IAFC’s Metcalf: “major problems” with grant proposal

Bill Metcalf, International Association of Fire Chiefs president and chairman of the board, identified “major problems” with the new National Preparedness Grant (NPG), including the possibility that local fire chiefs in some parts of the country may not be included in the “threat and hazard identification and risk assessment” (THIRA).

Metcalf’s comments were delivered at a hearing of stakeholders about the potential impact on first responders and communities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) proposal to consolidate the 16 homeland security preparedness grants into one program. The hearing took place before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications of the Committee on Homeland Security in April (http://1.usa.gov/1k4y5bL). Rep. Susan W. Brooks (R-Ind.) chaired the event.

Among the issues Metcalf listed as “major problems” were the following:

  • The NPG relies on the THIRA process to identify threats, risks, and vulnerabilities and will use THIRA results to allocate funding. Local involvement in state THIRAs throughout the country is uneven. Metcalf noted that as the chief of the North County Fire Protection District in Fallbrook, California, he was not asked to participate in California’s THIRA.
  • The NPG’s focus is “state-centric.” “In many regions, preparedness depends on a multistate, multidisciplinary approach,” Metcalf pointed out. “The NPG’s state-centric approach could build barriers to cooperation in multistate regions.” Firefighting is not spelled out as a specific core capability.
  • The elimination of the 25 percent set aside for the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program.
  • FEMA’s proposal to expand the definition of “local unit of government” does not include nongovernmental and potentially for-profit entities.
  • FEMA’s fiscal year 2015 budget proposal cuts funding for the homeland security preparedness grants by approximately 18 percent.

Metcalf emphasized the “importance of ensuring that local, state, and federal partners are all equal participants in the national preparedness system. From the perspective of a local fire chief, both staffing and equipment are locally owned. Local fire chiefs need to be involved in the THIRA process,” he said.

A PDF of Metcalf’s testimony is at http://bit.ly/1hSb3oU.

Line-of-Duty Deaths

April 21. Chief Hugh Ferguson, 52, Damon (TX) Volunteer Fire Department: apparent heart attack.
April 22. Firefighter Charles “Charlie” Goff, 53, McQuady Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Falls of Rough, KY: heart attack.
Source: USFA Firefighters Memorial Database

ASTM standard covers mounting pipe in furnace

ASTM International has developed a standard for mounting plastic pipe and tube in the Steiner tunnel furnace. The draft procedure will help determine the fire-related properties of the pipe and tube in accordance with ASTM E84, Test Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials.

ASTM WK44535, Practice for Mounting of Plastic Pipe, Plastic Tubing, Plastic Pipe and Tubing Materials and Assemblies Incorporating Plastic Pipe and Tubing to be Tested in the Steiner Tunnel Consistent with Standard E84, is under the jurisdiction of Subcommittee E05.22 on Surface Burning, part of ASTM International Committee E05 on Fire Standards.

According to Joe Zicherman, senior fire consultant, fire cause analysis, and an E05 member: “The development of a successful mounting practice will provide reasonable measurement methods to assess flame spread and smoke when plastic piping assemblies are used in air-handling plenums above and below occupied spaces. In the absence of a rational standard for mounting pipe for this testing, a range of mounting approaches is being used by different testing laboratories.”

The following variables are discussed in the draft:

  • The amount of pipe to be evaluated in the furnace.
  • Whether single or multiple runs of pipe are tested.
  • Whether assemblies of plastic pipe, such as those in multiple runs in pipe racks, should be tested.
  • Whether piping insulation should be tested.

Testing of plastic pipe with water has also been discussed, since water-filled pipe mimics the performance of supply piping in a building.

Once approved, the proposed standard will be used in laboratories that conduct E84 testing. In addition, it will be useful for third-party listing and labeling agencies, building designers, and code enforcers who rely on E84 flame spread and smoke ratings of products in a range of applications.

Regulators are encouraged to participate in the ongoing development of WK44535. The subcommittee is also continuing work on another potential mounting method, WK37193, Practice for Specimen Preparation and Mounting of Plastic Pipe and Plastic Tubing for Building Applications to Assess Surface Burning Characteristics.

ASTM International welcomes participation in the development of its standards.

Studies link 9/11 dust exposure to sleep apnea, PTSD

First responders exposed to particulate matter at Ground Zero during and after 9/11 may be at higher risk for sleep apnea and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suggest two new studies presented March 20 at the American Heart Association’s EPI/NPAM 2014 Scientific Sessions.

Both studies, conducted by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, involved the same group of more than 800 first responders exposed to varying levels of exposure of toxic dust at the site. First responders with high exposure were found to have an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea and PTSD, and researchers noted that both conditions may contribute to cardiovascular disease. They plan to monitor 9/11 responders for heart disease warnings.

Campaign aimed at curbing bulk container fire risks

The Fire Protection Research Foundation and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), with support from the insurance industry and coordination from other relevant groups, launched the Contain the IBC Fire Risk campaign, an educational effort to decrease dangerous pool fires associated with intermediate bulk containers (IBCs).

The objective of the public education campaign is to encourage the proper storage of combustible and flammable liquids in IBCs in compliance with NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids, which addresses the storage, handling, and use of flammable and combustible liquids.

IBCs, made of metal, plastic, or a composite of materials, are often used for shipping and storing combustible and flammable liquids for agricultural, chemical, food, or other production purposes. Although U.S. Department of Transportation and United Nations regulations permit shipping these liquids in IBCs, their rules do not apply to storing them and do not require fire testing of the containers.

When stored IBCs containing combustible and flammable liquids fail, they release a large pool of fluid that, when ignited, rapidly releases so much heat that the fire sprinkler systems may become overtaxed. This system failure can occur faster than firefighters can respond to a fire call. The composite IBCs can be easily breached by even small fires and then ignite themselves, further contributing to the problem.

Pool fires are extremely difficult to contain and can be catastrophic events capable of rapidly destroying the entire building and threatening adjacent buildings.

Often, those responsible for storage of commodities are unaware of the dangers of IBCs containing combustible or flammable liquids or how to reduce the risk. Many falsely assume that containers approved for shipping are also approved for storage.

Participants in this education initiative emphasize the following points made in NFPA 30:

  • Only liquids with a closed cup flash point of 38°C (100°F) or greater are permitted to be stored in metal, rigid plastic, and composite IBCs. However, rigid plastic and composite IBCs must be listed and labeled.
  • Unlisted composite IBCs are not permitted for storage of combustible or flammable liquids because they haven’t been inspected or certified to provide any fire endurance and have been shown to fail quickly in fires. Listed composite IBCs, in contrast, have been designed, built, and certified to last at least 20 minutes in fires.
  • Generally, flammable liquids (flash point below 38°C or 100°F) should never be placed in plastic or composite IBCs of any type, listed or unlisted.
  • Combustible liquids should never be placed in unlisted composite IBCs.

In addition to educating impacted audiences nationwide about NFPA 30, the campaign encourages these groups to make a commitment to safe storage by checking their facilities for NFPA 30 compliance.

Safer rail transport of crude oil and ethanol

In April, Assistant Chief Rick Edinger, vice chair of the International Association of Fire Chiefs Hazardous Materials Committee, testified at the National Transportation Safety Board forum “Rail Safety: Transportation of Crude Oil and Ethanol” (http://1.usa.gov/1flCjgE) on ways to increase awareness in communities and emergency response agencies that border rail lines that transport crude oil, ethanol, and other flammable liquids shipments.

Edinger, of the Chesterfield (VA) Fire and EMS Department, said, “The key to a safe and effective emergency response is based on the planning analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).” Each community, he said, is responsible for conducting this assessment to help ensure their citizens’ safety. Industries producing or transporting crude oil, ethanol, and other hazardous materials that travel through, or are stored in, communities are obligated to work with local officials “to minimize the potential harm from these low-frequency, high-hazard, high-traffic incidents,” he added.

Edinger explained that effective planning for the shipments of hazardous materials through urban, suburban, and rural communities will depend on the following:

  • An increased awareness in the affected communities and among the local emergency responders.
  • Adequate community and agency planning.
  • Establishing industry relationships before an incident occurs.
  • A risk-based response approach.
  • Proper funding and support for training and response, including industry support and federal programs, such as the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration’s Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness grant program.
  • A training program that uses a blend of Web-based and instructor-led training modalities for first responders in affected communities.
  • The transportation industry should be included in devising emergency-response considerations involving alternative fuels that should be based on sound planning, appropriate and effective responder training, adequate funding, and the development of effective response systems to safely mitigate incidents when they occur.

Edinger’s complete testimony (PDF) is at http://bit.ly/1kdIbFN.

More Fire Engineering Issue Articles
Fire Engineering Archives

No posts to display