Passive Fire Protection,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
THE FIRESTOP CONTRACTORS INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION
FCIA CONTACT: BILL McHUGH 630.690.0682
PASSIVE, COMPARTMENTED FIRE PROTECTION AND SPRINKLERS
THE LIFE SAFETY SOLUTION
The Firestop Contractors International Association, (FCIA)
a not for profit group of specialty firestopping contractors
from the US, Canada and the United Kingdom, was saddened with
the rest of the country to hear about the loss of life at
the high rise County Building in Chicago recently.
FCIA is not part of the investigation and has seen no official
report on the causes for the loss of life. However, we've
all heard and read in the media that deaths occurred due to
smoke inhalation in stairwells while people were trying to
escape the blaze and smoke. Stairwell areas are usually known
as "havens of safety" in the fire protection industry.
In this case, stairwells were death traps as they became smoke
filled for reasons yet unknown, and had locked doors for security
purposes, causing entrapment.
As a response to this tragedy, there has been a loud cry
for "one solution " to prevent future loss of life
ranging from installing sprinkler systems to suppress the
fire in the area where it started ("room of origin"),
to building occupants wearing a single use oxygen mask to
escape fire and smoke safely.
Although one "miracle cure" would be great, the
reality is there is no "one thing" that may have
prevented the disastrous loss of life. Here are some fire
protection features the expert fire investigation panel should
consider to prevent future tragedy:
If the fires "room of origin.......
- had a fire resistance rated assembly around the room with
appropriate fire doors, fire and smoke dampers and firestopping
systems, the fire and smoke may not have traveled from the
room of origin (storage room).
- pipe, cable and other penetrating items through fire resistance
rated assemblies were properly firestopped, and had air
leakage ratings, the smoke from the fire may not have traveled
from the room of origin.
- was equipped with sprinklers, the fire might have been
limited to the room of origin.....but the smoke might still
As a forensic analysis of this tragedy continues, we shouldn't
limit the conclusion to a single solution of sprinkler suppression
systems. Sprinklers, while an effective way to limit the spread
of fire, are not the only solution. An active fire suppression
sprinkler system may not be perfect. Also, as a sprinkler
system is containing the fire to the area of origin, it creates
smoke. Passive fire protection features can limit the spread
of both fire and smoke. As seat belts and air bags are most
effective when used together, so are active and passive fire
Passive Fire, Smoke and Life Safety systems, such as fire
and smoke resistance rated assemblies, sealed with firestopping
systems, fire and smoke dampers, fire doors, sprinkler suppression
systems, may have helped make "havens of safety",
truly areas of refuge during fire and smoke egress conditions.
Dr. Gene Corley, Team Leader for the World Trade Center Building
Performance Study, stated in a recent Chicago Sun Times Article,
Fire safety cannot be an either or proposition.
Buildings for which sprinklers are appropriate should also
have fire-resistant construction for better fire protection.
Anything less puts occupants and emergency responders at risk.
Passive compartmentation fire protection systems and active
suppression sprinkler systems may have prevented the loss
of life at the County Building in Chicago. Maybe our call
to action as a result of this tragedy should be Why
not have both?
THE FIRESTOP CONTRACTORS INTERNATIONAL ASSOCATION BOARD OF
Scott Rankin, President 610.485.9436
Ray Usher, Vice President 763.571.7646
Bob Patton, Treasurer
Roger McKenzie, Secretary
Tom Hottenroth, Director
Richard Keeney, Director
Don Sabrsula, Director
Renee Woodruff, Director
Blasdel Reardon, Past President
For information, contact FCIA:
Firestop Contractors International Association
1257 Golf Circle
Wheaton, IL 60187
Copyright FCIA 10/27/02