Ray O’Brocki, CFSC Fire Service Relations Manager
Apr 26, 2019
NFPA reports that the U.S. fire service responds to an average of 8,440 fires on structures under construction, undergoing major renovation, or under demolition each year with an average fire loss of $310 million.1 These fires usually garner a lot of negative media attention and can stifle economic development in many communities. There have been many and varied responses from the fire service and other entities to prevent and lessen the severity of construction site fires.
For example, industry stakeholders and Fire Force One, led by Retired California State Fire Marshal Ron Coleman formed the Construction Fire Safety Coalition and the creation of www.constructionfiresafety.org. The coalition’s goal is to provide background information to both public and private sector organizations regarding how to reduce the frequency and severity of fires during construction. The fire code has also evolved to provide additional safeguards during construction that will be included in the 2021 Edition of the International Fire Code.
The latest contribution in the effort to prevent construction site fires has come from the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) with their publication of Bridging the Gap: Construction Site Fire Safety. Funding for the development of this educational offering was made possible through a grant from the FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Grants Program as part of their Fire Prevention & Safety grants. Author, Retired Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Tidwell said:
The NASFM Foundation’s motivation for pursuing this educational topic is to reduce firefighter death and injury by producing the authoritative resource on construction site fire safety. To accomplish changes in firefighter behavior and decision-making, nationally recognized materials on fire safety during construction were used to produce the ‘Bridging the Gap: Construction Site Fire Safety’ textbook.
The textbook was then used to develop classroom and online training courses, each aimed at educating various stakeholder groups who have the potential and ability to help curtail these devastating fires.
Bridging the Gap: Construction Site Fire Safety is the definitive training manual for construction site fire safety. It specifically addresses four stakeholder audiences: Owner’s and Fire Safety Managers, Contractors, Code Officials, and First Responders. It includes: fire prevention and protection strategies, basic fire prevention practices, hazard materials and process controls, and developing a fire prevention site safety plan. The appendix includes sample fire safety plans, sample policies and sample documentation tools. It also draws on resources such as those developed by the Construction Fire Safety Coalition.
Every construction site is mandated by the code to have a fire safety plan and fire prevention program manager. Bridging the Gap provides the training material necessary to create an effective plan. It also gives effective strategies and training to prevent construction fires and addresses the educational needs of owners, contractors, building officials, and firefighters.
1 Campbell, R. “Fires in Structures Under Construction, Undergoing Major Renovation, or Being Demolished,” NFPA Research, Quincy, MA, April 2017