Archives For fire sprinkler fail

ICC Scorecard

May 10, 2013 — Leave a comment

 

Tour-course-scorecard

 

In April, at the ICC Committee Action Hearings in Dallas, the Patient Fire Safety Coalition spoke out against four code change proposals brought forth by the AdHoc Healthcare Committee.

  1. F212-13 – 1103.1;1104.1, “…the existing fire resistance ratings, opening protectives, penetrations, and joints in assemblies are not required to be maintained…”  
  2. F218-13 – 1103.4.1, “…glass walls shall be considered to be equivalent to 1-hour fire-resistance rated construction…”
  3. F239-13 – 1105.3.2, “Unless required elsewhere in the code, corridor 
  4. walls are not required to have a fire-resistance rating.”
  5. F241-13 – 1105.5.2, “Existing smoke barriers with a minimum of 1/2-hour fire-resistance rating are permitted to remain.”

Two of these changes were successfully disapproved and two were not (view all the results here)

  1. F212-13: Disapproved, 11-1
  2. F218-13: Disapproved, 13-1
  3. F239-13: Approved as Submitted, 12-0
  4. F241-13: Approved as Modified, 12-0

In October, at the ICC Annual Conference and Public Comment Hearing, the Healthcare industry will attempt to finalize and make permanent code changes F239-13 and F241-13.  Once again, we will be speaking in opposition to these changes as they currently stand, and will be seeking code officials and AHJ’s to stand with us in opposition to these changes.

In Dallas, we were able to make contact with several members of the AdHoc Healthcare Committee. We look forward to the potential of initiating  conversation regarding these proposed code changes.  Hopefully, together, we can accomplish our common goal of patient fire safety and create code language that accurately portrays that intent.

 

Call to Action

April 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

As the ICC Committee Action Hearing draws near we would like to make you aware of several critical code change proposals that the healthcare industry will attempt to get passed.  These changes negatively effect responders and patients life safety in hospitals (I-2 occupancies).

The healthcare industry proposes to:

• Discontinue maintenance of existing smoke and fire barriers (IFC 1103.1/1104.1; F212-13)

• Consider glass walls in sprinklered buildings to be 1 hour rated (IFC 1103.4.1; F218-13)

• Eliminate fire resistance rated corridors (IFC 1105.3.2; F239-13)

• Treat existing smoke barriers as ½ hour rated, not requiring any fire stopping or opening protectives (IFC 1105.5.2; F241-13)

The Patient Fire Safety Coalition is an advocacy group that serves patients and individuals who become “not capable of self-preservation”; ensuring that they will be safe in their healing environment. The Patient Fire Safety Coalition is the voice for those who cannot speak, and a watch dog to make certain that health care facilities maintain the highest standards of fire protection and life safety.

We need code officials and AHJ’s to speak against these changes in Dallas.  Please join the cause. If you would like more information contact us at info@patientfiresafety.org.

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.

 

The National Fire Protection Association’s study, U.S. Experience With Sprinklers, shows that fire sprinkler systems are only effective about 90% of the time. By reviewing fire loss data, examining investigative fire reports, and researching fire and building history, the National Fire Protection Association was able to catalogue all the reasons that fire sprinklers fail.  The majority of fire sprinkler failures fall into one of these four categories:

  1. Failure to maintain operational status of the system.
  2.  Failure to assure adequacy of system and/or the complete coverage of the current hazard.
  3.  Defects affecting, but not involving, the sprinkler system.
  4.  Inadequate performance by the sprinkler system itself.

Failure to maintain operational status of the system. It goes without saying, an adequate water supply is an essential and critical part of any sprinkler system.  Yet, this is the primary cause of fire sprinkler failure.  The water supply valve could be shut-down for any variety of reasons, including routine maintenance, building construction/demolition, system impairment, or improper valve installation.  With any portion of the sprinkler system out of service (for any length of time), the smallest fire will quickly grow beyond the sprinkler systems capabilities.

Failure to assure adequacy of the system or complete and accurate coverage of the current hazard. Every sprinkler system is designed to protect a certain type of hazard based on a buildings proposed use.  Over time the use of the facility, or certain areas of, may change, or the hazard may increase due to the types of material being used or stored.  A sprinkler system designed for an ordinary hazard will quickly be overcome and disabled against a fire involving high hazard contents.

Defects affecting, but not involving, the sprinkler system. These include changes to the water distribution system, faulty building construction, and lack of compartmentation.  R. Thomas Long, Jr., P.E. in his article for Fire Protection Engineering states,

 Compartmentation of hazards through the use of fire barriers and walls is a fire protection strategy in itself, but physical separations can play a role in the effectiveness of the sprinkler system.  High hazard areas in buildings can be segregated by fire-resistance-rated construction.  The concept is to contain the fire in the compartment and prevent spread outward…Vigilance is necessary in maintaining passive fire protection compartmentation, not only to prevent the spread of fire, but to also improve the effectiveness of the sprinkler system in the area of fire involvement.

Inadequate performance by the sprinkler system itself.  This is the most rare cause of fire sprinkler system failure, a defect in the system itself, component damage, or failure to properly activate.  These incidents most commonly occur as a consequence of a fire.  Overall sprinkler system components are extremely reliable.

With a fire sprinkler success rate of only 90%, there is only one solution for protecting those that “are not capable of self preservation”, balanced fire protection. We need fire sprinkler systems, we need fire rated wall and corridor assemblies, and we must maintain smoke barriers.  It is only in this balanced approach to fire protection that makes survivability in fire emergencies possible.