Archives For fire barrier

When a fire occurs that results in death, it is very rare to find that the victims died due to actual fire or flame impingement.  Much more common is death by smoke.  When items begin to burn the particles they are made up of begin to break down (this is smoke), and those particles become toxic.  There are three ways that smoke can kill a person:

  1. Particles. Tiny, burned, unburned, and partially burned substances penetrate into the respiratory system and lodge into the lungs.  Some of these particles can be toxic, they can cause respiratory functions to cease,  or they can be super-heated causing the lungs to burn and fail.
  2. Vapors. Fog-like droplets that poison the body if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.
  3. Toxic gases.  Carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and phosgene are the most common types found in fires.  These gases are all put off by common household items that we all may have; items such as plastic, foam, and vinyl. These gases displace the oxygen in your bloodstream, or bond to it leading to death.

This short video shows the importance of utilizing products and assemblies that prevent the spread of smoke:

The health care industry continues to fight for the removal and neglect of these smoke barriers. Think of the lives that could be affected if smoke from even a small fire is allowed to move freely through the corridors and rooms of a one of these facilities.  Lives that could have been saved by nothing more than a rated smoke barrier, may now be lost due to the harmful effects of smoke that was permitted to move uninhibited throughout the space.

Stand with the Patient Fire Safety Coalition on April 21-30, 2013 in Dallas to oppose these code change proposals and be a voice for those who may not have one.

 

 

From this article, “Preemptive Strike” (Fire Chief, May 2011), by Gerald Hughes we see the purpose of fire prevention and how balanced fire protection is required to maintain the highest level of fire protection and life safety.  Utilizing the well-known fire triangle, Hughes inserts three points of prevention and how they can break up that fire triangle.  Fire prevention and life safety is at its strongest when all of these components are effectively in place.  Hughes calls this the Fire Prevention Triangle, and states that “it illustrates how human actions and engineering principles combine to have a synergistic effect on the prevention and extinguishment of unwanted fires”.

 

 

1.  Engineering Principles –  By understanding fire, its patterns and behavior, structures and facilities can be engineered so that the threat of fire or loss of life is grossly minimized.  
     1.  Active suppression – on-site equipment that suppresses/extinguishes fire, this could include  fire extinguishers, fire sprinkler systems, and standpipes.

     2.  Passive resistance – structural elements created to separate human beings from fire, these are fire rated walls and smoke barriers, protected openings in these walls, fire stopping, and flame retardants.

     3.  Early detection – installed systems that provide advance warning of fire, this can be as simple as a smoke alarm or as complex as a full fire alarm system.

2.  Human Responsibility  –  support of fire prevention and firefighting
     1.  Fire inspections – to determine compliance with fire codes, and create pre-plans

     2.  Code enforcement – to enforce the correction of violations

     3.  Firefighting – to suppress fires, and investigate to determine cause and origin

 

3.  Fire Safety Education – center of an effective fire prevention program
     1.  Public education – disseminates fire/life safety messages to the public, creates awareness, trains building managers on the proper maintenance of engineered systems (fire walls, sprinkler systems, and fire alarms)

     2.  Training – technical training providing fire inspectors with the skills needed for effective job performance

 

Just as in the original fire triangle, if you take one of these items away, then it all falls apart (in the case of fire triangle, the fire is extinguished).  This illustration aptly demonstrates the necessity of balanced fire protection.  For example, if a facility was to install active suppression (i.e., a fire sprinkler systems), then eliminate its passive fire protection, then that level of protection between fuel and heat has been removed, and risk of fire and life loss is increased.  Furthermore, if the public education and training component is missing, whereas building owners or facility managers are not educated as to the necessary inspection and maintenance of the engineered systems (active suppression, passive resistance, early detection) then the whole prevention triangle is at risk of falling apart, and the three elements of fire move ever closer together, once again increasing fire and life loss risk.

Even with this knowledge, in an effort to increase profits, the health care industry is attempting to remove these components and rely primarily on active suppression (which, in itself, is not 100% successful).  Removing the fire prevention control of, passive resistance, and with no guarantee of proper systems maintenance the fire elements – fuel, heat and oxygen – are permitted to come together, virtually unhindered.

With these systems missing how safe will your local health care facility be to the members of your community?  Take action now!
    

 

If fire sprinklers are so great, why do buildings equipped with fire sprinklers still burn?   This short video clip from FM Global  gives us an answer to this question:

 

 

This video shows three possible scenarios that could negatively affect fire sprinkler performance, design deficiencies (from changed use of occupancy space), system impairment, early system shut-down.  These are all probable scenarios.  If any of these were to take place, the occupants of the facility would be in grave danger.  However, this is a primary reason to have redundancy in life safety systems, this is why fire protection features work together and are not stand alone.  If a sprinkler system should fail, a fire could be held in check by a fire barrier, and the damage compartmentalized.

In the upcoming International Fire Code Committee Action Hearings, the healthcare industry will try to institute code chagnes that eliminate fire and smoke barriers, thus removing a level of safety for patients that may be incapable of self preservation.  These proposed changes include:

  • Elimination of fire resistance rated corridors (IFC 1105.3.2)
  • Allowance of unprotected openings in corridor smoke barriers (IFC 1105.3.4)
  • Discontinuing maintenance of existing smoke and fire barriers (IFC 1103.1)
  • Treat  existing smoke barriers as ½ hour rated, not requiring any fire stopping or opening protectives (IFC 1105.5.2)
  • Consider glass walls in sprinkled buildings to be 1 hour rated (IFC 1103.4.1)

The Patient Fire Safety Coalition is committed to speaking against these code changes, and standing up for the safety of the many patients that visit our nations hospitals.  If you are interested in joining the fight you can sign up to receive updates to this site so that you can stay informed and have the most current patient fire safety information, you can attend the code hearings and let your voice be heard, and you can contact us at info@patientfiresafety.org for more information and assistance in this.