Each year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the global nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards, holds its Conference & Expo. This annual event is an opportunity for fire prevention professionals and solution providers to share best practices, discuss the impact of new technologies on the industry and explore new trends.
This year’s event will be held in June at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, TX, and it’s expected to bring together more than 5,000 industry leaders and experts, more than 350 solutions providers and vendors, and feature more than 100 educational sessions dedicated to the technologies, codes and standards that help prevent fire deaths.
To get a bit more insight into this year’s upcoming conference, we recently sat down with Susan McKelvey, the NFPA’s Communications Manager. During our discussion, we talked about the trends that are expected to dominate this year’s show, what attendees can expect from the conference and the impact that technology is having on the industry.
Here is what she had to say:
Modern Equipment Manufacturer (MEM): Can you tell our readers a bit about the NFPA Conference & Expo? When did the event get started? Who is usually in attendance?
Susan McKelvey: Since NFPA was founded in 1896, it has hosted what was originally called its annual meeting. That annual business meeting has evolved to become the NFPA Conference & Expo, which serves as the essential event for fire, electrical, and life safety professionals.
[The Conference] is an opportunity to learn more about the latest challenges around the world and the cutting-edge solutions to deal with them. Each year, dozens of world-class speakers visit with hundreds of exhibitors, share expertise with others, and connect with a global network of colleagues all under one roof.
This event is for fire and life safety professionals, including electricians, fire protection engineers, architects, contractors, installers, first responders, facility managers, code enforcement officials, public safety educators, fire marshals, and government officials, among others.
MEM: What can attendees at this year’s conference expect to learn?
Susan McKelvey: First, there’s an educational aspect to the Conference & Expo. Attendees will have the ability to attend more than 120 education sessions covering topics ranging from codes and standards, to data collection and analysis, to first responder health and safety. There’s even an educational session on battling wildfires and responding to “active shooter” emergency situations.
Attendees also will have the opportunity to evaluate thousands of new fire prevention and safety products over the three days of the Conference & Expo. But there is a lot more to the event than just interacting with and demonstrating new solutions.
Attendees will to meet NFPA technical leads and staff at our Expo booth, get answers to some of their pressing code questions and develop personal and professional contacts with other people in the industry.
Then, there’s the technology aspect of the Conference & Expo. Attendees will be able to discover innovative new solutions to some of their largest technical challenges. They’ll be able to stay current with the latest technologies and advancements in the industry. They also have the ability to identify new suppliers and vendors that are actively supporting the NFPA mission.
MEM: In what ways are some of today’s hot technologies impacting the fire protection industry? What role is the cloud, Big Data, data analytics and the IoT having on the fire protection industry?
Susan McKelvey: The marriage of smart devices to fire and life safety can be traced back to the Smart Firefighting Project, a 2012 effort by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The project lasted years and outlined goals for decreasing fatalities, injuries, and property losses from fires through the use of smart technologies in firefighter equipment and apparatus as well as in the built environment.
A 2015 report on the project, “Research Roadmap for Smart Fire Fighting,” concluded that while “some smart systems are already implemented, huge challenges remain in terms of engineering these products and systems to attain their full potential.”
Today’s hot and emerging technologies are impacting the fire protection industry on countless fronts. Sensors and other technologies are increasingly being incorporated and featured in firefighter gear and apparatus. Big Data and data analytics are helping first responders safely and efficiently approach and navigate structure fires.
There are new, emerging technologies capable of improving inspection, testing, and maintenance of fire protection equipment. Drones are increasingly being used to remotely assess wildfire situations and other emergencies.
Then there are the smart technologies in homes, which are also playing a critical role in the fire protection industry – helping with early detection and early warning.
On the Expo floor at this year’s event, NFPA’s National Electrical Code®/Emerging Technology Showcase will showcase what the home of the future might look like, complete with a number of smart devices – including smart smoke alarms. A number of other Expo events will also highlight smart technology, including a presentation on running fire simulations in the cloud and using new technology for fire alarm systems.
MEM: What other major trends, topics and technologies impacting the industry will be explored at this year’s conference?
Susan McKelvey: There are a number of new technologies that we’ll be covering. Some of these include Power Over Ethernet (POE), the use of smart and connected devices in building safety, energy storage system and electrical infrastructure, and augmented and virtual reality applications.
MEM: You mentioned the NEC/Emerging Technology Showcase? What exactly is that? What types of technologies will be on display this year? What can attendees expect from this year’s showcase?
Susan McKelvey: The information and knowledge that fire prevention professionals need to do their jobs effectively is evolving right before our eyes. The Showcase is a tool that will give NFPA Expo attendees the opportunity to see and explore some of the latest advancements in technology and solutions, including a hands-on, interactive demonstration of what is either on the horizon or currently available in the marketplace. Contractors and electricians, inspectors and building officials, and even non-electrical folks alike can experience first-hand how technology is driving building and life-safety practices in the electrical industry.
Expo goers will gain valuable and relevant technical knowledge from many of the industry leading experts. They will also have the opportunity to participate in in-depth product displays offering hands-on learning experiences and an immersive virtual reality experience that takes expo goers on a tour of the building of tomorrow, today.
For additional information about this year’s NFPA Conference & Expo, visit them online by clicking HERE.