National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): Revolutionizing Safety And Transforming The Standards Industry

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The National Fire Protection Association is a self-funded, non-profit organization that started with the aim to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation. Today, it has grown to become the safety authority around the world. 

In the late 19th Century, before national standards were introduced, Boston had nine radically different sprinkler standards within a 100-mile radius. At the time, a group of insurance executives in Boston were looking for a solution for the numerous ways sprinklers were being installed in the region. To solve this issue, NFPA created a common standard now known as NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems. At the same time, the electrical community was dealing with five different recognized standards that addressed the safe use of electrical equipment, creating similar confusion and an increased risk for hazardous complication. The two organizations came together to create the “National Electrical Code of 1897” (NEC ®). Today, the NEC is the most widely used NFPA standard and is considered the world’s pre-eminent electrical guidance.


As time went on, the insurance executives and electricity professionals realized that common standards were required in other areas as well and needed by labor groups, policymakers, professionals in the field, and other safety adjacent fields. 

Since then, for over 125 years, NFPA has delivered information and knowledge through more than 325 consensus standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission.

NFPA LiNK® is an application-based platform with up-to-date code information and situational content. It combines information across all of the NFPA’s standards so users can have a holistic understanding of what applies to the given situation. Subscribers are able to add personal notations to standards and carry over all their notes as new editions are added. Furthermore, those collaborating on projects can bookmark and share code sections, compatible with all devices. “NFPA LiNK is not only revolutionizing safety by providing better access to more robust information, but it is also transforming the standards industry as a whole, Jim asserts.

Overcoming Challenges In The Industry

NFPA is the most successful and oldest public-private partnership on record. Despite this, the organization has been challenged by those who have the erroneous view that standards, once incorporated by reference, should lose their copyright protection. The NFPA’s standards development process funds itself through the sale of these standards and related resources. “Sales revenue is how we can exist as a neutral body to promulgate safety standards, but there is a faction out there today arguing that if a governmental body decides to incorporate a standard to help with public safety, then the standard immediately is open for anyone to copy and distribute to the public for free,” explains Jim. NFPA offers free online access to all its standards and it strongly believes in retaining copyright protection so that the organization can continue to offer safety benefits that are of enormous benefit to businesses, government and the public.

There will always be new challenges to overcome and new hazards to address in the world. NFPA keeps up with the world’s progress as well as the emerging life safety issues. Its standards development process, which leverages volunteers across many disciplines, the data and research NFPA generates, and its groundbreaking digital technology make it an exceptional player in the industry. Today, NFPA is regarded as the premier global fire and life safety leader.

Helping Stakeholders Be More Effective

NFPA has been a pillar of American society for over a century. The organization prides itself on its storied history and on working towards creating a better and safer future. This year marks an important milestone for NFPA; In June, the organization will gather for the annual Conference & Expo® for the first time in three years, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of NFPA.

We certainly did not get to where we are today by working in a vacuum, so we are looking forward to celebrating with like-minded, safety-focused professionals in Boston,” Jim says.  

While celebrating these milestones, NFPA will continue to grow and evolve to meet the expectations of the stakeholders through the flagship resource NFPA LiNK®. NFPA LiNK® will also receive an upgrade with new features including the most current standards, older versions of the more widely used documents, additional contextual information, first in-language solutions, and many other resources. These additional features will help the subscribers be more successful at their jobs. “After all, when our stakeholders are more effective in their roles, it means more lives and property saved,” summarizes Jim.

About the Leader: 

Jim Pauley is a seasoned executive and a veteran in the industry with decades of experience in the electrical and fire safety industries. At NFPA, Jim continually strives to fulfill the organization’s mission to eliminate death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. Jim is also the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Fire Protection Research Foundation—the research affiliate of NFPA. 

Before joining NFPA, Jim spent 30 years in the electrical and energy industry working in government relations, external affairs, product management, and marketing. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Kentucky and was a licensed professional engineer in Kentucky. 

National Fire Protection Association

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