Articles by Larry Anderson
Refrigerants used in cooling systems for homes and businesses are being replaced with alternatives that have less potential for global warming. But the transition comes at a risk: Some of the new refrigerants are flammable. Although less flammable than gases such as propane, for example, new refrigerants can still ignite and burn with a high intensity under ideal circumstances. The new materials have low-flame velocity and are less easily ignited; however, one byproduct of combustion is toxic hydrogen fluoride. Flammability risks of non-toxic refrigerants Non-toxic refrigerants are categorized by flammability risks. A1 designates no flame propagation; A2 indicates lower flammability; and A3 indicates higher flammability. Hydrocarbons such as propane have higher flammability (A3) and are restricted to a lower charge limit that does not address refrigeration needs of large systems. Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) are mildly flammable, have a low flammability limit (LFL) and have been categorized as an A2L refrigerant. They tend to burn slowly and give off little heat. Hydrocarbons such as propane have higher flammability NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) offers online and instructor-led training to educate firefighters about flammability and toxicity risks associated with new refrigerants. The training also covers asphyxiation challenges, jet stream fires, transportation issues and other life-safety considerations associated with flammable refrigerants. The training covers how to adapt response tactics to mitigate consequences from refrigerants in various types of emergencies. Strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs), personal protective equipment (PPE) and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) protocols and decontamination practices are also covered. Categorising refrigerant flammability The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) provides funding to NFPA to develop training on the emerging technology. According to an ASHRAE report, refrigerant flammability can be characterized by three factors: Likelihood that a refrigerant leak would result in a concentration range that reaches the lower flammability limit; Presence of a sufficient energy ignition source; and Likely severity of a combustion event, and probability of a secondary fire. ASHRAE is the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute (AHRTI) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) are researching the flammability of refrigerants, including factors such as refrigerant charge size, release height, leak rate, humidity, and room size and temperature. When choosing the best refrigerants, it is likely a tradeoff will be required among global warming potential, flammability and efficiency. Codes and standards Codes and standards are being modified to address the use of new materials Currently, codes and standards are being modified to address the use of new materials, although risk mitigation concerns of the fire service have historically not been considered. One issue is the risk of using large amounts of flammable gas in a refrigeration system to cool a larger room. Additional safety measures are needed to make the risk acceptable. Detection of leaks is another issue, especially the need for repeated calibration of leak detectors to ensure accuracy. More than 200 countries will be ushering in the new class of refrigerants.
The T-band radio spectrum provides critical communications for firefighters and other first responders in large metropolitan areas. However, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently required by law to auction off the spectrum for other uses in February 2021. Congress will need to pass legislation in the next several months to stop the auction, which is a provision of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. In the last several years, various bills have been introduced to repeal the mandated auction of the T-band spectrum. In February, House Energy and Commerce Committee Leader Rep. Greg Walden introduced legislation to repeal the auction, and last December five Senators reintroduced the “Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act” to preserve the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) spectrum (470-512 MHz). Public safety agencies The T-band was assigned in the 1970s because of the high density of communications in heavily populated metropolitan areas to support critical public safety communications and provide regional interoperability among first responders. Public safety agencies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars of federal, state and local funds to plan and build out T-band networks. The T-band is used in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In those locales, there are no workable alternatives. In addition, the T-band is used in San Francisco/Oakland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Miami, Pittsburgh and Washington DC (and surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia). Together, the areas cover more than 90 million Americans. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended that Congress pass a law The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended that Congress pass a law to allow public-safety users to continue to use the T-band spectrum for emergency communications. A GAO report examined the challenges first responders and local governments expect in relocating communications from the T-band. The GAO conducted case studies in four cities, and reviewed statutes and regulations, FCC documents, and T-band studies by the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). Reallocating and auctioning The FCC is required to reallocate and auction the T-band by law. The independent federal agency has taken limited actions to address challenges and to assist public safety users of the T-band with mandatory relocation. However, they have not begun planning the auction. The FCC is required to reallocate and auction the T-band by law The FirstNet broadband network is designed for public safety; however, it is not ready to support mission-critical voice systems, according to NPSTC. “The safety of our city depends on our use of the T-band, and taking it away would be unconscionable,” says New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The city has invested millions of dollars [to ensure] our first responders can communicate in all types of emergencies, and this resource is key to our ability to keep our communities safe.” In New York, losing the T-band spectrum would require billions of dollars be spent to replace existing radios and infrastructure and would devastate operations at thousands of emergencies each day. the gAO study The GAO study said the cost of relocating T-band users to other bands would be between $5 billion and $6 billion. For many users, alternative bands are limited or non-existent. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has launched a “Voter Voice” campaign The Middle Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 both created FirstNet and directed the auction of the T-band spectrum. Proceeds from the auction would be made available to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to develop and administer a grant program to help cover costs associated with relocating public-safety users’ radio systems. Numerous business/industrial licensees are also in the T-band spectrum but are not addressed in the legislation. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has launched a “Voter Voice” campaign to support preserving public safety’s access to the T-band. The campaign encourages citizens to send a letter to their representative supporting repeal of the T-band auction.
First responders are on the front lines of the latest health crisis that involves spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Around the country – and around the world – EMS departments are facing the uncertainties of a rapidly-spreading virus. One problem is a shortage of face masks. As cases surge, it will also be harder for ambulance companies to get other needed supplies. In King County, Wash., an epicenter of COVID-19 cases in the United States, Kirkland, Wash., firefighters and Kirkland police officers were placed under quarantine after an outbreak at a senior care facility. Firefighters were either quarantined at home or at a local fire station. These first responders came in contact with the coronavirus at Life Care Center of Kirkland, where dozens of residents and staff were infected. Quarantine for IAFF members Some members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in Washington state were under quarantine for possible exposure to COVID-19.It is not the first time EMS has acted as the canary in the coal mine to protect the public" The heightened role of fire and EMS professionals is playing out everywhere. “It is not the first time EMS has acted as the canary in the coal mine to protect the public,” Oren Barzilay of the New York EMT union told the New York Daily News. “And it won’t be the last.” FDNY Not Sending Firefighters to COVID-19 Calls The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has stopped sending firefighters to answer medical calls that describe symptoms associated with the coronavirus. Instead, calls for asthma attacks, fever, coughs and difficult breathing are being handled by the Emergency Medical Service. Fire companies with certified first responder (CFR) training, which would ordinarily accompany ambulances on such calls, are being asked to “stand down.” The order refers to “Segment 2” calls, although firefighters will continue to respond to higher priority “Segment 1” calls. Union complaint in Boston When coronavirus testing began taking place at Faulkner Hospital in Boston, Mass., the EMS union complained because paramedics working at the facility were not notified of the possible workplace contamination. The EMT substation at the hospital includes a bunk room and contains equipment and supplies. The union complained to the Boston Public Health Commission, which provided assurances they were doing “everything in [their] power to protect EMTs and paramedics.” East Pierce, Wash., Fire and Rescue Assistant Chief Russ McCallion created a checklist for medics and fire crews to consider when responding to a potential coronavirus patient. He reminds crews to perform “doorway triage” of patients to decide when to wear protective equipment and when to use special entryways at the hospital reserved for people in isolation.Complicating the decision-making processes is the fact that flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are similar Complicating the decision-making processes is the fact that flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms are similar. “We have to maintain the high index of suspicion on every call [if] the patient presents with fever, coughing and other flu-type symptoms,” McCallion told National Public Radio. Fire crews are now instructed to wait outside when responding to such calls. They wait while a few medics enter, suited up with personal protection equipment such as gowns, gloves and masks. Dedicated ambulance in San Antonio In San Antonio, a dedicated ambulance is used to transport patients suspected of COVID-19 infection. The interior walls of the dedicated ambulance are covered completely with plastic sheets. The vehicle will be dedicated to the COVID-19 mission “throughout” and will not be used on the streets of San Antonio. Congress has approved emergency funding for states. The money will be used for testing, to track those who are sick, and for awareness campaigns to slow the spread of the virus. Public health emergency A public health emergency has been declared by the U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as of Jan. 31. The declaration enables state, tribal and local health departments to request funding, supplies and resources from DHHS to respond to COVID-19.The declaration enables state, tribal and local health departments to request funding, supplies and resources China alerted the World Health Organization in December to several cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan, a port city of 11 million people in the central Hubei province. In January, officials identified the new virus as belonging to the coronavirus family, which includes SARS and the common cold. It was named COVID-19 and has since spread to all of mainland China and later throughout the world.
Research is a Congressionally mandated mission of the U.S. Fire Administration, although their activities are limited by funding and staffing challenges. “A lot of what we do is work with other agencies and organizations that are conducting research,” says G. Keith Bryant, U.S. Fire Administrator. “We have the data to help them with their research.” Research partners include Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and various institutions of higher learning. The U.S. Fire Administration also collects data from a variety of sources to provide information and analyses on the status and scope of the fire problem in the United States. The fire service can use this data to increase awareness, set priorities and/or motivate corrective action. The data can also help to target public education programs and create a baseline for evaluating programs. Collecting the data “We do a fair amount of reports that go out nationally, on firefighter fatalities, for example, or fires at educational institutions,” says Bryant. One recent report covered health and wellness issues specific to female firefighters. Streamlined systems are needed at the local level to maximize data input Local fire departments provide data to the National Internet Fire Reporting System (NIFRS), and streamlined systems are needed at the local level to maximize data input and ensure accuracy. “The system could use modernization, but that takes funding,” says Bryant. “The software might not be as detailed and accurate as it could be.” A big challenge facing the fire service is collection and analysis of accurate data. The need for data extends to issues such as occupational-related cancer among firefighters: Is there accurate data about how bad the problem is and where resources should be focused? Another issue is mental health: Data is needed to confront the issues in a positive way. The challenges of data collection Working with the fire service leadership at the local level can help to meet the challenges of data collection. “We get into those discussions – honest, frank discussions – about what they can do in their agencies to provide more oversight,” says Bryant. “Everybody understands there is a huge need for it.” Local participation ensures maximum value of data collected nationally, and compliance among departments is a “mixed bag,” says Bryant. Data collection is also a tool to help local departments to get the funding they need. Accurate data is needed about the amount of property, dollars and lives that are lost Related to firefighting, accurate data is needed about the amount of property, dollars and lives that are lost. Specific to the growing problem of wildfires, data is needed about which areas are at risk and the nature of the challenges. More information is also needed on occupational-related cancer, for example, which is a serious concern among firefighters. “We need to do a better job of collecting and recording data, and using it in a better way,” says Bryant. “And we need to do it on a more consistent basis nationally.” User conscientiousness User conscientiousness is also an issue: “In some cases, firefighters just want to get through that incident report ASAP, so they may not be as detailed, or fill in all the fields,” says Bryant. During the 45 years of the U.S. Fire Administration’s existence, there has been a significant reduction in reported fires, reflecting a gradual positive trend. The 1973-74 “America Burning” report, which led to establishment of the U.S. Fire Administration, noted that there were more than 3 million fires annually then, compared to the current yearly average of around 1.3 million. Fire fatalities were counted in the tens of thousands several years ago, but there are only about 3,000 a year now. Firefighter fatalities have been cut in half, and there are fewer firefighters injured, too. “These are huge successes, but it doesn’t mean we’re there yet,” says Bryant. “We still have work to do. We don’t take direct credit, but the improvements are based on us working together with the fire service industry.” Location of communities adjacent to areas prone to wildfires, the so-called wildfire urban interface (WUI), has impacted how wildfires are controlled and managed. At one time, the approach was to control a wildfire rather than to extinguish it, but not anymore. “People have moved into those areas,” says Bryant. “Now you have to take a different approach.” Recent tragedies in Paradise and Santa Rosa, Calif., reflect the problem. In the last eight years, there have been resulting increases in property losses and fire fatalities. In the last eight years, there have been resulting increases in property losses and fire fatalities Fires, injuries, deaths, and property loss Specifically, statistics show there were 1.3 million fires in 2017, down 6.2% from 2008, and injuries were down 15.8% to 14,670. However, there were 3,400 deaths in 2017, up 9.6% from 2008; and property loss amounted to $23.0 billion, up 12%. Also contributing to the problem is a trend toward lightweight construction and reliance on different materials, such as chemicals, plastics and particle board as examples. These materials burn much hotter and faster, thus reducing the possible time to escape. And in spite of campaigns to increase use of smoke alarms, there are still some properties that are not protected. “There is still a lot of work to be done,” says Bryant.
The mission of the U.S. Fire Administration is to support and strengthen fire and emergency medical services (EMS) and to help stakeholders prepare for, prevent, mitigate and respond to all hazards. It is an entity of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). G. Keith Bryant was sworn in as the U.S. Fire Administrator in 2017. Prior to his presidential appointment, he was the chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department (OCFD). Experience as a firefighter Bryant says his former experience as a firefighter and fire chief informs and directs his performance as U.S. Fire Administrator. Coming from Oklahoma City, a major metropolitan area, Bryant has faced issues and challenges – staffing, resources etc. – that are common among departments on the national level. His involvement with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) also provided a broad view of issues across the country. The scope of duties that fire departments are asked to respond to has expanded Bryant has been in the fire service since the 1970s. During that time, he has watched the industry evolve from a “trade” to a “profession.” The scope of duties that fire departments are asked to respond to has expanded, also, and continues to grow, now including medical emergencies, Hazmat, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and natural disasters. “We have become ‘all-hazards,’ and it takes a higher level of training and education to handle all these issues,” Bryant says. The U.S. Fire Administration is focused on helping the fire service at the local and state levels. One element of that work is the National Fire Academy (NFA), which provides training, education and professional development for firefighters through live, online, off-site and/or self-study programs. They also provide funding for state training agencies, which conduct NFA courses at the state level. NFA Courses “We make sure our courses are geared to those who will be managing issues at the local level, to ensure they have the training and skillset,” Bryant says. Leadership in the fire service today needs both business and political acumen to manage their agencies effectively, and training must address leadership and management concepts as well as emergency training, he says. The need for higher education is also changing The need for higher education is also changing. At one time, a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma (GED) would suffice as an entry-level requirement for the fire service. In this day and age, a higher level of education may be required, especially for those seeking to manage a fire department. The National Fire Academy offers the Executive Office Fire program and the Managing Officer Fire program to help develop managerial and executive skillsets. Many National Fire Academy programs are aimed at helping smaller departments, including public education programs. Some programs are geared toward volunteer agencies that might not be able to attend a program on campus. In addition to online options, there are also programs on weekends and condensed courses. “We see the needs of different agencies reflected in our course offerings, from smaller, rural agencies to major metropolitan departments,” says Bryant. Issues of concern Another issue of concern is a shortage of firefighters, especially among volunteer fire departments. “We know the volunteer service has a big challenge with recruitment and retention, and we have seen it for a long time,” says Bryant. The gravity of the problem varies by locale. Some volunteer agencies have folded because they could not serve the needs of the community. The U.S. Fire Administration is seeking answers: What are the issues and what programs can make sure volunteer agencies have adequate staffing? What are the issues and what programs can make sure volunteer agencies have adequate staffing? Sometimes the problem is money, contingent on the financial fitness of a community and what they are willing to invest. Traditional commitment to providing fire services and responding to emergencies may be taken for granted by some communities, which may not be adequately funding, staffing and training their departments. “There are communities that invest very well in public safety, and they see the need for that, but it runs the range from bad to adequate to good,” says Bryant. The U.S. Fire Administration also spreads the word about the availability of federal fire service grants using social media, fire service publications and other channels, emphasizing application periods and eligibility. The grants are managed and administered by the FEMA grants directorate, and the U.S. Fire Administration has an oversight role in addition to publicizing the various grants to local departments.
When a fire or other emergency occurs in a building or facility, first responders depend on every available resource to ensure a safe and orderly evacuation and response. One element in any response plan is the facility’s physical security systems, including access control, video surveillance and intrusion detection. How can these systems contribute to an orderly response to a chaotic situation? We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the role of security systems in the event of a fire or other emergency evacuation?
Firefighters often use aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) to extinguish fires, especially fires that involve petroleum or other flammable liquids. AFFFs that contain fluorinated surfactants have been shown to be the most effective agents to fight hydrocarbon-fuel fires in military, industrial and municipal settings. They have been used since the 1960s. However, the surfactants have been shown to be an environmental threat, contaminating ground water and creating hazards to human health. What makes up the foams? Although the materials have been manufactured for 50 years, it is only in the last couple of decades that the compounds have been linked to health problems. Major components of the foams are per- and polyfluoroalkyl acid (PFAS) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS). Concerns about the materials surfaced as early as 1974. Both chemicals are persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and can accumulate over time. There is evidence that exposure to PFAS can lead to adverse human health effects. Related health problems include kidney, testicular, bladder and prostate cancer Related health problems include kidney, testicular, bladder and prostate cancer, as well as immune reproductive and hormonal dysfunction. Unacceptable levels of the chemicals have been detected in the drinking water on or near sites where AFFF is used, such as fire training areas, airports, refineries and chemical plants. Newer foam formulations Some newer foam formulations contain variations of similar compounds that are also problematic, specifically PFAS substances based on shorter carbon chains (C6). There are potentially hundreds of these “precursor” materials, and none are biodegradable. Some are proprietary and evade detection and regulation. Although not specifically regulated in many cases, the materials can still be problematic. The Fire Fighting Foam Coalition (FFFC) is a non-profit trade association formed in 2001 to focus on issues related to the efficacy and environmental impact of firefighting foams. They publish “best practice” guidance on proper foam selection, containing and eliminating foam discharge, and disposal of foam and firewater. The international counterpart is the FluoroCouncil, a global organization representing the world’s leading FluoroTechnology companies. Founded in 2011, membership includes companies that manufacture, formulate or process fluoropolymer products, fluorotelomer-based products, fluoro-surfactants, and fluoro-surface property modification agents. Weighing up effectiveness vs environmental damage There has been effort to develop foams that are free of fluorosurfactants In the last decade or so, there has been effort to develop foams that are free of fluorosurfactants, although there is some disagreement about whether these foams are as effective. Some Fluorine-Free Firefighting (F3) foams have been shown to have comparable performance in some applications, and many airports around the world have embraced the F3 foams, including London Heathrow, Gatwick, Paris De Gaulle and Orly, Lisbon, Brussels, Stockholm, Sydney and Melbourne. Airports have often reported success using the F3 foams, and U.S. airports will be required to use fluorine-free foams by 2021. However, some experts contend that fluorine-free foams are not as effective. The search continues for ever-more-effective fluorine-free foams. One argument goes: If fluorine-free foams do not perform as well in a specific emergency, the threat to human life is more immediate than any threat posed by possible future environmental exposure to PFAS. Using a fluorine-free foam simplifies cleanup after an incident, as the foam can be washed into runoff drains. There is no need to collect and dispose of the effluent to prevent release into the environment. Specially designed training foams There are also specially designed training foams that simulate AFFF during training but do not contain fluorosurfactants and are biodegradable. The safety debate also extends to firefighters The safety debate also extends to firefighters, some of whom claim illness from exposure to fluorosurfactants. There are multiple firefighting-foam-related lawsuits pending. But does lack of fluorine equate to more “environmentally friendly?” One researcher contends that higher aquatic toxicity of non-fluorinated foams suggests otherwise, basing the conclusion on how many fish die when exposed to each type of material. Fluorinated surfactants may have fallen into disfavor, but a worldwide ban is unlikely, given that China still produces large quantities of PFOA which is widely used to make firefighting foams in Asia.
Welcome to our Expert Panel Roundtable, a new feature of TheBigRedGuide.com. We will be asking timely questions about the fire market and seeking out experts in the field to provide responses. Our goal is to promote a useful exchange of information on a variety of topics and to create a forum for discussion of important issues facing the fire service and market. For our first question, we look to the year ahead and ask our panelists: What trends are likely to change the fire market in 2020?
Installation of video cameras has been proposed in the aftermath of a drug scandal at a fire station in New York. The firefighters’ union is resisting the cameras. The situation raises questions about the usefulness of video surveillance in fire departments: Is it effective? Does it solve the problem? Does it violate privacy? What is the impact on morale? In Middleton, N.Y., a former fire lieutenant was operating an illegal drug distribution ring out of the city’s Central Firehouse. Reportedly two local volunteer firefighters were among the 29 defendants arrested in the case. Since the scandal came to light, the city has proposed installing surveillance cameras at the Central Firehouse, the Wallkill Street Station and the North Street Station. The Issues Of Surveillance The situation highlights several issues. How effective is video surveillance in fire departments? Are cameras a waste of money and an intrusion? “This has nothing to do with [firefighters’] ability to do their jobs, and they should welcome the city addressing what happened, rather than fight it,” said Mayor Joseph DeStefano, as quoted in the Middletown Times Herald-Record. “Middletown residents deserve transparency on this.” Plans are to position the cameras in the hallways and stairways, at the exterior and first floor of the buildings, and at the entrance and exit to the control room. Notably, cameras are not being installed near living quarters, bathrooms or kitchens. “Swipe-card” entrance technology is also being installed. The situation highlights several issues. How effective is video surveillance in fire departments? Are cameras a waste of money and an intrusion? Do they put everyone under suspicion for the actions of a few? Crime Deterrent Or Management Tool? More broadly speaking, are video cameras a technology solution that seeks to address a wider management problem that requires a more management-driven solution? In terms of privacy, a fire station is a public building and should not be subject to privacy concerns, especially in “public” areas such as entrances and exits, in equipment bays, storage or common areas. Signs should be installed to state that the premises are under surveillance. Living quarters and bathrooms are more private areas that should not be surveilled.In short, video surveillance is more effective as a crime deterrent than as a management tool. In short, video surveillance is more effective as a crime deterrent than as a management toolThe intent of cameras is another issue that can impact their acceptance. Are the cameras to be used for “real-time monitoring,” i.e., in a central location that is “spying” on employees to ensure they are doing their jobs? Micromanagement is never a good idea, and using technology just makes it worse. Such a scenario suggests a lack of employee trust and would likely undermine morale. Addressing Problems And Restoring Trust On the other hand, if the video is recorded and only reviewed in cases of theft or other misdeeds, there may be broader acceptance. In short, video surveillance is more effective as a crime deterrent than as a management tool. An important question to ask before installing video is: What problem am I looking to address? It’s one thing to hold employees accountable, and another to make them think they are not trusted. One might think that using video to weed out a few “bad apples” makes sense, but they should also consider the negative impact In some other cases, the situation may be more of a management issue than a technical issue on the good and loyal employees, who may be discouraged or feel as if their privacy has been invaded. Installing video doesn’t seem like an extreme response in the case of a drug ring operating out of a fire house. After such an event, it’s important to restore a level of public trust in the organization. If video surveillance can help to restore that trust, it might be worth the possible downside. The same case might be made after a series of thefts, or if there is a question of employee safety. In some other cases, the situation may be more of a management issue than a technical issue, and therefore might be addressed by a completely different set of tools that don’t involve technology.
The U.K. government is looking to apply the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire by strengthening the regulatory system for building safety, including regulations for high-rise buildings. By changing the industry culture to increase accountability and responsibility, proposed measures seek to ensure residents are safe in their homes. The new measures – Building Safety and Fire Safety Bills – expand on a pledge to “[bring forward] new measures to … improve building safety,” which was included in the Queen’s Speech to both houses of Parliament on Dec. 19, 2019. Bringing In New Fire Safety Measures When Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed his plans for government with his new majority, he included mention of housing issues. To ensure residents are safe in their homes, the government will bring forward measures to implement the most urgent recommendations from the first phase of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry. They will also publish a draft Building Safety Bill to implement the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations. The new measures will draw from all 53 of the recommendations of the independent review of building safety, and in some cases, go beyond those recommendations. For example, the government seeks to give residents a stronger voice and strengthen enforcement and sanctions to deter non-compliance. To ensure residents are safe in their homes, the government will bring forward measures to implement the most urgent recommendationsDame Judith Hackitt’s review found that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose in relation to high-rise and complex buildings. A new system to oversee the whole built environment will involve local enforcement agencies and national regulators working together to ensure better safety of all buildings. New Regulations, Guidance And Improvements An enhanced regime for high-rise residential buildings will apply to more than 11,000 high-rise buildings, increasing to almost 15,000 buildings within 10 years. Some £600 million of funding has been made available to replace the unsafe cladding in the social and private sectorsPreviously, the government has implemented a range of improvements that did not require legislation, including identification of more than 400 high-rise buildings that use unsafe Aluminium Compositie Material (ACM) cladding, like that used on the Grenfell Tower. They have worked with local authorities and fire and rescue authorities to ensure appropriate interim safety measures are in place. Some £600 million of funding has been made available to replace the unsafe cladding in the social and private sectors. New regulations and guidance ban the use of combustible materials on the external walls of new buildings over 18 meters containing flats, as well as new hospitals, resident care premises, dormitories and student accommodations. Learning From Mistakes The Fire Safety Bill has been brought forward to “deliver meaningful change to ensure an appalling tragedy like Grenfell can never happen again.” In addition to addressing the elements of Dame Judith Hackitt’s review, the Fire Safety Bill seeks to clarify the scope of the Fire Safety Order to include external walls of buildings, including cladding, and fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy. It would also strengthen the relevant enforcement powers to hold building owners and managers to account. A transitional period will allow building owners and managers and Fire and Rescue Services to put in place the infrastructure for these changes.
Around 2,700 firefighters are working to stamp out the wildfires in Australia that have engulfed 24,000 square miles (about 15 million acres) and killed at least 28 people since the fire season began last July. About 3,000 homes have been destroyed since September, and hundreds more could be at imminent risk. More than 100 U.S. firefighters are among those at work in Australia. They include 59 from California who are assisting the Victoria Rural Fire Service, the largest in the Australian state. Deploying Firefighters The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), Boise, Idaho, is coordinating the deployment of firefighters from the United States, also including 37 in New South Wales. The NIFC is sending firefighters to Australia for the first time since 2010 The NIFC is sending firefighters to Australia for the first time since 2010 as part of an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and Emergency Management Australia. In August 2018, Australia and New Zealand sent 140 firefighters to the United States for 30 days. Persistent heat and drought have exacerbated the wildfires, and there have been fires in every Australian state, although New South Wales has been hardest hit. Strong winds have spread smoke and fire rapidly and led to fatalities. A volunteer firefighter died in New South Wales after his truck rolled over in high winds; he is one of several volunteer firefighters who have lost their lives. The Extent of the Fires Whole towns have been engulfed in flames Big cities like Melbourne and Sydney have been affected; large fires have damaged homes in the outer suburbs and smoke has destroyed air quality in urban areas. Whole towns have been engulfed in flames. Rain has helped to ease conditions in recent weeks, but emergency services personnel say it would take 8 inches of rain over a brief period of time to quell the flames. There are 130 fires burning in the state of Victoria alone. Rather than help the situation, light rain can complicate implementation of tactical and strategic back-burns and other methods of bringing the blazes under control. Recovery is also a challenge as responders work to provide essential supplies and power, clear local roads and give support to the newly homeless. Helicopters have dropped supplies to towns at risk. The Australian Defence Force is assisting firefighters, including army personnel, air force aircraft and navy cruisers used for firefighting, evacuation, cleanup and search-and-rescue. The military has been involved in clearing roads closed by fallen trees, burying dead farm animals, and providing fodder for surviving livestock. Large Infernos and Smaller Blazes The 15 million acres impacted by the Australian bush fires are an area about the size of West Virginia, and about seven times the size of California’s 2018 fires. (Another report estimates 28 million acres have been affected – 16 times the amount of land destroyed during California’s worst fire season.) Some are smaller blazes; others are large infernos that occupy acres of land and have been burning for months. Dry lightning started some of the fires, but at least 24 people have been charged with deliberately starting brush fires. At least 24 people have been charged with deliberately starting brush fires Conservatively speaking, more than half a billion animals have been impacted, with millions likely dead. They include birds, reptiles and mammals. More than a third of koalas in New South Wales may have been killed; a third of their habitat is destroyed. Conservation groups fear the disaster could lead to local extinctions and threaten the survival of some species. Previously the largest wildfire disaster in Australia was the Black Saturday fires that killed 173 people in 2009, the deadliest bush fire disaster on record. Bush fires are not unusual (or usually deadly) in Australia. However, this year, thick brush, hotter temperatures and low humidity have aggravated the situation. One Fire Management Officer said the reception of U.S. firefighters in Australia “felt really good” and the mutual respect between the two nations’ firefighter teams was palpable.
Technologies to protect against fire are among the innovations being shown at CES 2020, the technology event, Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas. The fire market is one of many served by the range of consumer and smart home technologies on display at CES 2020, from artificial intelligence (AI) to 5G, vehicle technology to AR/VR (augmented and virtual reality), robotics to home automation. For example, Longan Vision will display augmented reality systems for firefighters, helping them make good decisions during high-risk events while reducing the cognitive load of incident command personnel. Longan's "Fusion Vision System" provides firefighters with enhanced vision, communication and situational awareness. fire-related products Smart home could be about delivering home analytics through cloudless architectures and new door lock approaches" The smart home market is a major focus at CES. In the case of fire-related products, a smart home can also be a safer home. “For the smart home market at CES this year, we expect to see numerous announcements regarding home awareness,” says Blake Kozak, Senior Principal Analyst at IHS Markit. “This will include brands offering up additional analytics for consumer security cameras with a focus on edge-based solutions.” The show features more than 170,000 attendees, 4,500 exhibitors and 1,100 industry thought-leaders featured on the CES stage. “The impact of this [event] for the smart home could be about delivering home analytics and enhancing privacy through cloudless architectures and new electronic door lock approaches,” Kozak adds. integrated smart home experience An example of home analytics is the Resideo Home app, introduced in December, which will make whole-home monitoring possible for four critical networks of the home – water, air, energy and security. Resideo promises a “simplified and integrated smart home experience." Smart fire monitoring solution provider Rozetatech at CES 2020 offers an Internet of Things (IoT) fire detection solution that uses advanced digital sensors and their wireless capabilities and sends real-time information through mobile phones to 911 rescue centers and fire officers. First Alert has helped protect homes and families for 60 years. Their Onelink portfolio, on display at CES, expands to provide whole home safety and WiFi coverage solutions. Gentex Corp. provides commercial smoke detection and signaling devices for the fire protection industry (in addition to a portfolio of electro-optical products for the global automotive industry). smart home and IoT applications Their newly developed UART-interface alarms can be integrated with any client's wireless module for various smart home EVERDay Technology provides smoke/heat/CO/gas detectors for both commercial and residential applications. Their newly developed UART-interface alarms, such as smoke/heat combo alarms, smoke/CO combo alarms and gas alarms, can be integrated with any client's wireless module for various smart home and IoT applications. Siterwell Electronics includes sensor alarms such as smoke, carbon monoxide, gas, heat, and water level alarms among its range of security and protection products for residential and commercial applications. Siterwell exports to around 66 countries. Other products include a UL-listed commercial fire alarm system, IoT intelligent security and smart home networking products. smart water leak detectors AerNos nano gas sensors detect multiple gases simultaneously to parts-per-billion levels for indoor and outdoor air quality monitoring, hazardous gas detection and other "e-nose" applications. The tiny, accurate, affordable and low-power modules deliver results for plug-and-play integration with commercial product lines. Safera Oy is an international innovator in intelligent stove guard technology and preventive fire safety. The new Safera Sense product provides smart cooking notifications to help users reduce cooking fire risks, assist with cooking temperatures and times, and improve air quality while cooking. smart home devices WaryMe designs and develops a personal safety mobile application to improve a user’s security in public places, schools, transports and companies by addressing major risks such as terrorism attacks, intrusion, fire and even industrial accidents. An all-in-one mobile application integrates alerting, crisis management and mass notification features. “Market players are looking to expand beyond established smart home devices like smart thermostats and networked cameras to products like smart water leak detectors, smart pet feeders, and smart air purifiers,” says Elizabeth Parks, President, Parks Associates. “Familiarity with smart home devices lags behind familiarity with smart entertainment products; it even lags that of smart speakers, which are quite new in the market,” adds Parks. In 2020, we will see players working to advance the visibility and marketing around device integration and specifically focus on use case scenarios around safety, security, and convenience, which have always been the primary drivers of adoption of these types of products.”
The holiday season is fraught with possible dangers from fire. Ranging from dried-out Christmas trees to overloaded electrical circuits, the dangers are high in a season when awareness may be at a low point. Fire departments are well positioned to communicate these dangers to citizens. Social media makes it easier than ever to spread “messages of good habits” when it comes to fire prevention in homes and businesses. A Look At The Statistics The dangers are high in a season when awareness may be at a low point According to the latest statistics, covering 2013-2017, fire departments respond to an average of 160 home fires each year that start with Christmas trees, according to NFPA Applied Research. Electrical distribution of lighting equipment was involved in 44% of home Christmas tree fires, and another 25% were caused by some type of heat source, such as a candle too close to the tree. Excluding Christmas trees, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 780 home structure fires per year that began with Christmas decorations (between 2013 and 2017, according to NFPA Applied Research). On average, 22 home candle fires are reported each day, with the two peak days for candle fires being Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. About 10 percent of fireworks fires occur between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3, with the peak on New Year’s Day. Help From The U.S. Fire Administration U.S. Fire Administration provides a series of holiday, candle and Christmas tree outreach materials to enable fire departments to increase awareness of holiday fires in their communities. A social media toolkit contains content that a department can easily share on Twitter, Facebook or other social media channels. Content may be copied or customized to reach any audience. Messages from the U.S. Fire Administration that departments can share on social media platforms include: The top three days of the year for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve. Residents should only use decorations that are flame-retardant or not flammable. Holiday lights should be checked each year for frayed wires or excessive wear. A limit of three strands of holiday lights should be linked. Burning candles should not be left unattended. Battery-operated flameless candles are a safer alternative. Christmas trees should be kept away from heat sources and room exits. Watering a Christmas tree daily keeps it from becoming dry and flammable. Care is required to ensure that the festivities of the season do not come at a cost of lost property and/or lives Care is required to ensure that the festivities of the season do not come at a cost of lost property and/or lives. Fire prevention can lessen the burden on firefighters during a season when spending time with family is at a premium. The sadness of a fire tragedy, especially during the holiday season, can be unbearable. The holiday season is also an appropriate time to acknowledge the hard work that departments and other fire professionals dedicate to preventing and fighting fires. We at TheBigRedGuide.com salute the work of the fire service and the fire industry to keep residents and businesses safe from fire and other emergencies, both during the holiday season and throughout the year. Happy holidays to all our readers, and we look forward to providing even more useful information on our site in 2020.
One Los Angeles firefighter made $360,010 in overtime last year, and 18 employees of the department each earned more than $200,000 in overtime pay. In all, more than 90% of LAFD employees received overtime – an average of $27,737. Excessive overtime is an ongoing challenge at many fire departments around the United States, and the situation can often attract the attention of auditors and budget-conscious city managers, who may be concerned, or even suspicious, about the additional costs. There may be questions such as whether overtime hours are being allocated fairly. There are often calls for more oversight and regulation. Transparency is critical when tax dollars are being spent, and those who allocate the funding have to face voters. Working culture of long shifts For firefighters, overtime pay can provide a welcome boost to their household finances and make firefighting jobs more attractive. Working long shifts (and overtime) is a part of the culture of firefighters. But at what cost to departments? Is overtime pay the best use of resources? Is overtime pay the best use of resources? Might other employment models be more cost-effective? Extremely high overtime payments to a handful of individuals at least suggest a need for more balance in how overtime is distributed. Burgeoning overtime expenditures also may reflect other issues, such as inadequate staffing or recruitment challenges. For example, the Baltimore City Fire Department is paying overtime to fill nearly a third of its firefighter and medic shifts every day, according to The Baltimore Sun. The department is relying on volunteer “callbacks,” when a firefighter or medic who just finished a shift is asked to work another one. Montgomery Fire/Rescue $2 million over budget Last year, Montgomery, Ala., Fire/Rescue went $2 million over budget because of overtime pay needed in response to a multi-year worker shortage. In some cases, overtime is a temporary solution to an ongoing problem: recruitment and retention of firefighters. Another element of overtime is a department’s “constant staffing” model, which requires a fire station to be staffed 24/7 for fires, medical calls or other emergencies. There may also be a need to cover for employees who are on leave for health reasons, military service or for disciplinary issues. There are vacations to consider. Leave requests may occur with little prior notice, and overtime may be the only practical means of covering for the absences. Another element of overtime is a department’s “constant staffing” model, which requires a fire station to be staffed 24/7 for fires, medical calls or other emergencies Avoids hiring additional staff Some say paying additional overtime saves money in the long run by avoiding having to hire additional staff and pay their benefits. However, in some cases, reduced benefit expenditures – such as pension cutbacks – are changing the calculus. In the case of wildfires federal or state disaster funding may absorb the costsGiven the shifting variables, it may be less expensive in some cases to hire additional employees than to swallow the overtime costs. However, in a competitive employment environment, what are the chances that a new recruit may be lured away by another department despite a huge investment in training? In some cases, the costs of overtime may be reimbursed to local jurisdictions. In the case of wildfires, for example, federal or state disaster funding may absorb the costs. For special events, city employee overtime may be reimbursed by an event organizer or venue. Shifts not comparable to business world There is also an argument that how firefighters are scheduled requires that issues of overtime be examined through a different lens. A firefighter might work a 24-hour shift, three times as long as a typical eight-hour workday. A firefighter might work a 24-hour shift, three times as long as a typical eight-hour workdayTherefore, overtime issues are not equivalent, or comparable, to the business world. Assuming that’s true, it suggests a need for more education and explanation to city managers and the general public about the specific differences and how they impact the need and/or desirability of overtime. Large amounts of overtime also raise concerns about fatigue and morale. For example, a firefighter is likely less effective after working multiple long shifts. Given the life-and-death nature of firefighting and emergency medical care, employees should always be at their best. Overly tired firefighters could possibly put additional lives at risk.
Colossus, a fire-fighting robot, was deployed in the nave of the Notre Dame cathedral during the destructive fire on April 15 in Paris. Pumping water high into the air and onto the flames, the robot was instrumental in turning the tide for firefighters, extinguishing the fire and lowering temperatures inside the nave. Colossus was developed by the French Company Shark Robotics and deployed with the Paris Fire Brigade. The caterpillar-tracked robot stands just two and a half feet tall, weighs 1,000 pounds and can carry another 1,100 pounds of equipment. At Notre Dame it helped firefighters extinguish the blaze and mostly save 850 years of history. It helped firefighters extinguish the blaze and mostly save 850 years of history Robots in firefighting The historic use of Colossus illustrates the growing role of robotics in firefighting, including mobile systems with advanced features to assist an operator in navigation and to perform a wider range of tasks. According to Brian Lattimer, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, a robotic system is a mechanical device that performs a task using sensors to perceive its environment, computer programs to control the robot based on its environment, and a human operator to assist with robot operation. A variety of robotic systems support a range of fire events, whether involving structures, vehicles, aircrafts, shops or wildlands, he says. In addition, the functionality of robot systems varies to support firefighters in tasks such as sizing up the fire, identifying trapped people, locating the fire, monitoring conditions, controlling fire spread and suppression, says Lattimer. Sizing up the fire, identifying trapped people, locating the fire, monitoring conditions, controlling fire spread and suppression automated robotics Also, aerial robotics such as drones provide added situational awareness, and indoor robots can eliminate fires at close range. There are also fixed systems, such as automated fire monitors, that can be used to extinguish significant fire hazards rapidly. Several robots have found utility in the fire service in recent years. Fire-fighting robots were essential for suppressing the blaze at Notre Dame Other life-saving robots The Tactical Hazardous Operations Robot (THOR), developed for the U.S. Navy’s Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFIR) program, is a human-like robot that can travel across unstable floors on ships, utilize hoses, and open doors. Because Navy ships have hazardous materials on board, extinguishing fires is critical. The robot uses stereoscopic thermal imaging and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors to navigate. It walks and works semi-autonomously with the help of a remote operator. The Thermite Robot is a small tank created by Howe and Howe Technologies for the U.S. Army. The Thermite RS1-T4 is remotely operated with a belly-pack controller that provides high-definition and infrared video in real-time. It has the power to push vehicles from its path, the agility to climb stars and can output 1,250 gpm of water at 200 psi. Thermite is designed as an advanced tool to help operators combat fires safely and efficiently. It has the power to push vehicles from its path, the agility to climb stars and can output 1,250 gpm of water at 200 psi Turbine Aided Firefighting Machine (TAF 20) is a robot created by Emicontrols, a subsidiary of the TechnoAlpin Group. Designed for small spaces such as tunnels, it uses a turbine to clear smoke, move obstacles with a bulldozer blade and focus its water spray from a mist to a jet. an emerging technology component The Fire Ox, a robotic firefighting vehicle that carries its own water tank, is designed as a first response unit. It suppresses fires, assists in search and rescue, and can handle dangerous materials. It is semi-autonomous and can be controlled from up to 200 miles away. Research at Purdue University has yielded firefighting robots with an automatic T-valve system, a “discharge valve,” that can remove water from the fire hose whenever a robot moves to a new location. The technology takes less energy and enables a firefighting robot to maneuver more quickly and efficiently around a burning structure. Robots can withstand hazardous environments and help to avoid injury to firefighters. They are an emerging technology component that will impact the art and science of firefighting for years to come.
A “Complaint of Non-Conforming Products” has been submitted to the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission on behalf of a forensic expert who says he has identified non-compliance dangers and vulnerabilities related to fire and burglar alarm control units. Millions of alarms conceivably could be recalled following an investigation in response to the complaint. The U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission is tasked with promoting the safety of consumer products by addressing “unreasonable risks” of injury, such as risk of fire, chemical exposure, electrical malfunction or mechanical failure. Typically, the CSPC evaluates such complaints and determines what corrective action, if any, is appropriate, in this case possibly by the end of the year. Report from Jeffrey Zwirn Jeffrey Zwirn, an alarm and security forensic expert, says he has identified problems with the alarm devices and has posted online a series of videos confirming that they do not operate in conformance with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 985 and 103 and NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code) Standards. The single data-bus circuits of the hardwired devices can be short-circuitedSpecifically, the single data-bus circuits of the hardwired devices can be short-circuited and become either fully or partially non-functional. IDS Research & Development Inc. (Zwirn’s company) and Connaughton Group LLC, a product integrity consulting firm, sent a request to the CSPC on Sept. 20 asking for an investigation of products across the North American household fire and burglar alarm control units and commercial burglar and fire alarm control panel category. Includes products from big brands The request estimates that “hundreds of millions” of the units were sold and installed across the United States. The request estimates that 'hundreds of millions' of the units were installed across the USAThey include products sold under brand names such as Honeywell, DSC, NAPCO, ELK Products, and Interlogix. If the recall were to happen, it would be the largest recall in the history of the alarm industry. The request states: “It is our expert opinion that these non-conforming control panels present a foreseeably dangerous and serious public safety hazard and risk to all of the unsuspecting consumers, their families and business owners who have these control panels installed in their homes and businesses.” Interceptor addresses the vulnerability Zwirn has also submitted the products for investigation by UL and Intertek Testing Services Inc., which respectively provide the UL and ETL certification marks and are Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). Outcomes of those investigations are forthcoming. Jeffrey Zwirn also promotes and sells a product, The Interceptor, that would address the vulnerability. It is a microprocessor designed to protect the data-bus and auxiliary power output wiring installed throughout a protected premises.
The Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, released Oct. 30, examines events of 14 June, 2017, when 71 people were killed in a high-rise building fire at Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in North Kensington, London. The report finds London Fire Brigade’s planning and preparation for such a fire was “gravely inadequate.” The report reflects the first phase of the inquiry. Investigators will consider problems related to design, maintenance and renovation of Grenfell Tower in the second phase, as well as whether building and fire regulations were adequate and adhered to. Report Suggests Lack Of Training The report found that otherwise experienced incident commanders and senior officers attending the fire had received no training in the particular dangers associated with the building’s combustible cladding, even though some senior officers were aware of similar fires that had occurred in other countries. Otherwise experienced incident commanders and senior officers attending the fire had received no training in the particular dangers Although the London Fire Brigade purports to maintain an operational risk database (ORD) for buildings in London and has a risk assessment policy accessible by all operational firefighters at an incident, the database entry for Grenfell Tower contained almost no information of any use to an incident commander called to a fire. The database information was many years out of date and did not reflect the changes made by a building refurbishment. “None of the firefighters or incident commanders on the ground seem to have been able to conceive of the possibility of a general failure of compartmentation or of a need for mass evacuation; they neither truly seized control of the situation nor were able to change strategy,” according to the report. Evacuation Plans The report continues: “National guidance requires fire and rescue services to draw up contingency evacuation plans for dealing with fires in high-rise buildings that spread beyond the compartment of origin causing a ‘stay put’ strategy to become untenable. They should understand, for any given high-rise building in their area, when a partial or full evacuation might become necessary and provide appropriate training to incident commanders.” Friends and families still await justice for their loved ones following the report The public inquiry by Rt Hon Sir Martin Moore-Bick is being conducted in parallel to investigations by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Her Majesty’s Coroner for Inner London (West), Professor Fiona The decision to evacuate the building was delayed by almost an hourWilcox. Once the Grenfell fire was out of control, the decision to evacuate the building was delayed by almost an hour, which resulted in additional fatalities. A decision should have been made to evacuate the tower between 1:30 and 1:50 a.m., according to the report. The “stay put” strategy was not questioned, even in response to early indications the building has suffered a “total failure of compartmentation.” The "Stay Put" Recommendation The ‘stay put’ recommendation was based on general wisdom that most fires are likely to be contained in small areas of a building and that anyone trying to escape is likely to run into dangerous flames, smoke-filled corridors, or to interfere with fire-fighting efforts. Obviously, it was bad advice in this case since the fast-moving fire rapidly spread and engulfed the entire building. Combustible panels on the exterior of the building accelerated the fire. The aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores acted as a source of fuel. The ACM rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores acted as a source of fuel There were serious deficiencies in command and control. Although additional resources arrived swiftly, some senior officers failed to give sufficient practical support or inform themselves quickly enough of conditions and operations within the building, according to the report. Communication Strategies Channels of communication between the control room and the incident ground were improvised, uncertain and prone to error. Control room operators did not therefore know enough about conditions in the tower or the progress of responses to individual fire survival guidance calls, so they lacked a sound basis for telling callers whether help was on its way. In a statement in response to the Phase 1 report, the London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “We are disappointed at some of the criticism of individual staff members who were placed in completely unprecedented circumstances and faced the most unimaginable conditions while trying to save the lives of others.” Furthermore, Matt Wrack, head of the Fire Brigades Union commented: “Nobody [has] explained how you would alert residents when there’s no common fire alarm system.” He also said the building was already a “death trap” when firefighters arrived.
Ethics should be considered in almost any decision in the fire industry. Here is an example: A customer asks a technician to forge a certificate saying the customer had previously passed a fire audit in order to validate his previous year’s insurance. What do you do? If a company has laid a strong ethical foundation, it’s much easier for the technician to refuse the customer’s request and cite the corporate Code of Ethics as a solid basis for the refusal. Chubb Fire and Security is among the companies providing an example of how an emphasis on ethics can benefit a company, their employees, their customers and the world. Corporate Code of Ethics At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start" In the fire market, the result of unethical actions could make the difference in life and death. For example, if an employee acts unethically when servicing a fire extinguisher, the result could be to burn down the building. “At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start,” says Harv Dulay, Director of Ethics and Compliance at Chubb Fire and Security. “Within the bible are core fundamental rules about what’s acceptable and not acceptable. We lay it out for employees very specifically. They understand and embrace the code of ethics, which is based on trust, integrity, respect, innovation and excellence. If you get them right, the business moves in the right direction”. She adds, “A key piece of our ethics policy is based on trust. We relate to others with openness, transparency, and empathy. It makes Chubb a better place to work and enables us to provide better service to customers.” Importance of conforming to fire safety regulations For Chubb, ethics is not just theoretical, but ethical concepts play out every day in practical ways. An example might be an engineer who goes to a customer’s site and is asked to do a task that is outside his or her duties and/or not allowed under the ethics policy. The pressure might be even greater if the employee is struggling to meet a sales figure. The code of ethics addresses specific situations and outlines the behavior that is expected. “Ethics is embedded in our values and has been since the beginning,” says Dulay. “Ethics is making sure people do the right things. Ethics is integrated into the Chubb business model, and everyone knows what is expected of them. It’s a message heard from the top down, from everyone in the company.” Fire safety and security risks “The fire and security industry is different than others because lives and people’s safety are on the line,” Dulay says. “Our purpose is to protect clients from fire safety and security risks. This is a business where no one should take short cuts. It is important to do the right thing all the time, every time, and it’s about protecting lives and property.” Ethics discussions begin for employees at Chubb when they join the company; clear instructions about ethics are included as part of employee induction. There are nine modules of ethics training during employee orientation, and a discussion with an Ethics and Compliance Officer is part of the onboarding process. Online ethics training modules A series of supervisor-led trainings encourage managers to deliver face-to-face ethics training to their team The training program includes information about ethics, company expectations around ethics, where to go for questions about ethical issues, and details of the anonymous ombudsman program. Additionally, field staff is trained by their supervisors via regular face-to-face ethics toolbox talks. Office staff completes a series of on-line ethics training modules regularly. A series of supervisor-led trainings encourage managers to deliver face-to-face ethics training to their team, citing real-life examples. Healthy discussions are encouraged to deal with any ‘gray areas’. Dulay estimates that ethics and compliance officers spend about half their time answering questions and clarifying for employees what’s expected in the code of ethics. Data security Some 14,000 employees globally have multiple options when it comes to reporting an issue, and there are full-time Ethics and Compliances Officers in every country where Chubb does business. A reflection of Chubb’s global approach to compliance is their worldwide implementation of data security requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); the company saw the benefits of the program for any jurisdiction. Training and education are part of Chubb’s investment in ethics. For example, a recent module on ‘respect in the workplace’ covered the need to create a company culture in which everyone feels respected. Training and education are part of Chubb’s investment in ethics Training and communication “Training and continuous communication are embedded in the organization. We invest in the process,” says Dulay. She adds, “We have had employees who left the company and then come back. They realized the importance of ethics and rejoined us.” “We start with the foundation that we would rather lose business than give up our ethical standards,” says Dulay. “We won’t abandon our policies even if there is money at stake. Some business is not worth getting if you don’t adhere to your values.” Effective conflict resolution “We manage potential conflicts proactively by creating and instituting methods in which employees have access to tools they can use to be successful and adaptable in times of change,” says Dulay. “Also, we will not tolerate retaliation against any employee who reports wrongdoing – regardless of the outcome of the investigation.” We measure it by people’s conduct, the number of cases we have, and awareness" And while there is no specific monetary value assigned to good ethical practices, success can be measured. “We measure it by people’s conduct, the number of cases we have, and awareness,” says Dulay. Good ethics behavior “It’s good for employee morale, and it’s good for customers and our business. It’s not measurable, but it is fundamental for business and customers. The work we do as a company can impact people’s lives so it is important that everyone has an understanding of the importance of their role,” says Dulay. A common misconception about ethics is that if no one is watching, it must be ok. However, Dulay says it is the things employees do when no one is watching or checking in on them that form good ethics behavior. During training, Chubb emphasizes that ethics is about doing the right thing, all the time even if no one is watching.
The biggest causes of false fire alarms are older technology and systems that are improperly designed and/or not maintained. Modern technology, proper design and regular maintenance can minimize false alarms. Systems over 15 to 20 years old do not have the technical means to handle deceptive phenomena. Proper planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance should be provided by firms certified for such work as defined in the European Standard EN 16763 Services for fire alarm and security systems. Preventing false alarms False alarms and counterstrategies must be taken seriously by the planner from the beginning of the planning process in the fire protection plan. The prevention of false alarms is also the responsibility of the operators and site managers. There is still a lot of optimization potential. These are some of the observations from the Euralarm False Alarm Study (2019), which looks at the situation in Germany, Austria (Vorarlberg), Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. To further the reduction of false fire alarms even more, better data is needed to outline and support any measures defined.To further the reduction of false fire alarms, better data is needed to outline and support any measures defined The study also shows that, in some regions, approximately 30% of the false alarms are caused by 5% of the sites. “We have to optimize the planning and application processes,” says Dr. Sebastian Festag, who headed up the research. Euralarm “False Fire Alarms” task group The Euralarm “False Fire Alarms” task group completed a three-year study in 2018 that aimed to identify the actual state of the false alarm issue of fire detection and alarm systems (FDAS), their conditions, main causes and measurements to reduce them. The result of the work is the False Alarm Study (2019), which was the follow-up to a pre-study that led to an observation of the questionable quality and availability of data. The lack of common data and terminologies – as seen in the first study – makes further analysis and the development of prevention strategies difficult. Reducing the incidence of false alarms requires an understanding of the phenomenon and the conditions (terms, data, transmission paths, standards and calculations). Differences and similarities among countries could be used to derive measures to influence the issue and its ratio, but the circumstances between countries are too varied to truly compare. Systems over 15 to 20 years old do not have the technical means to handle deceptive phenomena Comparisons between countries are not possible In the countries that were visited, the Fire Services collected the data. “An observation here is that comparisons between countries is not possible; hence gaining a better understanding through this process today has limits,” says Lance Rütimann, Chairman of the Euralarm Fire Section and member of the Task Group. In the context of fire safety engineering, a false alarm is a fire alarm with no conditions that motivates a fire interventionThe study differentiates between a “real” fire alarm and a false fire alarm. “Real” means that there is a fire alarm with a fire or other conditions that requires an intervention, either by someone in the building or the fire services. “False” alarms are defined as events in which experts establish that there is no real hazard existing. In the context of fire safety engineering, a false alarm is a fire alarm with no conditions that motivates a fire intervention (the alarm is not classified as a real fire alarm; a fire intervention is unjustified). False Alarm Study Lists Counterstrategies One chapter of the False Alarm Study lists an overview of counterstrategies. There are many well-known measures (e.g. two-detector dependency), and technical progress provides new opportunities (e. g. multisensory-detectors) Founded in 1970, Euralarm is an organization representing over 5000 companies within the fire safety and security industry valued at 67 billion Euros. The organization provides leadership and expertise for industry, market, policy makers and standards bodies. Euralarm members make society safer and secure through systems and services for fire detection and extinguishing, intrusion detection, access control, video monitoring, alarm transmission and alarm receiving centers. Euralarm members are national associations and individual companies from across Europe. Not all can be avoided People get annoyed by false fire alarms, which pull them out of what they are doing and force them to evacuate a building. However, it is a misconception that all false fire alarms can be avoided. A fire detection and fire alarm system is constantly monitoring and evaluating the environment in a building. Sometimes what might be perceived as a false fire alarm is in fact an event that was caught in a very early stage. Clearly it is better to be safe than sorry, and to move people to a safe area whilst intervention forces are in action.It is a misconception that all false fire alarms can be avoided False alarms should not be seen as purely negative. A lot can be learned from false alarms; for example, in dealing with vulnerabilities in the technical and organizational alerting process. In general, the number of false alarms is falling, while the number of installed systems is rising, demonstrating that technology works and that false alarm reduction strategies are effective. The number of false fire alarms had declined in all countries in the last years/decades due to optimized technologies. The industry is focusing on the remaining false alarms, some of which are systems that are outdated, no longer meeting site conditions and/or are not professionally maintained.
Drones can help save lives by delivering rescue equipment to the site of a medical emergency minutes faster than the arrival of emergency personnel. A recent trial of the technology in Ontario, Canada, demonstrated its value while expanding the capabilities to longer distances at even faster times. Automated external defibrillators The trial in the county of Renfrew used 4G LTE cellular connectivity to enable beyond-visual-line-of-site (BVLOS) drones to deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to the scene of a cardiac arrest patient. The drones arrived more than 7 minutes before paramedic vehicles in each test flight. The trial in the county of Renfrew used 4G LTE cellular connectivity to enable BVLOS drones The American Heart Association estimates that more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside hospitals every year; some 70% occur in homes. Drones can deliver AEDs to private, residential and rural locations where static AEDs are almost never used. They can deliver to balconies or upper levels in high rise buildings. Drones equipped with cameras can help 911 dispatchers assess a victim’s condition and support bystander CPR and AED application. Multiple studies have shown that AEDs can significantly increase chances of survival. LTE-connected drones The trial in Ontario adds new elements to the scenario, including a greatly expanded range of flight. The LTE-connected drones can fly to locations in a 10-mile operating radius. The project is among the first to be granted permission for a BVLOS flight, which could expand the reach of emergency services. The project offers the potential to deliver life-saving AEDs to patients up to 80 miles away. The Ontario trial demonstrates a marked improvement: A study in Sweden previously demonstrated a median response time of more than 16 minutes. The trial also suggests the possibility of obtaining permission to fly rescue drones beyond the operator line-of-sight in the United States. The LTE-connected drones can fly to locations in a 10-mile operating radius Emergency responders “Given the large area and varied terrain that the county encompasses, it is often difficult to get paramedics to patients in a timely fashion,” explained County of Renfrew Paramedic Chief Michael Nolan. “We have been successfully using drones to support our emergency responders for several years, but until now, the operators have had line-of-sight of the situation. We will now have further reach than ever.” For the Ontario trial, InDro Robotics supplied unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Cradlepoint provided the NetCloud Service, including an on-board IoT router that enables LTE connectivity to control data and video between the vehicle and its pilot, using signals traveling over an LTE advanced cellular network. Ericsson provided 4G LTE equipment with carrier aggregation, cellular network design support, and drone research. Artificial Intelligence The drone flew over cellular to remote take-off points selected by GPS The drone flew over cellular to remote take-off points selected by GPS and landed successfully to deliver an AED to onsite researchers, who used the device to deliver required shocks to a mannequin. The drones could share images and video with operators and employ artificial intelligence to manage collision avoidance and other key functions. Looking ahead to additional deployment of drones to deliver AEDs and other equipment, the U.S. Fire Administration lists several implementation challenges: Where should drone launch sites be located? Where they can cover an entire region or where they are needed the most? How time-consuming and costly will drone maintenance be? How will recharge time or swap-out of AEDs factor into a system deployment? How long should the drone remain on the scene? Will drones be able to operate in poor weather such as icing, turbulence and extreme cold? Drone-delivered AEDs The County of Renfrew trial suggests new options for the technology. “What’s particularly innovative and exciting about this trial is the potential of drone-delivered AEDs to have a transformative impact on emergency care for patients suffering cardiac arrest,” said Nolan.