Olga Caledonia (NFPA): “Counting on Riskonet for delivering safety in Europe”

28 march 2017

To the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Riskonet is an important advocate for safer practices in Europe, through better knowledge and application of codes and standards. Olga Caledonia, NFPA’s executive director, international operations, insists that “advocates like Riskonet are key to our success and are essential to help us fulfil our mission: we help save lives and reduce loss with information, knowledge and passion.”

Olga Caledonia is responsible for promoting the adoption and use of NFPA’s codes and standards throughout the world. She manages licensing and translation agreements for more than 100 codes, standards and reference publications in several languages. She also works very closely with NFPA training providers throughout the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Europe. Over the years, she has travelled extensively across regions building relationships with local Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) and Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs).

How does she feel about her job, how much of a missionary is she? “I view my work as ‘Giving Back’, which is some kind of missionary work – but in a different fashion. I am fortunate to represent an organization recognized as the global leader in fire, electrical and life safety. Advocating prevention through codes, standards and appropriate enforcement mechanisms is an enormous responsibility. I grew up believing we exist to help others – in my case helping nations with the regulatory framework but more importantly making a difference in the lives of their citizens.”

Riskonet pillar

Mrs. Caledonia points out that, in over a hundred years, NFPA’s efforts have extended far beyond US borders. In Europe, Riskonet is one of the pillars on which the NFPA builds its network and clout. “We offer an established network of training providers around the world and we are proud to work with the expertise of Riskonet and the leadership of Riskonet’s Tom de Nooij, who manages the NFPA training offerings for Europe.”

Mrs. Caledonia points out that promoting a clear, consensus-based set of codes and standards for the world, can only be successful when it is supported by global advocates like Riskonet. “NFPA members, NFPA technical committee volunteers, private and public organizations like fire service organizations, fire protection associations and safety training providers like Riskonet have always been the backbone of our international development. Organizations like Riskonet are vital to increasing the use of NFPA technical and educational information in Europe. Besides offering training, they are the conduit to other NFPA services for NFPA stakeholders in Europe like association membership and access to NFPA publications and related solutions.”

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Input, feedback

Furthermore, the international standards that NFPA is developing and promoting need the input and feedback by knowledgeable local parties like Riskonet. Having people like Tom de Nooij in our committees helps us align the standards with local rulings and culture in Europe.”

According to mrs. Caledonia, NFPA’s methods for developing truly international codes and standards are a strong asset. “Our codes and standards are best practices created through procedures accredited for their consensus decision-making, openness, balance of interests represented, and fairness. When I think of how NFPA standards are developed and shaped to fit into European practice, I think of words like user-accepted, partnership, consensus-based, adaptive, updated, flexible, effective, independent, technology, best-practice and public-private.”

Flexibility crucial

The NFPA director believes that adaptability and flexibility are crucial. “We recognize that countries are entitled to have the rules it lives by written in its language of choice. As a developer of codes and standards used and adopted by many countries, we also understand that every nation is entitled to modify model rules to suit its own special needs and circumstances. As a developer of international model documents, NFPA accepts such changes as a legitimate part of the process – as long as NFPA’s intellectual property rights are acknowledged and respected.”

Given its international safety advocacy efforts, NFPA aims to be a partner in developing countries. Olga Caledonia mentions disastrous factory fires in Bangladesh, nightclub fires in Brazil and Thailand, and the fires and explosions in Tianjin, China. “We have sent NFPA experts to Bangladesh to evaluate the remediation of existing garment factories and the framework for sustainability of the electrical, fire and life safety infrastructure within the country.”

Next: big data

What is next in the development of NFPA’s international standards? Caledonia: “Big data is becoming much more important. There is a lot we can learn by looking at data related to fire incidents, fire department operations, inspection, testing/maintenance (ITM), building & property, smart sensors, online & mobile communications, demographics, census, and insurance.”

Mrs. Caledonia is convinced that the ‘quest for data’ will help increase safety of people and assets all over the world. “It is the information and knowledge that helps push the envelope every day – to support fire fighter safety, community risk reduction, safer products, loss reduction, optimized inspections, accurate forecasting, real-time instruction, greater efficiencies, better engagement, ROI, cost savings, and targeted risk reduction strategies.”

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