The Grant File
- Executive director and former research director, Fire Protection Research Foundation, Quincy, Mass.
- Secretary of standards council and assistant chief engineer; assistant vice president of codes and standards administration; and chief systems and applications engineer of the engineering division at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Quincy.
- Adjunct assistant professor in the Center for Firesafety Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass.
- Percy Bugbee Award from the NFPA.
- Meritorious Service Award from the American National Standards Institute.
- Person of the Year from the Automatic Fire Alarm Association.
- Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Mass.
- Bachelor of Science in Fire Protection Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Md.
- Associate of Science in Fire Science Technology, Bunker Hill Community College, Charlestown, Mass.
What is the role of the FPRF?
The Fire Protection Research Foundation, also referred to as the FPRF or simply “Research Foundation,” is an independent, nonprofit foundation dedicated to planning, facilitating and managing research, specifically in support of the NFPA mission to make the world safer from fire, electrical and related hazards. We address all the topics that fall under the NFPA purview, including fire protection, emergency response and virtually everything that challenges safety in the built environment. Our operational scope is not based on any geographic boundaries because unwanted fire is a worldwide problem. Our vision is to be the premier global research delivery organization so that we can eliminate death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related issues.
How is the FPRF related to NFPA?
The FPRF is the research affiliate arm of the NFPA, located at NFPA headquarters in Quincy, Mass. However, we are separate, independent, nongovernmental, nonprofit organizations. The FPRF has half a dozen employees, whereas NFPA has more than 300 staff members. Our team is very active and generally responsible for managing more than four dozen research projects at any given time on a wide range of topics. Our board of trustees is separate from NFPA. They provide oversight on all FPRF activities. One of our valued trustees is Chad Beebe, AIA, FASHE, CHFM, deputy executive director of advocacy for the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE).
How do you get your ideas for research projects, and how do they get funded?
The FPRF is self-funded and self-sufficient. Our funding is derived from several sources, including management fees from consortia projects, in which project sponsors pool their funding in support of research; direct labor rates for grant-funded projects; attendance fees at FPRF-hosted symposiums; sponsors for online webinars; and the occasional project that the FPRF staff directly handles. Fundraising is a significant priority for our work, and we have been very effective at raising the necessary resources to meet research objectives.
What role do NFPA’s technical committees play in your work?
The NFPA codes and standards process is a key part of our FPRF activities; we continually interact with NFPA technical committees and regularly assist them with difficult problems. We advise the committees if they can solve their problems by simply coming to agreement during debate. If it’s a greater challenge that requires credible, relevant research to make a valid decision, then we assist. Packaging a problem into a meaningful research project is among our most challenging tasks and, proudly, our greatest strengths. It’s important to note that our work extends beyond NFPA technical committees and includes all fire protection-related topics, including public education and public policy.
Many organizations and individuals work directly with the FPRF, including project sponsors who help to fund efforts; project contractors who actually do the work; and advisory panels comprised of volunteers who provide peer oversight and guidance. Our panels are distinctly separate from NFPA technical committees and function according to the FPRF’s policies for the conduct of research.
What are some of your health care-related research projects?
All of our research reports are openly published and posted on our website at www.nfpa.org/foundation. They cover a lot of ground — some are directly related to health care. Current projects that entail direct interest or participation by health care facilities center around a “Data Exchange Model for Inspection, Testing and Maintenance”; “Cybersecurity of Fire Protection Systems”; “Guidance for Fire Service in Protected Buildings”; “Prototype Fuel Load Survey Methodology”; “Electrical Circuit Data Collection”; “Influence of Door Gaps Around and Under Swinging Fire Doors”; and “Spray Sprinkler Obstructions.” We hire outside contractors, primarily large and small consulting firms, universities, government agencies and testing laboratories, through an open request for proposal (RFP) process. We rarely use a sole source approach except for special situations and regularly turn away groups seeking funds for a project they intend to do themselves. If any of your readers are a potential contractor and want to be on our RFP bidders list, they should contact us.
What health care-related issues do you anticipate researching in the future?
We are always prepared to address issues that are important to our stakeholders. However, we are limited by our operational bandwidth. Each year, we receive at least twice as many project requests than we can handle, so we prioritize our work based on the greatest need, available resources, the highest perceived impact and other key factors. Anyone can complete and submit a “Project Idea Form” that is available on our website. They should be prepared to describe the problem being addressed; the scope of the effort; project goals and objectives; the tasks involved; anticipated deliverables; the timeline; and other important research features. We tend to reject proposed projects that are narrower in scope, such as those seeking proprietary product development.
What is the Facility Research Consortia (FRC), and what role does it play?
We have multiple standing groups that regularly meet to conduct research planning and address a never-ending stream of continually shifting problems. We work with research planning groups to identify problems, prioritize them and develop actionable plans to address them. One important group is the FRC, which is a proactive group of facility end users. ASHE is an active participant in the FRC and works with like-minded organizations to find better fire protection solutions for today. For example, FRC members tend to seek a scientific basis for antiquated or overly restrictive code requirements that have evolved over decades.
ASHE representatives and others have been very effective at determining key research topics, prioritizing them and then assisting with the identification of partners that can support the research. The long-term benefits for professionals involved in these research planning groups is the realization that positive progress is being made.
What are your organizational strengths?
The FPRF is a flexible operation known for recognizing and prioritizing knowledge gaps and generating research deliverables that influence lasting solutions. One strength, in particular, is our ability to identify and address emerging issues.
Additionally, the FPRF prides itself on cultivating partnerships and working with a wide range of individuals and groups to reduce risk in the world. We’re proud of our ability to deliver relevant research results on a regular basis and look forward to working with the health care community and others on meaningful solutions.
Mike Hrickiewicz is editor-in-chief of Health Facilities Management magazine.