The Effect On Firefighters Life Safety Construction Essay


Harmonizing to the United States Fire Administration, a fire occurs in a residential construction every 79 seconds. On norm there are about 100 firemans who die in the line of responsibility every twelvemonth. Many of these deceases are attributed to structural prostration during firefighting operations. This paper will analyze the informations and statistics refering to firefighter human deaths associated with structural prostration, every bit good as building features lending to the increased life safety hazard for structural firemans. This paper will besides place recommendations to potentially diminish or extenuate the effects of these building characteristics and increase the safety of firemans in the United States.

Background and Significance

Firefighting is inherently unsafe by virtuousness of the jeopardies encountered. Firemans are asked and expected to set themselves in injuries manner to salvage the lives of others, and they do so volitionally and with full apprehension of the possible effects. However, this outlook has led to a historical tendency in schemes and tactics which are significantly aggressive, peculiarly when finding defensive vs. violative operations.

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Residential construction fires of today are significantly different and more unsafe than the residential fires of old ages past. There are legion factors that contribute to the addition in badness of residential fires which will be discussed in this paper. However, even with the increased badness and dangers associated with residential fires, fire service forces continue to use aggressive violative tactics which have led to firefighter human deaths.

Residential Features Increasing Hazards

Over the last three decennaries, there have been legion alterations in residential building and trappingss that have significantly increased the badness and strength of residential construction fires.

In the 1970s residential trappingss were preponderantly manufactured utilizing natural stuffs such as wood, cotton, wool and leather. Today, trappingss are constructed chiefly of man-made stuffs like polyurethane that were n’t widely used or even available. Testing by assorted bureaus ( UL University, NIST ) has demonstrated that these stuffs ignite more readily, contribute to rapid fire spread, burn at a much higher temperature & A ; let go of more toxic or toxicant gases. One comparative trial conducted by UL University with likewise furnished suites of natural vs. man-made stuffs demonstrated that the same fire started in both suites would hold really different consequences. In the room furnished with natural stuffs, the fire had merely reached a tallness of about 6 ” at four proceedingss and 25 seconds. Conversely, the room furnished with man-made stuffs was about to the full engulfed and making the flashover phase at four proceedingss.

Another factor lending to the high jeopardies associated with residential construction fires is the energy efficiency of modern building. Fires that have reached the free combustion phase take longer to be identified in unoccupied homes due to the deficiency of exterior airing. Hidden fires may be firing for a significant period of clip anterior to Fire Department presentment and response. Additionally, the high heat and gases are non vented to the outside, but instead trapped on the interior taking to increased hazard to firemans and greater potency for flashover and backdraft state of affairss.

Residences of today are much larger with much more unfastened floor programs. These unfastened sweeps allow for rapid spread of heat and merchandise of burning. Residential building of the yesteryear was typically much smaller and more metameric which facilitated a better ability to insulate countries of fire beginning for longer periods of clip. The smaller size of residential constructions facilitates rapid hunt and deliverance developments which decreases the sum of clip and forces required to carry through this undertaking. Basements of modern places are typically big unfastened spans. Fires arising in this scene can expose structural members to heat and flare ensuing in important potency for structural prostration when firemans make entry on upper degree floors.

The concluding building characteristic that has increased the jeopardies associated with residential construction fires is the debut and prevailing usage of lightweight building constituents. In the late 1980 ‘s and early 1990 ‘s, builders in the United States began utilizing lightweight building constituents in residential building. Harmonizing to a study published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and informations provided by the National Fire Association, there have been 180 firefighter human deaths associated with structural prostration between 1979 and 2002. Although the overall tendency in the figure of human deaths associated with structural prostration in general has decreased since 1979, the figure of firefighter human deaths associated with residential structural prostration has increased significantly. From 1979 to 1992, the figure of fireman human deaths ensuing from residential prostration remained comparatively consistent at about 14 % . However, from 1994 to 2002, the fireman human deaths due to fall in in a residential construction increased to 51 % .

Lightweight Construction Components

As social demands for lower cost “ greener ” building options additions, the usage of lower cost lightweight building components become more overriding. These lightweight building constituents offer several advantages for builders and householders, but when exposed to direct fire contact pose serious life safety hazards to fire service forces.

Harmonizing to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, engineered wood I-joists have grown in usage since the early 1990s, and by 2005 were estimated to be used in more than half of all wood-frame building. These I-joists have several advantages over traditional structural supports for builders and householders. Prefabricated engineered I-joists are lighter and stiffer, and will non falsify, turn or shrivel like solid wood framing stuffs. These, easier to utilize / install I-joists cut down building clip and labour costs. Additionally, householders and builders sing the preservation of natural resources are turning to engineered lightweight trusses and structural constituents because they are manufactured utilizing significantly less wood than traditional structural constituents. They allow for longer spans and have much less waste during the fabrication procedure.

Although these technologically advanced structural members are advantageous to builders and householders, there are tremendous disadvantages and life safety jeopardies that these stuffs pose for fire service forces. Engineered wood I-joists usually consist of a top and bottom rim made of 1 A? ” to 3 A? ” broad complex or sawn lumber with a perpendicular web made of plyboard or oriented strand board ( OSB ) which is typically 3/8 ” to 7/16 ” midst. If this perpendicular web Burnss through there is minimum structural unity to back up the weight of non merely the flooring stuffs from the floor above, but fire service forces who enter the construction.

Several organisations have conducted comparative public presentation proving on these structural members, most late ( 2008 ) UL University. This testing compared the public presentation of traditional bequest building with 2 tens 10 structural members to the public presentation of engineered I-joist structural members described above. These constituents were compared utilizing indistinguishable fire conditions in a fake cellar fire. Testing indicated that 2 x 10 joists unprotected by gypsum wall board failed and collapsed at 18 proceedingss and 35 seconds when exposed to direct fire contact. Similar proving conducted on engineered lightweight I-joists unprotected by gypsum wall board failed and collapsed in merely 6 proceedingss. This prostration allowed firefighter manikins positioned on the floor above to fall through the floor into the fire below. Extra testing was conducted on the same structural members under the same conditions, nevertheless gypsum drywall was added as a barrier between the structural members and the fire below every bit would be seen with a finished cellar with a ceiling. The 2 x 10 joists protected with gypsum drywall failed and collapsed at 44 proceedingss and 40 seconds. Relatively, the engineered lightweight I-joist protected with gypsum drywall failed and collapsed at 26 proceedingss and 43 seconds. These consequences non merely bespeak the utmost safety jeopardies associated with engineered I-joists exposed to direct fire contact, but besides the important benefit of necessitating protection for open structural members.

As discussed earlier in this paper, fires in unoccupied residential constructions may non be easy identifiable. This hold in acknowledging the fire every bit good as doing fire section presentment and response times may easy transcend the six minute timeframe identified in public presentation testing. This may ensue in firemans falling through fire damaged floors as they make entry. Structural members exposed to fire conditions underneath may significantly degrade doing the floor system to easy neglect with the added weight of firemans. This failure may happen with small indicant prior to the ruinous event. Testing indicated that floor coverings such as rug, rug cushioning and subflooring all inhibited heat transmittal to personnel operating above. Additionally, the weight of surrogate shocking stuffs such as ceramic tile and lightweight concrete may really diminish the sum of clip to failure and increase the hazard to forces runing above or below the diminished structural members.

Similar structural members are being used to manufacture roof truss systems. Similar proving being conducted on these roof trusses are holding similar consequences. Failures of these roof trusses have important potency for pin downing firemans under falling dust every bit good as leting forces executing airing operations to fall through to the fire floor below. Lightweight building features non merely affect wood or composite structural members. Commercial constructions may besides be constructed utilizing lightweight steel structural members which can present a important potency for prostration when exposed to fire conditions.

In add-on to engineered lightweight trusses discussed supra, there are several other lightweight building constituents / techniques utilized by builders that pose important life safety jeopardies to fire service forces. Metal voider home bases and finger articulations are methods used to organize articulations. Gusset home bases are thin metal home bases with little points or dentitions that are utilized to fall in one piece of timber to another to organize a truss. A finger articulation is a technique where two pieces of timber are notched to suit together and held in topographic point by adhesive / gum to organize a truss. Neither of these techniques are as structurally lasting as traditional building techniques when subjected to fire conditions.


As engineering alterations and social demands alteration, it is incumbent upon the fire service to alter and maintain up with these progresss. There are legion ways that sections and persons can break run into these challenges.

It is imperative that fire service forces stay educated on alterations in industry criterions and patterns. Incident Commanders should establish schemes and tactics at residential construction fires on current information. In finding whether operations will be violative or defensive, Incident Commanding officers should be mostly based on a carefully considered hazard vs. benefit analysis. Staying educated and cognizant of alterations is perchance the most of import technique fire service forces can use to assist cut down life safety jeopardies to firemans.

Code Changes

There are several codifications alterations that would significantly cut down the possible danger to firemans engaged in structural firefighting operations. As discussed earlier in this paper, it has been proven that structural assemblies protected by either gypsum drywall or lath and plaster maintained their structural unity much longer than unprotected assemblies. If this were incorporated as a alteration to the edifice codification, it would let residents extra clip to get away from a residential fire. Additionally, it would let firemans who enter a construction extra clip to finish suppression and hunt and deliverance operations.

Another codification alteration that was proposed and passed on September 21, 2008 at the International Code Council ‘s one-year conference was the residential sprinkler declaration RB64-07/08. This codification alteration would necessitate that all new residential building after January 1, 2011 be equipped with a residential sprinkler system. Oppositions of this declaration are doing attempts through province legislative assembly to forestall this alteration to the edifice codification. Arguments against residential sprinkler systems have been wide and varied and have been voiced preponderantly by the edifice community, but these concerns have been considered and debated and found to be inconsequential in comparing to the hazard associated with unsprinklered abodes. One of the primary concerns voiced by the resistance is the cost associated with the installing of a system. As of April 2009, the estimated cost for a residential sprinkler system in a new place was $ 1.00 to $ 1.50 or 1 % to 1.5 % of the entire edifice monetary value. In comparing to the sum of dollar loss associated with belongings harm from a residential construction fire, the cost of a residential sprinkler system is comparatively undistinguished.

Oppositions have besides voiced concerns refering to the possible H2O harm associated with the activation of a residential sprinkler caput, and concerns sing the activation of multiple caputs in the event of a individual caput activation. It has been demonstrated that the H2O harm associated with progressing and using an onslaught line for fire suppression in a residential construction fire would ensue in significantly more harm than an activated sprinkler caput. Additionally, sprinkler system makers have clarified the fact that if a individual sprinkler caput were to trip, that did non ensue in multiple caputs triping unless the fire was widening.

Another codification alteration that would be good to fire service forces is the Firefighter Safety Building Marking System. This codification is planned to be implemented in the 2009 edition of the National Fire Protection Association codification as an extension to the codification. The Firefighter Safety Building Marking System is a method vicinities can use to placard or tag constructions with lightweight truss floor or roof assemblies. By placing and taging these constructions in the building or pre-incident planning stage, Incident Commanders can carefully see strategic and tactical determinations based on an educated hazard vs. benefit analysis. Even prior to an official codification alteration, which can be a drawn-out and in-depth procedure, vicinities can implement similar plans by local regulation. Legal powers can use models / plans established by other sections around the state.

Pre-incident planning in residential constructions can be done on established places on a voluntary footing, by reaching householders associations or single householders and showing the intent of residential building pre-plans for the intent of fireman safety. Most residential building in a subdivision will hold similar features every bit far as stuffs and techniques utilized. For this ground, even a few constructions evaluated within a subdivision may give a good indicant of lightweight building to other abodes in the same country. However, in the absence of residential pre-planning or marker, fire service forces should ever keep a high index of intuition for lightweight building constituents in constructions built after the early 1990s.


With technological progresss in the building industry, comes important challenges for fire service forces. It is imperative that forces and sections stay abreast of alterations and run into these challenges head on. Through instruction, preparation, and alteration of standard patterns, the lives of infinite forces may be saved. Fire sections should carefully analyze current patterns, and place countries where alternate tactics could be employed for constructions constructed with lightweight building characteristics. Using techniques such as defensive inspection and repair operations in constructions with damaged floor or roof assemblies, or airing techniques that do non necessitate forces to be supported by roof assemblies, significantly cut down the life safety jeopardy faced by suppression forces. Fire service forces should see going actively involved in the codification procedure and consorting with organisations that run for codifications that reflect safe patterns and demands for firemans.


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