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The NFPA Podcast

The NFPA Podcast is the place for safety professionals to stay up to speed on the fast-paced world of electrical, fire, and life safety. Hear in-depth conversations with people out in the field about how they are confronting new challenges and staying on top of emerging technologies to keep the world safe. Listen the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Email jroman@nfpa.org to send feedback or recommend a topic for future episodes.

Tracks

Where is AI Headed?
We wrap up our two-parter about how AI technologies might impact fire and life safety by talking with Xinyan Huang, a fire protection engineer, professor, and AI researcher at the Research Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He tells us about a few of the AI tools he and his colleagues are developing and how they may one day help with everything from designing safer buildings to guiding firefighter robots (2:54).  And then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Shawn Mahoney talks fire alarm design, and explains the differences between the alarm, trouble, and supervisory signals in a fire alarm system (56:15). LINKS:  Read the cover story "Our AI Future" in the new issue of NFPA Journal
62:30 2/13/24
Artificial Intelligence and the Fire Service
Today’s podcast is the first in a two-part series looking at how artificial intelligence technologies could impact fire and life safety. In this episode, we focus on AI’s potential impact on the fire service. How might fire departments use AI? What are the dangers? What guardrails need to be in place to ensure that the technology is reliable and safe? We pose those questions and many more to Preet Bassi, the CEO of the Center for Public Safety Excellence. She tells us why caution is the operative word, and why she’s skeptical that AI will ever replace human decision makers on the fireground (3:51). Then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Robin Zevotek provides some information about a little-known NFPA standard on fire department data and the role it could play in AI adoption (37:08).
41:31 1/23/24
Sustainability vs. Fire Protection
Lithium-ion batteries and photovoltaic panels are technologies that may improve environmental sustainability, but also present challenges to fire protection engineers. Conversely, chemical flame retardants may lead to better fire outcomes, but also have potentially serious impacts on human health and the environment. Today on the podcast, we talk about some of the inherent frictions that exist between sustainability and fire protection efforts (2:43). Can we find the right balance to effectively achieve both? Then, on a new Code Corner, for those who have ever wondered how NFPA codes and standards are developed and revised, NFPA engineer Shawn Mahoney offers an excellent overview of the process and how the public can get involved (31:40). 
40:25 1/9/24
Short-Term Rentals: Risky Business
From elevators that can decapitate you to grills that can explode in your face, short-term rental properties aren’t short on things that can hurt you—or worse. In fact, short-term rental safety expert Justin Ford calls these properties the most dangerous sector of the travel and hospitality industry. In this episode, we sit down with Ford to discuss a brief history of the short-term rental market, what safety hazards can exist in these properties, and, importantly, what owners and renters alike can do to maximize safety. This episode first aired in June 2022. If you have questions, feedback, suggestions, or just want to say hello, you can reach The NFPA Podcast at podcast@nfpa.org. Read Justin Ford's feature story, "Renter Beware," from the Fall 2023 issue of NFPA Journal
39:28 12/26/23
Re-Thinking Wildfire
As destruction from wildfire in the U.S. continues to set records, it’s become abundantly clear that the country’s current strategies are not working. But what should we be doing differently? Over the past year, a wildfire commission, comprised of 50 experts from a range of fields, met to try and answer that incredibly complicated question. In September, the commission sent Congress its final 300-plus page report, containing nearly 150 separate recommendations. Today on the podcast, we are joined by one of the commission members, NFPA wildfire expert Michele Steinberg. She gives us an inside look at how the report was crafted, what changes might come from it, and why she’s optimistic that the effort will bear fruit (3:30). Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA first responder tech lead Curt Floyd provides information for departments about some recent changes to the NFPA standards regarding fire apparatus (45:32).
50:06 12/12/23
Trauma and Risk
It’s well understood that childhood trauma can have dramatic effects on a person’s adult life, and in recent years, risk prevention experts have started to recognize it as a sizeable contributor to both individual and community risk. Today on the podcast, we talk to a director at the University of Michigan Trauma Burn Center about the role that childhood trauma plays in increased community risk, and the programs that are starting to pop up to try and treat the problem at its source (2:03).  Then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Robin Zevotek looks at the problem of wood pallet storage, a seldom discussed issue that played a huge role in the recent fire that shut down the I-10 in Los Angeles (34:08).   Links:  For tools and resources on this topic, check out the Centers for Disease Control's Veto Violence Program Learn more about the effects and societal costs of adverse childhood experiences by visiting the Michigan ACEs Dashboard
39:40 11/28/23
The Economic Impact of Fire Departments
At budget time, fire departments are listed as a cost on the city ledger, but that’s only part of the story. Firefighting and fire prevention also provide huge returns on investment by saving lives, buildings, businesses, and jobs. Is there a way to quantify these economic and social impacts? On today’s podcast, we talk to a Montreal fire chief who has conducted economic impact studies at several fire departments. He explains how he did it, and why the data gives chiefs a valuable tool during budget time (2:15). Then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Shawn Mahoney looks at some of the residential fire sprinkler system requirements found in NFPA 13D, and why they sometimes differ from NFPA 13 (31:44).
38:31 11/14/23
Heat, the Silent Killer
Heatwaves aren't just uncomfortable; they are deadly for millions of people around the globe each year. Recognizing this growing threat, governments and safety departments are starting to reconsider their vulnerabilities to heat and are taking action to protect their populations and infrastructure. Today on the podcast, we talk to Eleni Myrivili, who was appointed as the first ever World Chief Heat Officer by the United Nations last year. Her job is to help cities think harder about heat and come up with plans to mitigate its effects (3:30).  Then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Val Ziavras answers specific questions about how to calculate occupant load in the Life Safety Code· (47:00). LINKS Read the heat action plans for Ahmedabad, India and Miami-Dade County Heat action platform to help create a heat action plan in your community
53:15 10/24/23
The Survivors, Part 5: “Never Again”
We are replaying "The Survivors," an award-winning podcast series that NFPA first published in 2017. In the final episode, the van Dijks and other survivors want their experience to be the catalyst for the inclusion of fire sprinklers in all new homes. However, a powerful group has spent serious dollars preventing that from happening. 
22:37 9/26/23
The Survivors, Part 4: “Back into the Lion’s Den”
We are replaying "The Survivors," an award-winning podcast series that NFPA first published in 2017. In Part 4, upsetting his family, Feike joins the fire service and places himself into one of America’s deadliest places for fire: homes. Fire service and safety advocates discuss today’s home fire problem and why the fire dynamics of new homes are a cause for concern.
30:26 9/12/23
The Survivors, Part 3: “Refinement by Fire”
We are replaying "The Survivors," an award-winning podcast series that NFPA first published in 2017. In Part 3, the van Dijk's emotional scarring from the fire seems to have taken a larger toll on the family than their physical injuries. They learn new coping tactics, as have many others impacted by home fire. But everyday has its challenges.   
33:22 8/22/23
The Survivors, Part 2: “The Aftermath”
For the next five NFPA Podcast episodes we are replaying "The Survivors," an award-winning podcast series NFPA first published in 2017. In Part 2, impacted by the death of their two boys, the van Dijks go through the painstaking process of healing their physical injuries from a home fire. U.S. burn care experts weigh in on the prevalence and outcomes of these injuries and underscore a disconcerting trend across the nation.
32:49 8/8/23
The Survivors, Part 1: “One of 367,000”
For the next five NFPA Podcast episodes we are replaying "The Survivors," an award-winning five-part podcast series that first ran in 2017. In part 1, Feike and Noelle van Dijk’s sense of normalcy is shattered when a home fire killed two of their children in 2014. Three years after the incident, the family gives a rarely seen look at the lingering effects of American home fires, which claim seven people each day and injure 13,000 yearly. What’s discovered during a trip to their hometown is a family reminiscent of the past, but changed by their loss.
26:30 7/25/23
A Battery in Every Garage?
Few topics are as hot right now in the fire service as consumer lithium-ion batteries. While electric vehicles and e-bikes still get the bulk of attention, residential energy storage system (ESS) installations are also starting to skyrocket as homeowners realize the value of storing their solar power and having a reliable source of backup electricity. But when these large home batteries fail, it can present a host of difficult challenges for responders, and urgency is building to develop better guidance and tactics. On today’s podcast, we talk to Adam Barowy and Sean DeCrane, two leading experts on lithium-ion battery hazards and the fire service. We discuss what researchers are learning by burning these batteries, and how that knowledge is helping to improve the fire service’s tactics and safety during incidents (4:50).  Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA engineer Val Ziavras answers your questions about another green trend that’s raising fire safety questions: Mass Timber construction (43:51).
51:02 7/11/23
How Virtual Reality Is Changing Firefighter Training
Incredible advancements are being made around using virtual reality to bolster firefighter training. Some fire departments are even using VR to educate the public about fire safety. Today on the podcast, we talk to Ken Willette, executive director of the North American Fire Training Directors, about what’s available on the market now, where the technology is headed, and how fire departments can best implement this technology into their training programs (3:03). LINKS:  Visit the Firefighter Immersive Learning homepage to read the Fire Protection Research Foundation reports and learn more Read a 2022 NFPA Journal feature story about firefighter immersive learning Watch a Learn Something New NFPA video about immersive learning and firefighter training
33:05 6/29/23
Is 911 In Trouble?
In the United States, when someone calls 911 the call is routed to an operator at a public safety answering point, or PSAP. But news outlets across the country are finding that local PSAPs are struggling, and that 911 callers are waiting longer to get help. Today on the podcast, we speak to a researcher who just surveyed dozens of PSAPs to find out how well they are able to meet the call answering and processing times required by NFPA standards (2:44). The results were eye-opening.  Then, on a new Code Corner, with construction season in full swing, engineer Shawn Mahoney talks about the role of the fire prevention program manager on construction sites (31:08). Links: Read the Fire Protection Research Foundation report on PSAPs See various NFPA resources related to construction fire prevention and safety
37:27 6/13/23
Grilling Safety
An estimated 75 million households in the United States will fire up their grills this Memorial Day weekend. For most, the worst that will happen is a few burned hot dogs. But each year, about 22,000 people in the U.S. go to hospital emergency rooms with injuries related to grilling. Today on the podcast, we talk to NFPA’s director of public education about what can go wrong, and what fire prevention educators should be telling their communities about grilling and cooking safety as we head into summer (1:09).    Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA electrical expert Corey Hannahs wraps up Electrical Safety Month with an in-depth look at what makes a person qualified to perform various types of electrical jobs (17:14). 
31:35 5/23/23
Can We End Cancer in the Fire Service?
Last month, the U.S. federal government launched the National Firefighter Registry for Cancer—the largest project ever undertaken to better understand and reduce the risk of cancer among firefighters. Today on the podcast, we talk to the leader of this effort, Dr. Kenny Fent (2:40). He tells us what the Firefighter Registry is, how it will work, and how it could eventually lead to reforms that help keep future generations of firefighters cancer free. Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA electrical expert Corey Hannahs kicks off Electrical Safety Month by discussing changes to the rules on kitchen island receptacles in the 2023 National Electrical Code (34:14).   LINKS: Participate in the National Firefighter Registry for Cancer Fact sheets, videos, promotional materials, and more regarding the registry Read an award-winning NFPA Journal feature from 2017 about cancer and the fire service
41:59 5/9/23
Falls, Fires, and Older Adults
Falls and fires kill and injure more older adults than many people realize. Not only are seniors twice as likely as the general population to experience a fatal fire, they suffer an estimated 36 million falls each year in the U.S., resulting in 8 million injuries.   On today’s podcast, we talk to Dori Krahn, a community relations coordinator with the Saskatoon Fire Department, and an expert on senior fall and fire prevention education (2:50). She tells us why senior falls have increased across North America, why fires are so dangerous for this population, and talks about an updated NFPA program aimed at teaching older adults how to be safer in their homes.   Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA engineer Val Ziavras answers a question about how to make sense of occupancy classifications (34:34).   LINKS Learn more about the new NFPA program, Steps to Safety   Read a 2022 NFPA Journal feature exploring the growing problem of falls and fires among older adults
39:41 4/25/23
Giving Dampers Their Due
Dampers are usually hidden away in ducts or ceiling cavities and seldom get much attention, but they’re a critical part of the fire protection strategy for many buildings. In a new Code Corner, NFPA Engineer Shawn Mahoney gives us a rundown of the different types of dampers, how they work, and what NFPA standards say (1:31). Then, we are joined by two experts from the National Energy Management Institute who tell us about the installation and maintenance of dampers, and some of the common problems that inspectors encounter out in the field (8:36).  Check out an NFPA fact sheet about fire and smoke dampers
37:28 4/11/23
Diversity and the Fire Service
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are three words that have quickly risen priority lists at fire departments across the world in recent years. While most agree on the importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce, what do those words actually mean in practice for the fire service? Why has DEI increasingly become such an emphasis, and what does success in this area for the fire service ultimately look like? On this podcast we ask Kwame Cooper, who after 38 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department, returned home to New York to become FDNY’s chief diversity and inclusion officer last November (3:55). Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA Engineer Brian O’Connor answers questions about requirements in NFPA 855 for mobile energy storage systems (43:16).   LINKS:  Drexel University research project on DEI in the fire service Urban Fire Forum position statement on DEI in the fire service
47:44 3/28/23
The Persistent Problem of Construction Fires
The latest data from NFPA shows that the number of fires in buildings under construction has been steadily rising over the past several years. On average, US fire departments respond to nearly a dozen such fires every single day. In this episode, we sit down with Kevin Carr, the NFPA staff liaison to NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations, to discuss why construction sites are so prone to fires and what can be done to address the problem. On March 21, Kevin and other construction fire safety experts will present on this topic in a webinar for NFPA titled "Tackling the Construction Fires Crisis." Register for that event here.
34:09 3/14/23
A Better Fit For Female Firefighters
About 80 percent of female firefighters say that their personal protective clothing doesn’t fit right, and studies show that ill-fitting gear puts women at greater risk of being injured on the job. Today on the podcast, we talk to two textile researchers who measured dozens of female firefighters as part of a multi-year project on turnout gear for women. They tell us why designing protective clothing for women has historically been such a challenge, and how we can fix this widespread problem (2:51). Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA engineer Shawn Mahoney answers your questions about height requirements for wall-mounted manual pull-stations for fire alarm systems (32:31). LINKS: Watch a webinar with researchers Cassandra Kwon and Meredith McQuerry Read an new NFPA Journal feature story about the project to understand and solve the problem of ill-fitting PPE for female firefighters. If you have questions, feedback, suggestions, or just want to say hello, you can reach the NFPA Podcast at podcast@nfpa.org.
37:48 2/28/23
America’s First Paramedics
In his stunning new book, American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics, former paramedic Kevin Hazzard explores the largely forgotten history of the Freedom House Ambulance Service. Hazzard joined the podcast to talk about his book, the early beginnings of EMS, and how a dedicated group of men from a downtrodden section of Pittsburg paved the way for a revolution in emergency medicine (1:56).   Then, on a new Code Corner, NFPA engineer Robin Zevotek answers your questions about how to safely conduct live fire training (47:40).
53:38 2/14/23
A New Fire Protection Handbook, 15 Years in the Making
Today on the podcast we examine one of NFPA’s oldest and most significant publications, the Fire Protection Handbook. Guests Nick Dawe, a fire marshal in Georgia, and Casey Grant, a fire protection engineering consultant and longtime NFPA employee, discuss what the FPH means to them and what’s new in the new edition. It’s been 15 years since the last edition of the handbook was published. Copies of the new, 21st edition of the Fire Protection Handbook are available for pre-order at nfpa.org/fph. The FPH is expected to be in stock by early March.    In this episode’s code corner segment, NFPA engineer Shawn Mahoney addresses some misconceptions about fire alarm strobe lights.
34:53 1/24/23
Heating or Eating: The Fire Risks of Inflation
As cold weather begins to move into the northern latitudes, families all over the world are struggling with high heating bills, leading some to make desperate choices that can dramatically increase fire risks. On today’s podcast, a prevention officer and public health expert from the United Kingdom’s National Fire Chiefs Council share the work being done in the UK to help firefighters reduce these risks in the vulnerable communities they serve. They also tell us what fire departments across the globe should keep in mind as they embark on what could be a difficult winter fire season.   Then, on a new code corner, engineer Shawn Mahoney addresses some misconceptions about the code requirements for residential smoke alarms.   LINKS: See the assets created by the UK National Fire Chiefs Council for Cost of Living: Steps to Stay Fire Safe
49:09 1/10/23
Riding the Tailboard
We are ringing in the New Year by rerunning one of our favorite episodes of all time, which originally aired in January 2017. It might seem strange now, but firefighters dying from falling off fire trucks used to be a huge problem—from 1977 to 1987, an average of nearly four firefighters died this way each year. That all changed after the 1987 publication of NFPA 1500, the first fire service occupational safety standard. In this episode, we talk to fire service veterans who used to “ride the tailboard,” to learn how a few sentences in a big standard changed 200 years of tradition in the fire service and likely saved dozens of lives. Then, on a new Code Corner, engineer Robin Zevotek talks about the building evacuation strategies outlined in NFPA 101Ò, Life Safety CodeÒ.     LINKS: Read ‘We Drove Like We Were Crazy,’ an oral history of the creation of NFPA 1500, published in the January 2017 issue of NFPA Journal.
28:50 12/27/22
The Rising Dangers of Home Fires
Believe it or not, a reported home fire in the US today is more likely to be fatal than it was in 1980. In fact, a new NFPA report reveals that the number of fire deaths per 1,000 reported home fires has risen 13 percent over the last 40 years. On today’s podcast, we talk to NFPA’s director of research and its vice president of Outreach and Advocacy about why home fires are more dangerous now, why so few people seem to know these surprising numbers, and what we can do to reduce home fire fatalities (2:10).   Then, on Code Corner, NFPA engineer Val Ziavras answers your questions about the door locking requirements in NFPA 101Ò, Life Safety CodeÒ (27:50). LINKS:   Read NFPA’s Fire Loss in the United States During 2021 report   See a video of how quickly a modern home fire can spread
35:04 12/13/22
Cooking Fires and Turkey Fryers
Shockingly, cooking fires now kill more people on average per year in the US than they did in the 1980s. As Thanksgiving nears, we are re-airing this episode from November 2020 looking at this growing problem. First, Jesse talks to an NFPA communications manager about cooking fire causes and the resources available for prevention educators (1:57). Then we explore the science behind those viral videos of turkey-fryer fireballs (25:09). In a new Code Corner, NFPA engineer Brian O’Connor talks about the different letters and numbers on fire extinguishers and what they mean (37:33). Links: Watch turkey frying gone wrong View NFPA cooking fire prevention resources Read the 2020 NFPA research report on US home cooking fires
44:00 11/22/22
Babcock Ranch and the Future of Resilient Design
When hurricane Ian tore through Florida in September, it left a trail of destruction—but not at Babcock Ranch, a 2,000-home development designed to be both sustainable and to withstand the worst natural disasters. Today on the podcast, we speak to an engineer who lives in and helped design Babcock Ranch about the community’s unique features, as well as the growing trend toward building resiliency and what it could mean for the future of disaster recovery (1:06).   Then, we debut a new segment on the podcast called “Code Corner,” where NFPA technical experts answer your burning code questions. In the first installment, engineer Shawn Mahoney talks about protection strategies and requirements for atriums (35:58).   Links
 Watch the 60 Minutes segment on Babcock Ranch   Read a 2015 NFPA Journal cover story on the concept of disaster resiliency
43:59 11/8/22