Applauding City of Chicago, DEC 2004

December 9, 2004

From the Firestop Contractors International Association (FCIA)
Bill McHugh, 630.690.0682

"FCIA Applauds City of Chicago and Building Owner/Manager Fire and Building Safety on LaSalle Bank building fire protection and response"

After watching pictures of the 135 S. LaSalle St. LaSalle Bank Building burning Monday night, we were very pleased to hear that the Chicago Fire Department operated flawlessly to rescue people from the burning building while attacking the fire and dousing the intense flames. The structure, engineered to Chicago's High Rise Building Codes past and present, withstood fire exposure for over 5 hours. Other major high rise fires have had multiple floors involved in the fire. Here, the fire was contained to the 29th floor for a long period of time, saving both life and property.

Since the great fire of 1871, Chicago has been fire sensitive. It was one of the first cities to build homes and structures with fire resistant materials to prevent fire spread from building to building. Chicago provided leadership in building codes requiring effective compartmentation and fireproofing in buildings. Effective compartmentation uses hourly fire resistance rated floors, walls, fire doors, fire dampers and firestopping to protect the people from fire spread to floors above or rooms next door. Plus, smoke protection systems are being retrofitted into fire walls and floors to prevent the spread of smoke during fires.

From the Detection System that sensed the fire and activated alarms, communications systems operated by educated building management and firefighting personnel that instructed people what to do, 911 and building occupant communication links with firefighters, occupants trained through fire drills, to stairwell doors that opened once the building systems sensed fire and effective compartmentation fire resistance rated floors that stopped fire from spreading fast vertically for several hours. This fire exposure may have caused other buildings to collapse. The LaSalle Bank Building's fire safety features, rooted in Chicago's concept of effective compartmentation and Fireproofing really worked.

The question has been raised by many....could 135 S. LaSalle St. been equipped to provide better fire protection? Absolutely. By implementing the City of Chicago's Life Safety Evaluation which requires attention to firestopping in partitions, other effective compartmentation features and sprinkler systems can make the building safer.

We wish those injured a speedy recovery. We congratulate the LaSalle Bank Building Management for educating building operations personnel and occupants. For excellent performance under fire, we at FCIA commend Mayor Daley and his "City that works" including Cortez Trotter and Alderman Bernard Stone, Chair of the Committee on Buildings, for the legislation and codes that made this structure perform well past requirements of most building code requirements (2 - 3 hours) in the United States … while saving lives.

For information, contact

Bill McHugh
FCIA Executive Director


Definition Effective Compartmentation: Fire resistance rated walls and floors are the first component of Effective Compartmentation. Hourly resistance rated construction is designed to provide "havens of safety" to those who are instructed to stay in place during a fire, or cannot move because they are in a hospital or prison. Holes in compartmentation cause fire to spread. Firestopping, Fire Dampers and Fire Doors resist the fire spread to contain the fire to the room or area of origin.

There are many holes made in the fire walls and floors for penetrating service items like plumbing & electrical pipes, cables, cable trays, power bus ducts, air ducts, communications fiber optics, and other items. Each opening for service items are treated with Firestopping Systems to restore the fire rating to what it was before the pipe, cable, etc. went through the wall or floor. The ductwork is treated with Fire and Smoke Dampers. The door openings are protected with Fire Doors. Glass in fire rated walls can be used if it is Fire Resistance Rated Glass.

Effective Compartmentation is an important part of a buildings' fire and life safety program and part of Total Fire Protection as it resists the spread of fire and smoke from one area to another. This important fire protection feature, serves building occupants who need havens of safety during a fire in a building.

Total Fire Protection, according to NFPA, includes building Effective Compartmentation, Fire and Smoke Detection and Alarms, Occupant and Firefighter Education and suppression systems.

In Effective Compartmentation, Fire Walls and Floors, Firestopping, Fire and Smoke Dampers and Fire Doors all need to be properly designed, installed, inspected and maintained to retain effectiveness, much like other systems in a building. FCIA, the Firestop Contractors International Association, recommends the use of effective compartmentation for excellent in place fire performance of the building when it's really needed….during a fire condition.

Definition Firestopping Systems: Firestopping is sealing the holes in fire resistance rated walls and floors to prevent the spread of fire. Smoke spread is resisted using Firestopping with air leakage ratings. Fire and Smoke Dampers, Fire Doors and Firestopping seal effective compartmentation to prevent the fast spread of fire in buildings.

Definition Fireproofing: Fireproofing typically refers to the protection of the structural steel and other supporting members in a building. Structural Fireproofing for steel can be anything from concrete encasement, to mineral fiber, intumescent coating or lightweight cemetitious materials applied to the steel to prevent overheating and warping supporting steel.

The Firestop Contractors International Association is a non profit organization of Contractors, Manufacturers, and Associate Members from the US and Canada. Based in the Chicago Area, FCIA is active in code and standards development.

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