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Jun 6, 2023

Welcome to RIMScast. Your host is Justin Smulison, Business Content Manager at RIMS, the Risk and Insurance Management Society.


Ralph Bless currently serves as Telgian Engineering & Consulting’s Executive Vice President, Innovation and Excellence. He has more than 40 years of experience in fire protection, including a broad range of water-based and special hazard system design, code consulting, and fire protection engineering services. Bless holds multiple state and national certifications, including that of Certified Fire Protection Specialist. He also serves on six National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committees. These include chair for Record Storage, NFPA 232, as well as NFPA 1, NFPA 13 SSI (Installation) and the Correlating Committees, NFPA 15, and NFPA 915.


Key Takeaways:

[:01] About RIMScast.

[:27] About today’s episode: Fire Risk in Commercial and Industrial Buildings.

[:34] All about upcoming RIMS webinars, and more!

[1:13] The RIMS Canada Conference 2023 has been announced for September 11th‒14th in Ottowa! Visit for more information.

[1:30] On September 14th, the Spencer Educational Foundation returns to New York City for its Annual Funding Their Future Gala. The event will be held at the Cipriani 42nd Street. A link is on this episode’s notes. You can also visit

[1:47] Head to the page! The RIMS Legislative Summit is returning to  Washington, D.C. on October 25th and 26th. Visit the link in the show notes.

[2:01] Be on the lookout for the call for submissions for the RIMS ERM Conference, which will be held November 2nd and 3rd in Denver, Colorado! Check your inboxes.

[2:18] RIMS is partnering with Conrad Clark Nigeria for a RIMS CRMP Exam Prep virtual workshop Saturdays in July: July 1st, 8th, and 15th. Start your RIMS CRMP journey today! The link is in the show notes.

[2:41] The new and mixed commodities being brought into commercial and industrial buildings are adding to the evolution and omnipresence of fire risks. Ralph Bless is here to discuss how to identify these materials and machines and the need for full-scale testing. Justin welcomes Ralph Bless to RIMScast.

[3:05] About Ralph’s 40-year career in the industry with new construction, remodels, maintenance, and testing.

[3:46] How Ralph has worked with risk professionals has changed in the past few years, from dealing with the pandemic, how facilities are used, and bringing people back into facilities, including egress and protection issues.

[4:30] Fire risk in facilities has evolved in how we’re using the buildings, and what we’re putting in them. The products have changed, from hand sanitizer, batteries, and plastics, to the packaging around them. From the start of Ralph’s career to today, the fire risk has grown significantly.

[5:22] The changes in fire risk have been across the board, from offices to storage, to manufacturing facilities. The requirements for sprinklers for multi-rack systems have changed, for example, providing challenges for Telgian’s clients and the industry.

[6:17] Batteries, whether for electric vehicles or everyday equipment, have changed the fire risk. A very small battery can create a very large fire. Telgian is exploring how to protect against battery fires. Packaging and the manner of storing products also add fire risks. Plastic pallets have replaced wood pallets.

[7:12] Automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) are popular. The robots and lift vehicles are battery-powered with their charging stations, creating new risks as workers are returning to facilities.

[8:11] The codes, standards, data sheets, and guidelines are behind the times. There has not been enough testing to know to protect these new automated facilities. In a lot of cases, water alone is not the solution.

[8:31] Ralph lists data sheets, guidelines, and codes that need to be modernized. One of the significant challenges of code development, for instance, the NFPA code, is the three-year cycle to update. Those are adopted by the building codes one year later. Then the building codes need to be adopted by the states, provinces, and countries.

[9:34] By the time facility builders and managers have the codes and standards, they are at least four years old. Technology changes faster than that.

[10:06] Ralph serves on six NFPA technical committees and some certification bodies. He likes the NFPA process and has been involved in it for some years. Everybody gets a voice. The challenge is in keeping up with what’s going on. NFPA is involved in full-scale fire testing as well as code development, working with state and local jurisdictions.

[11:02]  RIMS plug time! Sponsor a weekly or dedicated episode of RIMScast! Contact us at The virtual workshop Managing Worker Compensation, Employer's Liability and Employment Practices in the U.S. will be June 20–21, Register by June 19! [11:49] A three-part virtual workshop on data risk management will be June 15.

Earn the RIMS Fundamentals of Risk Data Analytics and AI certificate when you complete this workshop series. See Registration closes June 14th. Additional courses are on September 14th and December 7th.

[12:31] The webinar Large-Scale Risk: How Walmart Manages the Risks Unique to Large and Growing Companies will be on June 22, 2023. Scott Fenstermaker of Riskonnect will lead the session. Scott tells about the webinar featuring Chip Hargrave of Walmart. It’s going to be fantastic! Visit to sign up for this webinar and others.

[15:28] With their larger customers and facilities, Telgian does fire modeling, egress modeling, fire development modeling, smoke modeling, or full-scale fire testing. The codes and standards need to be generic, but specialized facilities need to be full-scale fire-tested. It makes good business sense.

[16:54] Ralph discusses how organizations can manage the risks of new commodities and devices in their facilities. Take a hard look at how the use of the facility has changed and the product has changed. He shares the example of plastic toys in open packaging on store shelves and vertically stacked mattresses that burn vigorously.

[18:22] Facilities managers may think that inspecting their sprinkler and alarm systems regularly for wear and tear is enough, but they need to be analyzed for how well they will protect the facility in a fire. Involve loss control engineer consultants and the risk department in the analysis. Work with the community fire department.

[20:20] About the nearly year-round wildfire risk in the U.S. Some insurance companies refuse to insure certain areas. How do we protect facilities and become good stewards?

[21:22] Risk professionals should collaborate with Operations, R&D, the community, your insurance providers, your loss control engineers, the risk team, and any consultants you may bring in.

[22:19] Fire risk isn’t calculated by the month but by the industry involved. Telgian has seen large facility fires in every month of the last year and a half. You really have to be on your game all the time.

[22:59] Justin says a “special thanks to Ralph Bless for joining RIMScast today.” Listen to the episodes related to fire risks and water damage reduction linked on the show notes.

[23:18] Sponsor a RIMScast episode to reach a global audience! Justin shares other RIMS offerings, including a transitional membership, Risk Management Magazine, and the Risk Management Monitor blog! Justin thanks you for your continued engagement!


Mentioned in this Episode:

RIMS Canada 2023 — Sept. 11–14 in Ottawa!

Spencer Educational Foundation — Funding Their Future Gala – Sept. 14, 2023

Contribute to Risk Management Magazine

RIMS Diversity Equity & Inclusion page

RIMS ERM Conference Nov 2 & 3 | Submit a session by June 30

Upcoming Webinars:

The Top 10 Must-Have Reports for GRC and InfoSec Leaders | Sponsored by Resolver | June 8, 2023

Cyber Risk: Sharper Security or Dulled to the Danger? | Sponsored by Beazley | June 20, 2023

Large-Scale Risk: How Walmart Manages the Risks Unique to Large and Growing Companies | Sponsored by Riskonnect | June 22, 2023

Upcoming Virtual Workshops:

RIMS Fundamentals of Risk Data, Analytics and AI | June 15, 2023 | 10:00 am–2:00 pm ET | Registration Closes June 14 | Enroll Now

Managing Worker Compensation, Employer's Liability and Employment Practices in the US | June 20–21 | 10:00 am–5:30 pm ET | Registration Closes June 19 | Enroll Now

RIMS CRMP Exam Prep with Conrad Clark Nigeria | July 1, 8, and 15

Risk Appetite Management | July 12–13

See the full calendar of RIMS Virtual Workshops

Related RIMScast Episodes:

“World Water Day, IoT, and Water Damage Reduction with John Dempsey”

“Public Violence and Workplace Safety with Lauris Freidenfelds”

“Occupational Safety Risks in 2022 with Dave Ferro”

“E-Commerce’s Impact on Fire Safety in Supply Chains with Leonard Ramo”

Sponsored RIMScast Episodes:

“Insuring the Future of the Environment” | Sponsored by AXA XL (New!)

“Insights into the Gig Economy and its Contractors” | Sponsored by Zurich (NEW!)

“The Importance of Disaster Planning Relationships” | Sponsored by ServiceMaster

“Technology, Media and Telecom Solutions in 2023” | Sponsored by Allianz

“Analytics in Action” | Sponsored by Alliant

“Captive Market Outlook and Industry Insights” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“Using M&A Insurance: The How and Why” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“Zurich’s Construction Sustainability Outlook for 2023”

“Aon’s 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Overview”

“ESG Through the Risk Lens” | Sponsored by Riskonnect

“A Look at the Cyber Insurance Market” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“How to Reduce Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Risks” | Sponsored by TÜV SÜD

“Managing Global Geopolitical Risk in 2022 and Beyond” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“Keeping Subcontractors Safe Through Partner Elevation” | Sponsored by Highwire

“ESG: A Responsibility and a Growing Megatrend” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“Prioritizing People: Focusing on Your Team to Deliver Exceptional Quality and Service to Your Clients” | Sponsored by Gallagher Bassett

“Bermuda Opportunities in 2022 with BDA Chair Stephen Weinstein” | Sponsored by Bermuda Business Development Agency

“SyncR: A Tool to Enhance Your Risk Quality & Insurance Strategy” | Sponsored by Prudent Insurance Brokers Ltd.

“RIMScast: Navigating the Risk Landscape in 2022” | Sponsored by AXA XL

“RIMScast: Prioritizing People: Expertise and Innovation” | Sponsored by Gallagher Bassett

“RIMScast: Risk Findings for the Industrial & Manufacturing Industry” | Sponsored by Aon

RIMS Publications, Content, and Links:

RIMS Membership — Whether you are a new member or need to transition, be a part of the global risk management community!

RIMS Virtual Workshops

On-Demand Webinars

Risk Management Magazine

Risk Management Monitor

RIMS Risk Leaders Series

RIMS-Certified Risk Management Professional (RIMS-CRMP)

RIMS-CRMP Stories — New interview featuring Broward County RIMS President Stacey Nielsen!

Spencer Educational Foundation

RIMS DEI Council

RIMS Path to the Boardroom

RIMS Events, Education, and Services:

RIMS Risk Maturity Model®

RIMS Events App Apple | Google Play


RIMS Buyers Guide

Dan Kugler Risk Manager on Campus Grant

Sponsor RIMScast: Contact or for more information.


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Follow up with Our Guest:

Ralph E. Bless, Jr., PE, CFPS, SET

Telgian Engineering & Consulting


Tweetables (For Social Media Use):


“Fire risk has evolved … specifically as it relates to facilities, in how we’re using the buildings, and what we’re putting in those buildings. … The products have changed, …  hand sanitizer, batteries, different types of plastics, or the packaging around it.” — Ralph E. Bless


“I don’t know about you but I don’t really want to be carrying around my cellphone from 10 years ago. It kind of relates [to outdated standards].” — Ralph E. Bless


“We’ve seen several very large-loss fires … and if you look at …  why they were catastrophic, what you’ll find is many times the smaller jurisdictions may not have understood or may not have been trained by the facility on how to respond to their … facility.” — Ralph E. Bless


“[Fire risk]; it’s not really one month out of the year. It really depends on the industry, in my experience.” — Ralph E. Bless