a point of safety in the event of an emergency is almost guaranteed to include using doors to get there. Proper door operation is critical to occupants being afforded a safe and efficient means of egress. Adequate door opening width, correct door swing direction, minimal encroachment, and appropriate opening and unlatching forces, combined, will work together to provide occupants with reliable and safe door operation.  (Note: Additional details and requirements related to door operation can be found in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, Section 7.2.1.)
National Wildfire Preparedness Day
Katy, TX building under construction fire

NFPA Addresses Building Under Construction Fires with New Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training and Webinar Panel on April 15

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) launched a new Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training Series today to help the building industry understand and adopt the strategies defined in NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operation. The topic will also be discussed by a panel of industry experts during an Addressing Fire Safety Challenges During Construction webinar on April 15. Fire Prevention Program Manager Online Training Series In recent weeks, massive building under construction fires have occurred in Las Vegas, NV, Dallas, TX, and Everett, WA, underscoring NFPA research which shows an average of 3,840 fires in structures under construction and 2,580 fires in structures under major renovation per year. Building under construction fires cause an average of four civilian deaths, 49 civilian injuries, and $304 million in direct property damage annually, while fires in buildings undergoing major renovation cause an average of eight civilian deaths, 52 civilian injuries, and $104 million in direct property damage annually. “This new online learning, centered around NFPA 241, was developed in the spirit of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which emphasizes the importance of applying referenced standards, investing in safety, and a skilled workforce,” NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley said.  Although NFPA 241 calls for a fire prevention program manager, credentials for the role are virtually non-existent in the market today. To help construction company leaders, building owners, job site supervisors, code officials, fire marshals, facility managers, and fire protection engineers have the skills needed to ensure the safety of buildings under construction, NFPA developed the new five-hour, five-part online learning series, assessment, and digital badge based on the anticipated job performance requirements (JPRs) for fire prevention program managers proposed for the next edition of NFPA 241. The training covers general fire protection awareness for all people on construction sites and the role of fire prevention program managers on a construction project with an emphasis on: Building safety and fire protection systems Hazard protection Inspections, permits and procedures The NFPA online training series is intended for fire prevention program managers who are new to the role and is designed to help learn how to actively manage a fire prevention program for a typical construction project.  Addressing Fire Safety Challenges During Construction Webinar The NFPA webinar scheduled for April 15 will feature a panel of industry experts discussing key considerations for construction site fire safety, including fire risks and the role of the fire prevention program manager, with time allotted for a robust Q&A session. Webinar panelists providing perspective on the topic include: Jim Begley, PE, FSFPE, CFM, TERPconsulting, principal Matthew Bourque, PE, WS Development, director of Fire Protection and Construction Operations Dick Davis, PE, FM Global, AVP, senior engineering technical specialist Nicholas Dawe, division chief/fire marshal, Cobb County (GA) Fire and Emergency Services
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