Author(s): Lisa Nadile. Published on May 1, 2009.

Core Curriculum 
An informed (and admittedly subjective) survey of Education Session highlights coming up at this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo®.

NFPA Journal®, May/June 2009

By Lisa Nadile

The NFPA annual Conference & Expo offers dozens of education sessions for beginners as well as experts, across a range of disciplines: fire service, fire engineering, public safety, and many more. Whatever your expertise or niche, you’ll find a session filled with attendees who face the same problems and have the same questions you do.



 Editor's Welcome
 NFPA 400: Hazardous Materials Code
 NFPA 72: Much More Than Fire Alarms
 NFPA Code Summaries
 Conference Education Sessions
 Fermilab: Fire Safety at Light Speed
 McCormick Place: Out of the Ashes

 Latest conference information

This year is no exception. There are sessions on flammable liquids, intermediate bulk containers, craft that fly and float (though not at the same time), dispensing hydrogen from warehouses, dust, seismic design for automatic sprinkler systems, and health care facilities, to name just a few. The following is a preview of some of the more timely and fascinating sessions taking place in June in Chicago. For locations, times, and additional detailed information, check your conference schedule or visit


A Change in the Air: Protecting the Star Spangled Banner
James Call, Smithsonian Institution
Tuesday, June 9, 9:30–10:30 a.m

Our original Star Spangled Banner may have withstood the red glare of rockets and bursting bombs, but the test of time is a tough one for the grand lady. The flag has inspired Americans since it was first raised at our victory over the British on September 14, 1814, including one Francis Scott Key, who wrote a famous song about it. The Smithsonian’s task is to preserve a priceless object made of mere fabric and thread while keeping it secure. "We needed to conserve an extremely fragile, priceless object, and conservators were concerned about the discharge velocity of a gaseous system," says the Smithsonian’s James Call. "We also wanted the flag in a place where it would always be protected, with no delay in fire protection response. We had to balance all of these needs." Learn the hows and whys of the Smithsonian’s decision to replace a gaseous fire suppression system with a reduced-oxygen atmosphere.


Home Fire Sprinkler Cost Assessment
Liza Bowles, Newport Partners, and Paul Emrath, National Association of Home Builders
Monday, June 8, 8–9 a.m.

Case Study: Building a Fully Sprinklered, Fully Accessible Single-Family Home
Robert Kleinheinz, National Fire Sprinkler Association, and Utawna Leap, homeowner
Monday, June 8, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

NFPA 13R: A 20-Year Retrospective
Russell Fleming, National Fire Sprinkler Association
Monday, June 8, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

Revisions to NFPA 13, 2010
James Lake, NFPA
Wednesday, June 10, 8–9:30 am

This handful of sessions provides you with a wealth of background information you can use as part of a home fire sprinkler initiative in your community, including sprinkler history, code revisions, costs of home fire sprinkler systems, and more. Equally valuable are the experiences shared by real people, as you’ll hear in the case study presented by the NFSA on the construction of a sprinklered single-family home. The session features Utawna Leap, who built a fully accessible, sprinklered home for her disabled daughter. Her story, the problems she faced, and how the installer solved those problems are fascinating. "We’ll describe how a certain installation helped to cope with water costs and construction challenges," says Robert Kleinheinz of the NFSA. " It’s a very compelling story."


Intelligibility of Fire Alarm and Emergency Communications Systems
Casey Grant, Fire Protection Research Foundation, and Robert Schifiliti, RPSA, Inc.
Monday, June 8, 8–9 a.m.   

It’s all well and good to install a cutting-edge fire alarm and voice communication system, but can you be sure your occupants can hear it and understand what it is communicating? Join Robert Schifiliti of RPSA, Inc., and Casey Grant of the Fire Protection Research Foundation to discuss how the latest research results will shape your work with these systems in the future.


2011 NEC ROP Report Program
Presenters to be announced.
Tuesday, June 9, 8–11 a.m.

NFPA 70E—2009 New Requirements, Enhancements, and Future Improvements
Paul Dobrowsky, Innovative Tech Services, and Palmer Hickman, National Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee
Tuesday, June 9, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

If you’re obsessed with all things electrical, be sure to sit in on the detailed presentation of the 2011 National Electrical Code® Report on Proposals (ROP), scheduled to debut June 9. Learn what significant decisions the code-making panels made and why members reached those decisions. "The presenters will offer a first glance at some of the new actions taken at the January ROP meeting and will preview a few coming attractions that members will discuss at December’s Report on Comments meeting," says Jeffrey Sargent, NFPA’s senior electrical specialist and staff liaison to the NEC. Next, head over to the session on NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety in the Workplace, and hear the new requirements, improvements, and future plans.


NIST Report on the Collapse of World Trade Center Tower 7
Dr. Shyam Sunder, NIST
Wednesday, June 10, 10 a.m.–noon

As willing as the conspiracy theorists were to offer their own take on what brought down the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings on 9/11, a dispassionate analysis was the only way to determine the causes of the structural collapse of WTC Building 7. In this featured presentation, Dr. Shyam Sunder, NIST’s lead investigator on the WTC disaster, recaps the details of the three-year fire safety investigation into WTC Building 7, with the added imperative of improving high-rise safety in light of the risks existing today. "We have one new recommendation and are reiterating 12 current requirements," says Sunder. "We will show how to best evaluate the fire safety of your high-rise structure so as to locate these vulnerabilities."


Continuity Planning for Small Business—How Do We Make Progress?

David M. Hall, State Farm Companies
Tuesday, June 9, 9:30–10:30 am

They may be the economic backbone of the nation, but these days a lot of small businesses are just trying to keep their doors open. Recent examples have illustrated that when catastrophe strikes—fire included—many small businesses are neither prepared for the event, nor equipped to resume operations in the aftermath of the catastrophe. David Hall will talk about how a community-supported business continuity plan is critical for this vital element of our economy. "Eighty-five percent of businesses are classified as small businesses," Hall says. "Communities...are realizing the magnitude of business interruption. It’s threefold: loss of the business, loss of [the vitality of the business district], and loss of tax revenue."


Merchandise Mart: A Case Study of Installing a New Fire Alarm/Voice Communication System in the World’s Largest Commercial Building

Richard Pawlish, Schirmer Engineering Corp.
Tuesday, June 9, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Schirmer Engineering is upgrading the fire alarm and voice communication system of the world’s largest commercial building, which happens to be located in Chicago. How do you design your systems for a 4.2-million-square-foot (390,193-square-meter) gross area? Richard Pawlish will tell you how to do it.


Fire and Life Safety Initiatives of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008

Amy Hameland Paul Martin, Center for Campus Fire Safety
Tuesday, June 9, 9:30–10:30 a.m.

With everything that college students have to think about—parties, dating, sports events, a bit of studying, the prospects of finding a post-graduation job in the worst economy in generations—it’s safe to say that fire and life safety aren’t exactly high on their list of concerns. That may be, but students nevertheless face a host of fire safety challenges. In this session, Amy Hamel and Paul Martin of the Center for Campus Fire Safety discuss the Higher Education Opportunity Act and what it means for colleges and students.


Case Study: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Smoke Alarm Installation and Fire Safety Education Program

Steve Davidson, Georgia Injury Prevention Section; Roberta Davis, Children’s Hospital of Michigan; Mark Jackson,Centers for Disease Control;and others
Tuesday, June 9, 11 a.m.– 2:30 p.m.

Since 1988, funding from the Centers for Disease Control has helped community agencies around the country successfully reach high-fire-risk communities. With the funding, 400,000 smoke alarms have been installed and 2,156 lives potentially saved at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and the Georgia Injury Prevention Section.


Current Trends in High-Rise Design and Protection Features Related to the Fire Service
Jimmy Hill, Los Angeles Fire Department; Catherine Stashak, Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office; Eric Mayl, CORE Group; and Kenneth Bush, Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal
Tuesday, June 9, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

This panel looks at trends in high-rise design and how they affect fire-service tactics inside a high-rise building. Topics include standpipes, compressed air standpipes, elevator evacuation, fire alarm systems, means of egress design, and more.


Fire Alarm Survivability in High-Rise Buildings
Shi Meng, Risktec Solutions, Inc.
Tuesday, June 10, 2:45–3:45 p.m.

NFPA 72®, Fire Alarm Code®, has specific requirements for fire alarm survivability, because the longer your fire alarm system works, the more useful it can be—meaning the more lives it can save. Shi Meng of Risktec highlights these requirements from the perspective of high-rise construction. "From design to installation, and from the 1984 edition to the current 2007 edition, I will be discussing how best to provide for these survivability requirements," Meng says. He will also preview the 2010 edition of the code.


How the Great Chicago Fires Impacted Code Development
Paul Hart, Global Asset Protection Services, LLC; Martin Pabich, Underwriters Laboratories Inc.; and Edward Prendergast, Chicago Fire Department (retired)
Wednesday, June 10, 8–9:30 a.m.

Take a look at your history and you might just see a better—and safer—path to the future. Also note the word "fires" in the presentation’s title; the city has endured more than one catastrophic conflagration that had far-reaching code consequences. Pabich and the other presenters in this spotlight session review Chicago’s historical fires and show you how these events have affected codes and standards development. "Each presenter will focus on a specific fire—I will be talking about the 1910 Iroquois Theater fire," says Paul Hart, a presenter. "We’ll describe what went wrong, look at the codes before and after, and look at how the fire changed the way people thought about fire safety."
Lisa Nadile is associate editor of NFPA Journal.