NFPA News and Notes
Editor's note: Following are a brief collection of items gathered at various functions and seminars at NFPA's World Safety Conference and Exhibition in Minneapolis, in addition to forays onto the show floor. Fire panel manufacturer FCI of Waltham, Mass., was also pitching ease of installation, and thus labor savings, from the two-pair wiring of its Net Solo line, which will feature add-on netwo...
Keynote Speaker Bernard Karik, police commissioner of New York City, offered his unique perspective on the chronology of last Sept. 11, calling for a nationwide increase in funding for crisis-prevention and -management programs. He noted that the expense of such measures is relatively low when compared to the cost—both financially and in human terms—of a major tragedy like the World Trade Center attacks.
An educational session presented by Deborah Withington, a professor of auditory neuroscience at the University of Leeds (U.K.), lauded the benefits of directional sound beacons. The professor argued that such technology—which sonically alerts building occupants to the locations of emergency exits—can possibly trim up to two-thirds of the time it takes to evacuate.
As expected, NFPA 5000, Building Code, was given the nod of approval by members, and now only faces the consideration of the NFPA Standards Council at a meeting in July.
An introductory NFPA 5000 session at the show featured various building team members—many of whom were involved in the document's creation—discussing the new code, the latest draft of which has been made available online at buildingcode.nfpa.org . Of particular interest were the comments expressed during a panel discussion by a group of code officials, most of whom were not directly involved in the code creation process. One of the most unique, and thus intimidating part of NFPA's single building code is the provision for performance-based design (PBD). A number of the officials welcomed PBD as a way of encouraging design professionals to come up with innovative designs. Typically, the officials claim, designers back away from PBD because of the liability risks, but NFPA 5000 would provide a better structure for making it happen.
Southwest Research, a nonprofit research organization based in San Antonio, is taking security to a whole new level: The institution is training bees to detect explosives. According to company officials, security personnel could observe, via camera, any unusual activity among the specially trained bees. Beside being more unobtrusive, the bees' reaction would not alert any would-be terrorists to security countermeasures.
On the product front, the trend for new equipment displayed at the expo was clearly toward facility use and maintenance. For example, alarm manufacturer Gentex, Zeeland, Mich., unveiled its latest "Commander" series, which allows maintenance staff to switch out signals with different Candela or dBA without having to change mounting brackets.
Fire panel manufacturer FCI of Waltham, Mass., was also pitching ease of installation, and thus labor savings, from the two-pair wiring of its Net Solo line, which will feature add-on networking capabilities later this year.
For fire panels as a whole, the trend was toward more firefighter friendly features. Many manufacturers featured panels with much larger and easier to read displays. Siemens, for example, included actual NFPA icons in its graphics, as well as simple directional arrow keys.
Another buzz word on the floor was "intelligibility." In other words, the ability to clearly understand what voice evacuation messages are saying—an issue NFPA is carefully weighing. To this concern, Simplex Grinnell, Westminster, Mass., launched, at the show, their STI-CIS meter that will allow facilities to actually measure intelligibility.
An engineer reviewing the show floor for CSE was pleased to see such an innovation, but noted that the ability to get people's attention should be one of the major features of any good voice-evacuation system.