|The NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation|
Doing The Right Thing For Fire Safety
To Advance the Mission of the National Association of State Fire Marshals
The NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation), a 501(c)(3) organization, works with companies, government agencies, associations, academic institutions and others that strive to achieve higher levels of fire safety for consumers and for the emergency response community.
The NASFM Foundation works to support the mission of the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), whose members are the senior fire officials and their chief deputies in the 50 US States and the District of Columbia. NASFM’s primary mission is to protect life, property and the environment from fire and related hazards.
The NASFM Foundation aims to further NASFM’s mission through science, innovation, research and education. Our long history of working on a broad range of fire protection issues, our connections within the public safety community, and our commitment to science- and fact-based outcomes make us uniquely suited to assisting organizations that seek to make the world a safer place from the devastation of fire.
Want to help? Read on to see how!
Challenges to Doing The Right Thing For Fire Safety
Today’s homes are filled with combustible products and materials that didn’t exist 20 years ago. How can we learn more about the changing nature and full extent of the hazards and risks posed by fire and the effect of those hazards on the public, firefighters and the built environment? What strategies can we employ to best protect against those hazards and risks?
· Education, by itself, is not enough. Warning labels, by themselves, are not enough. How can we persuade and guide people to act in safer ways? What do we need to know about their attitudes, motivations and behaviors before we can address safer behaviors
· Some fire safety standards and codes are decades old, based on outdated science and technologies, and poorly understood. How can we ensure that our nation’s fire safety standards and codes credibly reflect the hazards we find in the real world today? How can we improve the knowledge and skills of code enforcement officials to better address the hazards represented by both new and existing construction?
· As built-in fire protection becomes increasingly traded-off for automatic sprinklers in the model codes, has the concept of balanced fire protection – in which both active and passive measures work in tandem to protect the structure, its occupants and emergency responders – gone by the wayside?
· Some fire protection technologies may pose harm to health or the environment. How can we achieve higher levels of fire safety and at the same time ensure that there are no unacceptable risks to health and environmental quality as a result?
· Everything, including safety, comes at some cost. How can we create economic incentives to make safety more cost-effective so that those who choose to Do the Right Thing for Fire Safety are rewarded?
· The safety and preparedness of our emergency responders is crucial to effectively mitigating fires and related hazards when we do not succeed in preventing them. How can we ensure that emergency responders are properly trained and otherwise equipped to address the challenges and hazards that face them in today’s world?
The NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation is committed to tackling these challenges and more by enhancing fire safety through research and education.
Youth Fire Prevention Workshops
Continuing its long track record in leading research, education and incident reporting to monitor and address the complex issues surrounding juvenile firesetting, the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation) developed and implemented a newly designed Youth Firesetter Prevention Program under a FY 2008 Assistance to Firefighters Fire Prevention & Safety grant.
With its expert partner, Fireproof Children/Prevention First, and in consultation with the NASFM Board of Directors and Public Education Committee, the NASFM Foundation achieved the following:
· Determined advanced training needs of local juvenile firesetter intervention coalitions. Working with selected State Fire Marshal Offices, the NASFM Foundation conducted outreach to selected coalitions and incorporated needs they identified into the new training.
· Enhanced the analytics of the web-based NASFM Juvenile Fire Incident Data Center to ensure that users can fully track and analyze incident scenarios, creating reports that can relate any single data element to any combination of data elements captured by the system.
· Conducted 10 train-the-trainer workshop sessions for local intervention coalition leaders, one in each of the 10 FEMA regions. Each workshop succeeded in supporting a networking environment that achieved the idea sharing and goal setting objectives for coalition members, rather than for those who are just starting to establish programs. Most attendees were from the fire service; other participants included teachers, burn nurses, mental health professionals, law enforcement representatives and family support organizations. Post-session evaluations indicated that the sessions addressed the participant needs effectively: 64% of the participating coalitions had initiated substantive changes and improvements by the end of a 3-month post-session period.
· Conducted a National Summit on “Youth Firesetting Prevention Programs, Their Structure and Their Needs,” in Chicago, IL, on July 24, 2010, in conjunction with the NASFM Annual Conference. A listing of seven “Recommended ‘Best’ Practices” was introduced. The “best” practices include Integration of Public Fire Education and Youth Firesetting Intervention Activities; Leveraging of Community Resources; Setup and Maintenance of an Incident Data System; Promotion of Communications Among Community Partners; Creation of State Partnerships to Support Education and Intervention Activities; Inclusion of Fire Department Public Information Officers in Local Coalitions; and Adoption of Statewide Prevention and Intervention Protocol for Youth Firesetting Programs.
The Georgia Intervention Protocol for the Prevention and Mitigation of Juvenile Firesetting was identified as an example of a successful model for a statewide organizational arrangement that promotes and sustains youth firesetting intervention and youth fire safety education, and elicits from the appropriate stakeholders a consensus on the roles and responsibilities of each agency and service provider in the state.
The researched determined that two major factors must be addressed before sufficient support is in place to reduce juvenile firesetting: lack of sufficient local intent to address the problem, and lack of opportunity to develop skills and motivation needed to establish the community programs. Future programs must deliver a multifaceted approach to increase the number of local coalitions that can deliver the education and intervention services needed; to continue the “How To” training at a basic level to accommodate the local staff who are initially setting up such programs; and to address the management and sustainability concerns of existing, experienced local coalitions that are struggling to maintain their services in the midst of fiscal crises.
To find out more about juvenile firesetter prevention resources offered by NASFM and the NASFM Foundation, click here.
Residential Fire Sprinkler Implementation Workshops
The National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation (NASFM Foundation) and the Residential Fire Safety Institute (RFSI), a project of the NASFM Foundation, successfully completed an educational outreach for communities and fire agencies that have adopted, or are considering adopting, residential fire sprinkler requirements.
“Bridging the Gap: A Guide to Implementing a Residential Sprinkler Requirement” focuses on how communities, particularly those with limited resources, can effectively manage the plans review, inspection, installation and approval, and related processes that are critical to assuring a properly operating system when a fire occurs. With all of the resources that are directed at getting a sprinkler ordinance passed, nothing before dealt with the problem of “What now?” that jurisdictions faced once the ordinance was finally enacted. This project addressed that need, which is particularly acute in rural areas in which resources are limited and no individual is dedicated to serve as the fire code official. With assistance from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, this project researched and promoted best practices of successful jurisdictions to provide guidance for code and other public officials on effective implementation and administration of a residential fire sprinkler ordinance without the need to reinvent the wheel.
The deliverables of this project included a guidebook of key decision points and best practices, and a series of regional and national workshops for code enforcement officials, building officials and other stakeholders. The NASFM Foundation assembled a team of highly respected and knowledgeable subject matter experts to flesh out this project, with assistance from an Advisory Committee of nationally known and respected fire service professionals, representatives of model codes organizations and sprinkler industry experts. The guidebook discusses in detail policy issues to be addressed when implementing a sprinkler requirement; the organization of a stakeholder group; considerations for key decision points involving legislative authority, enforcement responsibility, permitting, water supply issues, plan review, inspection and final approval, measuring customer service and data collection. Case studies illustrate how an implementation plan might work for three fictitious jurisdictions that have different levels of resources and organization.
A presentation based on the guidebook was developed and was delivered in a series of workshops aimed at fire and building code enforcement officials, fire service representatives, and other stakeholders from February to August 2011. Each of the 10 FEMA regions was targeted for at least one workshop, and NASFM Foundation staff also sought opportunities to present at national meetings. In all, 14 workshops were held, including workshops in all but one of the FEMA regions and four national conferences.
Among the recommendations for this program moving forward, should additional funding be obtained, are expanding the Guide’s forms and case studies; incorporating a discussion on maintenance of sprinkler systems; timing the workshops to be just before or after passage of a residential sprinkler requirement; supplementing workshop materials with more local information; accurately marketing the workshops to ensure realistic expectations of attendees; expanding the list of invited attendees to encompass a broader range of stakeholders; development of a “train the trainer” component to the workshops; and development of an actual training program on implementation for use by jurisdictions that should first be pilot tested to ensure that it is robust and comprehensive.
The NASFM Foundation is grateful to FEMA for its support of this much-needed resource.
Green Buildings and Fire Safety Project
The NASFM Foundation was the first organization to comprehensively address issues related to the fire safety aspects of green buildings, thanks to a FY2008 Fire Prevention & Safety Grant. The project, entitled “Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings” resulted in a number of resources to raise the awareness of the fire service to unintentional safety concerns created by technologies, practices and materials used in “green” – that is, energy-efficient – buildings.
The site debuted as a central resource and communications portal for issues related to the intersection of green building systems, designs and techniques, and the safety concerns of code enforcement officials and firefighters. The searchable site features sections on green construction topics that have fire safety implications; background about the project; information on green building codes and rating systems; state-level green building requirements, with forms for inputting local information; links to external resources; breaking news; and a calendar of events.
The “Bridging the Gap: Fire Safety and Green Buildings – A Fire and Building Safety Guide to Green Construction” is a first-of-its-kind resource developed by this project. The Guide includes chapters dealing with site selection and use, building envelope and design attributes, and building systems and alternative power sources. Each section is organized into general discussion and specific concerns that may be relevant to the fire service, from a plans review/permitting/code enforcement viewpoint and a firefighting/operations viewpoint. Checklists on pre-construction plan reviews and suppression-related operations issues allow fire officials to rank green building components based on the degree to which they must be addressed. The Guide is available for free to download here.
To help steer the project, NASFM convened an Advisory Working Group of more than 20 fire service, government, research, environmental and private sector stakeholders, as well as the NASFM Science Advisory and Model Codes Committees. The AWG raised topics to evaluate and resources to add to the website, provided suggestions as the project progressed, identified organizations to approach, and helped to disseminate information about the project to their constituents. The AWG met formally in December 2009 and in June 2010, and informally via email and phone throughout the project.
The program has been promoted to a targeted list of more than 130 fire service and environmental media outlets and organizations. It has been featured in a Fire Marshal’s Corner podcast at Radio@firehouse.com and written up by industry publications and websites such as Environmental Building News, Sprinkler Age magazine, and the Fire Community of Interest on the International Code Council website. The NASFM Foundation has promoted the program to many organizations informally and via formal presentations at the NASFM Annual Conference, Fire-Rescue International, Vision 20/20 Model Performance in Fire Prevention Symposium, and 2010 Mid-Atlantic Life Safety Conference, among others.
NASFM hopes to build on the achievements of the program’s first year to continue educating the fire service; become the “go to” resource for information and exchanges related to green building/fire safety issues; increase participation by green building organizations, architects, environmentalists, and other stakeholders; encourage development of standards and best practices; participate in green building construction code and rating system committees; identify and explore emerging issues; and develop resources to assist local governments to help ensure that fire safety is not compromised as green building codes are enforced.
Residential Fire Safety Institute
The NASFM Foundation has been entrusted with continuing to provide the educational activities and technical assistance that previously have been offered by the Residential Fire Safety Institute (RFSI).
The NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation was formed as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization under the oversight of the National Association of State Fire Marshals. The NASFM Foundation was established to advance the NASFM mission of protecting human life, property and the environment from fire through science, innovation, research and education. The NASFM Foundation seeks projects that mobilize industry, the scientific and technical community, emergency responders, code officials and other stakeholders to plan and implement the next generation of fire safety advances.
With more than 80% of civilian fire deaths occurring in residential structure fires, there is a crucial need to bring fire safety in the home to a new level. The NASFM Foundation is honored to carry on the good and important work of the Residential Fire Safety Institute at a time when these resources are more necessary than ever. NASFM has been a longstanding and valued supporter of RFSI; the RFSI Steering Committee unanimously agreed that this new partnership would lead to an even greater level of fire safety and prevention for the public.
RFSI, formerly known as Operation Life Safety, was created in 1982 as a public interest group to promote fire-safe homes through built-in fire protection and fire safety education. In 2009, RFSI’s Steering Committee voted to dissolve it as a stand-alone organization and transfer the assets and RFSI services to the NASFM Foundation, becoming the first project of the new Foundation. These activities include a newsletter, website, educational resources and technical assistance to fire departments, local and state governments on programs that involve residential fire sprinklers, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms, and other early warning equipment.
Under the theme, “Doing the right thing for fire safety,” the NASFM Foundation encourages public-private cooperation and cost sharing in pursuit of higher levels of fire safety. NASFM Foundation seeks involvement by public agencies, corporations and institutions with strong fire safety track records in the RFSI Project to help ensure that all interested stakeholders have an opportunity to participate in enhancing residential safety.
We are actively seeking proposals for projects with the NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation!
If you are interested in initiating and/or sponsoring a research or educational project with the NASFM Foundation, contact Jim Narva, Executive Director, at 202-737-1226, ext. 1, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will discuss your project idea and first determine if it is a good fit with the NASFM Foundation mission and priorities.
Next steps include developing a scope and an approach, outlining deliverables, and developing a timeline and a budget.
If sponsors are needed, we will discuss who might be interested and how best to approach them.
If contractors are required to complete the work, we will develop a plan to assemble the right team. All contractors must sign and comply with the NASFM Contractor Conflict of Interest Policy.
To protect human life, property and the environment from fire and related hazards.
To protect begins with education. In today’s world of advanced materials and technology, fire safety isn’t always a matter of common sense. Who would know that candles should never be placed near consumer electronics, or that some refrigerators contain explosive gases?
To protect means buildings and their contents engineered as safely as possible. In recent years we have seen the development of methods to make a cigarette less likely to start fires and a mattress less likely to burn. Buildings, on the other hand, have in some cases become less safe with lightweight construction and other measures that sacrifice safety for cost and energy efficiency.
To protect means well designed, properly installed and maintained working smoke alarms and automatic fire sprinklers that incorporate the latest technology, in places where people are most at risk, to supplement fire-resistant construction.
To protect means layers of safety – having redundancy in fire protection since no single method is 100 percent dependable. It means balancing active and passive fire protection with consideration to costs, and not bargaining away so many safety measures that the balance between active and passive fire safety is lost.
To protect means diligent code enforcement and the most protective codes in place, especially for occupants most at-risk and hazards that could result in high-loss tragedies.
To protect means skillful arson prevention, investigation and prosecution.
Human life is our highest priority, as it should be: each year more than 3,000 Americans die and another 17,000+ are injured in fires. Those most at risk are the very young, the very old, and those otherwise impaired and incapable of getting out of a fire on their own.
Property is more than a matter of ownership. Property is the stuff of people’s lives, the comfort of their homes, the security of their workplace, their collected memories, the tools of learning, the ways they travel and connect with others.
Environment must be protected as well. Fire pollutes the air, fouls and wastes water and endangers the flora and fauna, all of which nurture our world.
The health and safety of firefighters also must improve. We must protect those who battle fire every day from the elements and byproducts they encounter in a fire.
Technical Advisors to the NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation
The role of the NASFM Science Advisory Committee (SAC) in the NASFM Fire Research and Education Foundation is to assist in the development and implementation of projects by providing sound scientific and technical background and advice on issues as needed. NASFM is grateful and proud to have access to many of the best minds in fire protection through the SAC.
Individuals are invited to serve on the SAC based on their field of expertise defined by NASFM's needs at the time of appointment. SAC members hail from both the public and private sectors, and work for government, academia, industry and consultancies. SAC members are experts in a wide range of scientific and technical fields, including fire protection engineering, combustion performance, codes and standards development, fire and arson investigation, performance-based design, risk assessment, toxicology, historic preservation and mechanical and electrical engineering. When attending SAC meetings, the members volunteer their time for the good of NASFM and its members, and must agree to put their political and organizational affiliations aside while serving in their capacity as SAC members.
Click on these links the SAC’s most recent working priorities for NASFM.
NASFM Foundation projects will automatically have the benefit of SAC advisory input as part of the group’s volunteer service to NASFM. In return, a portion of the administrative fee that is charged to each project will go toward enabling the SAC to hold meetings. Additionally, if the expertise of SAC members coincide with the needs of particular projects, SAC members will have the opportunity to bid as a contractor on those projects.
If you are interested in proposing a project for the SAC to advise on, find out how to initiate a project here.
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