Author(s): Fred Durso, Scott Sutherland. Published on September 1, 2012.

Flocking Together
Newcomers fuel a debate on sprinklering animal housing facilities, and end up getting a crash course in  NFPA and its code development process.

NFPA Journal®, September/October 2012

By Fred Durso, Jr.

To Karen Davis, describing the number of animals that have perished in structure fires this year as “alarming” is an understatement.

From March to July, seven reported fires in animal housing facilities were responsible for killing 535,000 chickens, turkeys, and pigs, according to Davis, president of United Poultry Concerns (UPC), a nonprofit that advocates for the respectful treatment of domestic fowl.

“This number is staggering,” she says. “These animals are in a situation where they are completely incarcerated and can’t escape. It’s horrific to think that our society would put animals in a position where they’re not protected by preventable fires.”

Davis was thrilled when NFPA members at this year’s Association Technical Meeting in Las Vegas voted in favor of a certified amending motion for NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities, that would require sprinklers in poultry farms, pet shops, barns, and a range of other structures used to house animals. (NFPA 150 already requires sprinklers in facilities housing animals that are defined as dangerous or cannot be easily moved, such as bears and elephants.) However, the measure failed to pass the subsequent balloting by the standard’s Animal Housing Facilities Committee, which reaffirmed its decision not to include the new provision in the 2013 edition so it could further research the issue.   

The committee’s decision prompted parties on both sides of the issue to appeal to NFPA’s Standards Council — a process that has educated a number of newcomers on NFPA and its code development process, and has even generated interest in committee participation. “We had never heard of NFPA, let alone that this process was underway,” says Michael Formica, chief environmental counsel for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), a trade association that conducts public policy outreach for approximately 60,000 pork producers in the U.S.

He spoke against sprinklers at the Standards Council appeals meeting in August. “The basis of our appeal was nothing more than that there’s a due process element here, and we needed an opportunity to look at what’s going on.”

Formica argues sprinkler installation costs would serve as an added burden to pork farmers. Since their barns are typically metal with concrete floors — facilities where fires are rare, he says — Formica contends that requiring sprinkler protection might not justify the actual fire risk. “We’ll be conducting research to figure out what the actual risk is and the appropriate response to address that risk,” he says. “You also need to secure water [for sprinklers]. In most areas where you see lots of livestock, they are by and large very arid regions. Can you even get access to water?”

Taking a different stance during the meeting was Davis, who represented 14 animal rights organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as well as the Animal Protection and Rescue League. Prior to the meeting, she sent out an “action alert” to UPC’s 15,000 members, urging them to contact NFPA in support of mandatory sprinkler protection. “We had over 80 emails from people giving their opinions on this issue, even after the certified amending motion had been voted on,” says Tracy (Golinveaux) Vecchiarelli, NFPA staff liaison for NFPA 150.

The Standards Council decided not to reverse the committee’s decision, leaving the proposed sprinkler requirement out of the 2013 edition. The appeal from the animal rights groups, according to the Council’s written decision, “does not present any clear and substantial basis on which to overturn the results yielded by the NFPA codes and standards development process.”

Following the decision, Formica says a representative from NPPC will apply to sit on the Animal Housing Facilities Committee. Davis has already submitted her application. “This was step one in a process,” she says. “I hope that the next revision cycle or future revision cycles will result in a favorable outcome for these animals.”

Vecchiarelli says the discussion over NFPA 150 shows that the code development process works. “It provides multiple opportunities for members of the public to voice their opinions, and there are additional checks built into the system to ensure we’ve provided an open, fair review,” she says. “These new voices will be valuable to the committee when the sprinklering issue is addressed again.”

Translating Safety
FPW focuses on safety messaging and escape planning for immigrant groups

By Fred Durso, Jr.

As the former interim fire chief for the Somersworth (New Hampshire) Fire Department, Donald Bliss was concerned about potential safety hazards unknown to an influx of Indonesian immigrants in his community. Many of them, he says, live in cramped conditions and are unfamiliar with safe cooking practices.      

That’s why Bliss, an NFPA Standards Council member, was pleased to learn that the Health and Safety Council of Strafford County, which partly focuses on disseminating information related to emergency planning, received a grant from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services for training emergency responders on how to teach fire safety principles to the more than 1,000 Indonesians in the community. Lacking materials, Bliss turned to NFPA’s Public Education Division, which translated existing materials on heating, cooking, electrical safety, and escape planning. “The nice thing about this project was that community leaders were able to provide input on wording and translation, and the artwork depicts what an Indonesian family might encounter,” says Bliss.

The downloadable handouts complement an array of other free items that safety officials and public educators can use during NFPA’s Fire Prevention Week (FPW), October 7–13, with its theme of “Have 2 Ways Out.” Easy-to-read handouts have also been translated into Portuguese this year, and new color posters for older adults, another high-fire-risk group, address smoke alarm testing and other topics.        

Elsewhere on the FPW radar ...
For younger audiences — or for anyone who appreciates fire safety messaging set to a funky beat — there’s a new video version of the classic “Have 2 Ways Out” featuring Sparky the Fire Dog® available online at (Another version, along with lyrics, can be downloaded at the “For Teachers” link at Scholastic, the children’s publishing company, has also produced new lesson materials on escape plans that underscore a building’s need to have more than one exit in an emergency. 

Cash-strapped fire departments eager to promote FPW using other NFPA products have joined Sparky’s Wish ListTM, where departments can create lists of FPW needs and communities are asked for donations. More than 550 fire departments have already created lists.

In a related event, The Home Depot, in partnership with NFPA and the alarm manufacturer Kidde, will help raise awareness of fire safety during October with a nationwide media effort and by offering in-store fire safety workshops for kids and adults. In addition, 50,000 10-year lithium-ion alarms will be donated to local fire departments across the U.S., courtesy of The Home Depot and Kidde, through a contest that challenges stores to sell more smoke alarms and CO detectors, while educating customers. Fire departments can learn more by contacting their local Home Depot store manager.

For more information on FPW, visit Contribute to Sparky’s Wish List by visiting

What, Me Worry?
Survey finds Americans are largely ho-hum about emergency notification and preparedness

September is National Emergency Preparedness Month, and it arrives not a moment too soon. Consider this: more than 70 percent of Americans are unsure or unaware if their communities have personal alerting and notification systems for public safety issues.

That’s just one of the findings of the 2012 Federal Signal Public Safety Survey, which evaluated how knowledgeable and prepared Americans are for emergencies. The results of the survey were announced this summer at a Congressional briefing in Washington, D.C.

In general, the survey suggests that Americans are poorly informed about issues related to emergency preparedness. The study found that, despite a record-breaking year of federally-declared disasters in 2011, including floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires, Americans remain largely unaware of local emergency communications and are generally complacent when faced with potential disaster scenarios. Findings included:

• 71 percent are unsure if they have a personal alerting and notification system (ANS) in their area, which includes a combination of options for phone, text, and email message notifications.

Respondents said they would be more motivated to take action in an emergency by ANS alerts than any other communication, ahead of traditional warning sirens, radio and TV public-service announcements, or word-of-mouth communication from friends and family.

• 57 percent do not know when sirens in their area are tested.

• 70 percent are unaware of the sounds and/or sirens associated with various warnings.

• More than 25 percent do not know if their community has a warning siren system at all.

• 56 percent believe they are aware of the steps they need to take should disaster strike.

• 47 percent would take action based on a potential severe weather warning.

• 33 percent would require actual property damage or injury to care strongly about public safety awareness.

• 28 percent would require confirmation of severe weather, such as an actual tornado sighting, flood waters, or a visible fire, before taking action.

• One in 12 said that no emergency or public safety event would cause them to care or take action.
• 58 percent trust local and regional government to ensure sufficient public safety standards, communication, and planning.

• 29 percent feel that their community officials are investing in, or giving government attention to, their public safety.

• More than a third of respondents believe the economy has had a negative impact on the level of that investment.

The study surveyed more than 2,000 adults nationwide. The results were made public at the BE Safe America Congressional briefing presented by the Safe America Foundation at the U.S. Capitol. For more on the survey, visit For more NFPA information and resources on emergency preparedness, visit

— Scott Sutherland

New Conference Targets Euro Risk Market

Some of NFPA’s most knowledgeable experts will be featured at the 2012 NFPA EuroCon, which will be held November 12–14 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

The new conference, a joint venture between NFPA and Marsh Risk Consulting Worldwide, offers more than 25 education sessions in three tracks: fire and life safety, property protection, and property risk management. The sessions will be led by subject matter experts, including NFPA staff, code committee members, and industry experts from across Europe, who will help you stay up-to-date on the most current fire protection and safety standards. The conference is specifically focused on providing attendees with information to help them safeguard lives and reduce property loss.

“Marsh came to us and said, ‘We think we have a better way for NFPA to perform training in Europe,’” says William Mello, director of sales for NFPA, on how the innovative new event was conceived. “Marsh provides those additional ‘feet on the street’ that can really help support our international strategy, and we saw that partnership as a great way to get NFPA codes and experts in front of a European audience.”

“NFPA is, for me and for everybody, the global standard,” says Tom de Nooij, a senior consultant for Marsh Risk Consulting. “Its codes and standards are constantly being updated, which means it’s information you can use confidently.” He says the audience for the conference includes contractors, risk managers, risk insurers, insurance companies, and brokers — “anyone in this business who deals with fire safety and protection.”

The event will be held at the Amsterdam Passenger Terminal, a conference facility near the city center.

“The best thing you’ll get at this conference is that one-to-one interaction with NFPA experts — there’s no substitute for that kind of access, or for what you can learn in that kind of setting,” says Mello. “You’ll come away really understanding how we do what we do at NFPA and how it applies to your job, and you’ll have a clearer sense of what’s new in emerging industry trends.”

For information and to register, visit

Documenting Cocoanut Grove
New NFPA project seeks information and artifacts related to 1942 Boston fire

Seventy years ago this November, a fire ripped through Boston’s Cocoanut Grove nightclub on a night when it was packed to capacity. More than 490 people perished in the blaze, which remains one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The cause is still a mystery. 

To help document the blaze and its aftermath, NFPA has formed the Cocoanut Grove Coalition, a consortium of archivists, historians, and others that will share their knowledge and materials related to the fire. The coalition’s mission is twofold: to develop a website that will catalog existing information on the event for the public, and to serve as a point of contact for anyone who may have related documents, images, or artifacts to further the coalition’s fact-finding efforts.   

NFPA plans to launch the new website in November to commemorate the fire’s 70th anniversary.

NFPA members can share their Cocoanut Grove artifacts, insights, and other information by contacting NFPA librarian Sue Marsh at

— Fred Durso, Jr.

Saving Face
Safety alert issued for SCBA headgear

Intense fires can compromise self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) facepiece lenses, to the point that they could result in injury or death for users. 

The finding is a result of a series of studies and research by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which indicated that these devices may undergo degradation when exposed to extreme heat. A NIOSH investigation of firefighter fatalities from 2002 to 2011, for example, concluded that thermal degradation of facepiece lenses might have been the contributing factor in three deaths.

NFPA issued a safety alert on the devices in July and urges emergency responders to examine the lenses before and after each use. If cracks, bubbling, deformation, discoloring, or holes are found, the devices should be removed from service.

“In recent decades, there have been significant changes in the hostile environments encountered by structural firefighters and in how they operate in these environments,” says Ken Willette, NFPA division director for Public Fire Protection. “The SCBA facepiece, which is generally polycarbonate-based, is often considered the weakest component of a firefighter’s ensemble in high heat conditions.”

The technical committee for NFPA 1981, Open-Circuit SCBA for Emergency Services, is in the process of incorporating new test methods and performance criteria for facepiece lenses in the standard’s 2013 edition. For more information on the alert, visit

— Fred Durso, Jr.

Maryland Fire Marshal Receives Sprinkler Award

William Barnard recently accepted this year’s Bringing Safety Home Award for his role in mandating sprinkler requirements for Maryland’s new one- and two-family dwellings.

Barnard (pictured), the state’s fire marshal and member of Maryland’s Residential Sprinkler Initiative Committee, actively informed key stakeholders on the benefits of home fire sprinklers and attended legislative hearings on the state’s sprinkler bill prior to its passage in May. The law also forbids jurisdictions from opting out of the sprinkler requirement or adopting amendments that would weaken home fire sprinkler provisions.

The award is given by NFPA and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) and recognizes safety professionals who use resources from HFSC and NFPA’s Fire Sprinkler Initiative to advocate for home sprinkler requirements in new one- and two-family homes.

“We appreciate Bill’s diligence and are very pleased the award will go to such an active life-safety advocate,” says Gary Keith, NFPA’s vice president of Field Operations and chair of the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s board of directors.

— Fred Durso, Jr.

Sustainable Building Symposium Slated for November

The Fire Protection Research Foundation will host the Fire Safety Design and Sustainable Buildings: Challenges and Opportunities Symposium on November 7–8 in Chicago. 

The event brings the fire protection and architectural communities together to discuss topics and ideas for sustainable fire safety design. Architects, engineers, researchers, and members of the sustainability community will offer their insight while weighing in on life cycle sustainability of structures.

For more information on the event, visit

Third Annual Electric Vehicle Summit Scheduled for Motor City

NFPA and SAE International will co-host the third annual Electric Vehicle (EV) Safety Standards Summit on October 18 in Detroit. The event will address safety issues related to codes and standards, noting that the number of EVs is increasing on roadways worldwide.

“Stakeholders have made significant progress in addressing safety issues and making improvements based on discussion points of the two previous summits, but there is still more work to be done,” said Christian Dubay, NFPA vice president of codes and standards, and chief engineer. “The collaborative efforts expected at this year’s forum and the follow-up from it will once again move the needle in the direction of safer implementation of electrical vehicles.”

For more information and to register, visit

Fire Safety Students Receive Scholarships

NFPA’s Fire Safety Educational Memorial Fund Committee recently awarded scholarships to students exhibiting academic excellence in fire, rescue, life safety, and engineering.

Daniel Akerman, a 16-year member of the fire service, received the George D. Miller Scholarship, which is awarded to students in fire service or public administration programs. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in the Strategic Communication and Leadership Program at the University of West Florida.
Justin Biller, an online graduate student in fire protection engineering at Cal Poly State University in California, received the John L. Jablonksy Scholarship, which recognizes the growth of fire science and fire engineering programs.

Thomas Lindemann was awarded the David B. Gratz Scholarship for pursing a master’s degree in engineering at Cologne University in Germany. The scholarship also acknowledges fire science and engineering programs.

Sophia Wu, recipient of the Arthur E. Cote Scholarship, is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland majoring in fire protection engineering. The scholarship supports undergraduate students pursuing careers in this field. 

NFPA, IAFC Team Up on Release of Unwanted Alarms Guide

NFPA and the International Association of Fire Chiefs have released a free document that offers guidance on addressing unintentional alarm activations and system malfunctions.

The Fire Service Guide to Reducing Unwanted Fire Alarms provides information on the operation of fire alarm systems and detection devices. It assesses the cause of alarms in a nonemergency situation and provides a framework for developing possible solutions. The guide follows a recent NFPA study indicating that, in 2009, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated 2.1 million false alarms.

The free guide can be downloaded at

Fire Safety Video Contest Launched

NFPA has teamed up with LEGOLAND® Florida to launch The Big Test Video Contest, which encourages the public to record their renditions of a song used during a show at the theme park in Winter Haven, Florida.

The public has until September 12 to submit videos for the song, “Put the Wet Stuff on the Hot Stuff,” performed at LEGOLAND’s “The Big Test Show,” which includes an array of fire safety tips. Once NFPA and LEGOLAND select the finalists, the public will choose the winner, who receives a trip to the theme park.

For additional contest details, visit