Ar C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – International Expert on Sustainability Implementation + Accessibility-for-All + Fire Safety for All + Sustainable Fire Engineering
2020-09-08: Ignoring Britain’s silly sabre-rattling, toothless threats and boorish blackmail attempts reported in the Media during this past weekend, yesterday and today … the actual state of play in the tortuous Brexit Negotiations can best be judged from the following sources …
Michel Barnier’s Presentation to the Institute for International and European Affairs (IIEA), on 2 September 2020 … View it Here on YouTube
This is the European Union (EU), a Single Market of approximately 450 Million consumers. The EU operates under the freedoms and protections of Codified / Written Law, i.e. EU Treaties ratified by all of the EU Member States, EU Secondary Legislation (Regulations and Directives), and EU Administrative Provisions.
A suite of EU Regulations and Directives covers Industrial Products. While there is some flexibility with regard to how Directives are implemented at national level in the Member States, no such flexibility exists with Regulations. Construction Products can only be placed on the EU Single Market if they can be shown to comply with the requirements of the EU’s Construction Products Regulation (CPR) Framework, or in other words, be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ in the European Union …
BREXIT ~ IMPLICATIONS FOR THE BRITISH FIRE INDUSTRY
Trade ‘No Deal’ or ‘Minimal Deal’ … from 1 January 2021, Great Britain will be completely outside the European Single Market, and the EU’s Construction Products Regulation Framework. The designation ‘Notified Body’ under that Framework will fall away from British Organizations. Construction Products/Systems manufactured in, or supplied from, Britain will then have to undergo an entirely new EU Testing and Approvals Programme in order to access the European Single Market. Fire Safety related Construction Products will have to be tested, and assessed or appraised, against all 7 Basic Requirements for Buildings together, during the same period of time (see Annex I, EU Regulation 305/2011) …
Mechanical Resistance and Stability
Safety in Case of Fire
Hygiene, Health and the Environment
Safety and Accessibility in Use
Protection against Noise
Energy Economy and Heat Retention
Sustainable Use of Natural Resources
… a process which will be very interesting to observe, since the Fire Industry (particularly England’s Fire Establishment, AHJ’s, etc) dislikes, with intensity, the whole idea of ‘environmental impact’ … the concept of ‘sustainable development’ is hardly understood … and no consideration is given to the reasonable fire safety and accessibility needs of ‘vulnerable building users’ (including people with activity limitations, refugees, migrants, etc).
The tragic 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire, and its sad aftermath, have demonstrated how dysfunctional, and rotten to the core, is the whole national system of Building Fire Safety in England. More than 3 years later … on the evidence to date of an ongoing, incompetent Inquiry and a series of shoddy responses from Government … will survivors and the victims’ families ever receive Justice, and find Peace ? cf. The 1981 Stardust Discotheque Fire in Dublin. Survivors and victims’ families are still waiting for the truth to be revealed.
In parallel, mutual recognition of British Professional Building Designers, e.g. Architects, Structural Engineers, Fire Engineers, etc., within the European Union will cease.
In parallel, British Fire Research involvement in EU Research Networks will also cease … unless a heavy price is paid to be involved as a 3rd Country. British Institutions should forget any notions they might have about Network Leadership.
In parallel, Information and Data Flows between Britain and the EU will be disrupted or cease altogether … unless Britain complies fully with the requirements of EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2016/679. As a vassal state of the USA, this compliance may prove difficult for Britain !
EU Fire Safety Related Product/System Manufacturers ~ A Word of Caution !
Many EU Construction Product/System Manufacturers continue to use the services provided by British Fire Test Laboratories and/or Fire Consultancy Organizations located in Great Britain … some of which have already established EU-based dummy companies and letterheads. These British organizations must be avoided altogether. For example, the practice of fire testing in England and later adding a title page of a Full Test Report with an EU location address is entirely unacceptable !
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, building designers must now begin to think and act in the simple terms of a building being either Accessible, or not. Too many pointless discussions, and too much petty squabbling, about constrained and constraining accessibility philosophies have wasted valuable time, energy and resources.
Building Accessibility 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, its facilities and information systems … Egress during normal / ambient conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and most importantly, safe Evacuation during a fire emergency to a Place of Safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.
To be Accessible, a building must meet a long and complex list of inter-related Accessibility & Usability Design Criteria sufficiently well, i.e. the building must work properly for building occupants and users. The design target is Effective Accessibility … not half-baked accessibility, partial accessibility, the minimal accessibility required by building codes, or token accessibility.
On the other hand, and taking additional account of the current CoronaVirus / CoVID-19 Pandemic … the construction and operation target must be Successful Implementation, i.e. the finished building design, as constructed and operated, must provide a consistently high degree of safety, convenience and comfort for potential occupants and users during the lifetime of the building.
People with Activity Limitations … those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without assistance, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature … are a significant vulnerable group in every community, in every society, and include people with disabilities, children under the age of 5 years, frail older people, women in the later stages of pregnancy, and people with health conditions, etc.
Fire Safety Codes and Standards for healthy, able-bodied, agile adults using buildings exist in almost every country ; these people can take for granted that buildings are fire safe for them !
However, guidelines concerning Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations / Fire Safety for ALL (if those guidelines exist at all) are usually technically inadequate, entirely tokenistic and/or blatantly discriminatory ; these people must assume that there is a serious risk to their safety every time they enter a building. For them, this is a very significant barrier to their personal development, participation and social inclusion ; it is a clear and present violation of their human rights !
Forcefully mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted on 13 December 2006 … the UN CRPD’s Principal Aim is to ensure that the Human Environment (social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional) is sufficiently accessible to facilitate the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and subsequent International Rights Instruments, by a vulnerable and major section of the population in all of our communities.
It is time to Entirely Eradicate current obsolete, professionally negligent, incompetent and ridiculous approaches to Building Design which result in …
Fire Safety for SOME but not for ALL
Accessibility for SOME but not for ALL
Intricately inter-related … ‘Fire Safety for All’ is a vital component of ‘Accessibility for All’.
Essential Considerations for National Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s):This Planet is Our Common Home – Be a Good Neighbour to Other Countries (Cuba is a Good Example, USA is a Bad Example) … Global Solidarity & Multilateral Collaboration in Co-Operation with the World Health Organization (WHO) … Act Fast … Perfection is the Enemy of the Good … The Precautionary Principle … Test-Test-Test … Return Test Results within 24 Hours … Trace Contacts within the Next 24 Hours … Collect, Collate and Openly Share Reliable Data & Statistics … Vulnerable People Require Equitable Safety Measures … Uphold and Protect Human & Social Rights.
[ 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, Prisoners, the Poor, and Homeless. ]
Essential Considerations for Each Person in a Community: Wash Hands Often and Properly (see Video below) … Wear a Mask in Outdoor and Indoor Public Spaces (see WHO Guidance below) … Social Separation / Physical Distancing … Be Careful, Always … Pay Attention to Your Mental Health (see UN Policy Brief below).
First Affiliated Hospital, Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China
The First Affiliated Hospital has treated 104 patients who tested positive for CoVID-19 in 50 days. It has achieved zero deaths in patients diagnosed, zero patients misdiagnosed, and zero infections in medical staff. Its experts documented real treatment experience when combating the virus, 24 hours a day, and quickly published this Handbook.
Public Health Emergencies often lead to Stigma, Discrimination and Abuse towards certain communities and social groups, or affected people. Within the context of CoVID-19, this has already happened … with the disease being recklessly and maliciously associated with a specific population or nationality.
Independent Oversight & Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme
Established to facilitate on-line communication and collaboration internationally, as well as to provide Frontline Medical Teams around the world with the necessary communication channels to share practical experience about fighting, controlling and overcoming the pandemic.
The European Commission, together with several Partners, launched this Platform on 20 April 2020 … to enable the rapid collection and sharing of available Research Data. The Platform, part of the ERAvsCorona Action Plan (download PDF File, 153 Kb), is a significant effort to support Researchers in Europe and around the World in the fight against the CoronaVirus pandemic.
Vulnerable People, such as Those with Activity Limitations (#PwAL) or Disabilities (#PwD), are more impacted by #CoronaVirus/#CoVID19. These impacts can be mitigated if simple Self-Protection Measures are taken.
As Fire Departments and local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) continue planning to respond to CoronaVirus/CoVID-19 occurrences in their communities, the IAFC Coronavirus Task Force has developed a guide to identify best practices … and key recommendations which are based largely on guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/) and the World Health Organization (WHO – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019). When planning for CoVID-19, Fire Chiefs must also be sure to collaborate with local Stakeholders, both individuals and organizations !
2020-03-23: The Grenfell Fire Inquiry’s Phase 1 Recommendations (Part V in Volume 4 of the Phase 1 Report), were published on 30 October 2019. The initial issues covered in those Recommendations are fragmentary, lack depth and coherence … and in the case of Fire Alarms, with just one indirect reference to them in Paragraph #33.22 … they are in serious error …
[ Paragraph #33.22 ] There were no plans in place for evacuating Grenfell Tower should the need arise. I therefore recommend:
d. that all high-rise residential buildings (both those already in existence and those built in the future) be equipped with facilities for use by the fire and rescue services enabling them to send an evacuation signal to the whole or a selected part of the building by means of sounders or similar devices ;
FUNDAMENTALS OF A SOLUTION
1. A Fire Alarm (more precisely from here on, a Fire Detection & Warning System) is a critical safety feature in all buildings … ALL BUILDINGS … from the smallest and most simple, to the biggest and most complex … no exceptions !!
In order to survive in a fire emergency, Vulnerable Building Users need more time to react, and evacuate, than other occupants/users. The valuable time provided by early, accurate and precise detection is the only way to effectively facilitate this. The ‘Required Time’ to prepare for evacuation depends on many factors, e.g. building complexity, familiarity of users with evacuation routes, range and severity of user activity limitations, etc.
It follows, therefore, that if building occupants/users have to wait 15, or 20, or 30 minutes before firefighters arrive at the fire scene (Full Response Time*) and ‘an evacuation signal to the whole or a selected part of the building’ is only then sent by those firefighters … all of that valuable evacuation time for vulnerable building users has been lost. This is ridiculous, and makes no sense whatsoever. This Recommendation must be rejected out of hand, and ignored !
[ *Full Response Time: The time interval from the receipt of an emergency communication at the primary public safety answering point (#PSAP) to when emergency response units are initiating action or intervening to control a fire incident. ]
Important Note: In Chapter #34: ‘Looking Ahead to Phase 2’ of Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Report, Volume 4 … Paragraph #34.14 states …
A question was raised about the width of the stairs, given that they provided the sole means of access to the upper floors of the tower for firefighters as well as the sole means of escape for the occupants. However, the stairs appear to have complied with requirements of the legislation in force at the time of their construction and the expert evidence supports the conclusion that they had sufficient capacity to enable all the occupants of the building to escape within a reasonable time. This aspect of the building will not, therefore, be the subject of further investigation in Phase 2.’
Astounding ! Absurd !! FUBAR !!!
All Fire Emergency Warning Systems must be designed to accommodate People with Hearing Impairments. Audible and visual warning devices must be provided together, as a single combined unit. This is particularly important in noisy and isolated building spaces, e.g. bathrooms, small meeting rooms. Vibrating devices, such as pagers or mobile phones, can be integrated into a building’s fire emergency warning system in order to provide any individual with a tactile emergency alert.
Important Note: Audible sounders, on their own, are never a sufficient Fire Emergency Warning !
2. The Purpose of a Fire Emergency Warning System is to provoke calm, efficient and adaptable evacuation movement by ALL building users/occupants at the earliest possible stage in a fire incident, without causing user confusion, disorientation or panic. In all building types, therefore, a reliable, informative and accessible fire emergency warning system must be installed, and such a system must always have a fire protected electrical supply.
3. To provoke a Calm Response from Building Users … the output from Fire Emergency Warning Devices, e.g. light, sound and messages, must be adapted to the local context of people and building surroundings.
Fire Emergency Audible Warnings … A sufficient number of low-output audible sounders, i.e. between 60-80 dB, must be specified for effectiveness. Small numbers of sounders with high output (in order to reduce costs) should never be specified, as this can lead to confusion, disorientation and panic attacks among some building users/occupants. The output of sounders must be adapted to suit interior surroundings, e.g. in small spaces with hard surfaces a lower sound output will be adequate.
Important Note: When they are asleep, hearing-able children (around ten years of age and under) … and hearing-able older people (around 65 years of age and over) are more difficult to wake and rouse sufficiently for evacuation when alerted by an audible signal alone.
Fire Emergency Visual Warnings … Light strobes/beacons must be clearly visible. To reinforce #1 above … light strobes/beacons must be placed in wash rooms and in other locations within buildings where people may be alone ; they must also be placed in noisy environments.
A sufficient number of low-output strobes/beacons must be specified for effectiveness. Small numbers of strobes/beacons with high output (in order to reduce costs) should never be specified, as these produce a glare which may cause confusion, disorientation and panic attacks among some building users/occupants. The light output of strobes/beacons must be adapted to suit interior surroundings, e.g. in dark rooms.
For light strobes/beacons, a slow rate of flash is important, i.e. no faster than once every two or three seconds, in order to encourage a calm response from building users/occupants and to avoid photosensitivity seizures. Most importantly, the flash of one strobe/beacon must be synchronized with the flashes of all other light strobes/beacons in view.
Fire Emergency Voice Message Warnings … Are essential to improve Warning Credibility. In other words, building users are far less likely to sit around wondering, waiting to see whether this is a ‘real’ fire emergency, a false alarm, a practice evacuation, or an electrical error. Verbal or voice messages must be short and contain appropriate warning information which is easily assimilated. The speaker should be distinct and easy to understand. Live messaging during a fire emergency is preferred over pre-recorded, standard messages. In today’s multi-cultural social environment, messages must be transmitted in at least two to three different languages, as appropriate.
Fire Emergency Directional Warnings … Combination sounder, visible strobe/beacon, and voice messaging Fire Emergency Warning Devices are now a mainstream technology, are readily available, and are being specified in new and existing buildings.
Audible directional signalling must be installed when dealing with difficult building configurations, e.g. in large open office layouts/spaces with minimal signage … where building users/occupants are unfamiliar with their surroundings in modern shopping centres/malls and other complex building types … or visibility of high-level signage may be reduced because of smoke logging.
Directional sounders, which guide building users during a Fire Evacuation towards Exits, Areas of Rescue Assistance and Lift/Elevator Lobbies, must be positioned at carefully chosen, suitable locations. Once reached, a directional sounder must also have a voice messaging capability in order to inform people about the next phase of evacuation.
4. Fire Emergency Warning Systems must be Accessible (for People with Activity Limitations), i.e. capable of transmitting a warning in many formats in order to ensure that all users/occupants perceive and act upon the warning in a calm manner and, thereafter, that effective evacuation movement commences without delay. Warning Credibility improves in direct relation to the type and number of different warning formats.
As well as indirectly referring to Fire Detection and Warning Systems, Paragraph #33.22 in Moore-Bick’s Phase 1 Recommendations has some other things to say about Evacuation. So this is an opportune moment to discuss some practical and human issues concerning Fire Emergency Evacuation … and, straight away, to deal with an unexpected consequence arising from the current CoronaVirus/CoVID-19 Emergency …
CoronaVIRUS / CoVID-19 PANDEMIC
There have been widely reported instances, in many countries, of panic buying in shops because of the 2020 CoronaVirus/CoVID-19 Emergency … but the photograph below illustrates an example of a panic reaction by building management. This appears to be a crime scene … the yellow and black tape is so dramatic. In a real Fire Emergency, many building users/occupants will be reluctant to use this final fire exit ; they will not have the time to read the small print on a notice ; they will attempt to re-trace their path of evacuation and find another exit.
This panic reaction by building management IS a serious impediment to Fire Evacuation !
Whatever the Motives of Building Management …
in countries which have Fire Codes / Regulations, this action is illegal ; and
in these days, when a wide range of ‘smart’ technologies is readily available … this action is inexcusable.
SOME PRACTICAL FIRE EVACUATION ISSUES
A Skill is the ability of a person, resulting from competent training and regular practice, to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal. All building occupants/users must be skilled for evacuation to an external ‘place of safety’, which is at a safe and remote distance from the fire building. Practice fire evacuations must be carried out sufficiently often to equip building users, particularly vulnerable users, with this skill, i.e. at least once every six months ; in complex building types, practices should be carried out more often. Prior notification to occupants/users, and regular scheduling of practice evacuations should be avoided.
Familiarity with Fire Evacuation Routes will be fostered and greatly improved by means of normal, everyday use by occupants/users. This is an important task for pro-active Building Management in existing buildings … and an important aspect of new building design for Architects and Fire Engineers.
While the transmission of fire emergency warnings in many formats will increase Warning Credibility, close observation of past tragic ‘real’ fire events, e.g. the WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City, shows that initiation of evacuation and the actual process of evacuation itself can be problematic. An interesting, easily assimilated and user-targeted skills programme of training should incorporate practical solutions to deal with the following typical problems:
Fire Emergency Preparedness: Irregular attendance of building occupants/users at fire prevention and safety training sessions, and participation in practice fire evacuations. Users not being familiar with a building’s fire emergency management plan and not knowing who is in charge … not using a building’s fire evacuation route(s), particularly staircases, during practices … or having no information about where to assemble after evacuating … or, once at a place of safety, not having any head count or identification process ;
Delaying Activities Inside The Fire Building: Once building occupants/users decide to evacuate, but before moving to evacuate, they gather personal effects … seek out friends/co-workers … search for others … make phone calls/send tweets … finish tasks/turn off computers … wait around for instructions … change shoes … and try to obtain permission to leave ;
Delaying Activities Outside The Fire Building: Once outside the building’s final fire exit, but before moving directly to a place of safety, building occupants/users stop to see what is happening … look for friends/co-workers … look for a phone … do not know where to go … or, within the ‘danger zone’ of the fire building, stop to receive medical attention.
It may seem obvious that Fire Evacuation Routes must also be Accessible (for People with Activity Limitations), which also makes routes much safer for every other building user … and sufficiently wide to accommodate Contraflow (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) … a harsh lesson learned from the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks and the 2017 Grenfell Tower Fire. Since they are new, strange and unusual for many building designers, and most fire engineers … these aspects of building performance are overlooked in nearly every building.
Practice Evacuations should include exercise of the buddy system ; fire safety fittings, e.g. portable fire extinguishers ; and fire evacuation devices intended for use by people with activity limitations which will require more intensive training.
Important Note: During fire emergencies, People with Activity Limitations must be permitted to keep possession of their own personal Facilitation / Mobility Aids.
SOME HUMAN FIRE EVACUATION ISSUES
The actual people who use and occupy buildings are individuals. They are different from each other, and they each have a different range of abilities (in relation to self-protection, independent evacuation to an external place of safety remote from a fire building, and active participation in a building’s fire emergency management plan), behaviour and manner of perceiving their surroundings. Two apparently similar people will also show variations in how they react to and behave in any specific situation, particularly a fire emergency.
Ability / Disability is a Continuum – a gentle gradient on which every person functions and acts at different levels due to personal and environmental, i.e. external, factors.
In situations of severe stress, e.g. during a fire emergency in a building, where there is a lack of preparedness for such an event, a lack of familiarity with evacuation routes, lack of reliable evacuation information, lack of competent leadership and clear direction, and the presence of smoke, user/occupant confusion, disorientation and panic will occur. Standard evacuation movement times will also be non-existent. In addition, people with activity limitations must then deal with many physical barriers which routinely impede their evacuation from buildings, e.g. fire resisting doorsets which are difficult to open, steps along evacuation routes and at final fire exits.
In the case of people with a mental or cognitive impairment, there is a particular need to encourage, foster and regularly practice the adaptive thinking which will be necessary during evacuation a real fire incident.
People with respiratory health conditions will not be able to enter or pass through smoke. People with visual impairments will require continuous, linked tactile and/or voice information during the whole process of fire evacuation. People with psychological impairments, i.e. vertigo and agoraphobia, will be unable to use fire evacuation staircases with glass walls in high-rise buildings. Because of the stigma still associated with disability in many countries, some users/occupants who will need assistance during a fire emergency will be reluctant to self-identify beforehand. Other people may not even be able to recognize that they have an activity limitation or a health condition.
Meaningful Consultation with a person known to occupy or use a building, for the purposes of receiving his/her active co-operation and informed consent (involving a personal representative, if necessary), is an essential component of adequate pre-planning and preparation for a fire emergency.
Building Designers, Fire Engineers and Firefighters should be aware of the following human conditions:
Agoraphobia: A fear of open spaces.
Commentary: Agoraphobia is one of the most commonly cited phobic disorders of people seeking psychiatric or psychological treatment. It has a variety of manifestations, e.g. a deep fear of leaving a building, or of being caught alone in some public place. When placed in threatening situations, agoraphobics may experience a panic attack.
Anosognosia: A neurological disorder marked by the inability of a person to recognize that he/she has an activity limitation or a health condition.
Dementia: Any degenerative loss of intellectual capacity, to the extent that normal and occupational activities can no longer be carried out.
Panic: A sudden overwhelming feeling of anxiety, which may be of momentary or prolonged duration.
Panic Attack: A momentary period of intense fear or discomfort, accompanied by various symptoms which may include shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, trembling, sweating, nausea, and often a fear by a person that he/she is going mad.
I was very pleased to make a Presentation at both events, adapted to suit an Irish context, on … ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering – Necessary Professional Transformation For The 21st Century’ … which continues to evolve.
Sustainable Fire Engineering: The creative, person-centred and ethical Fire Engineering response, in resilient built form and smart systems, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development … the many aspects of which must receive synchronous and balanced consideration !
Annual Fire Losses, both direct and indirect, amount to a very significant percentage of Gross Domestic Product (#GDP) in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental devastation and social disruption. Some losses have not yet been fully identified, e.g. environmental impact … while others are not yet capable of being fully quantified, e.g. business interruption, brand and reputation damage. Globally, fire statistics still remain unreliable. In all cases, however, the waste of valuable human and natural resources caused by preventable fires is unsustainable and no longer acceptable.
From an entirely different perspective … Sustainable Buildings are presenting every society with an innovative and exciting re-interpretation of how a building functions in response to critical energy, environmental, climate change and planetary capacity pressures … an approach which has left the International Fire Engineering and Firefighting Communities far behind in its wake, struggling to develop the necessary ‘creative’ and ‘sustainable’ fire safety strategies.
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering (#SFE) is to dramatically reduce direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including the social, built, economic, virtual, and institutional environments) … to protect the Natural Environment … and, within buildings, to ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for All Occupants, not just for Some, over the full building life cycle.
The following Priority Themes for SFE lie outside, or beyond, the constrained and limited fire safety objectives of current fire regulations, codes and standards – objectives which do not properly protect society, a fire engineer’s clients, or the facility manager’s organization:
Fire Safety for ALL, not just for Some. Nobody left behind !
Firefighter Safety. Everyone goes home ! It is easy to dramatically improve firefighter safety with building design. So, why haven’t NIST’s 2005 and 2008 WTC 9-11 Critical Recommendations been properly implemented anywhere ?
Property Protection. Fire damage and post-fire reconstruction/refurbishment are a huge waste of resources. On the other hand, protection of an organization’s image/brand/reputation is important … and business continuity is essential. Heritage fire losses can never be replaced.
Environmental Impact. Prevention of a fire is far better than any cure ! But prevention must also begin by specifying ‘clean’ technologies and products. Low Pressure Water Mist Systems are not only person/environment-friendly and resource efficient … they are absolutely essential in airtight and hyper energy-efficient building types (e.g. LEED, PassivHaus, BREEAM) in order to achieve an effective level of fire safety for all occupants, and firefighters. [ Note: Environmental Impact Assessment (#EIA) has been superseded by Sustainability Impact Assessment (#SIA).]
Building Innovation, People and Their Interaction. Fire engineers and firefighters must begin to understand today’s new design strategies.
Sustainable Design and Engineering. Wake up and smell the coffee ! Legislation can only achieve so much. Spatial planners, building designers and fire engineers must subscribe to a robust Code of Ethics * which is fit for purpose in the Human Environment of the 21st Century.
Sustainable Fire Engineering Solutions are …
Adapted to a local context, i.e. climate change/variability/extremes, social need, geography, economy, and culture, etc ;
Reliability-based – lessons from real extreme and hybrid events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 Attack, 2008 Mumbai/2015 Paris/2016 Brussels Hive Attacks and the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident, are applied to frontline practice ;
Person-centred – real people are placed at the centre of creative endeavours and due consideration is given to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment ;
Resilient – functioning must be reliable during normal conditions, and include the ability to withstand, adapt to and absorb unusual disturbance, disruption or damage, and thereafter to quickly return to an enhanced state of function.
The creative, person-centred and ethical fire engineering response – in resilient built or wrought form, and using smart systems – to the intricate, open, dynamic and continually evolving concept of Sustainable Human & Social Development … the many aspects of which must receive balanced and synchronous consideration.
SFE PRIORITY THEMES
1. Fire Safety for ALL – Not Just for SOME People. Nobody Left Behind !
Do Building Designers and Fire Engineers have any understanding of what it feels like to be left behind in a fire emergency … perhaps to die ?
Do Building Designers and Fire Engineers have any understanding of the ‘real’ people who use their buildings … or their ‘real’ needs ?
2. Firefighter Safety – It’s So Easy to Dramatically Improve Their Safety At A Fire Scene ! A Firefighter’s Protective Clothing and Equipment are not enough !
Conscious awareness of this issue by Building Designers and Fire Engineers is required … and appropriate education/training.
3. Property Protection – A Minor Code Fire Safety Objective, Insofar As It Is Necessary to Protect the Safety of Building Users … Only !
Fire damage and post-fire reconstruction/refurbishment are a huge waste of resources. On the other hand, protection of an organization’s image/brand is important … and business continuity is essential.
Heritage Fire Losses cannot be replaced !
To properly protect Society and the interests of a Client/Client Organization … Building Designers and Fire Engineers are ethically bound to clearly explain the limitations of Code and Standard Fire Safety Objectives to their Client/Client Organization.
4. Environmental Impact – Prevention Is Far, Far Better Than Cure. Instead of resisting, and erecting ‘professional’ barriers … Spatial Planners, Building Designers and Fire Engineers must begin to properly understand this concept … and act ethically to defend and protect the environment !
Environmental Impact: Any effect caused by a given activity on the environment, including human health, safety and welfare, flora, fauna, soil, air, water, and especially representative samples of natural ecosystems, climate, landscape and historical monuments or other physical structures, or the interactions among these factors ; it also includes effects on accessibility, cultural heritage or socio-economic conditions resulting from alterations to those factors.
This Planet – Our Common Home – can no longer suffer the scale and extent of total devastation seen after the 2015 Tianjin (China) Regional Fire Disaster !
5. Building Innovation, People and Their Interaction – Fire Engineers and Firefighters must understand current approaches to more sustainable building design, the ‘real’ people who use the built environment, and the complex interactions between both.
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, in English and French, includes …
people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
wheelchair users ;
the very young (people under 5 years of age), frail older people, and women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
people who are visually and/or hearing impaired ;
people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition … or any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia … or who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
people impaired after the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines … or following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activity, e.g. war or terrorism ;
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/toxic substances and/or elevated temperatures.
6. Sustainable Design & Engineering – Get With The Programme ! The extensive United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Framework Agenda was overwhelmingly agreed and adopted in 2015.
Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA): A continual evaluation and optimization process – informing initial decision-making, design, shaping activity/product/service realization, useful life, and termination or final disposal – of the interrelated positive and negative social, environmental, economic, institutional, political and legal impacts on balanced and equitable implementation of Sustainable Human & Social Development.
‘Carrots and Sticks’ can only achieve so much. Spatial Planners, Building Designers and Fire Engineers must – individually and as a group – subscribe to a robust Code of Ethics which is fit for purpose in today’s Human Environment.
New CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, Construction & Operation’, which will establish a framework for the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.
Preparation of this Document will soon begin, and the following issues will be explored:
Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE), with a necessary accompanying Generic SFE Terminology ;
Strategy for Future SFE Development ;
Implementation of 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations ;
Fresh, New SFE Research Agenda ;
Resilient Implementation of SFE Research Agenda.
Would you like to get involved, and help with this work ?
PRIORITY THEME 1 – FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL (2017)
The Fire Safety Task Group, chaired by CJ Walsh, of ISO Technical Committee 59, Sub-Committee 16, Working Group 1, has already commenced the revision and further development of the fire safety texts in International Standard ISO 21542 (2011): ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’.
The main effort, initially, has been focused on developing a coherent Fire Safety for All approach … token consideration, or a post-design graft-on, of the fire safety needs of people with activity limitations do not work, and are unacceptable.
‘ The creative, person-centred and ethical Fire Engineering response, in resilient built form and smart systems, to the concept of Sustainable Human and Social Development – the many aspects of which must receive balanced and synchronous consideration.’
Organized by FireOx International (Ireland, Italy & Turkey), in joint collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Engineering & Built Environment (Scotland) … and having a widely multi-disciplinary attendance from the U.S.A., Hong Kong SAR (China), Spain, Finland, Scotland, Norway, Germany, England, The Netherlands and Ireland … SFE 2016 DUBLIN was a unique, and very successful, two-day gathering within the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities.
SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING fulfils a Critical Role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment 4 ALL !
SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING facilitates Positive Progress in implementing the United Nation’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which incorporates 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 Performance Targets !
SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING fast-tracks Proper Compliance with the 7 Basic Performance Requirements – functional, fully integrated and indivisible – in Annex I of European Union Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 !
A NECESSARY & LONG OVERDUE TRANSFORMATION !
A Building is a permanent construction, complying with basic performance requirements and capable of being easily adapted … comprising structure, essential electronic, information and communication technologies (EICT’s), and fabric (non-structure) … having a minimum life cycle of 100 years … and providing habitable, functional and flexible interior spaces for people to use.
Building Users have a wide and varied range of abilities and behaviours … some having discernible health conditions and/or physical, mental, cognitive, psychological impairments … while others, e.g. young children, women in the later stages of pregnancy and frail older people, are also particularly vulnerable in user-hostile, inaccessible environments. Not everyone will self-identify as having an activity limitation because of the high level of social stigma associated with ‘disability’. Building designers and fire engineers must accept that building users have rights and responsible needs ; the real individual and group fire safety requirements of vulnerable building users must be given proper consideration by both design disciplines, working collaboratively together.
Following the savage 2008 Mumbai Hive Attack in India, and the more recent 2015 and 2016 Attacks in Europe, i.e. Paris, Brussels, Istanbul and Berlin … it is entirely wrong to assume that the main and/or only targets will be specific high-risk buildings types, i.e. Tall/High-Rise, Iconic, Innovative and Critical Function Buildings (refer to 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations). All buildings and adjoining/adjacent public spaces must be carefully assessed for the risk of direct or collateral involvement in an Extreme Man-Made Event.
It is a fundamental principle of reliable and resilient structural engineering that horizontal and vertical structural members/elements of construction are robustly connected together. All buildings must, therefore, be capable of resisting Disproportionate Damage. The restriction of this requirement, within some jurisdictions, to buildings of more than five storeys in height is purely arbitrary, cannot be substantiated technically … and ethically, must be disregarded.
Fire-Induced Progressive Damage is distinguished from Disproportionate Damage – a related but different structural concept – by the mode of damage initiation, not the final condition of building failure. This phenomenon is poorly understood. But, unless it is impeded, or resisted, by building design … Fire-Induced Progressive Damage will result in Disproportionate Damage … and may lead to a Collapse Level Event (CLE), which is entirely unacceptable to the general population of any community or society. All buildings must, therefore, be capable of resisting Fire-Induced Progressive Damage.
All buildings must also be carefully assessed for the risk of involvement in a Severe Natural Event, e.g. earthquakes, floods, landslides, typhoons and tsunamis.
In all of the above Risk Assessments … the minimum Return Period (also known as Recurrence Interval or Repeat Interval) must never be less than 100 years.
Reacting to surging energy, environmental and planetary capacity pressures … with accelerating climate change … Sustainable Buildings are now presenting society with an innovative and exciting re-interpretation of how a building is designed, constructed and functions … an approach which is leaving the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities far behind in its wake, struggling to keep up.
Passive and Active Fire Protection Measures, together with Building Management Systems (whether human and/or intelligent), are never 100% reliable. Society must depend, therefore, on firefighters to fill this reliability ‘gap’ … and to enter buildings on fire in order to search for remaining or trapped building users. This is in addition to their regular firefighting function. Therefore, there is a strong ethical obligation on building designers, including fire engineers, to properly consider Firefighter Safety … should a fire incident occur at any time during the life cycle of a building.
Structural Serviceability, Fire Resistance Performance and ‘Fire Safety for All’ in a building must, therefore, be related directly to the local Fire Service Support Infrastructure … particularly in developing and the least developed countries. AND … Fire Codes and Standards must always be adapted to a local context !
The fire safety objectives of current Fire Codes and Standards are limited, usually flawed … and will rarely satisfy the real needs of clients/client organizations, or properly protect society. Fire code compliance, in isolation from other aspects of building performance, will involve a consideration of only a fraction of the issues discussed above. There is once again, therefore, a strong ethical obligation on building designers, including fire engineers, to clearly differentiate between the limited fire safety objectives in Fire Codes and Standards … and Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … and to explain these differences to a Client/Client Organization. Facility Managers must also explain these differences directly to an Organization’s Senior Management … and directly inform the Organization’s Board of Directors … as appropriate.SFE Mission: To ensure that there is an effective level of Fire Safety for ALL – not just for SOME – in the Built Environment … to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment … and to protect the Natural Environment.
To transform Conventional Fire Engineering, as practiced today, into an ethical and fully professional Sustainable Design Discipline which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century … meaning … that fire engineers can participate actively and collaboratively in the sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment.
To bring together today’s disparate sectors within the International Fire Engineering (and Science) Community … to encourage better communication between each, and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all.
To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Urban Resilience Communities … and the International Fire Engineering and Fire Service Communities.
The realization of a Safe, Inclusive, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment demands a concerted, collaborative, very creative and widely trans-disciplinary effort at national, local, regional and international levels across the whole planet – Our Common Home. The informed operation of appropriate legislation, administrative procedures, performance monitoring and targeting, and incentives/disincentives, at all of these levels, will facilitate initial progress towards this objective … but not the quantity, quality or speed of progress necessary. Our time is running out !
This Code of Ethics applies … for those who subscribe to its values … to policy and decision makers, and the many different individuals and organizations directly and indirectly involved in the design, engineering, construction, and operation (management and maintenance) of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All.
The Purpose of this Code of Ethics is to guide the work of competent individuals and organizations in a context where incomplete or inadequate legislation, administrative procedures and incentives/disincentives exist … but, more importantly, where they do not exist at all … and, amid much confusion and obfuscation of the terms, to ensure that implementation is authentically ‘sustainable’, and reliably ‘safe’ and ‘resilient’ for every person in the receiving community, society or culture … before it is too late !
3. New CIB W14: ‘Fire Safety’ Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design, Construction & Operation’, which will establish a framework for the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.
Preparation of this Document will soon begin, and the following issues will be explored:
Conceptual Framework for Sustainable Fire Engineering (SFE), with a necessary accompanying Generic SFE Terminology ;
Strategy for Future SFE Development ;
Implementation of 2005 & 2008 NIST WTC 9-11 Recommendations ;