The National Fire Protection Association presented its 2002 World Safety Conference and Exposition on May 19-23, offering association members and industry professionals a valuable educational program, as well as an extensive product exhibition.

By Kelly Johnson

Issue: 8/02

Fire Protection Association presented its 2002 World Safety Conference and Exposition at the Minneapolis Convention Center on May 19-23, offering association members and industry professionals a valuable educational program, as well as an extensive product exhibition, to help them "Meet New Challenges" in fire protection and life safety applications.

The Opening Session

At the opening session of the conference and exposition, Chairman of the Board Martin "Mickey" H. Reiss began by announcing that there had been a change in the name of the conference to reflect NFPA's commitment to safety throughout the built environment. Reiss also presented the Chairman's Report, noting that education is a main focus and objective of NFPA, achieved through:

  • Educational programs, focusing on fire protection and life safety issues;

  • Technology, improving communications and using e-commerce; and

  • Globablization, working together to increase fire safety across the world through international standards.

A proposal to increase membership dues was passed at the session, and outgoing President George Miller presented the President's Report, welcoming incoming President Jim Shannon.

Keynote speaker Bernard Kerik, New York City police commissioner, spoke about his personal experiences at Ground Zero on September 11, calling on the professionals in the audience to be prepared and watchful for dangerous situations like the collapse of the World Trade Center and insisting that what we must all take from the tragedy of the terrorist attack is the message, "Don't forget."

The association also awarded the Harry C. Bigglestone Award to six authors of the paper "Measurement of Smoke Characteristics in HVAC Ducts," during the opening session. The authors' paper appeared in the fourth quarter 2001 issue of NFPA's Fire Technology. The authors are James Milke, Steven D. Wolin, Noah L. Ryder, Frederic Leprince, Frederick W. Mowrer, and Jose Torero.

Presented yearly, the award is named for the late Harry C. Bigglestone and honors excellence in communication of fire protection concepts. The award is sponsored by The Fire Protection Research Foundation and is presented for the most outstanding paper submitted to Fire Technology during the previous calendar year.

NFPA also presented Donald W. Belles, P.E., FSFPE, of Greenbrier, TN, with the Standards Medal at the opening session. The Standards Medal is the highest award bestowed by the Standards Council and is given for outstanding contributions to fire safety in the development of codes and standards prepared by NFPA technical committees. Prior to his retirement in December 2001, Belles was a principal at Koffel Associates, Inc., where he specialized in forensic engineering, including fire and explosion loss analysis, and served as a member of the Standards Council for six years. He has been an NFPA member for more than 30 years and currently serves as a member of the NFPA's Building Code Technical Committee on Materials and several Life Safety Technical Committees.

Educational Sessions

On the informational front, the World Safety Conference offered a choice of 100 professional education seminars presented by the industry's best-known experts. Topics covered included NFPA Codes and Standards reviews, sprinkler protection for metal buildings, new extinguishing technology, fire suppression in healthcare facilities, and prevention of MIC in fire protection systems.

One of the highlights of the program was a session presented by Warren Bonisch, P.E., of Schirmer Engineering, focusing on an internal investigation of ESFR sprinkler systems performed recently by the company. The 13 systems were installed in a non-combustible one-story steel building built in 2000 and were supplied by a 1,500 gpm fire pump located in an adjacent building. In the fall of that year, Schirmer was asked to investigate a series of grossly angled sprinklers found by the code official during the inspection prior to issuing the certificate of occupancy. Schirmer found that of the sprinklers installed, 3% or 124 total were grossly angled. The suggested reasons for the angled sprinklers were thermal expansion, vibration, water hammer or excessive pump pressure, and vandalism.

A fire pump test at no flow and full flow conditions was then conducted to determine if the system piping would move, which they indeed did. The swing distance measured was 1-1 1/2" by the time the pump shut down.

Schirmer's recommendations to the building owners to solve these conditions included adding sway bracing, repairing the angled sprinklers, tightening the fittings and if the problem recurs, replacing the fittings with rigid couplings.

In early 2001, Schirmer was again contacted to prepare flushing guidelines for the system in that same building as objects were found inside the system. Schirmer's engineers developed rules based on NFPA 25 that described how to flush each section of the system, including the branch lines, the risers, the bulk mains and underground. The debris found as a result of the flushing included metal shavings, paper tags, other unidentified objects, coupons (sections of pipe removed during installation), and metal pins.

Schirmer decided to use a video inspection system to enter the 2" diameter piping and search for more of the debris. In order to investigate the outlets where the sprinklers were installed, the sprinkler heads had to be removed, and once again, something unusual was found. Several of the sprinklers didn't have any liquid in the glass bulbs, so they would never activate. Schirmer recommended their replacement.

Other findings from the video inspection included possible MIC in sections of the sprinkler piping, as well as more debris in all of the outlets. The video evidence allowed Schirmer to provide documentation to the building owner of the need for debris removal from the entire system.

New Board of Directors Announced

The election of five officers to NFPA's board of directors was also announced during the conference. The new officers are Corinne Broderick, board chair; George J. Ockuly, first vice chair; Chief Warren McDaniels, second vice chair; Paul Fitzgerald, treasurer; and Vincent Bollon, secretary. All five officers were elected to serve a one-year term.

NFPA 5000 Building Construction and Safety Code Issued by Standards Council

In a related announcement, NFPA's Standards Council issued NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code, the first building code developed through an open, consensus-based process that is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

NFPA 5000 provides for the selection and design of building construction types and structural design systems and assemblies, as well as fire protection systems and egress design requirements for life safety and protection.

Upon publication, NFPA 5000 will be available for free review online by the public through NFPA's Web site, NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code is already posted online for free review.

NFPA 5000 will be a cornerstone of the first full, integrated set of ANSI-accredited codes and standards. The Comprehensive Consensus Codes (C3) set is being developed through a partnership involving NFPA, the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO), Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA), and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).

When completed in 2003, the C3 set will offer coordinated and integrated safety codes for the entire building community, including:

  • NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code

  • NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code

  • NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code

  • Uniform Mechanical Code

  • Uniform Plumbing Code

As part of the C3 set effort, NFPA and WFCA are currently working to develop NFPA 1, Uniform Fire Code, integrating NFPA 1, Fire Prevention Code and the Uniform Fire Code (UFC).

NFPA and ASHRAE are developing an energy code element of the C3 set. When completed, the code will incorporate ASHRAE's energy standards, Standard 90.1 and Standard 90.2, for energy-efficient new commercial and residential buildings.

Also as part of the C3 set effort, IAPMO is updating the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) and the Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) through a consensus-based process that is accredited by ANSI.

In states that adopt elements of the C3 set, NFPA and IAPMO will make available free training and associated codebooks to code enforcers.

Kelly Johnson is Managing Editor for PME.