Fire & Life Safety: Emerging Issues

There are many catch phrases about the past, and I'm not sure if we're supposed to never look back or always remember the past? Regardless, the past shapes where we are and who we are, so looking at 2013, did it make us a stronger fire service? This year had many great accomplishments that have continued to improve the fire service with a focus on fire and life safety.

The Fire and Life Safety Section board has been extremely busy working with the Fire Code Action Committee with the development of the 2015 International Code Council (ICC) building and fire code documents. The committee has worked with many representatives of the National Association of State Fire Marshals as well as leaders in the code development community. The FLSS has continued to help protect residential fire sprinklers, protection of lightweight wood truss and ensuring the continued success of the fire code.

Beyond the ICC, the IAFC has a number of representatives on NFPA technical committees that work to advocate for our membership; many of the key committees were in cycle in 2013. This includes the Automatic Sprinkler Code, Fire Alarm Code and the Fire Prevention Code committees. Many changes have come forward and the membership has worked hard to protect the interests of the fire chief and to ensure the safety of our communities and our firefighters.

This past year, technology brought many changes to fire and life safety. When science, study and related research come together, we see the power of collaboration. This has included the stovetop safety report, false-alarm reporting and continued investigations by great partners such as Underwriters Laboratory and their work with wind-driven fires and lightweight-wood truss protection.

These accomplishments offer a glimpse into what the year ahead will bring. The fire service has become the coordinating agency for fire and life safety. There are high expectations that we'll facilitate communication through partners to influence change in the built environment. These partnerships must be based on open communication with an intent to provide safer environments for our communities.

The fire service will continue to be challenged with many green issues. The desire for sustainable buildings with reduced operating costs will challenge many of our assumptions in fire and building codes. How we as a fire service respond will be critical. We must be involved to influence change and we must understand the demands placed on the built environment from governmental agencies and organizations. Supporting the great research by the NFPA Research Foundation is critical for reducing fires in the built environment and helping to support the change we want to see.

We must continue the conversation, build partnerships and study the effects these changes have on our firefighters when they're working at fires. Next year has great potential based on the work that has already been done by so many people. We must understand the past and how it shapes us, but we must learn from the lessons in 2013 and look ahead to the challenges 2014 will bring.

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