Posted: October 17th, 2013
The great Chicago fire was one of the worst catastrophes of the 19th century. The fire left over 300 people dead and a hundred thousand more homeless. The authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) at the time would have been the Chicago Fire Department. The fire department has the responsibility of assessing such a situation and determining the threat level posed. Depending on the threat, the fire department personnel have a right to remove individuals if they are vulnerable to the fire’s destructive path. In order to prevent such situations, the fire department is has the right to inspect buildings and certify the ability of these buildings to protect life in case of fires. During the great Chicago fire, the fire code was limited, and many places were fire hazards.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 101 is a Life Safety Code is a source used to develop strategies to safeguard peoples lives based on building construction, protection and building features that diminish the effects of fire and other related risks. The NFPA requires all building to have features of fire safeguards such as alarms. Smoke barriers, sprinkle systems, emergency lighting and special gear protecting individuals from fires. In the case of a single family dwelling hosting college students, these codes have to be applied to ensure that the building is modified to ensure that, in case of a fire, the students are protected. The authority having jurisdiction should ensure that the NFPA codes are upheld.
To prevent an occurrence of a similar magnitude to the great Chicago fire, it is essential to develop building and housing codes that are aimed at protecting life and achieving minimum level of fire damage (Thomson, 2002). The city councils have to work together with fire departments to ensure that every building is compliant to the fire code within its jurisdiction. Buildings found to go against the code have to be penalized through legal action or punitive terms stipulated in the code. The system should be designed to determine the level of fire suppression compliance through a paid for examination of a facility by a fire expert preferably from the fire department. A citywide fire code ensures that there is an immediate response when it comes to fires. This will ensure that loss of life and property is at a minimal (NECC & NFPA 2007).
The fire problem in the United States is that fires are still prevalent, and the loss of life and property is unacceptable. According top the National Fire Protection Association the U.S fire departments made 370, 000 responses to home structure fires in the year 2011 alone (NFPA 2012). The fires caused 13,910 injuries to civilians and 2,520 civilian fatalities. In addition, there was a loss of property amounting to 6.9 billion dollars in that year alone. The association further identifies that over 92% of civilian structure deaths were because of home structure fires and noted that cooking is the most common trigger of the fires (NFPA 2012). With regard to the report offered by the NFPA, it has defined the current fire problems in the U.S arising from the home structures.
Several issues have been identified by the NFPA as causing the home structure fires. The leading area of the fires in home structure is the kitchen at 37%. Four percent of the fires were identified to have originated from the living rooms. Eight percent of the fires were reported to have started form the bedroom. Smoking is also considered a leading cause of home structure fires (Diamantes 2005). The NFPA also identified that home fires were higher in the evening between 5pm and 8 pm. This is usually when most families are making dinner. The considerations of the NFPA are to come up with the regulations aimed at reducing the fires at home and ensure that homes are as safe as most commercial buildings in American cities.
The National Fire protection development of code and standards involves the public opinion. The codes and standards of the NFPA are revised and are updated every three to five years in revision cycles. The revision cycles start twice each year. The cycles usually take two years to finish where each revision cycle ensues with reference to a schedule published having the final dates of all key events in the revision process. Once the current edition has been published, the NFPA codes and standards evaluation is open to the public. This process includes four basic steps that lead to completed revision of the codes and standards.
The first step of the process is the input stage. The input stage accepts any suggestions that have been offered by the public or other relevant committees. The suggestions are included in the first draft of the update. After the closing date for public input, the technical committee or the panel involved holds a meeting to revise the NFPA standard. The committee discusses all the public input that will be put in the first draft. The first draft revisions are put to a vote that, and a majority approves the document. The committee then ballots on the first draft. This means that the texts the committee wants to revise in the NFPA standard is put on the ballot for approval by the committee. The revisions approved by the committee are referred to as the First Revisions. Each revision must be approved by at least two-third majority of the committee. The First Revisions that do not go past the committee ballot are referred to as Committee Inputs in the First Draft Reports. The final step in the first stage is the posting of the First Draft Report.
The second stage is of revising the NFPA standards is the Comment Stage. The first step in this stage is public comment. This is where the public is allowed to make comments about the first draft. If the First Draft has not received any comments and the committee has no desire to revise the document further, the draft is sent directly to the standards council for an issuance process. A second draft meeting is held after the closing date for public comments. The committee then, makes any necessary revisions to the first draft. All comments are put into consideration, and the committee acts accordingly to each comment. The comments are integrated into the draft to come up with the second draft. A ballot is carried out to ensure a consensus into the revisions. A committee ballot on the second draft is carried out where committee members seek to make changes to the public inputs. A two-third majority has to approve each of the Second Revisions for them to appear in the Second draft. The Second Revisions that do qualify through to the second draft appear in the Committee Comments. There after, the Second Draft Report is put up in the NFPA website.
The third step of the NFPA standard update is the Association Technical Meeting. Here, a notice of intent to make a motion (NITMAM) can be authorized to anyone who feels that the committee’s work has not been satisfactory. The motions raised here are aimed to make sure that the recommendations as presented in the Second Draft do not hold by requesting for amendments. The only motions for amendments are to be drawn from the Second Revisions, Public Comments and the Committee Comments that appear in the Second Draft. Motions in some cases could question the whole process. In such a case, the committee is required to go back to developing a new draft to accommodate the motions demands. The committee or panel votes on the successful amendments to Technical Committee Reports made at the Association Technical Meeting by the MFPA members.
The last stage of the process is the Council Appeals and Issuance of Standard. The key role of the NFPA standards council, as the monitoring entity of the NFPA standards development process, is acting as the official distributor of the NFPA codes and standards. In this step, the revision has to meet the consent standard. There are proposed revisions that may have not been contested and NITAMS are filed against them, or some motions over revisions may not meet the motion standards. In both these cases, standards are presented directly to the Standards Council for official issuance. During the issuance of standards, the Standards Council also takes note of appeals that may be made against any Standards. An NFPA standard becomes operational twenty days after issuance by the Standards Council.
The need for fire prevention organizations is integral in enhancing safety among the population. Fire prevention agencies ensure that relevant building have met the required standards to avoid fires. In this sense, these agencies should educate the public on how to avoid habits that may bring ignite fires and develop measures that reduce fire hazards. One of the most important fire regulations is that all public buildings should have fire exists (Cote 2003). These emergency fire exits must remain open in the time that these buildings are being used by the public. Fire codes propose that people use staircases when exiting a building to reduce the risk of being trapped in elevators. Another regulation is that buildings need to install smoke detectors and alarms to warn those who are not in the immediate vicinity of the fire. Perhaps one of the most significant regulations is the need to have fire extinguishers available at all times. This can be used as a tool for immediate response to avoid damage to property that could have been controlled.
Fire hazards more often than not are because of human error or ignorance (Thomson, 2002). Fire hazards in commercial and residential occupancies include smoking, leaking gas lines, naked wiring susceptible to electrical faults, having water next to electrical appliances or naked sockets (Alonzo, 2010). Commercial hazards may arise from poor training on how to use appliances especially in hotels, restaurants and the fast food industry. Most commercial buildings are not spacious which may make it impossible for individuals to escape fires unharmed.
Fire code compliance suggests that commercial buildings put up no smoking signs where there is a risk of starting fires, for example, in gas stations or chemical laboratories or where one’s job involves flammable materials. People should also be keen to ensure that gas lines are always switched off if they are not being used. Most electrical appliances have marked warnings against inappropriate use that may lead to fire related risks. Commercial fire codes ensure that all commercial vicinities have been inspected to ensure that they have fully complied with building fir codes. These compliances include having enough exit doors, sprinklers, alarm among other compliance equipment and building structure. These inspections are also extended to living conditions such as apartment buildings and condominiums.
The importance of maintaining egress is vital in ensuring that life protected in structures. Egress refers to the law that holds the right of an individual to leave a property. This right is crucial when it comes to one leaving a building in cases of fires. There are buildings that require one to sign out when leaving for security purposes. It is essential that, in the case of fires, such measures be suspended to ensure that everyone leaves a building on fire safely. Exit points should also be fire resistant so that people are not trapped in a building because fire has engulfed the main exit (NECC & NFPA 2007). In essence, each building must have an elaborate procedure of egress in emergencies.
In performing a fire inspection, one has to identify the entire fire hazards a building pose. These include looking at fire suppression mechanisms and measures to protect life. If occupancy lacks any of the fire suppression mechanisms, it is essential that they are noted down and recommended for immediate installation. Such mechanisms should include sprinkler systems or hosed water outlets, alarms, and fire emergency exits. Occupancies should also have a fire assembly point that is at a safe distance from the fire. A fire assembly point also offers individuals a point where they can feels safe.
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