NFPA gets into full swing in Chicago

The Windy City welcomed the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to its 113th annual World Safety Conference and Exposition in Chicago this week, with some brevity but lots of serious business as well.

The brevity came during the General Session, when Chicago's own Second City thespians performed a 45-minute improvisation program that had the audience in stitches, especially when the actors tried to recreate a musical titled "Love in the Sprinkler Lab." There was just one problem. The Second City players kept referring to lawn sprinklers until the NFPA alerted them that the topic was actually about fire sprinklers.

Despite the minor improv snafu on the stage, the general session began with Chair Paul M. Fitzgerald and President and CEO James Shannon recounting the many accomplishments of the organization, in public safety, foundation research and even the Internet with a redesigned home Web.

"Despite the challenges in this economy, when we think of all NFPA has done—there is definitely reason to smile," said James Shannon. "NFPA's work in codes and standards and public safety has resulted in a world that's much safer than before," he said.

Shannon recounted NFPA's Fire Safe Cigarette campaign, in which 48 states have passed the National Fire Safe Cigarette Standard and also the National Fire Alarm Code NFPA 72, as "a tremendous example of how technology and the standards process benefits safety." Smoke detector spacing, new signaling for the hearing impaired and the brand new chapter on emergency communications all were also cited as new changes coming to NFPA 72 as the technical committees stands set to vote on the revised codes and other standards later this week when the conference winds down.

NFPA also kicked off its new Residential Fire Sprinkler Initiative, titled "Bringing Safety Home." It is an effort to bring residential fire sprinklers to all new construction one and two-family homes in the U.S. NFPA hopes the program will be as successful as its Safe Cigarette campaign and others it has launched over the years.

Individual honors and awards were also presented at the two-hour general session, including three awards to recognize achievements in fire and life safety. Wayne D. Moore received the NFPA's 2009 Standards Medal Award, for his outstanding contributions to the development of codes and standards. Dorothy Bruck and Ian Thomas received the 2009 Harry C. Bigglestone Award for Excellence in Communication of Fire Protection Concepts for their paper, "Comparison of the Effectiveness of Different Fire Notification Signals in Sleeping Older Adults." For other awards, visit

Held through Thursday, the conference features more than 130 educational sessions and more than 5,000 fire and life safety professionals are expected to attend.