Term Paper: Fire Safety Management

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[. . .] BUILDING CONSTRUCTION - FIRE PROOFING

Modern day buildings are generally constructed to be more heat and fire resistant. In times of old buildings would generally go up in flames at a moments notice so to speak. Many buildings were poorly constructed to retard fire. Among the problems with early systems, other than the lack of adequate fire suppression systems, include poor ventilations and the presence of easily flammable building materials.

Fire fighting mechanisms of old also were not equipped with advanced enough technology to combat serious fires at high altitudes. That has changed. Fire codes and regulations now dictate that buildings be constructed to better resist fire and enhance life protection.

Buildings generally break down into five types. Type one and two are generally the most fire resistive; Type I is fire resistive and Type II is non-combustible. For large buildings that will have large amounts of people or may contain large amounts of flammable materials, the building is generally going to be made out of large amounts of steel and glass, and thus more likely to stand up for longer periods of time when exposed to fire. Building codes are being changed in contemporary times to reflect the need to create more fire-safe structures. Gypsum lining is being used to line I beams to help support the weight of a building against gravity; steel might expand rapidly in a fire, thus fire resistive material is being used to reduce the capacity of these metals to expand. Fire codes are being modified to reflect the importance of utilization of such materials. If a building is designed to be more fire resistive, the likelihood that the people trapped inside will escape without harm is increased when protective measures are utilized.

Type III is ordinary construction, made of ordinary materials without any specific fire proofing. Type IV and V are wood frame and heavy timber, which are generally the most combustible. These are generally the average home or old factories and churches which might be made of heavy timber. These types of structures generally do not lend themselves as advanced protection as Type I and II buildings. Fire codes unfortunately cannot be made retroactive; one modern day problem within the fire service is the lack of ability to enforce new codes on old buildings. Fire protection agencies can't require owner/operators of older buildings to go back and retro-fit their buildings with new protection devices. Unfortunately, this can result in complication and deaths in the event of a serious fire.

Triangle Shirtwaste Factory Fire 1911

The triangle shirtwaste factory fire of 1911 is a classic example of how everything could go wrong in a fire went wrong. This fire was considered the worst factory fire to occur in the history of New York City (Jackson, 1995). The fire began on the eight floor of the building; the Triangle Company occupied the top three of ten floors, and five hundred women were employed there, the majority of whom were young women aged thirteen to twenty three. The proprietors had locked the doors leading to the exits on the evening in question to keep the women at their machines. The fire spread quickly and was fed by the thousands of pounds of fabric the women used to sew with.

The firefighters attempting to put out the fire arrived quickly but their equipment only extended to the sixth floor, and many of the life safety nets broke as groups of three or more women attempted to escape the burning building. 146 women died in less than fifteen minutes in the fire, more than in any other fire in the city with the exception of individuals aboard the General Slocum in 1904 (Jackson, 1995).

There were many factors that contributed to the severity of this fire. These include the following:

Contents and structure of the building were such that the fire rapidly grew and spread

Additionally, flammable contents were piled up in the floors where the women were working

No stand pipe system existed

Unsafe fire safety practices were followed

No adequate ventilation systems were available

There was no evacuation system established to evacuate the building

Under these situations, there fire department was very limited in their ability to fight this fire. Under modern construction codes, this fire might have been minimized allowing a greater chance for survival. Regardless of construction however, the occupants did not have an adequate emergency evacuation plan from which to rely on in the event of an emergency. Even worse, they were trapped in their building by the building owner.

This fire can be compared to modern day technology where buildings are designed to resist heat. Most of the buildings constructed during the time of the Triangle Fire disaster were not designed for maximum heat resistance. In a majority of situations in contemporary society also, frequent fire inspections are required in buildings housing large numbers of employees. Additionally, fire evacuation plans are required. In modern times also, the fire fighting technology is improved so fires are put out a lot faster and more efficiently.

Fire codes have also been developed to ensure building safety by ensuring things like all fire doors have to open out so people do not pile up. The wide bars enable the door to open up (often called panic doors). Large numbers of people trying to escape a burning building would probably be too panicked to find a doorknob and turn it. Additional safety precaution measures fire codes have helped establish include the use of exit lights. Exit lights are required in most major buildings; in addition they have to be illuminated independently of the buildings electrical system. Fire exists have to be clearly marked; an individual shouldn't go very far into a building. Doors leading into stairwells should have automatic shutting mechanisms but can't be locked.

HVAC systems also are now utilized to help prevent fire. HVAC systems are sometimes programmed to operate to vent smoke and products of combustion out and away from stairways. They can also be shut down to retard the spread of fire and smoke.

EDITH - Exit Drills in the Home - Home Safety Programs

EDITH was designed primarily with homeowners in mind. It's application to home owners will first be examined, with a relation to the overall safety of modern day buildings examined next.

Exit drills in the home" is any type of prepared home to get out of a residence in the event of a fire. These consist largely of the occupants sitting down and explaining to each other the appropriate actions to take in the event of a fire, exploration of the appropriate escape routes in the event of a fire, and the establishment of a meeting place to gather once people are out of danger. EDITH plans are only useful if they are utilized, thus families are encouraged to practice them once or twice so they are prepared in the event of an emergency.

EDITH can be adapted to serve the needs of commercial occupancies as well. All buildings should have drawn out evacuation and emergency exit plans to minimize the chance of injury of loss of life in the event of a fire. These plans should be practiced. Employees should be aware of exit and evacuation routes, and should know to meet in a designated meeting space to check in during an emergency. Such actions may serve to limit the opportunity for damage to occur in the even of a disaster.

THE 'SCIENCE' BEHIND FIRE SAFETY AND PROTECTION

The protection engineering is based on realities that more people are killed in fires by smoke and products of combustion than anything else. A lot of fire protection has been geared at making it easier to exit the building, why things like having HVAC systems that vent out of hallways and stairwells and having doors that open out have become important. Paint and carpet have also been examined to identify what types of off gas these materials will exude when they combust.

The next biggest threat is the safety of firefighter from the collapse of a building. Many firefighters that get killed are usually stuck or lost in a building. They run out of air. Thus one of the factors that is emphasized is safety through building construction, and knowing the building, type of building, what is made out of, will influence the plans of how to attack a fire.

Despite departments and fire safety manager's best efforts at protection and education, accidents still occur. This is exemplified by the recent tragedies occurring in night clubs throughout the United States. Recently a night club fire in Rhode Island resulted in the deaths of numerous young people.

Some other historical events had occurred that should clue people in that some of the deadliest fires now faced are in clubs and dance halls. An example of these is listed… [END OF PREVIEW]

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