FPRF releases workshop proceedings on respirators

“Emergency First Responder Respirator Thermal Characteristics,” based on the findings at a July 2011 workshop sponsored by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), identifies performance needs and establishes research priorities to address the thermal characteristics of first responder respiratory protective equipment. In addition to the FPRF, sponsors of the workshop included the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health—National Personal Protective Technology Laboratory.

The focus of attendees was the integrity of face pieces for firefighter self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), particularly in relation to thermal insult and performance expectations of the full personal protective equipment ensemble required by current National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards. This issue is of particular interest to the NFPA Technical Committee on Respiratory Protection Equipment, responsible for NFPA 1981, Standard on Open Circuit Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) for Emergency Services.

Attendees sought to clarify research needs to reduce heat-related respirator failures during firefighting. Representatives from the emergency responder community, SCBA and component manufacturers, and research and testing centers discussed issues, technologies, and research associated with SCBA high-temperature performance. Among the objectives were the following:

1 to clarify baseline and current state-of-the-art information,
2 to identify applicable fire service events and current related research, and
3 to provide research planning that includes identifying performance needs for short- and long-term research priorities.

Among the primary concerns and research priorities identified were the following: the characterization of the firefighter environment, the performance of current and new technology, development of representative and realistic testing, and improvements to firefighter training on the limitations of protective equipment. This information will guide research and testing centers in addressing important real-world problems confronting today’s firefighters using SCBA.

Additional information is at the Foundation’s Web site at www.nfpa.org/foundation.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

June 11. Lieutenant Ronald Dwane Ruprecht, 51, Stone Lake (WI) Fire Department: found deceased by family during the night; he had responded to a false alarm call at about 1200 hours.

July 24. Firefighter Deon “Dino” Jason Classay, 42, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fort Apache Agency, Whiteriver, AZ: found deceased after fighting wildfire.

July 25. Firefighter Gaston Gagne, 46, Baytown (TX) Fire Department: apparent heart attack.

July 28. Captain Jeffrey Scott Bowen, 37, Asheville (NC) Fire Department: cardiac arrest.

July 29. Lieutenant Timothy Oliveira, 53, Salisbury (MA) Fire Rescue: injuries sustained when the fire department vehicle under which he was working fell off a jack and struck him.

July 29. Captain Kyle King, 53, Perry (OK) Fire Department: cause to be determined; heat is being considered as a factor.

August 4. Firefighter Jeffery Alan Cocke, 59, Altavista (VA) Fire Department: pulmonary embolism suffered on August 1, within 24 hours of responding to an outdoor and a residential fire.

August 5. Firefighter/EMT Timothy R. White, 50, Cedar Lake (IN) Fire Department: complications of a heart attack suffered on July 17 while participating in technical rescue training.

August 11. Firefighter Trampus Haskvitz, 23, South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division: injuries suffered after being caught in a burnover while fighting the Coal Canyon Fire near Edgemont, SD.

August 12. Lieutenant Larry Gale Nelson, 61, Val Verde County Rural Fire Department, Del Rio, TX: cause to be determined.

August 14. Lieutenant Todd Krodle, 41, Dallas (TX) Fire Department: fell through the roof while fighting a residential fire.

August 16. Chief Dennis J. Cauthen, 54, Elgin Fire Department, Lancaster, SC: cause to be determined.

Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

FPRF to study PASS technology

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), an affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), will initiate the three-year study “Evaluation and Enhancement of PASS Effectiveness.” It will include a comprehensive review of personal alert safety system (PASS) technology and recommend improvements. The study will be funded by an $835,000 Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from the Department of Homeland Security/Emergency Preparedness Directorate/Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The project will examine ways to improve the safety of distressed firefighters engaged in structural firefighting. Among the factors to be considered will be the standardization of certain existing performance characteristics and further enhancing PASS technology to facilitate locating fallen firefighters.

Researchers at the University of Texas-Austin and the National Institute of Standards and Technology will conduct the project under the direction of the FPRF. Fire service participants will include the following: the National Volunteer Fire Council, the Glendale (AZ) Fire Department, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the Austin (TX) Fire Department, the NFPA Fire Service Section, and Portland (OR) Fire and Rescue. The project is slated to be completed by July 2014.

WTC attacks increased FDNY retirements

A new study reveals that members retiring from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) as a result of disabilities attributed to the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks within the seven years following 9/11 increased pension benefit expenditures by more than $826 million.

David J. Prezant, MD, FDNY’s chief medical officer, led the research, which compared the number of overall and accidental disability retirements for the seven years preceding and seven years following the 9/11 attacks. The study included 7,763 FDNY firefighters who retired between September 11, 1994, and September 10, 2008.

In the seven years before 9/11, there were 3,261 overall retirements and 48 percent (1,571) disability retirements. In the seven years following 9/11, there were 4,502 overall retirements and 66 percent (2,970) disability retirements. These disability retirements included 47 percent (1,402) associated with WTC-related injuries or illnesses, primarily respiratory-related illnesses.

“Human suffering cannot be measured in dollars alone,” noted Prezant, “but it does serve as a reminder that recovery efforts, when rescue is no longer possible, should be carried out with special attention to the preservation of health for the responders.”

This study is published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. (Full citation: Prezant et al. “The Impact of the World Trade Center Attack on FDNY Firefighter Retirement, Disabilities, and Pension Benefits.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine; URL: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/ajim.20965.)

Mitchell nominated for U.S. Fire Administrator

President Barack Obama has nominated Chief Ernest J. Mitchell, former president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), to serve as the next administrator of the United States Fire Administration. Prior to his retirement, Mitchell, who served more than 30 years in the fire service, served as fire chief and assistant director of disaster emergency services for the Pasadena (CA) Fire Department from 1998 to 2004. In addition, he served as fire chief and deputy city manager of Monrovia, California, from 1991 to 1998. He was IAFC president in 2003-2004.

He serves on the International Association of Fire Fighters Hazardous Materials advisory board and the International Fire Service Training Association executive board. He has an A.S. in fire science from Long Beach City College, a B.P.A. from the University of San Francisco, and an M.P.A. from California State University at Northridge.

The nomination was referred to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

DHS announces proposed Ammonium Nitrate Security Program

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published in the Federal Register in early August the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the creation of the Ammonium Nitrate Security Program as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to secure potentially dangerous chemicals.

“In today’s ever-evolving threat environment, we must continually reinforce the security of substances, such as ammonium nitrate, which can be used for legitimate purposes or exploited by terrorists,” explains DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Used primarily in fertilizers, first-aid products, and regulated commercial explosives in support of the construction and mining industries, ammonium nitrate has also been used as a main component in powerful explosives for attacks including the Oklahoma City bombing, the London bombings, and other acts of terrorism around the world.

The DHS, at the direction of Congress and in consultation with its federal, state, and local partners, and with input from members of industry and the public, has proposed that the sale and transfer of ammonium nitrate be regulated while decreasing the burden on those who purchase or transfer ammonium nitrate for legitimate uses, according to the DHS.

The program would work with domestic purchasers to validate legitimate use and also require those selling ammonium nitrate to retain records and report the theft or loss of ammonium nitrate to federal authorities within 24 hours of discovery. The DHS will ensure compliance with these proposed standards.

In cooperation with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the DHS has also cosponsored the “America’s Security Begins with You” program, which encourages ammonium nitrate suppliers to report suspicious activity. This complements the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, which provides vendors with the means to report suspicious transactions to law enforcement.

For additional information, visit www.dhs.gov.

USFA releases “University Housing Fires” report

“An estimated average of 3,800 university housing fires occurs each year. Annually, these fires are responsible for 25 injuries and $9 million in property loss,” according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s (USFA) “University Housing Fires (2007-2009)” report. The special report focuses on the causes and characteristics of fires in college and university residential buildings including dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses. The document, part of the USFA’s Topical Fire Report Series, is based on data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.

Among the report’s other findings are the following:

  • 95 percent of university housing fires occur in dormitories or dormitory-type residences, and 5 percent occur in fraternity and sorority houses.
  • University housing fires occur most frequently in the late summer and fall, peaking in September. They generally occur mainly between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., when students prepare snacks or cook meals.
  • Cooking accounts for 88 percent of all university housing fires and is the leading cause of fires.
  • Confined cooking fires (those confined to the container) account for 81 percent of all university housing fires.

Information regarding topical reports, programs, and training from the USFA is available at www.usfa.fema.gov.

ANSI Public Safety Standard renamed

The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International; the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA); and Nlets, the International Justice & Public Safety Network, announced that ANSI Standard will be referred to as “Automated Secure Alarm Protocol” (ASAP) when used for outreach and promotional purposes. The formal name is “APCO/CSAA Alarm Monitoring Company to Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Computer-aided Dispatch External Alarm Interface Exchange.” The announcement was made at APCO’s 77th Annual Conference and Exposition in Philadelphia in August.

According to APCO, “This new name is the result of APCO, CSAA, and Nlets collaboration in advancing the public safety industry to the most up-to-date technology and the City of Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the United States, becoming the latest municipal agency to take advantage of this standard.”

Houston has implemented ASAP in concert with the CSAA’s being approved as an Nlets Strategic Partner Organization. Nlets links the majority of the nation’s 6,500 PSAPs to international, federal, and state criminal justice and public safety-related databases. Nlets’ role in ASAP is to provide the secure transport facility for cooperative data exchanges. ASAP is expected to save the city of Houston $1-2 million annually.

“The Houston implementation of ASAP is the new standard in fostering the public-private partnership between alarm-monitoring companies and 9-1-1 PSAPs,” explains CSAA President Ed Bonifas.

As alarm-monitoring central stations process alarm calls through ASAP, it is estimated that PSAPs will experience significant reductions in calls traditionally handled by phone lines. According to APCO, “This decrease is expected to result in first responder response time reductions, increasing the likelihood of law enforcement apprehensions made, fires more quickly extinguished, and lives saved.”

IFSI offers ProBoard certification

The University of Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI) is now offering ProBoard Fire Service Professional Qualifications System certificates for all IFSI courses accredited by ProBoard, which is dedicated to standardizing responder training around the world. Its certificates are parallel in function to those granted by the National Registry for emergency medical technicians.

IFSI is ProBoard accredited for rope rescue operations and technician, confined space operations and technician, fire apparatus engineer, fire inspector I and II, fire instructor I and II, hazardous materials awareness and operations, and incident safety officer. The certificates for these courses, with the ProBoard seal affixed, are downloaded from the IFSI’s Web site after class completion. The fee for the certificate is included in the class tuition.

Firefighters who have an Illinois fire officer I or II certificate from the Illinois Office of the State Fire Marshal can apply to IFSI for a ProBoard certificate for their respective level. There is a $15 application fee.

Firefighters who obtained their certificates for any of the above courses from an agency in Illinois other than the IFSI can challenge the IFSI ProBoard accreditation exam. This process involves paying a fee, taking a written exam, and completing course practicals. On successful completion, a ProBoard certificate will be awarded.

In the coming months, IFSI will be focusing on accrediting the following courses and programs: firefighter basic and advanced (National Fire Protection Association 1001 Firefighter I and II, respectively), hazardous materials technician A and B, structural collapse operations and technician, vehicle and machinery operations and technician, and trench operations and technician.

ProBoard has accredited 60 agencies around the world. More information about ProBoard is available at www.theproboard.org.

New ASTM standard for HVAC Dust Systems

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) E2816, Test Methods for Fire Resistive Metallic HVAC Dust Systems, will provide the U.S. building codes with a method for testing heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) duct systems or their materials for fire resistance and other durability requirements. The test was developed by Subcommittee E05.11 on Fire Resistance under the jurisdiction of ASTM International Committee E05 on Fire Standards.

“ASTM E2816 provides authorities having jurisdiction, such as building officials and fire marshals, a tool to ascertain the fire resistance of an HVAC duct system and other properties of the insulation materials used to protect the HVAC duct system,” says John Nicholas, consultant and president, Perceptive Solutions LLC, and an E05 member. “This test method will increase life safety, as there is no test method currently cited in the model building or fire codes for HVAC duct systems.”

Nicholas says that building officials and architects will use ASTM E2816 to specify a set of requirements for HVAC duct systems and their insulation materials used in a fire-resistive application and that the standard will provide manufacturers with a research and development tool to create fire-resistive HVAC duct systems.

FDNY and The Mount Sinai Hospital: “Partnership to Avert Tragedy”

A fire in the evening of January 21, 2009, at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City was the mechanism for the forming of a relationship between the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and The Mount Sinai Hospital that would help to facilitate the mitigation of future incidents at the facility.

The alarm for the January 21 fire was transmitted at 6:32 p.m. The fire started in a storage room near the base of the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system for the 12-story Guggenheim Pavilion. It was difficult to locate the fire, explains Robert Maynes, chief of planning and strategy for FDNY and incident commander of the FDNY Incident Management Team, “because smoke was being distributed throughout the hospital. It required a third alarm assignment to successfully extinguish the fire, which necessitated that 450 patients be relocated to unaffected areas of the facility because of the smoke condition.”

The fire, Maynes relates, “forged common ground between The Mount Sinai Hospital and FDNY.” Immediately after the fire was placed under control, FDNY Manhattan Borough Commander Michael Weinlein requested Chief of Operations Robert Sweeney to activate a portion of the Incident Management Team (IMT). Under Maynes’ direction, FDNY consulted with the hospital leadership to prioritize critical services that needed to be approved for reoccupancy. The hospital quickly developed good, solid plans; after a short time, the services of the FDNY IMT were no longer needed.

“We reviewed the many standards for fire safety in hospitals and recommended new ones for preventing, mitigating, and controlling hospital fires,” Maynes notes. Hospital and FDNY leaders analyzed this fire and many other hospital fires for common themes to determine where improvements could be instituted. In December 2010, FDNY and The Mount Sinai Hospital held a joint conference, “Partnership to Avert Tragedy.” As a result of this conference, the recommendations were refined and others proposed. Among the new recommendations are the following:

1. Maintain educated on-site employees to meet responders during alarm activations or emergencies.
2. Work with local fire departments to develop a cohesive relationship.

Hospitals and local fire departments should develop proactive relationships that will facilitate communication in the event of a fire, says Maynes.

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