NFPA Expo Opens in Boston

Updated: 06-03-2007 11:17:27 PM


BOSTON - Building designs, electrical codes, emergency preparedness, sprinkler issues, public safety education, research, vehicle safety, campus safety, fire behavior and case studies are just some of the courses available here during the annual National Fire Protection Association World Safety Conference and Exposition.

Highlights include presentations on two deadly nightclub blazes - the Cocoanut Grove fire in 1942 and 2003 incident at the Station in Rhode Island. In addition to educational offerings, NFPA members will be holding various committee meetings and voting sessions during the conference.

On Sunday, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough told the crowd a keen knowledge of history is essential for a successful leader. He said it's sad that today's young people have no grasp on the subject.

He spoke about presidents, commanders, generals and soldiers and the decisions they made. While their educational backgrounds may have differed, they drew on what they read.

McCullough recalled John Adams dashing from the White House in the bitter cold to join the bucket brigade when he saw a building on fire. "Why did he do that? It wasn't in his job description. He was a good citizen, a good neighbor. A good leader leads by example."

The author of 1776 and John Adams and others said he got to know Washington, Adams and the others by immersing himself in their letters and diaries. Unfortunately, he said people don't keep ledgers anymore.

McCullough urged the group to share stories about the past, and take children to historic sites. It's the only way to generate or rejuvenate their interest. "History teaches us how to behave."

Also on Sunday afternoon, NFPA President James M. Shannon congratulated members for their diligence to make a difference. He said they should be pleased that the codes are accepted world wide.

Shannon said he knows that those involved on the various NFPA committees share his feelings about the civilian death rate in the United States.

"John Adams said 'facts are stubborn.' Here are some of the stubborn facts we have to face."

"...The United States has one of the worst fire death records of any country in the world. There are more than 3,000 people a year killed in residential fires in the United States. And while, mostly due to smoke alarms, these numbers have come way down from where they were 30 years ago, they are still on a per capita basis significantly higher than most other developed countries. The most troubling aspect of these figures is that they aren't improving."

His statistics show that in 3,380 people died in fires in 2002; 3,925 in 2003; 3,900 in 2004 and 3,675 in 2005.

"For NFPA, our job is clear. We cannot accept the kind of fire death and injury rates that have become the status quo in this country and in so many other countries around the world. We must be more aggressive, more strategic and more willing than we have ever been in the past to demand the kind of reforms that can substantially change those abysmal statistics..."

Shannon said it's unacceptable that about 900 of the deaths annually are caused by fires sparked by smoking materials. About 18 months ago, the NFPA launched its effort to promote fire safe cigarettes.

"...For more than 25 years, Congress has refused to act despite the commitment and hard work of a number of Congressmen including the late Joe Moakley who represented the district we are in today. But the tobacco companies have too much clout in Washington. Like so much of what we work on, there is a technical solution. But the political and economic interests and the general lack of public interest in consumer safety concerns these days have stood in the way of passing the necessary national law to save those lives..."

He added that tobacco companies could have made the changes, and started selling the cigarettes years ago.

Shannon lauded supporters for their work to get legislation passed, noting that 16 states now have a law, and many more legislatures are considering the measure.

"...Believe me; no one is as surprised at the success we have achieved on fire safe cigarettes as the tobacco companies that have so easily stopped fire safe cigarette legislation for all of these years. They never expected that NFPA would take on this fight as we have. They underestimated the dedication of the thousands of people in the fire service, the medical community and the consumer groups who have rallied to this cause. And they underestimated NFPA's willingness to lead this movement to change the status quo."