A Moment of Reflection: Construction Fire Safety in 2018

Ray O’Brocki, CFSC Fire Service Relations Manager

Feb 14, 2019

2018 marked significant progress for the Construction Fire Safety Coalition, all to ensure our stakeholders have the right information to do their jobs, and to raise awareness about construction fire safety best practices.

The Coalition relaunched the Construction Fire Safety website in fall of 2018, publishing an online library of critical resources for fire safety, including construction site checklists, evacuation plans, safety policies and more. These tools were created to support fire safety professionals with training materials, tools and fire testing they need to safely respond to fires.

Through this effort, we forged strong relationships with local authorities based on truth, science, and accountability. In 2019, we’ll build on this momentum.

On Demand Webinars

I presented two webinars in December on fire safety practices that are now are available that construction teams to review at your own pace. The e-course webinars are available for on-demand access on the American Wood Council website.

  • BCD231 – Construction Fire Safety Best Practices – Many hazards can be addressed before they become an issue by adoption of best practices and rigorous code enforcement. The primary focus of this program is on large buildings during construction. Other topics that include demolition, alterations, renovations, repair and maintenance, as well as newly-completed buildings will be discussed. This program provides guidance that is based on compliance with Chapter 33 of the 2018 International Fire Code, Chapter 33 of the 2018 International Building Code, and NFPA Standards 1 and 241.
  • BCD232 – Pre-Planning and Fire Suppression of Buildings Under Construction – Many fire departments have limited experience in planning and response to these complex buildings. This requires a thorough understanding of fire and building code provisions as well as the proper use of NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations and NFPA 1620, Standard for Pre-Incident Planning.

Looking Ahead at 2019

From research and guidelines to online and live education, we’ll continue to support code officials, fire services and protection engineers to learn more about the safety and durability of wood in both mid- and high-rise construction. We’ll be sharing toolkits of fire safety resources.

As many of you know, the International Code Council approved incorporating tall mass timber construction types into the 2021 International Building Code. A new content area I plan to feature in the coming year is diving deeper on details of the recent code changes, and how fire services can prepare for these changes.

I will also be addressing the new code changes and their impact on fire services, code officials and building developers in multiple upcoming webinars and trainings, so watch the website or Facebook page for info about upcoming events.

We’ll be recognizing critical days and months to further fire safety awareness, including NFPA’s National Wildfire Preparedness Day, ICC’s Building Safety Month, and NFPA’s National Fire Prevention Week, and encourage our partners to join us in spreading the word. I look forward to joining fellow coalition members in June when I’ll be attending the upcoming NFPA Annual Conference.

And the progress shouldn’t stop there. We encourage both our members and interested parties to join us in sharing their own resources and best practices.

A Special Thanks to Our Dedicated Members

As I reflect on 2018, we want to thank our dedicated Coalition members, and all those involved in fire safety, for their hard work in advancing construction safety practices. Through this collective effort, we’re working to mitigate fire hazards on construction sites and ensure a safe future for our communities and the first responders who protect us.

Don’t forget that if any coalition members are interested in live training, please reach out! Email me and we will work to set up an in-person presentation. Similarly, if you are conducting training, send me the information and we’ll promote it on our website.

We invite our members, fire services, code officials, and all those involved in fire safety, to continue their strong efforts to advance safe construction practices. Interested in joining the Construction Fire Safety Coalition? Visit https://constructionfiresafety.org/member.

And remember to like our Facebook page for postings about education events and more: www.facebook.com/ConstructionFireSafetyCoalition

Raymond O’Brocki, is the manager of fire service relations for the American Wood Council. Before that he was the chief building official for the City of Rockville, MD. He retired as the assistant fire chief the Baltimore City Fire Department in 2013. He was appointed fire marshal for Baltimore City in 2008. During his tenure as fire marshal, Baltimore City recorded the three lowest annual fire fatality totals in its history. O’Brocki has served on the Maryland State Child Care Advisory Council, Maryland State Fire Code Update Committee, State Fire Marshals Legislative Working Group in Annapolis and the steering committee for the Mid-Atlantic Life Safety Conference. He has served on the NFPA Urban Fire Safety Task Force and has presented at the National Fire Academy. He is a graduate of the University of Baltimore School of law and a licensed attorney.