3 Updates in NFPA Fire Safety You Should Know
Updated: Feb 23
Stay ahead of the trends and check out these three major updates in technology, diversity, and customer safety.
Technological development, efforts to become more culturally inclusive, and rising demand for in-store merchandise post-pandemic have all caused big changes in these recent National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) provisions for updated fire safety and protocols. Creating comprehensive systems and solutions for a predictable future is the first step to creating a safer tomorrow for everyone. Check out these recent updates in NFPA fire safety and protocols to be better prepared for disaster before it happens.
#1 - Fire Safety for Electric Vehicles:
Despite global supply-chain difficulties, sales of electric vehicles (EV’s) have been growing faster than ever – hitting a record high at 6.6 million in 2021 more than tripling in comparison to the past two years. Rising concern for the environment and increased demand for newer technology, EV’s bring a new challenge regarding updated fire safety and prevention efforts. The biggest threat in comparison to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles involves an EV’s battery and the problems they pose when failure occurs. Batteries consisting of lithium-ion (or something similar) like those found in EV’s, experience a process call thermal runaway when systems fail. This happens when a single cell failure produces heat and oxygen, including flammable and toxic gas. This flammable and toxic gas then spread to adjacent cells amplifying potential combustion or explosion. Compared to tradition ICE vehicles, EV fires last longer and have the potential for electric shock and reignition.
Although any engine fire poses a potential threat, fires occurring in parking structures can cause major economic damage and personal hazards.
Code regulated parking structures are particular in relationship to type and occupancy. Located above or below ground, public or private, and limited access all create unique challenges for optimal fire safety. Integrated technology, including automation and car stackers, increase potential safety hazards depending on the space and proximity of each vehicle. All of these factors pose different challenges, including the addition of EV’s and EV charging stations to the equation. Given the current and future rise of EV’s, added considerations must be made to improve design and increase safety.
When looking for more information about code regulated safety for people and property in relationship to electrical hazards, one should reference the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 88A (Standard for Parking Structures) for details about proper prevention efforts. NEC; Article 220 gives more insight to EV Supply Equipment and the electrical charging station watt requirements to ensure proper electrical supply. NEC; Article 624 highlights the need for EV charging equipment to be listed, have appropriate disconnecting means, and minimum distance required above ground. NFPA 88A also addresses EV charging station requirements with more detail related to exact listing standards.
Besides EV’s and the challenges they pose through their batteries and charging station hazards, modern vehicles in general are posing bigger threats to safety with more plastics, combustible material, and increased ownership in general due to high fuel economy and lower prices. The 2022 NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, has already increased the recommended hazard classification for parking structures from Ordinary Hazard Group 1 to an Ordinary Hazard Group 2. New to the 2023 edition of NFPA 88A, all parking garages are now required to have sprinkler system installed in accordance with NFPA 13 in comparison to previous additions, in which sprinkler systems didn’t have to be installed in open parking spaces.
With rising technology and increased car ownership, staying up to date on all NFPA codes, standards, trainings, research and other resources is crucial to prepare for a safer future. EV’s will only continue to saturate the global car market and proper code procedures and prevention is key to ensure the safety of both people and property for future generations.
#2 - New Release for NFPA Guidelines and the Disabled:
Through calculated collaboration and efforts, including through the NFPA and the Disability Access Review and Advisory Committee (DARAC), the third edition of the Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities offers new guidance in fire safety and prevention inclusive to those within the disabled community. This new edition, published in November 2022, can be simplified in four unique parts:
Part 1: Preparing for Evacuation -
This section presents users with helpful guidance when creating and implementing an emergency evacuation plan. Tips include establishing a planning team inclusive of those with disabilities to prepare for logistics, best practices, evacuation plans, and more.
Part 2: Safety of Emergency Evacuation -
Outlined in five states of emergency evacuation, this section provides practical considerations including signage and sounds.
Part 3: Checklist for Emergency Evacuation Planning -
Users are easily able to answer questions in a detailed checklist organized based on the stages on an emergency evacuation outline in Part 2. With more than a dozen questions, this comprehensive guide will help answer any questions or obstacles that might be uncovered during the planning stage.
Part 4: NFPA Publications and Other Resources -
Lastly, this guide provides users with a full list of additional resources from NFPA and other recognized organizations.
The Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities is available for free download and is subject to reproduction, display, or distribution for person or noncommercial use.
Being better prepared for emergency evacuation can save valuable time and lives during an actual emergency. Learn more about how you can become better prepared here.
#3 - Mall Safety and Special Provisions:
Post-pandemic shopping has hit an all-time high with consumers gravitating toward traditional shopping malls and outlets like never before. Although online shopping has become a cultural norm in common place of standard in-person shopping, traditional malls are still standing and more active than in previous years pre-pandemic. Fire safety in such a public common area is crucial with the rise of traditional shopping on the horizon.
Tip #5 - Finish strong
While few fatalities are reported globally in relationship to mall fires, provisions to NFPA 1010, Life Safety Code has provided new updates to be prevent and prepare for such hazards within mall structures.
A mall structure is defined by NFPA 101 as a “single structure enclosing a number of tenants and occupancies wherein two or more tenants or tenant buildings have a main entrance into one or more mall concourses.” Not to be confused with anchor buildings or a mall concourse, the provisions provided in 36/37.4.4 are only applicable to those fewer than three stories in height. Important features included in this recent provision include mall structure height, travel distance, plastic signs, and kiosks.
While a smoke control system is required for all new enclosed mall concourses that connect more than two stories, options and system features can vary and are dependent on the system upgrade. Examples include a separate mechanical exhaust system or an automatic/manually released gravity roof vent device. The combination of both systems is an option or the designer could choose another engineering system within code guidelines. At any time of occupation, the fire alarm system must activate a general alarm in accordance with 9.6.3. Use of a voice communication or a public address system are also an option and should be noted that visible signs are not required.
Automatic sprinkler systems remain required throughout all mall structures and anchor building. Any portion of the sprinkler system serving tenant spaces must remain capable of revision or withdrawal without affecting the operational portion of the system that serves the mall. All shades, canopies, awnings, or similar features/structures within an open malls structure must also remain protected by automatic sprinkler systems. This also includes kiosks and alike structures.
These special provisions of 36/37.4.4 provided by NFPA should be used as additional protocol and help address unique features in current and constructed mall structures. Designers should ensure before construction that their structure qualifies as an associated mall structure as defined by NFPA.
Forget to Add a Closing Statement
While the expansion of technology, inclusion, and consumerism continue to shift, the bottom line for fire safety and protocol remains cohesive and optimal. Looking toward the future requires not only updating outdated guidelines but also adapting to foreseen trends in innovation and design. Each industry can bring its own challenges but can be counteracted through proper preparation and comprehensive design. Learn more about all the updates and provisions here.
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Heading #1: Fire Safety for Electric Vehicles
Heading #2: New Release for NFPA Guidelines and the Disabled
Heading #3: Mall Safety and Special Provisions
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Published February 23, 2023
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