NFPA Conference 2022: 5 Takeaways

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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – a global nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating death, injury, and property and economic loss due to fire-related hazards – recently held the annual NFPA Conference.  

The NFPA Conference is a platform in which industry peers come together to exchange ideas – as well as discuss and vote on new and revised codes and standards. All to arm the industry with the information and knowledge necessary to minimize the risk and impacts of fire. This year’s event took place at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from June 6-9, 2022.

Performance Based Fire’s Austin Grant, P.E., and Rosalie Wills, P.E., attended the NFPA Conference 2022. Here’s what they learned.

5 Takeaways from the NFPA Conference 2022

1. Technology Is Moving Faster than Legislation 

Advances in technology are moving faster than codes and legislation can keep up with.

From electric cars and sustainable building materials to energy storage and solar energy – there’s a lot of ground to cover. Despite the absence of necessary codes, fire protection engineers (FPEs) have a critical role in ensuring fire and life safety for all of these advancements. 

This is where performance-based design can help. When prescriptive codes aren’t keeping up with technology, FPEs can turn to performance-based options that maximize life safety and overcome the limitations of prescriptive codes. 

2. Fire Protection Technology Is Better Than Ever

Advancement in fire protection technology has also provided FPEs with better options for protecting each unique space. 

For example, research and testing have led manufacturers to develop improved fire suppression systems and fire alarm notification and detection systems.

3. How We Protect Aircraft Hangars Is Changing

In March, new research on performance criteria for aircraft hangar fire protection systems was published by the Fire Protection Research Foundation – with Dr. Jim Milke, University of Maryland, and Jack Poole, Poole Fire Protection.

As the principal investigators presented, accidental foam discharges exceed actual fuel spill and fire events in hangars. Aqueous film forming foam (AFFF), a fire suppressant commonly used to extinguish malleable liquid fires, is a concern from an environmental standpoint, and researchers are looking for alternative fire protection systems. 

NFPA 409 allows for essentially 3 fire protection approaches:

  1. Prescriptive-based approach
  2. Risk-based approach
  3. Performance-based design approach. 

In lieu of foam, ignitable liquid drainage floor assemblies (ILDFA) in conjunction with overhead sprinkler systems are now acceptable for the protection of Group I hangars.

4. FPEs Are Critical for a Fire-Safe World

The Fire Protection Engineering profession is a key component of a fire-safe world. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) engineers without expertise in Fire Protection should recognize the importance of FPEs. 

Victoria Valentine, American Fire Sprinkler Association, and Doug Fisher, Fisher Engineering, Inc, presented at NFPA about FPEs and certifications. In their discussion, they encouraged that FPEs need to be aware of threats to licensure by deregulation, and we need to be our own advocates for the profession. 

The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) has documented the recommended minimum technical core competencies for those practicing as FPEs. As the SFPE puts it, “Globally, protecting people and property from fire events is a challenge. Those who specialize in fire protection engineering must have a base level of knowledge and experience in order to appropriately reduce the negative impacts from unwanted fire incidents.” 

5. Remote Inspections & Codes Are More Common

The global pandemic changed many typical business practices across all industries – including fire protection.

One example of this is an increasing need for remote inspections. A new standard is in development to guide the industry through this process: NFPA 915, the Standard on Remote Inspections. While remote inspections provide many benefits, they also need to deliver an equivalent or improved result as a traditional site inspection.  

Also, since the pandemic began, code committees have been meeting virtually. NPFA noted that this works well for smaller codes, but they soon plan to do in-person meetings for the larger codes.

Conclusion

As witnessed in the last few years – due to technological advancements and the pandemic – there is always room for growth and change when it comes to fire protection. The most important thing is maximizing life safety, and every year the industry continues to innovate to do just that.

Our company is committed to staying active in the industry and sharing best practices to help the fire protection industry grow and excel in its important role in creating a fire-safe world. What else did you learn at NFPA’s conference? Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn!

‍Performance Based Fire provides comprehensive performance-based design services that hit the mark. Contact us to learn more.