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2008 Edition, 2008

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Fire Protection Handbook

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Since its first edition more than a century ago, the Fire Protection Handbook has endeavored to fulfill the needs of the fire protection community for a single-source handbook on the state of the art in fire protection and fire prevention practices.

It was originally known as the Handbook of the Underwriter’s Bureau of New England and was first published in 1896, the same year that the National Fire Protection Association was founded. The original author, Everett U. Crosby, was manager of the Underwriter’s Bureau of New England, and one of the stock fire insurance company executives who came together to develop a consistent set of sprinkler rules in 1895 that led to the formation of NFPA. He also became the first secretary of NFPA, serving from 1896 to 1903, and chairman of the NFPA executive committee from 1903 to 1907. His father, Umberto C. Crosby, was the first chairman of the NFPA executive committee, serving in 1896 and 1897, and the second president of NFPA, serving from 1897 to 1900. Henry A. Fiske joined Crosby as coeditor of the 2nd edition in 1901, and the Handbook later became known as the Crosby-Fiske Handbook of Fire Protection. H. Walter Forster joined the editorial team in 1918, and in 1935, Crosby, Fiske, and Forster donated all rights to their handbook to the NFPA. NFPA has published all successive editions since that 8th edition to this 19th edition.

The history of the Handbook from 1896 to 1996 can be found in Appendix C, “What Time Has Crystallized into Good Practice,” by Gordon P. (Mac) McKinnon.

The Fire Protection Handbook has changed significantly in the past 100 years. While the body of knowledge in the field of fire protection has proliferated, the Handbook has kept pace, expanding from 183 pages in the first edition to over 3200 pages in this 19th edition. As the most pressing concerns of fire protection have evolved, from property protection concerns of citywide conflagrations in the late 1800s, through life safety concerns for public occupancies at the beginning of the 1900s, to an overall systems approach in use today, the number of subjects covered by the Handbook has increased greatly. This is evidenced by the expansion of the text from the short, running commentary that made up the first edition to material organized into 200 chapters and for the first time two volumes. Today, there are more chapters than there were pages in 1896!

The Handbook is organized around the six major strategies that are the building blocks of a systems approach to fire safety through balanced fire protection:

 • Prevention of ignition

 • Design to slow early fire growth

 • Detection and alarm

 • Suppression

 • Confinement of fire

 • Evacuation of occupants

Production of the Fire Protection Handbook through 19 editions and 107 years has involved literally thousands of fire protection experts from within and outside NFPA. However, in addition to its founders over the past three quarters of a century, a handful of individuals have been especially responsible for establishing the Handbook as the “reference of record” of fire protection practitioners.

 • Robert S. Moulton, late NFPA technical secretary, who, during his 40 years of service, edited the 9th, 10th, and 11th editions;

• George H. (Hitch) Tryon, late NFPA assistant vice president, who edited the 12th and 13th editions;

 • Richard E. Stevens, late NFPA vice president and chief engineer, who, during his 35 years with the Association, contributed to five editions of the Handbook and served as chief technical consultant for the 14th and 15th editions;

 • Gordon P. (Mac) McKinnon, retired NFPA editor-in-chief, who was directly involved in the preparation of five editions of the Handbook over a quarter century. He served as editorial coordinator of the 12th edition, managing editor of the 13th edition, editor of the 14th and 15th editions, and consulting editor for the 16th edition;

 • Jim L. Linville, managing editor of the 16th, 17th, and 18th editions;

 • John R. Hall, Jr., who devised the current organization of the Handbook around the systems approach to fire protection beginning with the 17th edition, and served as associate editor for this 19th edition;

 • Pamela A. Powell, managing editor for this 19th edition.

I am especially proud to have had the privilege of acting as editor-in-chief for the 16th, 17th, 18th, and this 19th edition.

In offering this edition of the Fire Protection Handbook, the editors solicit suggestions for improvements in the interest of making future editions increasingly useful to all concerned. Every effort has been made to ensure that the text is consistent with the best available information on current fire protection practices. However, the National Fire Protection Association, as a body, is not responsible for the contents, as there has been no opportunity for the membership to review the Handbook before its publication. If readers discover errors or omissions, the editors would appreciate those shortcomings being called to their attention.