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President’s Report from 2012 NFPA Conference & Expo

For those that were not able to attend the 2012 National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Conference & Expo, below is an excerpt from the president’s report given by NFPA President Jim Shannon.

Shannon discusses the benefits of the age of the internet and digital technology, but also notes how it puts NFPA’s code development process at risk. Copyright infringement is occurring with the code books, such as the NFPA 13D residential fire sprinkler standard, which threatens the revenues that fund research.

“NFPA has been working for 116 years to reduce the threat of fire. Throughout our history, we have worked constantly to meet the fire and life safety challenges of the times. Our impact is felt around the globe.

In our founding years, our main concern was the need to standardize sprinkler installation and that very first NFPA standard – which is now called NFPA 13 is still one of our most important activities. Our system of bringing experts together to develop standards worked and we followed the same approach for all of our other codes and standards, the National Electrical Code, the Life Safety Code, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Codeand all of the others which have made such a difference in safety.

But NFPA is not just a fire safety organization although we are very proud of that legacy; we are also one of a handful of private organizations whose main purpose is to develop the health and safety standards on which millions and millions of people depend and we do that through one of the earliest and most successful public/private partnerships. Developing codes and standards to be used by industry and adopted into law by government is at the heart of everything we do.

We are proud of the fact that so many governmental agencies, so many political bodies including the United States Congress, the state legislatures and individual municipalities rely on us to develop the safety standards for fire, electrical and other hazards. They know that a standard produced in the NFPA system has been considered fully and carefully on its technical merits. They know that our committees are balanced and our process is transparent.

And they know that the revenues needed to fund our system come from the most independent of sources, the thousands and thousands of individuals who use those standards, and not some special interest that underwrites the process in order to achieve a self interested result.

The ownership of the copyrights in our codes and standards has always provided most of the funds we need to keep this process strong and to fund our safety mission through all of our other activities. This approach has worked well for the industries and individuals who use the standards, the governments which adopt them without having to pay development cost themselves and, most importantly, the public which gets the ultimate benefit, the best protection of their lives and property based on the best judgment of the experts who make up our consensus system.

But let me tell you why I think these are both the best of times for NFPA and the most challenging times that NFPA has ever faced. NFPA is an organization dedicated to safety. That is all we do. We fulfill that safety mission by getting information to people. Our advocacy of residential sprinklers, our electrical and life safety training, our codes and standards activities, and our public education programs are all about getting the information out there.

Some of this information generates revenue to fund the whole system but much of it does not generate any revenues at all.”

“I was happy to be in attendance for President Shannon’s speech. In all the years of my fire service and advisory board career, I have never heard such a coherent, logical and extensive report on what NFPA is, what the organization stands for, and its process for funding so many of its initiatives and education and research foundation grants that benefit the fire service and the general public,” says Tom Lia, executive director of the Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board. “This message needs to be read and understood by all members of the fire service.”

Read the entire NFPA President’s report here.

 

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