NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley went straight to the point at the opening session of the 2018 NFPA Conference and Expo June 11-14 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.
Pauley noted the number of structure fires is down, but today a person is more likely to die in a fire than they were 20 years ago. “We have the tools to prevent these damaging fires with sprinklers, smoke alarms, codes and enforcement,” he said. “But they are met with resistance. They are underused, ignored or allowed to become outdated.”
Additionally, Pauley stated the world is facing new challenges and NFPA and its members have to face them head on. Since the 2017 NFPA Expo in Boston, major fire and loss of life happened around the world including the Grenfell Tower in London (71 deaths), more than 60 deaths in Portugal during wildfires and nearly 60 deaths (including 12 off-duty firefighters) in the Harvest music festival mass shooting outside the same building where the NFPA Expo took place in Las Vegas.
“Each of these examples are a tragedy on their own,” Pauley said. “When taken together, they represent a catastrophic failure of what I call the ‘fire- and life-safety ecosystem.’ We are backsliding when we should be forging ahead. Collectively, we have forgotten to connect the dots. Everyone is so focused on their part that we have forgotten safety is a system.”
The fire- and life-safety ecosystem features eight elements that play a role in working together to protect people and property, Pauley noted. “When we have seen calamities, we can trace the cause of those situations back to a breakdown in one or more these elements,” he said.
Those eight elements are government responsibility; development and use of current codes; reference standards; investment in safety; skilled workforce; code compliance; preparedness and emergency response; and an informed public.
At the expo, NFPA released CodeFinder, a massive interactive online tool that identifies NFPA codes and standards in effect throughout U.S. cities, municipalities or counties. CodeFinder also can identify codes in play in regions of Canada, South America, Latin America and the Middle East.
CodeFinder has color-coded mapping, a convenient hovering feature and filtering by jurisdiction. Users also can search by topic or by the frequently-used NFPA codes and standards. In addition, users can provide code information that is not included in CodeFinder.
During the expo, Pauley praised the new tool and emphasized the importance it, as well as the role codes and standards play in the fire- and life-safety ecosystem.
“Codes and standards are developed by experts from around the globe to ensure a minimum level of safety,” he stated. “Current editions of codes incorporate learnings from new research, case studies, loss experience and innovation. By applying the most recent codes and standards, we will ensure people and property get the level of protection they expect and deserve.
“CodeFinder was developed so those charged with fire and life safety can easily access up-to-date safety benchmarks and help reduce risk in our world.”
Other highlights from the Expo include:
NFPA elected Brion Callori, Martha Connors, Reginald D. Freeman, William J. Fries and Louis Paulson to the organization’s board of directors. John D. Bonney, R. David Paulison and Michael Wallace were reelected to the board. All will serve a three-year term.
Founder and President of Columbia, Maryland-based engineering firm Koffel Associates Bill Koffel was awarded the Standards Medal. Koffel has been an NFPA member since 1979 and has taken part in 27 different technical committees, chairs three NFPA technical committees and recently chaired the Correlating Committee for NFPA 101, Life Safety Code for nine years.
Retired fire chief Jim Dalton was honored with the 2018 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal for his career-long commitment and passion for fire safety. Pauley and NFPA noted Dalton’s efforts culminated with the passage of the Fire Sprinkler Incentive Act.
The 2019 NFPA Conference and Expo is set for June 17-20 at the Henry B. González Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas.
This article was originally titled “NFPA looks to fix the ‘ecosystem’ during annual conference” in the July 2018 print edition of PM Engineer.