EVENTS: Reflections from the "Sustainability in Fire Protection" Conference

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

This week I'm at the "Sustainability in Fire Protection" conference in Park City, Utah. Hosted by The Coalition for Responsible Fire Protection (of which I am a Board Member), it's three days of presentations and discussions about what sustainability means for an industry whose purpose is to protect life. 

Fire protection and suppression systems have significant environmental impacts--toxic chemicals, electronic waste, reliance on extracted and refined metals--and yet is a critical and necessary component of every building system. 

How do you balance the need to protect life and property with the need to be sustainable? A particular fire fighting foam may have negative environmental impacts, but are those impacts better or worse that using a different foam that is less effective and allows more of the building to burn (and increases the chance of human injury)? 

These are tough question that mix ethical, financial, and environmental interests and perspectives. So while some of the presentations may be somewhat dry and technical in nature (e.g. "understanding the global warming potential of different fire fighting agents), the repercussions are real and quite exciting. 

I'll be sending more updates as the conference progresses, and I encourage interested readers to check out the work of the Coalition for Responsible Fire Protection.