Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

‘Sustainable Fire Engineering for All’ – SDI’s Professional Service

2012-12-14 & 2012-12-30:  Further to this distressing incident … which exposed a profound lack of awareness, care and competence within the general fire safety industrial sector …

Recent Fatal Fire at a Disabled Workshop in SW Germany

… this is how we would like to help you … whether you are an individual, or an organization … whether you are located in Ireland, Italy or Turkey … some other part of Europe, the Arab Gulf Region, India, Japan, China … or wherever !

And … we can, if requested or necessary, work in collaboration with local partners in those different geographical regions.

– FireOx International is the Fire Engineering Division of Sustainable Design International Ltd. (SDI) –

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Colour photograph showing the 2 World Trade Center Towers, in New York City, immediately after the second plane impact. The mechanical damage arising from such a plane impact had been considered in the Initial Building Design Process; incredibly, any type of Fire Incident had not ! In the case of both towers and within a short period of time, Fire-Induced Progressive Damage resulted in Disproportionate Damage, and eventual Total Building Collapse. The horror and carnage at the World Trade Center Complex, and the extensive collateral damage to everywhere south of Canal Street, caused enormous long-term damage to the economy of Manhattan ... and had a very significant adverse impact on Global Financial Markets. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing the 2 World Trade Center Towers, in New York City, immediately after the second plane impact. The mechanical damage arising from such a plane impact had been considered in the Initial Building Design Process; incredibly, any type of Fire Incident had not ! In the case of both towers and within a short period of time, Fire-Induced Progressive Damage resulted in Disproportionate Damage, and eventual Total Building Collapse. The horror and carnage at the World Trade Center Complex also caused enormous long-term damage to the economy of Manhattan … and had a very significant adverse impact on Global Financial Markets. Click to enlarge.

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Introduction

Fundamentally, the 9-11 World Trade Center Incident in New York (2001) was an Extreme ‘Real’ Fire Event.  It presented the International Fire Engineering Community with a catastrophic failure in conventional practices and procedures related to:

  • Fire Engineering, Structural Engineering, and Architectural Design ;
  • Human Building Management Systems ;
  • Emergency Response by Firefighters, Rescue Teams, and Medical Personnel ;
  • National and Local Organizations Having Authority or Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) ;

… and with the serious problem of entirely inadequate Fire Safety Objectives in the building legislation, model codes and design standards of the most economically advanced countries in the world.

Those people who understand the building design process, and have experience as construction practitioners, have long realised that the lessons from 9-11 must be applied across the full spectrum of building types … not just to tall buildings.  Right up to the present day, unfortunately, many people in the International Fire Engineering Community are either unwilling, or unable, to do this.

Furthermore … Fire Engineering, Architectural Design and Structural Engineering must, of urgent necessity, be seamlessly conjoined … with the aim of removing misunderstandings and the wide gaps in client service delivery between the different disciplines.

In 2002, a series of Long-Term 9-11 Survivor Health Studies commenced in the USA … and in 2005 and 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a series of Post 9-11 Critical Recommendations concerning the design, construction, management and operation of buildings.

At FireOx International … we have fully integrated this essential design guidance into our frontline fire engineering and architectural practice … we have developed unique and practical solutions for worldwide application, some of which appear in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, published in December 2011.

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Colour photograph showing an armed assailant during the November 2008 'Hive-Attack' on Mumbai ... an extraordinarily violent, co-ordinated assault on the largest (and wealthiest) city in India, which involved the strategic targeting of built environment Places of Public Resort, Iconic Buildings, High-Rise Buildings, Buildings having a Critical Function, Transport Infrastructure and Service Utilities ... with the aim of causing widespread terror among the general population, including tourists, and disruption to the city’s important economic environment. Click to enlarge.

Colour photograph showing an armed assailant during the November 2008 ‘Hive-Attack’ on Mumbai … an extraordinarily violent, co-ordinated assault on the largest (and wealthiest) city in India, which involved the strategic targeting of built environment Places of Public Resort, Iconic Buildings, High-Rise Buildings, Buildings having a Critical Function, Transport Infrastructure and Service Utilities … with the aim of causing widespread terror among the general population, including tourists, and disruption to the city’s important economic environment. Click to enlarge.

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FireOx International’s Commitment to You

As a necessary response to the New 21st Century Paradigm of Real Extreme Event in a Built Environment which is becoming more and more complex … is subject to climate change and severe weather events … and is vulnerable to malign and malevolent disruption –

WE are committed to … the implementation of a Sustainable Human Environment which is Fire Safe and Secure for All, meaning that an ‘appropriate project-specific fire safety level’ is our fire engineering objective, with ‘human health protection’ targeted as a priority … through the use of innovative, reliability-based and person-centred sustainable design practices and procedures.

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What is an ‘Appropriate Fire Safety Level’ in Your Building or Facility ?

It is rarely, if ever, explained to clients/client organizations that the Minimal Fire Safety Objectives in building legislation are focused solely on protecting the ‘interests’ of society, not those of the individual …  are, quite often, inadequate and/or flawed … and are, always, revised only after the latest tragedy !

To properly protect Your Interests as a client/client organization … we strongly advise that the Appropriate Level of Fire Safety in Your Building or Facility should exceed the minimal level of safety required by building legislation.  We would also caution that, in many jurisdictions (e.g. India), compliance with national building legislation is voluntary.

Which raises the issues of whether or not you will actually get what you pay for, and whether or not the Fire Protection Measures in Your Building or Facility are reliable (in other words, will they perform as intended at the time of a ‘real’ fire, which may occur at any time in a building’s long life cycle) !?!   Competent Technical Control of Design and Construction, independent of the design and construction organization(s), is essential.

You should carefully consider the following spectrum of issues which may be directly relevant to Your Project.  Following a process of consultation with you, we then develop Project-Specific Fire Engineering Design Objectives … bearing in mind that you must also comply with safety at work, anti-discrimination, and environmental legislation, etc … maintain business continuity, etc … be energy efficient, etc … and be socially responsible, etc …

–     Protection of the Health of All Building Users … including People with Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF), Visitors to the building or facility who may 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 or Facility, 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 (social – built – virtual – economic) … including Fitness for Intended Use and Life Cycle Costing of fire engineering related products and systems, etc … fixed, installed or otherwise incorporated in the building or facility ;

–     Protection of the Natural Environment from Harm, i.e. Adverse or Damaging Impacts.

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FireOx International – Our Fire Engineering Services

  • WE  will advise you on Fire Safety Policy, Fire Safety Strategy Development, Fire Safety Implementation … and, whether you are within or from outside the European Union, on CE Marking of Fire Protection Related Construction Products

  • WE  understand the process of Design, particularly the new language of Sustainable Design … and we will produce Creative Fire Engineering Solutions for Your Project

  • WE  are thoroughly familiar with the intricacies of Building Sites … and we will verify and/or validate Design Compliance during construction, and at project completion … and, if requested or necessary, as a completely Independent Technical Controller ; 

  • WE  communicate easily and effectively with other Professional Design Disciplines, including architects and structural engineers … and we will act as fully participating members of Your Project Design & Construction Team … and, if requested or necessary, as the Design Professional in Responsible Charge **

  • WE  practice in accordance with a comprehensive Professional Code of Ethics

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Sustainable Fire Engineering Solutions ?

  1. Are adapted to Local Geography, Climate/Climate Change, Social Need, Culture, Economy … and Severe Events (e.g. earthquakes, flooding) ;
  2. Are ‘Reliability-Based’, i.e. that design process based on practical experience, competence and an examination of real extreme events, e.g. 2001 WTC 9-11 & 2008 Mumbai Attacks, and 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident … rather than theory alone ;
  3. Are ‘Person-Centred’, i.e. that design process which places ‘real’ people at the centre of creative endeavours and gives due consideration to their responsible needs, and their health, safety, welfare and security in the Human Environment.

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FireOx International’s Contact Information

E-Mail:  cjwalsh@sustainable-design.ie

International Phone:  +353 1 8386078   /   National Phone:  (01) 8386078

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Important Note:  This Post should be read in conjunction with an earlier Post …

Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Our Practice Philosophy

It is there, not here, that we define Sustainable Human & Social Development … and describe how our Practice is responding to this open, intricate, dynamic, and still evolving concept.  The resulting transformation in how frontline services are provided to our Clients/Client Organizations ensures a much more comfortable ‘fit’ to their needs … and a greater level of protection, safety and security for society !

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

– Footnote 49 –

… the Design Professional in Responsible Chargeusually the lead architect – ensures that the (Design) Team Members use consistent design data and assumptions, co-ordinates overlapping specifications, and serves as the liaison with enforcement and review officials, and with the client or client organization. ]

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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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