For the past 18 months, I have had the opportunity to travel the world as NFPA’s global ambassador. I have presented at conferences, visited fire academies and firehouses, met with other standards developers, engaged with NFPA’s international chapter members, and shared ideas with fire safety leaders.
I have seen a remarkable similarity in the serious issues challenging the fire service worldwide, whether in Belgrade or Boston, Dubai or Denver, Rio or Raleigh. High-rise fires, wildland / urban interface issues, “smart” firefighter technology, green building designs, terrorism, natural disasters, alternative-fuel vehicles, firefighter safety and health, public education, code enforcement, and the need for up-to-date fire safety codes and standards are issues shared across borders and across cultures.
NFPA continues to make a significant investment in its mission to “reduce the worldwide burden of fire.” NFPA standards are in use throughout the globe in at least 12 languages. We support participation in the NFPA standards development process with an online platform that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (nfpa.org/foundation) shares research activities and findings with a global network of academic and research organisations. And we are active participants at numerous conferences and symposia, as well as international fire safety organisations such as the Confederation of Fire Protection Associations–International (cfpa–i.org), the International Association of Fire and Rescue Service (ctif.org), Metro Fire Chiefs (nfpa.org), and the Organizacion de Bomberos Americanos (bomberosamericanos.org).
[su_quote]NFPA continues to make a significant investment in its mission to ‘reduce the worldwide burden of fire’. NFPA standards are in use throughout the globe.[/su_quote]
Information sharing is not a one-way street, and there are important lessons to be learned from our international partners. The Singapore Civil Defence Training Academy, for example, is using state-of-the-art simulators to train fire incident commanders in real-life scenarios, and provides training to firefighters in a number of developing nations. The Frankfurt-am-Main Fire Brigade in Germany collects and bags personal protective equipment after a fire, but before firefighters return to the station, in order to minimise their exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. SP Technical Research Institute in Sweden has conducted full-scale tests of fires in road and rail tunnels, and that research has resulted in changes to NFPA 502, Road Tunnels, Bridges, and Other Limited Access Highways. The Australian fire services have taken a leading role in developing new tactics and strategies for handling major wildland fires. These are just a few examples of initiatives that can be shared, adapted, and implemented anywhere in the world.
Much more needs to be done to engage the global fire protection community in collaborative efforts to reduce fire deaths and property loss. NFPA is currently re-assessing its international strategy, with the vision of being the authority on fire, electrical, and building safety that makes a difference in reducing the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards. We will continue to strengthen our global partnerships with the fire service, fire protection associations, standards developers, and other non-governmental organisations.
Perhaps most importantly, we have the capability – and a moral and professional obligation – to commit resources to assist developing nations in building a culture of fire safety. With more than 100 years of experience, NFPA is in the perfect position to share its codes and standards, research, public education resources, and experience in the adoption and enforcement of fire safety standards with those nations with the highest rates of fire death and property loss. In this age of an increasingly interconnected world, those are burdens we all share.
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