Area of Rescue Assistance in a Building

Fire Safety for All – Regional Implementation Model (Asia Pacific)

2019-10-21:  Following the very successful Rehabilitation International Asia-Pacific (AP) Conference in Macau, at the end of June 2019 … https://www.rimacau2019.org/ … I was invited by the United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP – https://www.unescap.org/) to submit an Article on ‘Fire Safety for All’ to one of their upcoming publications.

Fire Safety for All … for vulnerable building users, including people with disabilities, young children, frail older people, people with health conditions, and women in late-stage pregnancy … is a critical component of Accessibility & Usability for All … the key factor in facilitating full social participation and inclusion.

Consistent with the philosophy and principles of Sustainable Human & Social Development, a concept which continues to evolve with robust resilience (despite many challenges) … and the 2015-2030 Sustainable Development Framework Agenda … implementation is most effective if carried out at Regional Level … adapted to a Local Context.

Full and effective implementation, in each separate jurisdiction, then requires:

  • a robust legal base ;
  • determined political will to implement ‘fire safety for all’ ;
  • sufficient public financial resources for implementation – ‘fire safety for all’ is a social*, as distinct from a human, right ;
  • a compassionate and understanding bureaucracy, at all institutional levels ;
  • competent spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building/facility managers, and crafts/trades people at all levels in construction organizations ;
  • independent monitoring of ‘fire safety for all’ performance – self-regulation is NO regulation ;
  • innovative, well-designed fire safety related products, systems and fittings which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

[ *Social Rights:  Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education [Art.26(1), UDHR], but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a nation state.

Commentary:  In contrast to human rights, it is not protection from the state which is desired or achieved, but freedom with the state’s help.]

If Policy and Decision Makers are serious, therefore, about meeting the Safety Needs of Vulnerable People in Fire Emergencies … This Is An Absolutely Minimum Threshold Of Practical Action To Bring About Urgent Change …

Article for UNESCAP

Fire Safety for AllNobody Left Behind !

The rising 21st Century Cities of the Asia-Pacific Region each encompass:

  1. a) an interwoven, densely constructed core ;
  2. b) a very large and widely diverse resident population ;
  3. c) a supporting hinterland of lands, waters and other natural resources ;

together functioning, under the freedoms and protection of law, as …

  • a complex living system ; and
  • a synergetic community capable of providing a high level of social wellbeing* for all of its inhabitants.

[ *Social Wellbeing for All:  A general condition – for every person in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development. ]

Colour photograph showing one of the oldest districts in Hong Kong … Sheung Wan … very high-rise development, with mixed commercial and residential activity.  Click to enlarge.  Photograph taken by CJ Walsh.  2019-06-24.

In all areas of life and living in this City Community, every person is equal before the law and is entitled, without any discrimination, to equal protection of the law*.  When they are in a building, for example, all of its occupants and users have an equal right to feel ‘fire safe’ as required by law.  This must also include vulnerable building users, particularly people with disabilities.

[ *Refer to Article 12 in the 2006 United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which has been ratified by nearly every country in the world, including the European Union … and Article 7 in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.]

Current national building codes – where they exist – do not protect vulnerable people in fire emergencies: many countries have no legal provisions answering this crucial need, while a small group of countries offer only token, i.e. inadequate, protection.  An ethical*, technical response is urgently required, therefore, at regional level in Asia-Pacific.  The social, political and institutional challenges blocking effective implementation are immense.

[ *Refer to the 2016 Dublin Code of Ethics: Design, Engineering, Construction & Operation of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All.  Download from: www.sfe-fire.eu ]

Note:  A Regional Implementation Strategy is already in the course of being developed for Asia-Pacific (AP).

Colour image illustrating the two concepts of social ‘equality’ and ‘equity’ … and, most importantly, the difference between the two.  Mainstream society must fully accept these concepts … and understand how, in order to achieve equality, the process of implementation must be equitable.  Click to enlarge.

Fire Safety for All … for vulnerable building users, including people with disabilities, young children, frail older people, people with health conditions, and women in late-stage pregnancy … is a critical component of Accessibility & Usability for All … the key factor in facilitating full social participation and inclusion.  This design objective is achieved by equitable fire prevention and fire protection measures, essential occupant/user practices, independent fire evacuation procedures, proactive management and, as a last but necessary resort, reliable assisted evacuation and/or firefighter rescue.

In the Smart City, nobody must be left behind !

During the first critical 10-15 minutes in a fire emergency – the time between when a fire is first accurately detected, warnings are transmitted, and firefighters arrive at the building – many people with disabilities are more than capable of independent evacuation using reliably functioning lift/elevator fire evacuation assemblies.  Independent use of lifts/elevators by people with disabilities is essential during a fire emergency … and must be facilitated.

The enormous benefit for those vulnerable individuals who are capable of negotiating horizontal and vertical circulation routes by themselves is being able to evacuate a building and reach a ‘place of safety’ in the company of other building occupants/users.  They remain independent, in control of their own evacuation, and able to leave without waiting for someone else to rescue them or render assistance.

Buildings must remain structurally ‘serviceable’ until all building occupants/users and firefighters have reached a remote ‘place of safety’.

Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable.  People with disabilities must, therefore, be trained to be self-aware in situations of risk, particularly in fire emergencies, and actively encouraged to develop the skills of self-protection and adaptive self-evacuation.

Essential Features At Building Design Stage

Fire Safety for All must be carefully considered at the initial stages of building design.  To be effective, however, the following essential passive and active fire protection measures must be incorporated in buildings …

A.  A smart ‘whole building’ fire emergency detection and multi-format warning system is an essential fire safety feature in all building types, new and existing. Vulnerable building occupants/users need much more time to react, and evacuate, than other users during a fire incident.

B.  All building occupants/users must be provided with alternative, intuitive and obvious evacuation routes away from a fire outbreak in a building. A significant number of building users will never pass through the smoke generated by fire.

C.  All fire evacuation routes in a building must be accessible for building occupants/users, and be sufficiently wide to accommodate contraflow, i.e. building users evacuating while firefighters enter the building at the same time. Under no circumstances must ‘stay put’ policies be normalized, or practiced.

D.  Phased horizontal evacuation must be facilitated, in design, by providing ‘buffer zones’ around fire compartments, and adjacent ‘places of relative safety’.

E.  All lifts/elevators in a building must be capable of being used during a fire emergency. This is already the case, in most countries, with firefighter lifts.

F.  Fire protected evacuation staircases must be sufficiently wide (1.5m between leading handrail edges) to facilitate contraflow and the assisted evacuation of manual wheelchair users; they must open into fire protected lift/elevator lobbies at every floor/storey level, and open directly to the exterior at ground level.

Black and white photograph showing the correct and best assisted evacuation technique for carrying a person in a manual wheelchair down a fire protected staircase, with handrails on both sides … 1 person behind the wheelchair and 2 other people at each side.  This illustration is from the Orientation Manual for First Responders on the Evacuation of People with Disabilities.  Federal Emergency Management Agency (USA).  Document Reference FA-235.  August 2002.  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the ‘contraflow’ circulation which must be facilitated during a fire emergency … as building occupants/users evacuate away from the fire towards a place of safety located a remote distance from the building … while heavily equipped firefighters are able to enter the building, unhindered, at the same time.  This ensures that firefighters can quickly locate people waiting in areas of rescue assistance and lift/elevator lobbies.  Click to enlarge.

G.  Sufficiently large, fire protected ‘areas of rescue assistance’, where people can safely wait during a fire emergency, must adjoin each evacuation staircase on every floor/storey above ground level. When calculating space provision for evacuation and waiting areas in buildings, the minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities must be 10% of the design building occupant/user population; for people with activity limitations, minimum space provision must rise to 15% of the design occupant/user population.

Colour illustration of a sufficiently wide fire evacuation staircase, which will accommodate contraflow and the assisted evacuation of people in wheelchairs … with a sufficiently large, directly adjoining ‘area of rescue assistance’ … which will accommodate people unable to independently evacuate during a fire emergency.  The space provided in an area of rescue assistance, on each floor/storey, is calculated in relation to the design occupant/user population of a building.  Even if a building is fully sprinklered, an area of rescue assistance must adjoin every fire evacuation staircase.  Click to enlarge.  Staircase design by CJ Walsh.

Image of text showing the definition for ‘people with activity limitations’, with its equivalent French translation … also showing from where this term is derived … and who this term includes.  During a fire emergency, confused and/or confusing disability-related language costs lives !  Click to enlarge.

H.  Such is the universal level of fire compartment unreliability, that lift/elevator lobbies and ‘areas of rescue assistance’ must be fitted with an active fire suppression system, i.e. water mist … an environmentally clean suppression medium which is person-friendly, and will not greatly interfere with visibility.

I.  In tall, super-tall and mega-tall buildings, every 20th floor/storey must be an accessible ‘floor of temporary refuge’ … and the roofs of those buildings must be capable of being used for aerial evacuation.

J.  In health care facilities, e.g. hospitals, the fire safety strategy must always be to ‘protect in place’. Patient evacuation is highly hazardous, and unacceptable.

K.  Fire defence plans* must demonstrate a proper consideration for the fire safety, protection and evacuation of all building users/occupants, with a particular and integrated focus on people with activity limitations.

[ *Fire Defence Plan:  A pre-determined and co-ordinated use of available human and material means in order to maintain an adequate level of fire safety and protection within a building and, in the event of an outbreak of fire, to ensure that it is brought speedily under control and extinguished … with the aim of minimizing any adverse or harmful environmental impacts caused by the fire.

Commentary 1:  A Fire Defence Plan is developed for a specific building at design stage.  It later becomes the basis for an occupied building’s Fire Emergency Management Plan.

Commentary 2:  A Fire Defence Plan is usually in electronic format and/or hard copy and comprises fire engineering drawings, descriptive text, fire safety related product/system information, with supporting calculations, and the fire test/approval data to demonstrate ‘fitness for intended use’.]

Colour illustration showing the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix, which outlines the scope of its application in the Human Environment and the different social groups to be targeted.  Balanced consideration must be given to people who use wheelchairs (physical function impairment) … and to people with visual, hearing, psychological, and mental/cognitive impairments … and to other vulnerable building users, e.g. people with health conditions.  Click to enlarge.  Matrix developed by CJ Walsh.

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#FireSafety4ALL #NobodyLeftBehind #VulnerableBuildingUsers #PwAL #PwD #NeverStayPut #Firefighters #FFsafety #WTC911 #GrenfellTowerFire #Reality #Reliability #Resilience #Redundancy #Sustainability #SDG’s #SocialRights #HumanRights #InternationalLaw #UDHR #unCRPD #whoICF #SFE #Buildings #HongKong #Macau #China #AsiaPacific

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Fire Safety in Buildings – Reliable Design, Supply & Construction

2019-07-31:  A very serious problem in modern buildings (post 1950’s), and in many countries around the world … which can lie dormant and hidden from any and all Surface Inspections … until there is an outbreak of #Fire !

Passive/Active Fire Protection Measures, and Building Management Systems (i.e. any combination of human and smart systems), are never 100% Reliable.  However, Poor Workmanship on building sites and Unauthorized Product/System Substitution are reducing this #Reliability to far below the threshold of legal ‘acceptability’.

Colour photograph showing a person at work on a construction site.  Is he/she competent to do this particular work ?  For the task, is he/she using the correct tools and proper materials (i.e. products/systems which are ‘fit for purpose’) ??  Who is monitoring his/her performance ???  The important objective is a Fire Safe Building for ALL Occupants/Users.  Click to enlarge.

As a result, Fire Evacuation Routes can quickly become full of dense toxic smoke, impairing/incapacitating people trying to evacuate … the integrity of Fire Compartments can very rapidly be compromised, leading to uncontrolled internal fire spread … and Partial Structural Collapse will be a definite probability.

Most in danger and at high risk in ‘real’ building fires are Vulnerable Building Users and #Firefighters !

[ Vulnerable People: Those people – in a community, society or culture – who are most at risk of being physically, psychologically or sociologically wounded, hurt, damaged, injured, or killed … and include, for example, People with Disabilities, Young Children, People with Health Conditions, Frail Older People, Women in Late Pregnancy, Refugees, Migrants, and the Poor. ]

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‘Building Materials and Workmanship’ Must Be Relentlessly Monitored PRIOR TO AND DURING Construction – Afterwards Is TOO LATE !

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In these days of #Architects staring at computer screens all day, not being very ‘smart’ in and around actual construction sites … and with Fire Engineering Design Information still merely a #BIM add-on … there are 5 Fundamental Principles of Reliable Building Design, Product Supply and Construction for Fire Safety :

  1. Design of the works must be exercised by an independent, appropriately qualified and experienced architect/engineer/fire engineer, with design competence relating to the fire protection of buildings ;
  1. The Supply of ‘fit for purpose’ fire safety related construction products/systems to the works must be undertaken by reputable organizations with construction competence, particularly in relation to the fire protection of buildings … and all product/system substitution must be pre-authorized ;
  1. Installation/Fitting of fire safety related construction products/systems must be exercised by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel, with construction competence relating to the fire protection of buildings ;
  1. Supervision of the works must be exercised by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel from the principal construction organization ;
  1. Regular Inspections, by appropriately qualified and experienced personnel familiar with the design, and independent of both the design and construction organizations, must be carried out to verify that the works are being executed in accordance with the design.

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Self-Regulation / Self-Monitoring Is NO Regulation / Monitoring !!

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Colour photograph showing a larger, more complex construction project … with more complicated working relationships between the Building Design Team, the Principal Construction Organization, Sub-Contractors, and Trades Men/Women.  In this context, the monitoring of Building Materials and Workmanship must be both unrelenting and stringent !  The important objective remains the same: a Fire Safe Building for ALL Occupants/Users.  Click to enlarge.

Incomplete/inaccurate information about the number of People, particularly Vulnerable Building Users, still remaining in a Fire Building, and/or the number of Occupants waiting in Areas of Rescue Assistance and Lift/Elevator Lobbies … all resulting from poor Building Management … will greatly increase the Hazards and Risks involved in Firefighter Search and Rescue Operations, and will result in Building Occupant Injuries and Deaths !

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Mainstream Fire Codes/Regulations & Standards  DO NOT  Protect Vulnerable Building Users and Firefighters !!!

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#SFE #Design #ProductSupply #Construction #FireSafety4ALL #FireEngineering #FireProtection #FireCompartment #FireEvacuation #Buildings #FacilityManagement #Resilience #Sustainability

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Successful Elaboration of ‘Fire Safety for All’ in China’s Bay Area !

2019-07-26:  This time last month, in June … I was visiting a hot and humid Hong Kong and Macau, only 1 hour apart on a sea ferry, in China’s Bay Area … to make a Keynote CPD Presentation on Fire Safety for All – Nobody Left Behind ! in the Hong Kong Institute of Architects … and following that up with a full morning Workshop and an afternoon Plenary Presentation at the large 2019 Rehabilitation International Asia-Pacific Region Conference, in Macau, later in the week.

2019 Rehabilitation International Asia-Pacific Conference (Macau) – 26 to 28 June

The Theme of this 3-Day Conference, in #Macau, was Together, Leaving No One Behind, In Disability-Inclusive & Rights-Based Progress.  Attended by 1,500 delegates from 30 different countries, the event also gathered together more than 250 international experts, practitioners, academics and researchers from all over the world.

Two Exhibitions, visited by 6,000 people, were organized alongside the Conference: 1) ‘Facilitation and Mobility Aids + Assistive Technologies’ … and 2) ‘Art’.

It is worthwhile noting  that #China ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (#CRPD) on 1 August 2008 … but has not yet signed, never mind ratified, the Convention’s Optional Protocol … a clear signal of current political intent which, hopefully, will change in the not-too-distant future.  Every year, Hong Kong and Macau submit reports to Beijing regarding CRPD compliance status and implementation.

Colour photograph showing CJ Walsh, as he addresses a Plenary Session on ‘Fire Safety for All – Nobody Left Behind !’ at the 2019 Rehabilitation International Asia-Pacific Region Conference, in Macau.  Click to enlarge.

Colour image showing the Matrix of ‘Fire Safety for All’ … a Priority Theme of Sustainable Fire Engineering … which is particularly concerned with the fire safety of #PwAL’s (People with Activity Limitations), but also with #PwD’s (People with Disabilities).  After the 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire, in London, it is important that these concerns stretch to include the #Poor, #Refugees and #Migrants.  Click to enlarge.

Without being able to use a #Lift/#Elevator for Fire Evacuation in a building … there is No Fire Safety for All !

In a developing fire incident, People with Activity Limitations must be provided with a safe, alternative evacuation route – just like all other building users – which is a Fundamental Principle of all Fire Engineering.  However … just one #User/#Occupant Fire Evacuation Lift/Elevator in a building is an empty, meaningless, Token Gesture !

Colour photograph showing the participants from 30 different countries who attended the 2019 Rehabilitation International Asia-Pacific Region Conference.  The venue was The Venetian Macau.  Click to enlarge.

‘Fire Safety for All’ must be considered at the start of the Design Process.  Colour image explaining how #Buildings must remain #Serviceable, not merely Structurally Stable, for a minimum Required Period of Time.  Click to enlarge.

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‘Fire Safety for All’ on Macau TV News … Friday night, 28 June 2019 … my friend and colleague, Ar Joseph Kwan (Architect & Accessibility Consultant based in Hong Kong), is the person being interviewed …

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Hong Kong Institute of Architects CPD Seminar – 24 June 2019

Continuing Professional Development (#CPD) is an important aspect of Ethical Architectural Practice.  Arriving drenched in a heavy rain downpour on the Monday evening … I was not surprised, therefore, to find that this Seminar was well attended by local architects.  Representatives of HK Authorities Having Jurisdiction (#AHJ’s), and Local Fire Services, as well as senior personnel involved in the development of the HK Code of Practice for Fire Safety in Buildings and the HK Barrier Free Design Manual were active participants in the panel discussion afterwards.

Colour image showing the Title Page of CJ Walsh’s Keynote CPD Presentation on ‘Fire Safety for All – Nobody Left Behind !’.  This Page also signals how ‘Fire Safety for All’ is integrated into the wider context of Sustainable Design.  Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing CJ Walsh, as he makes a Keynote CPD Presentation on ‘Fire Safety for All – Nobody Left Behind !’ in the offices of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects.  Click to enlarge.

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England’s 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire – Never Again Elsewhere ??

2018-06-12 …

As we approach the First Anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy, in England, on 14 June … a few days ago, on 4 June 2018, the first batch of Grenfell Expert Witness Reports were uploaded (https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-44356660) to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Website (https://www.grenfelltowerinquiry.org.uk/) for public view.

At this time, in London … multiple, fragmented investigations are taking place into the actual fire incident … the role of the Local Authority, and building management … those involved in the refurbishment (‘tarting up’) design and construction … the fire services, particularly their ‘Stay Put’ Policy and how it adversely impacted on vulnerable Tower occupants during the emergency … and the highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes with light-touch Control, which is still operating in England.  One of Murphy’s Laws immediately springs to mind with regard to the intended ineffectiveness of this overly-complex process !

Colour photograph showing Grenfell Tower in the background … undergoing an almost complete ‘cover-up’ … with, in the foreground, mementos of the Fire Tragedy fixed to railings by local residents. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2018-04-29.

Many other countries have adopted some or all of this modern English regulatory model which, after the repeal of an older Bye-Law format, has been shaped by political expediency, cost-effectiveness and general ineptitude … with little or no adaptation to local conditions in the adopting jurisdictions.  Ireland adopted this model with some, but not a lot, of adaptation.

Fire Safety In Ireland ?

On 6 June 2018 … while that investigative activity was hitting the headlines in England … Minister Eoghan Murphy, T.D., Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, quietly published the Report: ‘Fire Safety in Ireland’http://www.housing.gov.ie/local-government/fire-and-emergency-management/fire-safety/eoghan-murphy-publishes-report-fire … by a High-Level Task Force within his Department’s National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management, after serious concerns and fears had been expressed in the public media that a similar fire tragedy might also occur in this jurisdiction.

To be crystal clear … this Report is a Bureaucratic Whitewash … an insult to the Public !  Nice sounding technical ‘blarney’ camouflages a failure to deal directly with critical issues, and answer concerns … while other important issues are avoided altogether.

.May 2018 – Ireland’s Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government Report

Fire Safety In Ireland    (PDF File, 2.55 MB)

Expanding on my comments in the Interview with Barry Lenihan, on RTE Radio 1’s Drive Time early evening news programme on Friday (2018-06-08) …

A.  Initially, Irish Local Authorities were requested to carry out a preliminary survey to identify all buildings of more than six storeys, or 18m in height.  Specifically, they were asked to identify those buildings which had an external cladding system which might be a cause for concern.

This height threshold of six storeys/18m is arbitrary … an external cladding system can be just as much a cause for concern in a building which is lower.  Imagine discarded cigarette butts or a rubbish fire at the base of such a system … and the resulting speed of fire spread and development across a building façade !

B.  The highly flawed regulatory model of Building and Fire Codes, with light-touch Control, which resulted in the Grenfell Tower Fire Tragedy … we also have.  Wake up and smell the coffee Ireland !

At the beginning of the 1990’s, when Ireland had been persuaded by the European Commission to finally introduce legal, national building regulations having a functional format … our National Authority Having Jurisdiction, in desperation, grabbed the then Approved Documents for England & Wales … brought them back to Ireland, put Irish covers on them, and originally called them ‘Technical Documents’ … but, after seeing a tiny ray of inspiring light, later changed their title to the more accurate ‘Technical Guidance Documents’ !  This hunger for adopting all things English which are fire safety related continues to this day … with a similar, ongoing division of Technical Guidance Document B: ‘Fire Safety’ into 2 Separate Volumes.

This may have been a convenient response under pressure … but it has been very short-sighted.  It has impeded the growth of a comprehensive and coherent philosophy on Safe, Inclusive, Age-Friendly, Resilient, Sustainable Planning, Design and Construction Codes/Controls which is suited to an Irish context and responsible local needs (not desires!).

C.  Everywhere … this Report has a lot – too much – to say about Fire Risk Assessment !  After the Grenfell Tower Fire, however, Fire Risk Assessments must only be carried out by competent persons … and the process of Fire Risk Assessment, itself, must be radically improved !  And of course, prior to any Risk Assessment … a proper Fire Hazard Appraisal must be carried out.

D.  To accurately present Fire Safety Trends in Ireland … it is not enough to furnish reliable fire fatality statistics.  It is also necessary to produce reliable fire injury statistics … and reliable information on direct/indirect socio-economic losses.

E.  The quality of fire safety related construction on Irish Building Sites continues to be very poor and problematic.  Fire Compartmentation is nowhere near being adequately – never mind acceptably – reliable !  And during the last few years we have had quite a number of close-calls concerning fire incidents in medium-rise residential buildings.

F.  Fire Evacuation for people with activity limitations is still handled atrociously in our current building regulations.  This is ironic because, on 20 March 2018 last, Ireland had to be dragged screaming to ratify the U.N. 2006 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) !

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Positive Progress By Another Path !

1.  Abandon the outdated English functional requirements in THEIR building regulations … and adopt a far better, more up-to-date body of functional requirements which is already on the Irish Statute Books … Annex I of the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011.  And because there are important horizontal linkages between requirements … immediately finish the ridiculous current separation between Fire Safety requirements and all of the other requirements.  And yes … new Technical Guidance Documents will have to be drafted.

.Regulation (EU) No 305/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 9 March 2011, laying down harmonized conditions for the marketing of construction products and repealing Council Directive 89/106/EEC

EU Regulation 305/2011 – Construction Products.  See Annex I

(PDF File, 998 Kb)

2.  Yes … ‘Persons Having Control’ of buildings have responsibilities with regard to fire safety.  But that is only one side of the coin !  National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction have greater responsibilities.

If we are at all serious about Consumer Protection … bad, inadequate, faulty construction must be prevented beforehand … it is too late, too costly and, in many cases, too impractical to correct afterwards.  Self Regulation by building design professions and construction organizations is NO Regulation !  Stringent, independent technical control inspections must be carried out on all projects by Building Control personnel … which used to happen in Dublin City/County and Cork City/County prior to the introduction of legal building regulations in the early 1990’s … and, depending on complexity, must also be carried out at critical stages during the construction process.

Building Control Sections in all Local Authorities must be properly resourced with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.

Inspections concerning compliance with all functional requirements in the building regulations, including fire safety, must be carried out only by Building Control Personnel.  Chief Fire Officers must not be allowed to manage or be involved in any aspect of Building Control.  On the same project … a Disability Access Certificate Application and a Fire Safety Certificate Application must be inter-linked and overlap sufficiently, showing no gaps in compliance.  Inspections must be carried out in connection with all Certificate Applications.  Building Control personnel must satisfy themselves that actual construction at least matches, if not improves upon, what is shown in design documentation.

Building Control Inspection Reports must be made available for public view.

3.  Firefighters are NOT a disposable Social Asset !  National and Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction … and some Chief Fire Officers … must begin to understand this fundamental truth !

Fire Services in all Local Authorities must each be properly resourced according to local needs … with competent personnel, equipment, training and support infrastructure.  Shared provision of resources looks very neat on paper but, in practice, works very badly.  Refer to the Grenfell Tower Fire and London Fire Brigade having to borrow firefighting equipment from other Fire Services.

After the 2015 Tianjin Regional Fire Devastation, in China, and the 2001 WTC Attacks on 9-11, in New York City … front line firefighters must be supported by Specialist Hazard Appraisal and Structural Engineering Units.

For Firefighter Safety in buildings and to quickly find people with activity limitations waiting in Areas of Rescue Assistance and/or other survivors in different locations … a portable and reliable Thermal Imaging Camera is an essential piece of every firefighter’s equipment.

And Firefighter Safety begins with good building design.  In all but the most simple building types, Circulation Routes must be designed for Contraflow … people moving away from a fire in a building and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.

Colour photograph showing Contraflow on a building staircase … people moving down a staircase away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are moving up the staircase towards the fire. Click to enlarge.

There is no place for ‘Stay Put’ Policies in Irish Residential Buildings of any height.

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Ireland’s 2017 Oireachtas Report: ‘Safe As Houses’ …

December 2017 – Houses of the Oireachtas – Joint Committee on Housing, Planning & Local Government

Safe As Houses ?  A Report On Building Standards, Building Controls & Consumer Protection

(PDF File, 1.01 MB)

This was a good effort by our public representatives … but they missed core issues !

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After The Grenfell Tower Fire !

Further to my last Blog, dated 2017-10-10 …

The 2017 Fire in England was not an extraordinary fire.  Since the beginning of this decade, we continue to see a series of such fires: South Korea (2010) – UAE & France (2012) – Chechnya (2013) -Australia (2014) – UAE, Azerbaijan & UAE again (2015) – UAE (2016) – UAE & Russia (2017) – Turkey (2018).

With regard to Command & Control of Large Scale Emergencies … English AHJ’s should have paid attention to the 2005 & 2008 U.S. National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) Recommendations following the 9-11 WTC Buildings 1, 2 & 7 Collapses.

The Fire Safety Objectives in current Building & Fire Codes/Regulations are very limited.  In Ireland, this is clearly stated in Technical Guidance Document B …

‘ Building Regulations are made for specific purposes.  Part B of the Second Schedule to the Building Regulations is therefore primarily concerned with the health, safety and welfare of persons.  The fire safety measures outlined in this guidance document are intended for the protection of life from fire.’

Only insofar as it is necessary to protect the lives of able-bodied building users/occupants … is there a concern for property protection.

There is only inadequate, token concern for the protection of people with disabilities.

Client organizations, facility managers, building designers, construction organizations … and journalists … must fully comprehend these limits.

In the photograph below … look closely at the External Firefighting Operations at the bottom of the Tower.  There are limits to what can be achieved from outside a building !

Colour photograph showing the developed fire at Grenfell Tower, in London. At the bottom of the Tower, external firefighting operations can be viewed. Click to enlarge.

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  • A Fire Suppression System (Water Sprinklers/Mist/Hybrid) is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Medium and High-Rise Residential Buildings … which include Apartment Blocks, Hotels, Hostels, Student Accommodation & Social Housing, i.e. ANYWHERE there is a Sleeping Hazard.

 

  • A Reliable and Credible Fire Detection & Warning System is an essential Fire Protection Measure in ALL Buildings … and must be capable, under the control of Building Management, of transmitting warnings in many formats, i.e. Audible + Visual + Multi-Lingual Voice + Tactile.

 

  • Fire Evacuation Routes in Buildings must be designed for CONTRAFLOW … people moving away from a fire and towards safety while, at the same time, heavily equipped firefighters are entering the building and moving towards the fire.

 

  • Good Fire Evacuation Route Design is INTUITIVE and OBVIOUS.  In many buildings, however, this is not always the reality.  Effective Fire Evacuation Signage … comprising high-level signage, low-level signage, with both supplemented by photoluminescence … must be installed in ALL Buildings.

 

  • For the purpose of protecting Vulnerable Building Users in Fire Emergencies, ALL Lifts/Elevators in Buildings must be capable of being used for Evacuation.

 

  • Fire Risk Assessments must NO LONGER be carried out by people WITHOUT COMPETENCE in Fire Engineering AND Building Design & Construction … and the Fire Risk Assessment Process itself must be thoroughly re-examined and upgraded.

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2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ Adopted !

2015-04-20:  After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !

With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks.  I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible.  This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: fireox@sustainable-design.ie … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu).  Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlThis Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties.  It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….

1.   As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).  Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny.  The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.

2.   Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.

Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region.  On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.

3.   It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.

As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.

An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …

‘Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.’

4.   The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …

Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters

5.   Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights.  Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !

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2015  DUBLIN  DECLARATION  ON  ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’  IN  BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !

(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)

Meeting In  Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015

In Co-Operation With  the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;

Recognizing  the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;

Whereas  in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;

Recalling  the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;

Recalling Also  the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;

Mindful Especially  of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;

Working Towards  the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;

Aware Always  of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;

Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all

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Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:

We Declare That The Following Principles Must …

Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …

Principle 1 – A Human Right

Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.

Principle 2 – Successful Implementation

Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:

  • A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
  • Determined political will ;
  • Sufficient public financial resources ;
  • A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
  • Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
  • Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
  • Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.

Principle 3 – Building Accessibility

Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.

Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation

Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.

Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s

Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments.  During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.

Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills

People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.  During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.

People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.

Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable.  People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.

Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision

Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole.  Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:

(a)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;

(b)  Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.

Principle 8 – Building Management

Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs.  And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.

Principle 9 – Firefighters

Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either.  Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.

Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.

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APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions

Area of Rescue Assistance:  A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.

Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Evacuation from a Fire Building:  To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.

Fire Compartmentation:  The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a)  contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b)  prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c)  protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d)  minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.

Human Health:  A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F):  Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.

The above Term includes …

  • wheelchair users ;
  • people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
  • frail, older people ;
  • the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
  • people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
  • the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
  • people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
  • women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
  • people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
  • people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
  • people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;

and …

  • people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
  • people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.

Place of Safety:
•  Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is [100] metres from the fire building or a distance of [10] times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ;   and
•  Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ;   and
•  Where people can be identified.

Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.

Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage:  The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.

Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.

Real Fire:  A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ;  the combustible content (fire load) ;  the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ;  the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Social Environment:  The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.

Social Rights:  Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.

Social Wellbeing:  A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.

Virtual Environment:  A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.

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‘Fire Safety for All’: Open Call for Innovative Products & Systems

2015-02-02:  This is NOT … I repeat NOT … a small niche market in the Global Multi-Billion Euro Fire Safety & Protection Related Construction Industrial Sector !   This IS the whole nine yards !!

This is an Open Call for Innovative, Well-Designed Fire Safety / Protection and Accessibility Related Construction Products and Systems, Other Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC !

This Call is particularly aimed at Manufacturers, Suppliers and Distributors in China, India, Japan, and Mainland Europe !

We want to see ‘Real’ Products and Systems, Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC … not flashy brochures … at the 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Industrial Exhibition, on 9 & 10 April !

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An Accessible Building is Safer, Easier to Use and More Comfortable for ALL Building Users

If Fire Safety for All is properly considered at Building Design Stage :
• Buildings are easier to understand (intuitive) during a Real Fire Evacuation
Fire Evacuation Routes (obvious) are easier to find and to use
• Everyone can safely evacuate a Building on Fire – no more tragic tales about people being left behind in multi-storey schools and offices
RealityReliabilityRedundancy – are the 3 Essential Keywords

Client Organizations: A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident !

So …

Grab a Bicycle – Get a Horse – Take a Train or a Plane – Come to Dublin in April !

Fire-Safety-4-All_smlTo Exhibit / To Sponsor … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu

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Global Event: ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !

2014-12-09:  FireOx International, the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd., is very pleased and proud to present the following Global CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Event

Fire Safety for All !9 & 10 April 2015 – Dublin Castle, Ireland

‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings – Reboot & Reload !
[ www.fire-safety-for-all.eu ]

Co-Sponsored by CIB & RI-ICTA
Kindly supported by Fáilte Ireland

This will not be a polite gathering intended just for an Irish audience, or even for Europeans … this is a Global Event – a catalyst for Substantive Social Transformation everywhere !

Within the professional discipline of Fire Engineering … either a building is Fire Safe or it is not ;  the design philosophy of the fire engineer is irrelevant.  Similarly, now, we must begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building either being Accessible for All, or not.  And if the building is accessible for all, does it tick all of the right accessibility boxes well, i.e. effectively ?

While building fire safety codes and standards exist in almost every country … guidelines relating to the Fire Safety of People with Activity Limitations – IF those guidelines exist at all – are technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic, blatantly discriminatory, and rarely implemented.

This is a very significant obstacle to Effective Building Accessibility everywhere !!

Accessibility is now understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and this term includes the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.  (ISO 21542 : 2011)

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) … the CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major(!) population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

Refer to Preamble Paragraph (g) in the UN Convention …

‘ Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,’

and to … Article 3 (General Principles), Article 9 (Accessibility), Article 11 (Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies), Article 19 (Living Independently & Being Included in the Community), Article 20 (Personal Mobility), Article 24 (Education), Article 27 (Work & Employment), Article 31 (Statistics & Data Collection), Article 32 (International Co-Operation), and Article 33 (National Implementation & Monitoring).

The focus of this event, therefore, is Real Accessibility.  In other words, Effective Accessibility for People with Activity Limitations (which includes people with disabilities, and children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.) … an accessibility which actually works well for all potential building users.  And it is appropriate also, now, to introduce the concept of Monitoring and Targeting this ‘real’ accessibility … independently, i.e. by 3rd Parties !

It is time to Reboot this ridiculous, professionally negligent and obsolete old system … Reload with innovative and practical building design, construction, management and personal self-protection solutions … and Implement !

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Design – Targeting & MRV !

2014-04-20:  Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering Practice is slowly, but inevitably, being transformed … in order to meet the regional and local challenges of rapid urbanization and climate change, the pressing need for a far more efficient and resilient building stock, and a growing social awareness that ‘sustainability’ demands much greater human creativity …

Design Target:  A Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All

Design Key Words:  Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience

Essential Construction & Occupancy Start-Up Processes:  Careful Monitoring & Reporting – Independent Verification of Performance (MRV)

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Design Solutions:

Are Reliability-Based …
The design process is based on competence, practical experience, and an understanding of ‘real’ building performance and resilience during Extreme Man-Made Events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack & 2008 Mumbai Hive Attacks, and Hybrid Disasters, e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone.

Are Person-Centred …
‘Real’ people are placed at the centre of creative design endeavours and proper consideration is given to their responsible needs … their health, safety, welfare and security … in the Human Environment, which includes the social, built, economic and virtual environments.

Are Adapted to Local Context & Heritage *
Geography, orientation, climate (including change, variability and severity swings), social need, culture, traditions, economy, building crafts and materials, etc., etc.
[* refer to the 2013 UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration]

In Sustainable Design … there are NO Universal Solutions !

Design Objectives:

To protect society, the best interests of the client/client organization and building user health and safety, and to maintain functionality under the dynamic, complex conditions of fire … Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives shall cover the following spectrum of issues …

  • Protection of the Health and Safety of All Building Users … including people with activity limitations (2001 WHO ICF), visitors to the building who will be unfamiliar with its layout, and contractors or product/service suppliers temporarily engaged in work or business transactions on site ;
  • Protection of Property from Loss or Damage … including the building, its contents, and adjoining or adjacent properties ;
  • Safety of Firefighters, Rescue Teams and Other Emergency Response Personnel ;
  • Ease and Reasonable Cost of ‘Effective’ Reconstruction, Refurbishment or Repair Works after a Fire ;
  • Sustainability of the Human Environment – including the fitness for intended use and life cycle costing of fire engineering related products, systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building ;
  • Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. adverse impacts.

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More Specifically … with Regard to Resilient Building Performance during a Fire Incident and the ‘Cooling Phase’ after Fire Extinguishment:

1.   The Building shall be designed to comply with the Recommendations in the 2005 & 2008 NIST(USA) Final Reports on the World Trade Center(WTC) 1, 2 & 7 Building Collapses.

In one major respect, the 2005 NIST Report is flawed, i.e. its treatment of ‘disability and building users with activity limitations is entirely inadequate.  The Building shall, therefore, be designed to comply with International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, which was published in December 2011.

2.   The Building shall remain Serviceable, not just Structurally Stable(!) … until all buildings users (including those users with activity limitations waiting in ‘areas of rescue assistance’) have been evacuated/rescued to an accessible ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building, and have been identified … and all firefighters, rescue teams and other emergency response personnel have been removed/rescued from the building and its vicinity.

The Building shall be designed to resist Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage.  These requirements shall apply to all building types, of any height.

Under no reasonably foreseeable circumstances shall the Building be permitted to collapse !

3.   The Building shall be designed to comfortably accommodate and resist a Maximum Credible Fire Scenario and a Maximum Credible User Scenario.

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Concerted International Research is Needed …

To creatively resolve the direct conflict which exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and Traditional/Conventional Fire Engineering.

An example … for cooling, heating and/or ventilation purposes in a sustainable building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural patterns of uninterrupted air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire consultants in private practice, and fire prevention officers in authorities having jurisdiction, will demand that building spaces be strictly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … thereby dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement. The result is that the sustainability performance of the building is seriously compromised.

If, however, adequate independent technical control is absent on the site of a sustainable building … it is the fire safety and protection which will be seriously compromised !

To effectively deal with the fire safety problems (fatal, in the case of firefighters) which result from the installation of Innovative Building/Energy/EICT Systems and Products in Sustainable Buildings.

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These are appropriate tasks for a new CIB W14 Research Working Group VI: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ !

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Mainstream Good Design & Accessibility for All Signage ?

2013-03-06:   Further to an earlier Post, dated 30 November 2012 … on Sustainable Accessibility for All

Accessibility IS a Fundamental Human Right !

‘ For many Weak and Vulnerable People, today’s Complex Human Environment is inaccessible and unsafe … a hostile ‘reality’ which prevents independent functioning and participation in a local community;  it is a blatant denial of their human rights.’

Relevant Human Environment (social – built – virtual – institutional) Factors … factors which are external, or extrinsic, to the context of a person’s life and living situation … include policies and standards, negative attitudes and stigma, lack of services, problems with service delivery, inadequate funding, lack of accessibility in the built environment and to electronic, information and communication technologies, lack of consultation and involvement, and an absence of reliable data and evidence.

Accessibility for All …

Take a really close look at the photograph below … and see a staircase which, in spite of all the legislation in the EU Member States, contravenes almost every accessibility-related design guideline.  It is far from being an unusual scene in our European Built Environment …

Staircase Egress - Unsafe, Difficult Accessibility !!

Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2009-10-31. Click to enlarge.

Now, imagine the consequences of one, tiny slip …

Which is why our concern must be with Accessibility for All … which includes consciously thinking about children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and frail older people (not all older people !) … and how they use and interact with their surroundings.

In addition, however … our attention must also turn to the large numbers of people, in all of our societies, with health conditions which result in serious impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.  As a prime example, consider the Big-4 Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD’s): Cardiovascular Diseases (e.g. heart attacks and stroke), Cancers, Diabetes, and Chronic Lung Diseases.

These 4 NCD’s – targeted in a World Health Organization (WHO) Global NCD Campaign – share health risk factors (tobacco use, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, harmful alcohol use) … cause more than 36 million deaths annually (almost 80 % of deaths, from such diseases, occur in low and middle-income countries) … and result in a high proportion of disability (66.5 % of all years lived with disability in low and middle income countries).

NCD’s can limit one or more of a person’s major life and living activities … such as walking, eating, communicating, and caring-for-oneself.  Examples of common NCD-related impairments include paralysis due to stroke, and amputation as a result of diabetic neuropathy.

When Easily Assimilated Signage IS Essential in Buildings …

Good Architectural Design IS ‘intuitive and obvious’ for building users … design characteristics which are critical in the case of Fire Engineering Design.  However, what is intuitive and obvious in Ireland may not be so intuitive and obvious in Turkey … and what is intuitive and obvious in Europe will certainly not be intuitive and obvious in Africa, India, or China.

Architectural & Fire Engineering Design must, therefore, be adapted to Local conditions … culture, social need, etc., etc.

When a building is NOT ‘intuitive and obvious’ for the broad range of potential building users … easily assimilated signage IS essential …

International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’ was published in December 2011, as a full standard.  In its Introduction, ISO 21542 is linked to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … almost like an umbilical cord.

The scope of ISO 21542 covers public buildings.  The Accessibility Agenda in the U.N. Convention is very broad … so much standardization work remains to be completed at international level.

Concerning Accessibility Symbols and Signs … reference should be made to ISO 21542: Clause 41 – Graphical Symbols … and on Pages 106, 107, 108, and 109 … the following will be found:

  • Figure 66 – Accessible Facility or Entrance ;
  • Figure 67 – Sloped or Ramped Access ;
  • Figure 68 – Accessible Toilets (male & female) ;
  • Figure 69 – Accessible Toilets (female) ;
  • Figure 70 – Accessible Toilets (male) ;
  • Figure 71 – Accessible Lift / Elevator ;
  • Figure 72 – Accessible Emergency Exit Route.

I use the word ‘accessibility’, and not ‘access’ … because Accessibility has been defined in ISO 21542 as including … ‘access to buildings, circulation within buildings and their use, egress from buildings in the normal course of events, and evacuation in the event of an emergency’.

A note at the beginning of the standard also clarifies that Accessibility is an independent activity, i.e. assistance should not be necessary … and that there should be an assurance of individual health, safety and welfare during the course of those (accessibility-related) activities.

During the very long gestation of ISO 21542, an overwhelming consensus emerged in favour of using the term Accessibility for All … thereby sidestepping the thorny issue of different design philosophies which are described as being accessibility-related but, in practice, are limited and/or no longer fit-for-purpose.

'Accessibility for All' Symbol ?The Accessibility Symbol used throughout ISO 21542 is shown above.  I know that a small group of people from different countries worked very hard on this particular part of the standard.  My only contribution was in relation to the inclusion of Figure 72, concerning Fire Evacuation.

This ‘accessibility’ symbol is an attractive, modern and, of course, abstract representation of a concept … a person with an activity limitation using a wheelchair.  The symbol succeeds very well in communicating that concept.

However … as an Accessibility for All Symbol … encompassing people with other than functional impairments, e.g. hearing and visual impairments … and children under the age of 5 years, women in the later stages of pregnancy, frail older people … and people with the four main types of non-communicable disease discussed above … is this symbol, also, limited and no longer fit-for-purpose ??

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Proposed New Sign for 'Area of Rescue Assistance'

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Shown next, above, is the proposal for a new Area of Rescue Assistance Sign … which is contained in ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013).  While it is nice to finally see this Safety Sign appear in the mainstream of safety signage … the title being proposed for the sign and the explanatory texts which accompany it are very problematic …

  • The technical term being proposed – Evacuation Temporary Refuge – is too long and too difficult to understand ;
  • The explanatory texts which accompany this Sign are very confusing and misleading.

This problem has arisen because the people who drafted ISO 7010:2011 / FDAM 115 (2013) hadn’t a bull’s notion that ISO 21542 even existed !

In ISO 21542, we use the term Area of Rescue Assistance … which is easy for everybody to understand, including building users, building managers and firefighters, etc., etc.

We also explained, in ISO 21542, that a Place of Safety is a remote distance from the building … not anywhere inside the building !

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Mainstreaming Disability …

U.N. CRPD – Preamble

(g)  Emphasizing the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies of sustainable development,

As ‘disability’ moves closer towards … and is integrated and fully included in the ‘mainstream’ of sustainable community life and living … it is absolutely imperative that individuals and organizations who make up the Disability Sector become much more cohesive (far less fractious within) … that they begin to fully understand the practices and procedures of the mainstream … and actively and robustly engage with that mainstream.

It is ridiculous, for example, that a large amount of the Sector’s energy is still being diverted into meaningless meditations and endless tracts on whether it is ‘universal design’, or ‘design-for-all’, or ‘inclusive design’, or ‘facilitation design’, etc … when an entirely new design paradigm is being demanded by a world (our small planet when seen from the moon !), which is experiencing enormous levels of human poverty, natural resource shortages, human rights violations, and severe weather events.  The overriding priority must be ‘real’ implementation … Effective Accessibility for All !

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'Earthrise' from Apollo 14

Colour photograph – ‘Earthrise’ – taken from the Apollo 14 Spacecraft … showing a bright colourful Earth, in a dense black ‘sky’, rising above the pale surface of the Moon. Click to enlarge.

NASA’s Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

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And … Effective Accessibility for All is but one component of …

‘Social Wellbeing for All in a Sustainable Built Environment’

Refer also to …

2004 Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing

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Update:  2013-05-31 …

While the wider international design community is working hard on developing an array of Accessibility Symbols to facilitate different health condition and impairment categories, and to suit different environmental situations, e.g. a fire emergency in a building … I recently encountered another interesting contribution …

Alternative Accessibility Symbol (USA-2011) - Functional Impairment

Click to enlarge. For more information: www.accessibleicon.org

Any comments ??

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Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

2012-11-28:  On Monday last, 26 November 2012 … Fire broke out at a Sheltered Workshop for People with Activity Limitations, located in the small municipality of  Titisee-Neustadt, south-western Germany … not too far from the borders of France and Switzerland.  It was approximately 14.00 hrs in the afternoon … in broad daylight.

German news reports put the death toll at 14 People, including 1 Carer … with 10 People injured.

News reports also state that it took 2 Hours for Firefighters to bring this incident under control.  At the time that Photograph 1, below, was taken … smoke had spread throughout a major part of the building.

Viewers should look closely at the top of the external staircase … then, ask yourselves how any person with an activity limitation can be safely rescued, or assisted to evacuate, by means of a ladder (obscured, at the end of the building on the left) … and, finally, notice the positioning of fire hoses on the ground and on the staircase … some of the many issues which have been discussed extensively here before …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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2005 NIST(USA) Final Report on 9-11 World Trade Center 1 & 2 Tower Collapses

–  Recommendation  #17b  –

 To the degree possible, people with activity limitations should be provided with a means for self-evacuation in the event of a building emergency.  Current strategies (and law) generally require these people to shelter-in-place and await assistance.  New procedures, which provide redundancy in the event that the fire warden system or co-worker assistance (e.g. the buddy system) fail, should consider full building evacuation, and may include use of fire-protected and structurally hardened elevators, motorized evacuation technology, and dedicated communication technologies.

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At the heart of the impressive show of fire fighting equipment and technology … and the usual reassuring statements by local officials and other people in authority after the event … there is an equally impressive lie …

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Current Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures … do not seriously consider the safety of People with Activity Limitations … not properly – not adequately – not even INadequately.  Tokenism is the best offer available in just a few European countries.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

Photograph by Patrick Seeger(dpa). Click to enlarge.

According to Spiegel OnLine International …

The rescue was difficult because some people panicked, said Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier.  “We are dealing here with people who naturally do not respond rationally”, he said.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Let us be generous and kind … Local Fire Chief Alexander Widmaier has NO awareness or understanding of People with Activity Limitations and the daily challenges they face in moving around and using a built environment which is inaccessible and unsafe.

According to AFP OnLine …

Gotthard Benitz, of the Titisee-Neustadt fire service, told AFP earlier that the fire began on the ground floor of the building which also had a basement and an upper floor.

“The victims were all on the same floor where the fire was”, he said adding this was the only area to have sustained fire damage and the stairwell had remained smoke-free meaning those on the other two floors had been able to use it.

He also said firefighters were prepared for dealing with an emergency at the workshop as practice fire alarms were regularly carried out there, with the last one having been last year.

The head of Caritas in Germany, Peter Neher, told ZDF public television that emergency practice drills were done regularly.

IF this is an accurate news report, and bearing in mind that it is also a translation … I SAY …

Gotthard Benitz should also look at the top of the external staircase in Photograph 1 above.  IF there are no circulation hazards, e.g. ice, or obstacles, e.g. fire hoses … able-bodied people can easily go up or down a staircase … people who use wheelchairs or other mobility-aid devices cannot.

In their respective positions of responsibility … Gotthard Benitz and Peter Neher should both understand that all building occupants must be facilitated in acquiring the skill of evacuation to a ‘place of safety’, by way of a safe and accessible route.  An emergency practice drill, although carried out regularly once a year … is ENTIRELY inadequate … and will achieve Very Little.

Skill:  The ability of a person – resulting from training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.

Standard fire evacuation training and practice drill procedures must be adapted to the individual-specific abilities of People with Activity Limitations.

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BUT … the new International Standard ISO 21542 is a very small step in the right direction.  See yesterday’s post.

This situation will only improve to a significant degree, however, when People with Activity Limitations, and their Representative Organizations, begin to act decisively, in unison, and with serious intent …

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings – Personal Check List for People with Activity Limitations

1.     Upgrade ‘My’ understanding of Accessibility

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (not aggressive) with regard to ‘My’ own self-protection in emergency situations ;

3.     Concerning ‘My’ safety … demand that Building Management actively engages in Meaningful Consultation – and receives your Informed Consent ;

4.     Become familiar with the Fire Defence Plan for the building, and know ‘My’ part well ;

5.     Practice – practice – practice … become skilled in evacuation to a Place of Safety ;

6.     Become involved, and participate directly in the Building’s Safety Procedures.

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Self-Protection from Fire in Buildings  – Must-Do List for Representative Organizations & Groups

1.     Upgrade ‘Our’ understanding of Accessibility in a Social Context, its Current Vocabulary, and its Complexity … groups of individuals wish to socialize together … this is now, afterall, a recognised human and social right !

Ease of independent approach, entry, egress, evacuation and/or use of a building and its services and facilities, by all of the building’s potential users – with an assurance of individual Health, Safety and Welfare, and group Wellbeing, during the course of those activities ;

2.     Be assertive (and aggressive) with regard to the availability of proper Data and Statistics – we must clearly identify ‘Our’ problem with the many restrictions placed on our participation in local communities ;

3.     Produce a working statement of an Individual’s Rights – on 1 Page (!) ;

4.     Issue clear guidelines on Reliable Advocacy ;

5.     Become involved, and participate directly in the improvement of Building Codes and Regulations, Fire Safety Standards, Building Design Practices, and Building Management Procedures ;

6.      Demand resources to Monitor ‘Effective’ Implementation … and Target Relevant and ‘Practical’ Research.

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