By Kelly Johnson
The Dallas Convention Center hosted the 2003 NFPA World Safety Conference & Exposition(R) May 18-21, opening its newly remodeled doors to thousands of eager attendees. Featuring entertaining presentations from keynote speakers Chris Matthews, host of "Hardball with Chris Matthews" and "The Chris Matthews Show," and General Norman Schwarzkopf (Ret.), lead officer in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the convention also offered over 120 educational sessions covering a variety of life safety and fire protection issues. In addition, the exposition boasted over 240 exhibitors displaying advancements in fire sprinklers and systems, alarm panels, fire pumps and valves, monitoring equipment, controllers, fire suppression systems, and backflow preventers, among others.
The Opening General Session on May 18 featured remarks from NFPA Board of Directors Chair Corinne Broderick, who spoke of the association as a stronger and more diverse institution that continues to lead the way in fire and public safety. She specifically praised NFPA's fire prevention and life safety educators, calling them the unsung heroes who work behind the scenes, preventing fire and injury. Echoing Broderick's remarks, NFPA President James M. Shannon reinforced the idea that "One of the most important things that we do at NFPA is to work with our fire service and other first responders to make sure they have the training, equipment and support necessary to do their jobs." Shannon further pledged that NFPA will continue to advocate for homeland security preparedness through the association's work with the Department of Homeland Security and other groups.
It was also announced during the opening session in a report from the nominating committee that NFPA has named three new members to its Board of Directors: Kathleen H. Almand, P.E., executive director of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers of Bethesda, MD; Donald P. Bliss, New Hampshire state fire marshal; and Gary Taylor, a partner in Taylor/Wagner Inc., a firm in Innisfil, Ontario. Each will serve a three-year term.
The education sessions that followed over the next few days were organized into 10 educational tracks, covering fire prevention, life safety education, management issues, codes and standards, detection and suppression, electrical safety, firefighting operations and emergency management, research and testing, telecommunications and data network protection, and safety in buildings.
In one session from the codes and standards track, NFPA 5000T, Building Construction & Safety CodeT, was addressed through a review of its past, present and future. Allan Fraser, NFPA senior building code specialist, presented a short history of building codes, discussing the roots of code development, from the Code of Hammurabi in Babylon in 2000 B.C., to the Assize of Buildings in London in 1189, to the modern version of NFPA 5000.
Carlo Gegen of Rolf Jensen & Associates then took seminar attendees through an overview of NFPA 5000, offering a summary of the requirements in each chapter of the code. Gegen also presented several case studies in which different chapters of the code were applied.
Raj Sharma, assistant director/building official for Dallas, TX, followed up with a presentation on his city's new approach to providing private development services, offering a model for other municipalities to use to create a more efficient construction administration process. Sharma described how Dallas' new Office of Development Services was created by consolidating four departments and portions of five others to bring all construction-related services into one office and improve the plan review process for the city's customers.
NFPA's 2004 World Safety Conference & Exposition will be held in Salt Lake City, UT. Visit www.nfpa.org for more information.
Kelly Johnson is Managing Editor of PME. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.