NFPA Reviews Past, Looks Ahead

LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- On Monday, NFPA officials took a look back at accomplishments, as well as a look to the future and the challenges ahead.

Addressing the crowd during the opening ceremonies of the annual NFPA conference here, President Jim Shannon lauded those responsible for making a difference in so many ways.

"Our codes and standards system is the foundation of all that we do. And it's why we have grown into an organization whose influence is felt in every home, school and workplace in this country and increasingly around the world. NFPA's influence is greater today than at any time in our history," Shannon said.

He added that the NFPA is constantly being asked to assist on a myriad of issues.

"More engineers, emergency responders and leaders of industry than ever before are seeking our guidance on the best technical solutions to enhance safety, and more jurisdictions at the state and local level are following our lead and answering the call of our advocacy campaigns."

Shannon said NFPA officials are working with a number of federal partners, including the USFA about emergency response; the Department of Energy on safety questions related to electric vehicles; the Forest Service on wildfire; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on a smart grid.

"We take pride not just in bringing the technical experts to the table to find solutions but, just as important in fighting for change at the national, state and local levels to raise the level of fire and electrical safety in businesses and homes here and around the world," he said.

Shannon said that while smoke alarms have made a significant difference in the number of people who perish in home fires, there is still much more work to do.

"Too many people die in fires because they haven't changed their batteries or they have irresponsibly put their family and neighbors at risk through their refusal to install smoke alarms," he said.

To that end, the NFPA last week announced that the theme of Fire Prevention Week this year is, "Beep! Beep! Beep! Smoke Alarms: A sound you can live with."

NFPA statistics showed that in 2008, 3,320 civilians were killed and 16,705 were hurt in fires. Eighty-three percent of the deaths occurred in house fires.

On average, eight people die in house fires daily.

On another issue, Shannon proudly announced that all 50 states now have fire-safe cigarette laws. Wyoming was last as its legislation went into effect this spring.

Four years ago, the NFPA formed the Safe Cigarette Coalition, and staff assisted as the bills moved through state legislatures. "Already we are seeing signs of success. Last year New York City had the lowest fire death rate since they started keeping statistics in 1915," Shannon said.

He also noted there were no fire fatalities in Boston last year.

"We have to collect and analyze more data to determine why we have seen this change but these are very hopeful signs that fire safe cigarettes are making a difference."

NFPA Chairman of the Board Paul Fitzgerald congratulated the members on their hard work and successes.

"Despite its long and achievement-filled history, NFPA has never dwelled on the past... There is a consistent process within that requires that NFPA keep an eye on the future and respond to the continuous changes in technology, education and public demands," he said.