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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation P-19-007
Details
Synopsis: On August 10, 2016, at 11:51 p.m., eastern daylight time, a 14-unit apartment building, located at 8701 Arliss Street, in the unincorporated community of Silver Spring, in Montgomery County, Maryland, partially collapsed due to a natural gas-fueled explosion and fire. The explosion and fire also heavily damaged an adjacent apartment building, 8703 Arliss Street, which shared a common wall with building 8701. As a result of this accident, 7 residents died, 65 residents were transported to the hospital, and 3 firefighters were treated and released from the hospital. The damage from the accident exceeded $1 million. The following are safety issues in this accident: • the location and inspection of service regulators within a structure • the inspection of the gas meter assembly • the notification of the natural gas odor to Washington Gas Light Company • the detection of natural gas through odorants and methane
Recommendation: TO THE NATIONAL FIRE PROTECTION ASSOCIATION: In coordination with the Gas Technology Institute and the International Code Council, revise the National Fuel Gas Code, National Fire Protection Association 54 to require methane detection systems for all types of residential occupancies with gas service. At a minimum, the provisions should cover the installation, maintenance, placement of the detectors, and testing requirements.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Open - Initial Response Received
Mode: Pipeline
Location: Silver Spring, MD, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA16FP003
Accident Reports: Building Explosion and Fire
Report #: PAR-19-01
Accident Date: 8/10/2016
Issue Date: 6/10/2019
Date Closed:
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: National Fire Protection Association (Open - Initial Response Received)
Keyword(s):

Safety Recommendation History
From: National Fire Protection Association
To: NTSB
Date: 8/27/2019
Response: -From L. Seth Statler, Director of Government Affairs: The first action we took was the distribution of the adopted report, NTSBIPAR-19-01, to the National Fuel Gas Code Technical Committee, who are responsible for NFPA 54. They already were scheduled to meet as part of their Second Draft meeting on the next code revision, but staff believed it was important to provide the committee with early notification of the NTSB recommendation. The report was provided as part of the agenda for the committee's July 8, 2019 meeting. Because this was the Second Draft stage of the code development process, it was not appropriate for them to take action at this time with respect to the recommendation. However, NFPA staff will continue to update NTSB on the actions of this committee when it convenes for the next revision cycle. Three members of your staff - Julie Perrot, Rachael Gunaratnum, and Sean Lynum - joined NFPA Senior Director Guy Colonna and myself on a conference call held July 26, 2019 to discuss our proposed approach to standards development intended to address the Board recommendation. Several activities are underway to address the NTSB concerns. Even before learning of the incident and the Board's investigation, NFPA received a "new project initiation request" in August 2018 from a stakeholder active with NFPA 54. In response to incidents like Silver Spring and many others throughout the US, the request seeks action by the NFPA Standards Council to consider establishing a new technical committee to develop a new standard on residential gas detection. Specifically, the request recommends that the new standard address installation and placement of single and multi-station residential combustible gas detectors that specifically detect common fuel gases, such as natural gas (methane) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG or propane). The NFPA Standards Council approved the request during its April 2019 meeting, and at its recent August meeting, the Council voted to approve the committee scope and membership roster for this new committee NFPA acknowledges the specific recommendation of the Board, which was to revise NFPA 54 to require residential methane gas detection with requirements addressing installation, maintenance, placement, and testing of detectors. NFPA believes that the alternative strategy to create a stand-alone standard specifically for residential gas detection devices and systems achieves and even exceeds the technical intent of your recommendation for the following reasons: (1) As outlined in the recommendation, the NFPA 54 committee does not have the requisite expertise to develop new requirements specific to gas detection. For that reason, creating the separate committee with unique expertise only related to residential gas detection assures a final set of requirements that address all aspects of gas detection, including those in the Board's recommendation. Once developed, NFPA 54 could be revised to refer to this new standard to ensure provisions for gas detection are included in the code in the future. Furthermore, based on comments during our discussion with your staff, the inclusion of a reference to this new residential gas detector standard within NFPA 54 enables widespread implementation of the new requirements due to the broad adoption of NFPA 54 throughout the US. It is also likely that this life safety requirement for residential gas detection could be incorporated into NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, as well as building and fire codes, further ensuring wide adoption. (2) The Board's recommendation speaks specifically to methane gas detection, while NFPA 54 addresses all fuel gases (flammable gases used for gas fuel-burning appliances), which most commonly includes both natural gas (methane) as well as liquefied petroleum gas (LPG which is generally referred to as propane). NFPA believes that a separate standard that is specific to residential gas detection devices and systems would allow a result that exceeds the Board's recommendation because it covers both common fuel gases and is not limited to methane as stated in the recommendation. A new gas detection-specific standard would be able to include requirements that recognize and address the gas behavior differences for methane and propane; for example, different lower flammable (explosive) limits (LFL or LEL) and different vapor densities (applies to whether gas rises or sinks upon release). Those two characteristics alone are essential in order to fully meet the provisions defined by the Board's recommendation. A separate standard assures that NFPA would meet or exceed the Board's request. (3) One additional reason for the approach that NFPA has proposed involves a parallel research effort proposed by the same stakeholder who requested the new standards project. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) functions as a separate, but affiliated, research arm for NFPA to explore research and data driven answers to questions or problems that emerge from our standards development activities. The FPRF received a request to conduct a study of the placement of the residential gas detectors in order to better guide and inform the standards development process. That project is currently seeking qualified researchers to perform the proposed work. Upon completion the results have the potential to strengthen the requirements developed by the new committee, thus another instance where the proposed NFPA approach would potentially exceed the request in the recommendation. (4) Because the NFPA consensus standards development process attracts a diverse range of stakeholders, the awareness of this effort is broad and the process affords a forum for the widest representation of interests and stakeholder groups. As part of the ongoing solicitation of committee applicants, NFPA wants the Board to know that both ICC and GTI, co-recipients of the recommendation to address residential gas detection, have applied to the new NFPA technical committee and have been appointed to the committee as of the August Council meeting. We appreciate the positive feedback from your staff to this alternate approach addressing the Board's recommendation. As discussed during the call, all NFPA committee meetings are open to the public, and we encourage your staff to consider attendance at the initial meeting of this committee as it begins its work in order to brief the committee on the incident, lessons learned and the specifics of the recommendation. NFPA and its staff cannot control the process or content of any standard to be ultimately developed through our process. However, as we have demonstrated through prior interactions with your Board (high-hazard freight train derailments for example) and the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, we believe a new technical committee formed under ANSI consensus rules will be responsive to the important safety issues NTSB has identified in the P-19-007 recommendation. Senior Director Guy Colonna intends to provide regular updates to your staff on the progress of these actions that have been initiated. At the same time, as the Director of Government Affairs for NFPA, I stand ready to provide assistance on this or any other issue. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you, other members of your Board and the NTSB staff. We commend you for the very difficult but important safety role that NTSB performs.

From: NTSB
To: National Fire Protection Association
Date: 6/10/2019
Response: The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged by Congress with investigating every civil aviation accident in the United States and significant accidents in other modes of transportation—railroad, highway, marine, and pipeline. We determine the probable cause of the accidents and issue safety recommendations aimed at preventing future accidents. In addition, we carry out special studies concerning transportation safety and coordinate the resources of the federal government and other organizations to assist victims and their family members affected by major transportation disasters. We are providing the following information to urge your organization to act on the safety recommendation in this letter because we believe your organization can help reduce the risk of future accidents. For more information about NTSB and our recommendation process, please see the attached one-page summary. On April 24, 2019, the NTSB adopted its report, Building Explosion and Fire, Silver Spring, Maryland, August 10, 2016, NTSB/PAR-19/01. The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be found in the attached report, which can also be accessed at http://www.ntsb.gov. As a result of this investigation, the NTSB identified the following safety issues: • The location and inspection of service regulators within a structure. • The inspection of the gas meter assembly. • The notification of the natural gas odor to Washington Gas Light Company. • The detection of natural gas through odorants and methane. Accordingly, the NTSB makes the following safety recommendation to the National Fire Protection Association. Additional information regarding this recommendation can be found in the noted section of the report. • In coordination with the Gas Technology Institute and the International Code Council, revise the National Fuel Gas Code, National Fire Protection Association 54 to require methane detection systems for all types of residential occupancies with gas service. At a minimum, the provisions should cover the installation, maintenance, placement of the detectors, and testing requirements. (P-19-007) (See section 2.5.2.) The NTSB is vitally interested in this recommendation because it is designed to prevent accidents and save lives. We would appreciate a response within 90 days, detailing the actions you have taken or intend to take to implement this recommendation. When replying, please refer to the safety recommendation by number (for example, P-19-007). We encourage you to submit your response to correspondence@ntsb.gov. If your reply exceeds 20MB, including attachments, please e-mail us at the same address for instructions on how to send larger documents. Please do not submit both an electronic copy and a hard copy of the same response.