Making (green) Buildings Safe for Firefighters

Green buildings may present special challenges for firefighters because of new technologies, building materials, and building techniques. That’s the concern Fire Safety and Green Buildings—Bridging the Gap, a new website developed by the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM); a handbook on the topic has also been released. 

The project started with the premise that “fire safety is green, because any fire that takes place is doing really bad things to the environment,” said Karen Deppa, director of external relations for NASFM. Funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the new resource is the culmination of a year of research, begun by interns and continued by an advisory board that includes representatives from the International Code Council, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the Green Building Initiative, among others. 

Green model home burns in Seattle


Some in the green building industry have raised concern about NASFM’s former connection to Peter Sparber, a lobbyist with connections to the tobacco industry who has campaigned aggressively for widespread use and approval of flame retardants. According to Deppa, NASFM has not been connected to Sparber for several years, and “does not promote flame retardants over non-flame-retardant approaches.” Ed Comeau, founder of the Center for Campus Fire Safety and a board member on the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ (IAFC) Fire and Life Safety section, says that the motives of the firefighting industry are pure. “We want to engage early in the process so we’re not seen as the bad guys,” he told EBN, noting that both NASFM and IAFC were involved in the International Code Council’s development of a green building code. He says of flame retardants, “They’re necessary and vital to fire safety, but we don’t want to create a bigger problem through cancer and everything else.” 

For more on this story and actions some states are taking to help remedy this crucial issue, see


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