[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
facilities standards presentation
- To: bap@lists.Stanford.EDU
- Subject: facilities standards presentation
- From: Richard Boyden <email@example.com>
- Date: Thu, 24 Oct 1996 15:23:52 -0400
- Message-Id: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Sender: owner-bap@lists.Stanford.EDU
Facilities Standards for Fire Protection
Presentation at Fire Matters! A Fire Demonstration and Workshop
San Jose, California, October 5, 1996
This presentation grew out of our efforts to explain what went wrong at
the Contra Costa County courthouses last year from the point of view of
fire prevention. We had hoped to get a summary of fire protection
standards in our symposium in June which would look at the County?s
issues point by point, but we didn?t exactly get that.
For today?s workshop, we wanted to get an architect or a fire protection
engineer to present this subject, but weren?t able to locate one who
would do it for free. So I have taken on the job - as a result, this will be a
rudimentary effort not based on subject expertise. The goal is to provide
a basic skeletal framework on facility standards and to discuss several
fire disasters and what was learned from them.
When I first got into the area of disaster preparedness and response
more than a year ago, I assumed that all of our problems would be from
water damage. Then, I would have been surprised that we would be so
involved now in talking about fire. I had really been taking for granted the
idea that everyone works in buildings protected by sprinkler systems.
Along came the Contra Costa Fires. I could not believe that public
agencies did not have automatic fire suppression.
II. Central Issues
A. The nature of archives and library fires
As we all know, paper is a highly combustible material. As a result,
Archives, records center, and library fires are extremely fierce,
destructive, and hard to fight - unless a facility is protected by a fire
suppression system. Absent that, the problem associated with high fuel
load and extremely intense fire is often that, because of intense smoke
and heat, firefighters can't find or gain access to the seat of the fire.
Here is a grim quote (one of many) from NFPA 232A:
"Fire loads in records storage areas [are very high] with corresponding
fire durations greater than those [which] common ... building construction
[is normally subjected to]. [These] durations ... more closely resemble
those in warehouse occupancies than those found in business
occupancies. Analysis of the Military Personnel Records Center fire in
St. Louis in 1973 indicates that a fire in a lower floor of a multistory
building with sprinklers not installed, shut off, or inadequately designed
results in total loss of the building, regardless of the way in which it is
subdivided, unless the fire load is less than the structural fire resistance.
There is no construction recognized that supports a building above an
uncontrolled archives or records center fire."
B. The cultural and funding lag on fire prevention
There are many folks who still believe that fire suppression systems,
specifically sprinklers, are not advisable for rare materials because of
the threat of water damage. For example, a rare book dealer friend of
mine has his business in a loft space in the Mission District of San
Francisco and tells me vehemently that he does not need or want a
sprinkler system. ?Rare book dealers hate sprinkler systems.? This kind
of thinking surprised me, especially the fact that it is quite widespread.
Many libraries and government buildings are not sprinklered, and many
people in charge of these facilities to do not recognize the efficacy of
fire suppression systems.
III. Historic Fires and what was learned.
Historically, many important records have been destroyed in fires. As is
mentioned in the American Archivist article on St. Louis, 1973, the first
recorded fire was in ancient Egypt three millennia ago, when an angry
mob set fire to royal offices. Fires in the Federal sector include the
burning of Washington, DC by the British army in 1813, the Patent Office
fire of 1836, and the catastrophic Commerce Department fire of 1922,
which destroyed the 1890 Census. The St. Louis fire of 1973, already
mentioned, is reputedly the largest records fire in history.
On September 20, 1996, the Linkoping Sweden state library burned to
the ground. 200K volumes plus the city archives destroyed. Older
volumes and manuscripts, dating back centuries, but stored in a
basement vault were saved, but the catalog to the manuscript collection
was destroyed in the fire in the above ground structure. The likely
cause was arson. No fire suppression system was in place. Linkoping
is the fifth largest city in Sweden.
The 1973 St. Louis federal personnel records center fire. The building
was a 1.2 million sq. ft. repository housing military personnel dossiers.
The fire continued for four days, although firefighters were on scene
within minutes. Forty two fire districts responded to the fire. The seat of
fire was on the top floor, the sixth, but could not be located within that
space due to intense heat and smoke, so hazardous that hose
companies had to be evacuated. Eventually, the sixth floor roof slab
Why were there no sprinklers? At the time of construction by the
Department of Defense in 1952, there was no consensus on the
efficacy of sprinkler systems for archives, records, and libraries.
Indeed, architects in the study phase of the buildings design were
strongly advised for and against sprinklers by management of two
different DoD records centers.
The St. Louis fire is supposed to have settled the argument, since it
proved conclusively that water damage from sprinklers can be
recovered, whereas records destroyed by fire cannot. Other lessons
were driven home. For example, none of the six floors or 200K sq ft
each was divided by fire walls.
The 1995 Contra Costa County courthouse fires. This was an arson
attack on records, as are many such fires. The attacks were
accomplished by breaking ordinary windows from publicly accessible
locations after hours, and throwing lighted, rolled newspaper in on the
records. Four buildings were attacked, one was a total loss, and the
impact on the records was severe. Recovery costs were in excess of
We can use this experience to lay out some basic facilities issues and
A. One item not mentioned in our handouts which is in the full text of
NFPA 232A is HVAC system, which should be able to shut down in fire,
activated by fire detection system, then should be able to evacuate
smoke to the outside of the building. In CCC, the fire was contained in
one room by fire doors, but the HVAC was on and it distributed soot and
smoke throughout the building and trashed it and everything in it.
B. Arsonists were able to attack CCC because of lack of burglar or
anti-intrusion alarms systems. These are specified in all the standards
examined. In two cases, the fires were detected by police and other
personnel acting on their own initiative. Had it not been for this
accidental circumstance, the loss might have been far greater.
C. Automatic fire detection systems that are connected to the fire
department. These can consist of waterflow alarm in the sprinkler
system. Such systems were also absent in CCC.
D. On sprinkler systems, here is the NARA language (item 11):
All records storage and adjoining areas shall be protected by automatic
wetpipe sprinklers. Automatic sprinklers are specified herein because
they provide the most effective fire protection for high-piled storage of
paper records on open-type shelving.
NFPA 232A agrees, stating further that:
Cyclic systems, pre-action systems, and dry-pipe systems, provided for
insurance against water damage, introduce the potential for failure in the
system and can slow system functioning during a fire, resulting in a
E. The temperature rating of sprinklers is also an important issue. Some
standards call for very high ratings. With high temperature rated
sprinkler heads, there will be considerable damage to records before the
temperature reach the specified temperature near the ceiling where the
heads are located. There may also be structural weakening of roof
structural members if roof construction is of the light type. The
temperature rating of sprinklers should be in the lower range for
archives and libraries and where there is light roof construction.
F. Compact mobile shelving, while it may slow the growth of fire when
compacted together, can cause additional hazards by blocking access to
water from sprinkler heads. For this reason, compact shelving ranges
should be separated by 6 inches of space in non-working hours. All
shelving should be of steel construction. CCC had mobile shelving
constructed of wood and particle board.
G. Records center type storage areas should not exceed 40,000 sq ft,
25,000 for archives. They must be separated by four hour fire walls and
two hour fire doors. Structural columns in stack areas should be two
hour rated. Roof joists cannot cross a fire wall but must be
independently supported on each side.
H. General. Whenever new construction or renovation is being planned,
NFPA recommends the hiring of a qualified fire protection engineer to
make sure that your concerns are fully covered.
Many libraries, archives, and local government agencies are
inadequately protected against fire. We need to spread the word about
the efficacy and cost effectiveness of fire suppression and security
systems. We need to spread the message that water damage is
reversible, whereas destruction by fire is not.
This message was posted through the Stanford campus mailing list
server. If you wish to unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the
message body of "unsubscribe bap" to email@example.com