To Southeast Newspapers
A letter to the editors of major southeast newspapers from FCIA
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 Comfort Inn, Greenville,
SC fire this weekend.
FCIA is not part of the investigation and has seen no official report
on the causes for the loss of life. However, we've heard and read
in the media that some of the deaths occurred due to smoke inhalation
while people were trying to escape the blaze and smoke. Hallways
and stairwell areas are usually known as "havens of safety"
in the fire protection industry. In this case, the hallways may
have been death traps as they became smoke filled for reasons yet
As a response to this tragedy, like in many other fires the past
few months, there has been a loud cry for "one solution"
to prevent future loss of life ranging by installing sprinkler systems
to suppress the fire in the area where it started, the "room
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
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.
...pipe, cable and other penetrating items through fire resistance
rated assemblies were properly constructed and firestopped, and
had air leakage ratings (L-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 have traveled
unless properly protected.
As forensic analysis of this tragedy continues, we shouldn't limit
the analysis and 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 to the room
of origin through "compartmentation". As seat belts and
air bags, crumple zones and impact bumpers, are complimentary systems
that are most effective when used together, so are active and compartmentation,
firestopping and passive fire protection systems.
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 save some of those who died in the South Carolina Fire.
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".
There are many fire and smoke prevention and protection systems,
in addition to egress / escape issues, linked with security systems
that should be considered as a result of this and the other fires
we've heard about the past year at the Chicago City and County Building,
the Nursing Home fire in Connecticut, and others. Compartmentation
using passive fire protection systems and an active suppression
sprinkler system are those that directly defend the building from
fire. These same passive compartmentation fire protection systems
and active suppression sprinkler systems may have prevented the
loss of life at the South Carolina Comfort Inn.
FCIA is a trade association, focused on fire and life safety. FCIA
Members are a resource to the industry on Passive Fire and Life
Safety Firestop Systems through offering education programs and
assitance to architects, engineers, code officials, fire marshals
and building owners. Visit www.fcia.org to find FCIA Member Firestopping
Contractors, and education programs to learn more about how to protect
people in buildings.
Maybe our call to action as a result of this tragedy should be
"Why not have the complete triangle of Fire Protection - Compartmentation,
Sprinkler Systems and Smoke Alarms?"
THE FIRESTOP CONTRACTORS INTERNATIONAL ASSOCATION BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Ray Usher, President
Bob Patton, Vice President & Treasurer
Roger McKenzie, Secretary
Donald Graves, Director
Tom Hottenroth, Director
Richard Keeney, Director
Bob LeClair, Director
Don Sabrsula, Director
Scott Rankin, Past President
For information, contact Bill McHugh, FCIA Executive Director:
Firestop Contractors International Association
4415 W. Harrison St.
Hillside, IL 60162
Phone: (708) 202-1108
Fax: (708) 449-0837
Copyright - FCIA 10/27/02
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