The Second Greatest Book Ever Written?

Can you actually protect a tree with a conventional lightning rod? Is it true that acetylene cylinders are designed to fail before they can reach the point of BLEVE? Does structural steel actually begin to fail at temperatures just over 1000 degrees F?


Can you actually protect a tree with a conventional lightning rod? Is it true that acetylene cylinders are designed to fail before they can reach the point of BLEVE? Does structural steel actually begin to fail at temperatures just over 1000 degrees Farenheit? The answer to all of these questions is yes. The answers to questions such as these and many more abound in the National Fire Protection Association Fire Protection Handbook, 19th Edition.

As a progressive fire service professional, accurate and easy to find information is critical to an individual's success. The Fire Protection Handbook is an excellent resource regarding most any facet of fire protection and will answer most of the questions that you have.

The Fire Protection Handbook was conceived in 1896 and sported 183 pages in the first edition. Currently in its 19th printing, the handbook has expanded to over 200 chapters, 3,200 pages, and is authored by thousands of experts. The sheer amount of information presented in the latest edition has necessitated the expansion of the handbook into two volumes.

What information can be found in the handbook? Basically, anything you want to know regarding most aspects of fire protection. In the forward, Editor-in-Chief Ron Cote explains the following: "The Handbook is organized around the six major strategies that are the building blocks of a systems approach to fire safety through balanced fire protection". The strategies are as follows:

  • Prevention of ignition
  • Design to slow early fire growth
  • Detection and alarm
  • Suppression
  • Confinement of fire
  • Evacuation of occupants

Predicated on the aforementioned strategies, there are 14 distinctive sections. Each section begins with an overview of the subject, and prepares the reader for the information that follows. Sub-chapters explicitly explain the intricacies of each section, always with an emphasis on fire prevention. The amount of available information can be a bit overwhelming, however, material is written in a straight-forward manner with reader comprehension and usability in mind.

In summary, a copy of the NFPA Fire Protection Handbook(s) should be mandatory in every fire station. The Handbook provides an excellent instant resource for spontaneous training opportunities and enlightening fire related discussion, going far beyond the information found in most magazine-type publications.

The handbook will definitely expand your knowledge in all areas concerning fire protection. Do yourself a favor, turn off the tube and pick up the Fire Protection Handbook, you will most likely be amazed at what you find. While it will never be known as the greatest book ever written, it could come in second to those with a passion for saving lives and advancing the fire service.


Dave Murphy retired as Assistant Chief of the Richmond (KY) fire department and currently serves as an Assistant Professor in the Fire and Safety Engineering Technology program at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Dave is the Eastern Director for the Fire Department Safety Officers Association. He holds certification as a Certified Fire Protection Specialist from the NFPA and is a Principal Member on NFPA Committee 610 - A Guide for Emergency and Safety Operations at Motorsports Venues. He also serves as the health & safety officer with the Harrisburg (NC) Fire Department.