Almost 6,000 people attended the National Fire Protection Association World Fire Safety Congress & Exposition in Denver, CO, May 14-17, to learn about life safety and fire prevention from experts in the industry, as well as to see the 250 companies exhibiting their products on the show floor of the Denver Convention Center (see “NFPA Exposition Product Showcase,” p. 48).

Some important announcements were made at the show, including the following:

  • In his speech at the opening general session of the conference, George D. Miller, president and CEO of NFPA, reaffirmed the association’s commitment to developing a separate building code based on the association’s set of consensus-based codes and standards. “NFPA’s entire code development process is based upon the core belief that it is essential to have input from all affected parties,” Miller said. To proceed with this plan, the NFPA Standards Council met in May to formally approve a project to develop the new building code. The NFPA Building Code™ project (NFPA 5000) consists of a new building code technical correlating committee (TCC) that will be responsible for developing and releasing NFPA 5000, and that will oversee the activities of a number of technical committees. In all, 12 Life Safety technical committees will be responsible for portions of NFPA 5000, reporting to the Building Code TCC. For more details, visit

  • It was announced by James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), that NFPA and FEMA have signed a national partnership agreement to work together to provide hazard protection information. The partnership will allow the two groups to develop, adopt and enforce NFPA codes and standards that are substantially equivalent to the National Earthquake Hazards Program (NEHRP) and are compliant with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). In addition, NFPA will help FEMA establish a Project Impact Fire Services Partnership for disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

  • The results of a report conducted by NFPA were released, stating that 112 on-duty firefighter fatalities occurred in 1999, marking the highest annual U.S. firefighter death toll since 1989 (118). The report cites an increase of 21 deaths from 1998, and also indicates that stress and overexertion continue to be the leading causes of fatal injuries for on-duty U.S. firefighters. Fifty-seven of the fatalities were attributed to stress or overexertion, the report stated, with 24 deaths due to entrapment and 21 fatalities due to the firefighter being struck by or having contact with an object. Rita Fahy, NFPA manager of fire databases and systems, and co-author of the report, suggested that “incident management, the use of PASS devices and accountability systems, safe driving practices, and increased attention to firefighter health and fitness are essential to making real reductions in on-duty firefighter fatalities.”

New Technologies

At a press conference sponsored by the Fire Suppression Systems Association (FSSA) during the show, several companies discussed new developments in special hazard applications.

  • The Viking Corp., a manufacturer of fire sprinklers and controls, announced a change that has been adopted by NFPA 30 thanks to testing done by the company. Viking conducted several fire suppression tests using water and foam sprinklers and different storage heights for flammable chemical cylinders, concluding that a fire in a cylinder storage area stacked 4 cylinders high could in fact be fully extinguished. The company then submitted the change to NFPA 30 to increase the storage height requirement from 2 to 4 cylinders. Viking also announced the availability of its new foam water discharge device for airport hangar floors using its Great Nozzles delivery system.

  • DuPont, a manufacturer of fire extinguishing agents, announced the availability its fire extinguishing system products, including FE 36, FE 25, and FE 13. DuPont also announced the launch of its HFC-227EA product, FE 227.

  • Firetrace Systems International, Inc., a manufacturer of automatic fire suppression systems, announced its development of a high tech polymer tubing which will rupture when exposed to temperatures over 212ÞF (100ÞC), releasing a suppression agent to extinguish a fire in seconds.

  • The MiniMax Group, a German-based manufacturer of inert gas fire suppression systems, announced the availability of its replacement alternatives for halon that offer zero ozone depletion potential and zero global warming potential.

  • A programmable fire suppression discharge unit was announced by Fire Control Instruments that offers remote detection and can be programmed for pre-alarm, pre-release, release and time limit cut-off alarm functions.

  • Williams PLC, based in Darby, England, announced the segregation of its fire protection businesses under the Kidde PLC name to focus more on acquisitions and the management of its fire protection companies. The company was represented by Kidde-Fenwal at NFPA, and showed its Advanced Delivery System (ADS) for fire suppression. ADS stores HFC-227EA in pure liquid form in one tank and adds N2 upon demand after the fluid has traveled through the piping system. This permits the direct substitution of 227EA for halon, using the same tanks and pipes and only replacing the nozzles on the system.

Educational Sessions

The NFPA World Fire Safety Congress offered more than 85 educational seminars focusing on fire code training, fire prevention, life safety issues and code changes. Some of the highlights of the seminars included:

  • A session entitled, “Fire Prevention in America at the Dawn of the New Millennium,” presented by Azarang Mirkhah, P.E., Las Vegas Fire & Rescue. Mirkhah encouraged attendees to “step outside and act beyond the confines of the box” when addressing the issues of fire prevention and public education in this country.

    Mirkhah pointed out that the “lion’s share” of the resources in all U.S. fire departments is allocated for fire suppression, making this a seemingly high priority item. However, Mirkhah said, the U.S. has one of the highest fire loss rates of the industrialized world, both in terms of fire deaths and dollar loss. Mirkhah stated that fire departments at the local level need to focus more on fire prevention and education and less on putting out fires once they have started in order to change this statistic. He made note of common themes among the 1947, 1973 and 1987 “America Burning” presidential reports that stated reliance on fire suppression alone is inadequate to address the fire problem, and that focusing on fire prevention and public education programs, in addition to installing built-in fire protection systems, should be the main approach. Further, Mirkhah said, the resources must be made available from the local department budgets to implement more of these programs.

  • A seminar on hotel kitchen fires, presented by The RJA Group, discussed the fire challenge in commercial kitchens, including the status of fire suppression technology and related codes and standards. Consumer preference and cooking industry standards have encouraged the use of vegetable oils for frying in commercial kitchens, yet these oils reduce the effectiveness of traditional extinguishing agents. One of the more successful fire suppression technologies mentioned in the seminar involved using wet chemical extinguishing systems to extinguish Class K kitchen fires completely, without re-ignition. It was also noted that all wet chemical extinguisher systems designed for use in commercial kitchens should be listed to UL 300 standards.

  • A session on health care standards focused on NFPA 90A, covering dampers, and NFPA 96, addressing commercial cooking. The 90A section discussed the location and testing requirements of smoke and fire dampers in health care facilities. An interesting fact was pointed out regarding unused dampers. If a sprinkler system is installed in a facility to be used instead of the existing dampers, and the dampers are not visible, then they need not be removed, maintained or tested.

The section of the seminar that covered NFPA 96 offered information on the standard requirements for cooking equipment in health care facilities; installation of hoods, ducts and filters; fire protection using hoods and portable fire extinguishers; using approved cooking equipment and training personnel properly in fire safety; and maintenance of exhaust systems.