By Kelly Johnson
The 2004 NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition in Salt Lake City May 23-26 offered seminars and fire protection products that promote "Knowledge for a Safer Tomorrow," the theme of this year's show.
In his welcoming address during the opening general session, James Shannon, president of the National Fire Protection Association, stated that "every year, 3,000 people die in their homes in fires," citing some of the chief causes of home fires-cigarette smoking, flammable bedding and upholstery, and the owner's lack of knowledge about fire safety measures.
"In our homes, we must take responsibility for our own safety. We check our electrical wiring, watch the candles, are careful cooking food, and maintain the heating system, all for the sake of fire safety," he said. "The problem is that not all of us are so vigilant all of the time, and we know very well that occurrences beyond our control, as well as human frailties, still produce fires."
One of the ways the NFPA can help prevent home fires, he suggested, is through its educational programs.
"Public awareness and education efforts have been successful. We have seen from our research that NFPA programs have saved lives because of what children have learned in school from these programs. Home escape planning has been credited with saving hundreds of lives," he noted.
"Just as important are working smoke alarms," he added. "Smoke alarms have made a huge contribution to home fire safety."
In addition, Shannon noted, the NFPA has been an advocate for home sprinklers since 1996. "Home fire sprinklers are not the only answer, but together with all these steps I've mentioned, they have the potential to dramatically reduce the number of people who die in fires," he said. "Smoke alarms, home inspections, escape plans, and new electrical technology are all making homes much safer than they used to be, but we need to do more if we want to save more lives," he concluded.
Also during the opening general session, the NFPA presented the Paul C. Lamb Award to Jack Wells, Camillus, NY, former chairman of the board of directors. Several elections were held as well, and new NFPA board officers were elected, including Chair George Ockuly, First Vice Chair Warren McDaniels, Second Vice Chair Paul M. Fitzgerald, Treasurer Thomas W. Jaeger, and Secretary Vinnie Bollon (each with terms of one year). Elections for NFPA directors were also held, and the directors will now consist of Ron Bertone, Wayne Boyd, Wayne Carson, Martin Maddaloni, Jaime Moncada-Perez, John O'Sullivan, and Randolph Tucker (each with terms of three years).
The World Safety Conference featured more than 100 educational sessions divided into nine tracks-Life Safety, Codes & Standards, Detection & Suppression, Fire-Fighting Operations/Emergency Response, Business Continuity, Leadership/Professional Development, Research & Testing, Safety & Security, and new this year, the necforum, serving as an electrical training track as well as a smaller conference-within-a-conference for electrical professionals.
Under the Detection & Suppression track, various aspects of fire sprinklers and their proper use were addressed. In a presentation titled, "Seismic Requirements for Sprinkler Systems," Roland Huggins, P.E., AFSA, and Steven Scandaliato, SET, Scandaliato Design Group Inc., spoke about noted earthquakes that led to the updating of NFPA 13 throughout the years, the effect seismic events have on the surrounding areas, and the design considerations for sprinkler piping in seismic danger zones. They stressed the importance of providing flexibility and clearance in piping design at points where the building is expected to move during an earthquake, yet keeping the piping rigid when supported from a building component expected to move as an assembly. They also listed the items in NFPA 5000 that are used to determine whether seismic protection is needed in a piping design, referring to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE 7) and the International Building Code for further design criteria and calculations.
In another presentation, "Objects that Obstruct Residential Sprinklers," Victoria Valentine, P.E., NFSA, described the modeling of several situations where standard obstructions found in most dwelling units would interfere with the performance of residential fire sprinklers. She noted the lack of guidelines for these situations, and the need for more testing to determine what, if any, effect common objects such as ceiling fans, light fixtures, ceiling slope and beams would have on fire sprinkler activation. Using the Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS) developed by NIST to model these situations, it was determined that airflow did indeed affect the temperature in the room, in some cases causing the sprinklers to activate more slowly. The results seemed to show that the activation times did appear reasonable to provide life safety, but Valentine stressed that more research was called for before any final conclusions could be drawn.
Along with the conference, the NFPA presented a product exposition, bringing more than 250 exhibitors to the Salt Palace Convention Center. Attendees were offered the chance to see and learn about a variety of products, from alarms and backflow prevention devices to fire pump controllers and water mist systems (click on "NFPA Product Overview" for product highlights).
The 2005 NFPA World Safety Conference and Exposition will be held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas June 6-10. Visit www.nfpa.org for further details.
Kelly Johnson is managing editor for PME. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.