2016-09-14: Only now are we really catching up with the extremely serious matter of Fire Safety in Sustainable Buildings … serious for building occupants … and firefighters !
‘ In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection and energy efficiency/conservation shall constitute integral parts of the development process, and shall not be considered in isolation.’
2016 Dublin Code of Ethics: Design, Engineering, Construction & Operation of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All ( www.sfe-fire.eu )
The Performance Target for New Construction must be Positive Energy Buildings.
So … we will see more and more Solar Photovoltaic Panels installed on more and more buildings … in every country. Certainly not less ! And, let’s face it, many will not be properly approved, i.e. shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’ …
At the beginning of this decade, a Fire Research Project was carried out by the Underwriters Laboratories Firefighter Research Institute in the USA … and it addressed the issue of firefighter vulnerability to electrical hazards, and serious injury, when fighting a fire involving Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Modules and Support Systems installed on buildings.
The Total Global Solar Energy Capacity averaged 40 % annual growth from 2000 to 2010 (source: International Energy Agency). In the USA, Grid-Connected Solar Photovoltaic Capacity grew 50 % per year for much of that time (source: US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). These trends increase the potential of a Fire Service Response to a building having a Photovoltaic Installation, irrespective of the PV being involved with the initiation of the fire event. As a result, conventional firefighter tactics for suppression, ventilation and overhaul have been complicated, leaving firefighters vulnerable to potentially unrecognized exposure. Though the electrical and fire hazards associated with electrical generation and distribution systems are well known, PV Systems present unique safety concerns. A limited body of knowledge and insufficient data exist to understand these risks … to the extent that Fire Services have been unable to develop safety solutions and respond in a safe manner.
This Fire Research Project developed the empirical data needed to quantify the hazards associated with PV Installations … and provided the foundation to modify current or develop new firefighting practices to reduce firefighter deaths and injury.
The Tactical Considerations addressed during the Project include:
- Shock hazard due to the presence of water and PV power during fire suppression activities ;
- Shock hazard due to the direct contact with energized components during firefighting operations ;
- Emergency disconnect and disruption techniques ;
- Severing of conductors ;
- Assessment of PV power during low ambient light, artificial light and light from a fire ;
- Assessment of potential shock hazard from damaged PV Modules and Systems.
Office of California’s State Fire Marshal
(PDF File, 1.99MB)
UL Report (2011): The Following Summarizes the Findings of This Fire Research Project:
- The electric shock hazard due to the application of water is dependent on voltage, water conductivity, distance and spray pattern. A slight adjustment from a solid fire hose stream towards a fog pattern (10 degree cone angle) reduced measured current below perception level. Salt water should not be used on live electrical equipment. A distance of 6 m has been determined to reduce potential shock hazard from a 1000 VDC source to a level below 2 mA, considered as safe. It should be noted that pooled water or foam may become energized due to damage in the PV System.
- Outdoor weather exposure-rated electrical enclosures are not resistant to water penetration by fire hose streams. A typical enclosure will collect water and present an electrical hazard.
- Firefighters’ gloves and boots afford limited protection against electrical shock provided the insulating surface is intact and dry. They should not be considered equivalent to Electrical Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Turning off an array is not as simple as opening a disconnect switch. Depending on the individual system, there may be multiple circuits wired together to a common point such as a combiner box. All circuits supplying power to this point must be interrupted to partially de-energize the system. As long as the array is illuminated, parts of the system will remain energized. Unlike a typical electrical or gas utility … on a PV Array, there is no single point of disconnect.
- Tarps offer varying degrees of effectiveness to interrupt the generation of power from a PV Array, independent of cost. Heavy, densely woven fabric and dark plastic films reduce the power from PV to nearly zero. As a general guide, if light can be seen through a tarp, it should not be used. Caution should be exercised during the deployment of tarps on damaged equipment, as a wet tarp may become energized and conduct hazardous current if it contacts live equipment. Also, firefighting foam should not be relied upon to block light.
- When illuminated by artificial light sources, such as Fire Department light trucks or an exposure fire, PV Systems are capable of producing electrical power sufficient to cause a lock-on hazard.
- Severely damaged PV Arrays are capable of producing hazardous conditions ranging from perception to electrocution. Damage to the array may result in the creation of new and unexpected circuit paths. These paths may include both array components (module frame, mounting racks, conduits, etc) and building components (metal roofs, flashings and gutters). Care must be exercised during all operations, both interior and exterior. Contacting a local professional PV Installation Company should be considered to mitigate potential hazards.
- Damage to modules from tools may result in both electrical and fire hazards. The hazard may occur at the point of damage or at other locations depending on the electrical path. Metal roofs present unique challenges in that the surface is conductive unlike other types such as shingle, ballasted or single ply.
- Severing of conductors in both metal and plastic conduit results in electrical and fire hazards. Care must be exercised during ventilation and overhaul.
- Responding personnel must stay away from the roofline in the event of modules or sections of an array sliding off the roof.
- Fires under an array but above the roof may breach roofing materials and decking … allowing fire to propagate into the attic space of the building.
2016-06-13: Further to the Urgent Fire Safety Recommendations in Modern High-Performance Housing (posted on 2016-04-11) … this is what a Residential Fire Suppression System would look like in a Notional Detached House, and what it would cost …
Detached House – Ground Floor Plan – Ceiling Head/Nozzle Layout (PDF File, 97 Kb)
Detached House – Upstairs Plan – Ceiling Head/Nozzle Layout (PDF File, 13 Kb)
Water flow rate = 13.94 litres per nozzle per minute. Pressurized 300 Litre Water Cylinder, with BurnStop environment-friendly additive, supplies water to the low flow rate, CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) pipe network serving 25 Mist Ceiling Heads/Nozzles fixed at pre-determined locations. See Plans. Water runtime is 10 minutes, between 2 heads operating simultaneously without any mains water backup. Installation takes 3 days in total (2 days first fix, plus 1 day second fix and commissioning).
The mains water supply system in Ireland is not reliable.
Cost for the above Notional Water Mist Installation is €7,340.00 (Euros) / £5,676.00 (British Pounds) – plus VAT. This price is on the basis as a one-off installation in Ireland. If a number of properties require installation at the same time, then travel costs are dispersed and the individual price per property is significantly reduced.
All enquiries: Mr. Chris Moffat, Service & Maintenance Manager, AMF Systems Ltd., Wakefield, England.
2016-05-16: Media coverage of the Brussels Hive Attack, on 22 March 2016 … and, more recently, my own experience travelling in the Rome Metro, where the lines have been constructed deep in the ground to avoid the city’s vast and rich archaeological heritage … made me seriously wonder about how vulnerable users of the built environment can possibly cope in emergencies.
Escalators (moving stairs) and Travellators (horizontal moving walkways) are very common in public buildings. They greatly facilitate convenient and comfortable circulation for everybody … especially in large, extensive and complex building types. Escalators are absolutely essential in metro environments, both for access and egress.
Escalators which are static … which don’t move, for one reason or another … are dangerous. The rise of steps in the main part of the escalator is usually very high, too high for any type of public building … and at the top and bottom of the escalator, the step rise varies dramatically … which is a recipe for trips and falls, particularly in any sort of emergency.
AND … we know that during a fire emergency in a building, many people will attempt to evacuate that building by re-tracing their route of entry … whatever the hazard and wherever it is located.
Too many Standards and Guideline Documents take the easy option … and recommend that lifts/elevators, escalators and travellators should all be shut down during emergencies, and their use prevented. For the moment, I am thinking of just two examples:
- European Standard EN 115: Safety of Escalators and Moving Walks – Part 1: Construction and Installation. 2008-05-29, including Amendment 1 2010-02-23.
- Guidelines for the Safe Operation of Escalators and Moving Walks, published by the Safety Assessment Federation (GB), in consultation with the British Health & Safety Executive. Issue 1, 2011-05-24.
These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … show absolutely no consideration for the Safe Evacuation of People With Activity Limitations (2001 WHO ICF) in an Emergency.
These Recommendations … this Guidance, or Advice, or Whatever … are WRONG !
Subject to some simple requirements, e.g. a separate fire-protected electrical supply in each case, and appropriate management and fire service control, etc … Lifts/Elevators, Escalators and Travellators should all be available for use by people evacuating a building/facility during an emergency … and for use by firefighters accessing that same building/facility.
Building Designers, Fire Services & Standards Organizations … please take careful note !!
2016-05-05: A Mickey Mouse Effort would be a polite way of describing the long drawn-out and tortuous process of implementing NIST’s Recommendations in the United States. A better description might be … FUBAR !
15 Years After the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … absolutely nothing has been done concerning the implementation of a significant number of Recommendations … other Recommendations have been only partially implemented, with many being limited to application in buildings over 128m high (420 feet in ye olde silly imperial units of measure), or else buildings over 22.86m high (75 feet) which have an occupant load exceeding 5,000 people or are essential facilities, e.g. hospitals. And believe it or not, some implementing measures are still being challenged and they may yet be reversed in the years ahead. Forget about discussing the already narrow Fire Safety Objectives in building codes/regulations, or Protecting Society, etc., etc. In essence, it has all come down to that ‘durty’ four letter word: COST !
But read this 2011 Status Report for yourselves. I have kept in touch with the current situation over there.
NIST’s WTC 9-11 Recommendations Status Report (2011-08-08) – PDF File, 330 Kb
Why should this matter ?
In 2005 & 2008, the U.S. National Institute of Standards & Technology issued a series of very important [ critical ] Recommendations on badly needed revisions to the Design – Construction – Management – Firefighting Procedures for Very High/Tall Buildings, High-Risk Buildings, Iconic Buildings, and Innovatively Designed Buildings. Many, if not all, of these Recommendations were, and remain, just as valid and just as necessary in the case of other building types … whatever their height.
A lot of effort was expended here, a few years ago, on a detailed examination of the NIST Recommendations. In one respect, the Recommendations have become dated and obsolete. The recent 2016 Brussels and 2015 Paris Hive Attacks have altered how we must categorize and deal with buildings of ‘high-risk’. From the start, however, the disability-related Recommendations only concerned mobility impaired building occupants … a serious flaw.
NIST does not have the legal authority to implement its own Recommendations within the United States. However, implementation by the Model Code (e.g. IBC & NFPA) Organizations has been brutally slow and entirely inadequate.
And … it is very noticeable how so many other countries around the world are continuing to completely ignore NIST’s Recommendations. 9-11 never happened !
2016-04-11: It Happened One Night !
And Maybe … if it hadn’t been that particular night, amidst all the festivities of New Year’s Eve 2015, we would never have heard about the Address Hotel Fire, in Dubayy (UAE). A long search on the Internet afterwards led to the detailed, post fire analysis report on the 2014 Lacrosse Docklands Fire, in Melbourne (Australia) … followed by some more searching, and a very large can of worms opened up … similar nasty façade (external fabric) fires in many, many countries … involving large chunks of flaming debris falling from terrific heights, carried by the wind to a significant distance away from the building of fire origin.
Some people have tried to suggest that the only reason for these fires is inadequate building codes/regulations. No … the reason for these fires is much more than that … it’s the ‘SYSTEM’ ! In other words, how the International Construction Sector is organized and goes about its ordinary, everyday activities and tasks. We must also talk about poor quality design and construction … and a lack of stringent, independent enforcement of effective building codes/regulations and standards. I have written this down many times before … Self-Regulation is NO Regulation !!
It is clearly and amply evident that Conventional Fire Engineering … as currently practiced, internationally … is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. For discussion at SFE 2016 DUBLIN. Check out the Fire Conference Website: www.sfe-fire.eu … and on Twitter: @sfe2016dublin
And First Here With The Latest Conference News:
- A Late Abstract Submission to the Dublin Fire Conference next September 2016 will deal with the topic of Façade Fires in Tall & Not-So-Tall Buildings ; and
- SFE 2016 DUBLIN will, from today, be working in co-operation with the biggest fire exhibition in China – CFE 2016 – 6th International Fire Safety Exhibition in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China (PRC).
IN IRELAND … 2015 TERRACED HOUSING FIRE …
The general public was shocked and stunned, to put it mildly, by a very rapid and extensive 2015 Terraced Housing Fire on the outskirts of the Dublin Region …
[ See my Blog, dated 2011-04-06 … about a different, but related, 2011 Terraced Housing Fire in Terenure, a suburb of Dublin City.]
[ Fast forward from 2011 … overtaking Priory Hall (see my series of Blogs) … to Longboat Quay, a large residential development on the south bank of the River Liffey, which flows through the middle of Dublin. A recent visual/surface inspection of one of the units there revealed not just a poor quality of construction … but a lack of care and attention, with a mixture of incompetence and ignorance thrown in for good measure.]
The 2015 Terraced Housing Fire, shown above, should not have been a surprise to the ‘System’ in Ireland. Research carried out in the U.S.A., Belgium and The Netherlands since 2012, and a serious PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013 … have all shown that the modern home (highly insulated, airtight, packed with electronic equipment and wiring, and fast-burning synthetic furnishings, etc.) is the ‘perfect storm’ of fire conditions and outcomes. More open residential design + increased fuel loads + new construction systems and materials = faster development of fires, much reduced times to flashover, far less time for occupant evacuation, particularly people with activity limitations … and shorter building collapse times.
The time to flashover in modern high-performance housing, i.e. Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART … can be 7 times faster than in conventional/legacy housing … or less than 5 minutes, compared with just over 29 minutes !
All of this research can be found on the Links & Docs Page of the SFE 2016 DUBLIN Website.
Let us be crystal clear … there is nothing Sustainable/Green/PassivHaus/Eco/LEED/Bio/+Energy/Low Carbon/BREEAM/Zero Carbon/SMART about the post-fire scenes of destruction shown above. And only for the physical separation between terraces, which can be clearly seen in the last photograph … the fire would have kept spreading.
URGENT FIRE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS …
Without a balanced, proper approach to the issue of Fire Safety in this type of modern, high-performance housing … occupant safety is seriously threatened. And if, in the event of a fire incident, the occupants are asleep … or people with activity limitations are living in the house … that threat will be extremely grave indeed.
Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !
So … what needs to change ? In Ireland, our immediate problem is Timber-Framed Housing (as shown above) … and the following is an outline of what must change … NOW !
- Party Walls, i.e. the walls separating one house from another, must be constructed of solid masonry, with a uniform and uncompromised thickness of at least 200mm … plastered on both sides, not dry-lined, for adequate smoke resistance … and be continued above the roof covering for at least 300mm.
- An effective Fire Detection System must be installed. The conventional ‘package’ of one smoke detector per floor in the hallway and staircase of a standard 2 storey semi-detached house is nowhere near being adequate.
- An effective Residential / Domestic Fire Suppression System must be installed, e.g. low pressure water mist. See later post, dated 2016-06-13, for a costed notional installation.
- If there is a Controlled Ventilation System, either mechanical or natural, in the house (for the purposes of air quality, heat exchange and energy conservation), it must be linked to the fire detection system. In the event of a fire incident, the Ventilation System must immediately cease operation, and remain ‘fully open’. This is in order to mitigate the build-up of high positive pressure, within a confined airtight space, caused by a developing fire … and to provide an exhaust route for smoke and toxic gases … during the short period of time prior to activation of the fire suppression system.
- Intermediate Timber Floors and Evacuation Routes, including fire resisting doorsets, must be reliably protected from fire and smoke. The minimum period of fire and smoke resistance must be linked to local fire service support infrastructure. In other words, the local fire services must be allowed sufficient time to arrive at the scene of a fire in strength … to search for any occupants still remaining in the fire building … and to bring the fire under control.
- Uppermost Ceilings under a trussed timber roof structure, including any trap doorsets into the roof space, must be similarly and reliably protected from fire and smoke. Once fire enters a roof space, the light trussed timber structure will collapse within a few minutes.
- Front and Back Entrance/Egress Doors must be outward opening. In the 2013 German PassivHaus Apartment Fire, the occupant found it extremely difficult to open inward opening doors and windows because of the high positive pressure caused by the developing fire. This unusual phenomenon was confirmed in the 2015 Finnish Apartment Fire Tests, when much higher positive pressures were observed.
- Internal Linings of External Walls must comprise 2 layers of plasterboard, with all joints staggered … steel fixed, at not more than 150mm centres. Once fire breaches the internal lining of an external wall, the whole building will become involved in the fire. Horizontal and vertical fire sealing behind these linings, even if properly installed (!), are too little and too late.
- Frontline Firefighters must be supported by specialist structural engineering and hazard appraisal units … and light/portable/reliable Thermal Imaging Cameras must be recognized as a standard tool of firefighting.
SUSTAINABLE HOUSING & RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS …
These building types are more popularly known as Green, PassivHaus / Passive House, LEED, Eco, Bio, BREEAM, +Energy, Zero / Low / Nearly Zero Carbon, or SMART, etc., etc, etc. In ALL of these cases, however, an Effective Residential Fire Suppression System MUST BE INSTALLED, e.g. low pressure water mist !
In everyday practice … Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s), and the Organizations and Individuals responsible for the far-too-rapid construction of these innovative building types are either completely and blissfully ignorant, or callously and negligently in denial, about the seriously negative impacts on Occupant & Firefighter Fire Safety and Building Fire Protection.
BUT … slowly … more and more reliable evidence is being gathered ! Please visit the Links & Docs Page on: www.sfe-fire.eu … and also view this Presentation on some very interesting 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ss_ONolzLY
ENERGY CONSERVATION & EFFICIENCY UPGRADING OF EXISTING BUILDINGS …
In refurbishment projects where insulation is fixed to the internal surfaces of external walls … similar fire safety problems exist, and they must be solved by reviewing the full checklist above. Refer again to the PassivHaus Apartment Fire in Köln, Germany, on the night of 5 February 2013 … and to the 2015 Apartment Fire Tests in Finland
2015-11-06 ! We are very pleased to announce that the Fire Safe Europe Alliance … www.firesafeeurope.eu … has become actively involved, together with Glasgow Caledonian University and FireOx International, in co-hosting SFE 2016 DUBLIN. To facilitate the Network’s full engagement and provide sufficient time for promotion, etc … it was jointly agreed that the new dates for this Event shall be from 28-30 September 2016.
We have every confidence that SFE 2016 DUBLIN will now be a much better event … having a wider range of stakeholder participation.
Sustainable Fire Engineering – Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings !
28-30 September 2016 Dublin, Ireland
www.sustainable-firengineering.ie or www.sfe-fire.eu
Approved Regional Sustainable Built Environment Conference in the 2016-17 Series
The Gresham Hotel, O’Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland
Céad Míle Fáilte (Hundred Thousand Welcomes) to Dublin, in Ireland … and to the First International Conference devoted to this complex subject !
The 21st Century has had a cruel and savage birth: extreme man-made events, hybrid disasters, severe natural events, complex humanitarian emergencies, with accelerating climate change and variability. The old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …
The resolute Answer to these threats and the rapidly changing social and environmental needs of our world is Sustainable Fire Engineering !
• SFE fulfils a critical role in the realization of a Safe, Resilient & Sustainable Built Environment for All ;
• SFE facilitates positive progress towards the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals & 169 Performance Targets, which were adopted in September 2015 ;
• SFE fast-tracks proper compliance with the Basic Requirements for Construction Works in the European Union’s Construction Products Regulation 305/2011 (Annex I), specifically the interlinked Requirements 7, 2, 1, 3 & 4.
INTRODUCTION to SFE 2016 DUBLIN
Fire Losses – both direct and indirect – amount to a very significant percentage of GDP in all economies, whether they are rich or poor … and result in enormous environmental damage and social disruption. Fire Engineering, including Fire Prevention and Protection in Buildings, is a major multi-billion Euro/Dollar component of the Construction Industrial Sector – worldwide.
Unfortunately … a fundamental conflict exists between Sustainable Building Design Strategies and the fire safety responses adopted in today’s Conventional Fire Engineering. To take a simple example: for cooling, heating or ventilation purposes in a Sustainable Building, it is necessary to take advantage of natural unobstructed patterns of air movement in that building. On the other hand, fire engineers in private practice and control personnel in Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJ’s) will demand that building spaces be tightly compartmented in order to limit the spread of fire and smoke … dramatically interfering with those natural patterns of air movement.
Unusual fire behaviour and a range of difficult fire safety issues (critical, in the case of firefighters) also arise from the Innovative Design Features (for example, ‘green’ roofs, elaborate intelligent façades) and Building Products / Systems (for example, photovoltaic panels) being installed in Sustainable Buildings.
A wide chasm separates the language and understanding of these two very different design disciplines. As a result, the performance of Sustainable Buildings can be seriously compromised. If, on the other hand, adequate independent technical control is absent on site … it is fire safety which is weakened.
And because, in most countries, the emphasis is placed on pre-construction design intent rather than the ‘real’ performance of the completed/occupied building … these problems are ignored and remain hidden … until a serious fire breaks out !
SUSTAINABLE FIRE ENGINEERING’s AIM
The Aim of Sustainable Fire Engineering is to dramatically reduce all direct and indirect fire losses in the Human Environment (including social, built, economic, environmental, virtual, and institutional) … and to protect the Natural Environment.
Towards Zero Preventable Fires in the Built Environment !
In essence … Sustainable Fire Engineering heavily front-loads Fire Prevention and Fire Protection Measures … above and beyond the minimal and very limited fire safety objectives mandated by current legislation.
SFE’s Key Concepts are … Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – Resilience !
SFE Design Solutions are …
- Adapted to local geography, climate change and variability, social need, economy, and culture ;
- Reliability-based ;
- Person-centred ;
SFE 2016 DUBLIN OBJECTIVES
1. To initiate discussion and foster mutual understanding between the International Sustainable Development / Climate Change / Urban Resilience Communities and the International Fire Science & Engineering Community.
2. To bring together today’s disparate Sectors within the International Fire Science and Engineering Community … to encourage better communication between each and trans-disciplinary collaboration between all.
3. To transform Conventional Fire Engineering into an ethical and fully professional Sustainable Design Discipline which is fit for purpose in the 21st Century … meaning … that fire engineers can participate actively in a sustainable design process, and can respond creatively with sustainable fire engineering design solutions which result in Effective Fire Safety for All in Sustainable Buildings.
4. To launch a CIB W14 Research Working Group VI Reflection Document: ‘Sustainable Fire Engineering Design & Construction’ … which will establish a framework for discussion on the future development of Sustainable Fire Engineering.
SFE 2016 DUBLIN WEBSITE
Download the Information on the Links Page … Review the wide range of Topics which will be examined and discussed at SFE 2016 DUBLIN … Submit an Abstract for a Paper … and Give serious consideration to becoming an Industry Exhibitor, or an Enlightened, Far-sighted Sponsor !!
2015-04-20: After a lengthy, constructive and very interesting discussion which resulted in some important text revisions … on Friday afternoon in Dublin, 10 April 2015, at the ‘Fire Safety for All’ Conference (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu) … all participants voted to adopt, support and promote the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings !
With regard to International Distribution and Promotion of the Declaration … many readers of this Technical Blog belong to varied professional, social and business networks. I would earnestly ask you to circulate the Declaration widely within those networks, and to actively seek the support of as many organizations and individuals as possible. This support should be confirmed by means of a simple e-mail message to: email@example.com … and I will then add the names of supporters to the Fire Safety for All WebSite (www.fire-safety-for-all.eu). Copies of the Declaration, in PDF and WORD Formats, can also be downloaded from the WebSite.
This Benchmark Declaration on Accessibility and Fire Safety for People with Activity Limitations … is an essential reference document for all stakeholders and interested parties. It draws a long-awaited, broad, distinct and stable line in the shifting sands of a rapidly evolving Sustainable Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic, and institutional) ….
1. As of 14 July 2015 … 156 Countries, plus the European Union, have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Since the Convention became an international legal instrument in 2008, however, the UN CRPD Preamble’s Paragraph (g): ‘mainstreaming disability in sustainable development strategies’ … and Paragraph (v): ‘the importance of accessibility in enabling people to fully enjoy their rights and fundamental freedoms’ … have tended to receive insufficient public attention and scrutiny. The Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings and the related CIB W14 Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document have been drafted with those two paragraphs very much in mind.
2. Although a situation of serious risk for vulnerable building users … it is not appropriate to deal with Fire Safety for All in Buildings under Article 11: ‘Situations of Risk & Humanitarian Emergencies’ of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities … where situations of grave risk are handled, e.g. Extreme Man-Made Events, Hybrid Disasters, Severe Natural Events, Complex Humanitarian Emergencies … all amid Accelerating Climate Change & Variability.
Take the case of an earthquake, for example … where there will be large-scale serious building damage and many, many building collapses throughout an affected region. On the other hand, when considering fire safety for all in any building … it is necessary that the building shall remain not just structurally stable, but serviceable.
3. It is more appropriate, particularly since the publication of International Standard ISO 21542 (2011) with its expanded definition of Building Accessibility, that Fire Safety for All be incorporated into the meaning and implementation of Article 9: ‘Accessibility’ of the CRPD … in exactly the same manner that fire safety is fully integrated into everyday mainstream building use, and mainstream building fire safety codes and standards.
As there are no references, at all, to either ‘fire’ or ‘safety’ in Articles 9 … there is much to be explained and clarified in the 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings, if ‘real’ implementation is to be both practical and successful.
An improved and updated definition of Building Accessibility is contained in Principle 3 of the Dublin Declaration …
‘Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.’
4. The Dublin Declaration contains a Preamble, Principles 1-9 which are headlined below, and an Appendix with many Terms and Definitions …
Principle 1 – A Human Right
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Principle 8 – Building Management
Principle 9 – Firefighters
5. Existing approaches to Fire Safety, Protection & Evacuation in Buildings for People with Activity Limitations … as described and illustrated in the notable examples of British Standard B.S. 9999 (2008), Singapore’s FSR 7 (2011), and Hong Kong’s Fire Safety Code Addendum (2014) … are technically inadequate, tokenistic, discriminatory, create barriers to social participation, and violate human rights. Therefore, any further use or recourse to such existing approaches must be terminated immediately !
2015 DUBLIN DECLARATION ON ‘FIRE SAFETY FOR ALL’ IN BUILDINGS
A Call to Action and Successful Implementation !
(Adopted in Dublin, 2015-04-10)
Meeting In Dublin, Ireland … on Thursday and Friday, 9 and 10 April, 2015 …
In Co-Operation With the International Council for Research & Innovation in Building & Construction (CIB), Rehabilitation International’s International Commission on Technology & Accessibility (RI-ICTA), the Global Alliance for Accessible Technologies & EnvironmentS (GAATES), and the EUropean Concept for Accessibility Network (EuCAN) ;
Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the natural and human environments (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) on this small planet Earth, our common home … and the need for harmonized principles to inspire and guide the peoples of the World in the enhancement of a human environment which cherishes the dignity, worth and many abilities of every person ;
Whereas in the United Nations Charter, the U.N. Member States pledged their respect for, and the protection and observance of, fundamental human and social rights … and have determined to promote social development and better standards of living for all ;
Recalling the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted on 10th December 1948 … which established a global framework of human and social rights – basic needs and protections – and fundamental freedoms for every person and communal gathering ;
Recalling Also the Rio de Janeiro Declaration on Sustainable Social Development, Disability & Ageing, adopted on 11th December 2004 … which stressed the importance of the social aspects in Sustainable Human & Social Development ;
Mindful Especially of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted on 13th December 2006 … the principal aim of which is to ensure that the human environment is sufficiently accessible to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all communities to safely exercise and enjoy the human and social rights and fundamental freedoms described in the 1948 UDHR ;
Working Towards the achievement of justice, equality of opportunity, social inclusion, active participation and development for every person with an activity limitation in all communities … and recognizing that accessibility of the human environment is an essential prerequisite for the above, and that fire safety for all is a critical life safety component of that accessibility ;
Aware Always of the universal reality that there is still a strong social stigma associated with disability and, particularly, mental ill-health … that much of the human environment is not accessible for all, and even where it is robustly mandated in law, the quality of that accessibility is poor … and that fire safety guidelines for people with activity limitations in buildings, if they exist, are inadequate and/or tokenistic, and rarely implemented ;
Welcoming the launch of the CIB Working Commission 14: Fire Safety – Research Working Group 5’s Reflection Document: Buildings & ‘Fire Incident Human Behaviour and Abilities’ which presents a practical examination and general overview of fire safety for all …
Addressed to every Country and the European Union – those many Voluntary Parties to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – and the Politicians, Authorities Having Jurisdiction, State Agencies, Professional Bodies & Institutions, Non-Governmental Organizations, Charitable & Private Organizations, etc., based within those separate jurisdictions:
We Declare That The Following Principles Must …
Be carefully studied, successfully implemented, and independently monitored … supported by Benchmarking, reliable Data and Statistics, and the informed use of pertinent Accessibility & Fire Safety Related Performance Indicators …
Principle 1 – A Human Right
Full and effective accessibility of the Human Environment (social, built, virtual, economic and institutional) is a fundamental human and social right, i.e. a basic need, for people with activity limitations – it is an essential prerequisite for the safe exercise and enjoyment of those rights, protections and freedoms set down in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international rights instruments … and crucially, for their health, participation, inclusion and development in all communities.
Principle 2 – Successful Implementation
Successful accessibility implementation … meaning high quality accessibility performance in the built environment … is reliant upon:
- A robust legal base mandating accessibility for all and fire safety for all ;
- Determined political will ;
- Sufficient public financial resources ;
- A compassionate and understanding bureaucracy at all levels ;
- Competent … meaning duly educated, trained and experienced in accessibility and fire safety design … spatial planners, architects, structural engineers, fire engineers, quantity surveyors, technical controllers, industrial designers, building managers, and people at all levels in construction organizations ;
- Independent monitoring of accessibility and fire safety performance ;
- Innovative, well-designed accessibility and fire safety related products and systems which can be shown to be ‘fit for their intended use’.
Principle 3 – Building Accessibility
Accessibility of a Building encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.
Principle 4 – Design for Safe Evacuation
Accessibility design criteria must be infused into all of the practical, day-to-day work of building designers and, especially, in the development of project-specific fire engineering design objectives … and be applied from the initial stages of building design, through to the construction and reliable life cycle operation of vertical and horizontal fire evacuation routes facilitating contraflow, areas of rescue assistance, fire safety related signage, controls and fittings, fire prevention and protection measures, fire safety management procedures, routes to and locations of places of safety, etc., etc.
• Evacuation way finding in buildings must be intuitive and obvious ;
• 3 Keywords for building designers must be: reality – reliability – redundancy.
Principle 5 – Accessible EICT’s
Electronic, information and communication technologies are ubiquitous in today’s complex built and virtual environments. During a real fire incident in a building, they serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage and harm, and sustainability. For that reason, they must have a control and/or user interface which is accessible for all.
Principle 6 – Fire Safety Skills
People with activity limitations who occupy or use a building frequently must be included in all practice fire evacuations, in order to learn the skill of safe independent evacuation to an accessible place of safety remote from the building. During a real fire incident, evacuation assistance provided by other building users or rescue by firefighters, and the time spent waiting for that assistance or rescue in the building must be kept to an absolute minimum.
People with activity limitations must be actively encouraged to participate in fire safety preparatory planning and regular practices … and, without exception, must be consulted and included in all activities concerning their own evacuation from a building.
Management systems and fire protection measures in buildings are never 100% reliable. People with activity limitations must, therefore, be actively encouraged to be self-aware in situations of risk, and facilitated in learning the skill of self-protection.
Principle 7 – Reasonable Spatial Provision
Reasonable spatial provision must be allocated in a building for the needs of real users, who vary in the range of their individual behaviour and abilities … and for the real building user population profile which, avoiding discrimination, must reflect a society as a whole. Concerning fire safety for all and the necessary size, for example, of an area of rescue assistance which adjoins a fire evacuation staircase on every floor in a building … the following indicators, exclusive of extra provision for assistants, must guide the architect and fire engineer in the collaborative design process:
(a) Minimum reasonable provision for people with disabilities in a building – 10% of design occupant/user population ;
(b) Minimum reasonable provision for people with activity limitations in a building … 15% of design occupant/user population.
Principle 8 – Building Management
Building managers must ensure that fire safety for all preparatory planning is effective, and that practices are held regularly … before any real fire incident occurs. And as part of their normal, day-to-day functioning … managers must be fully aware that, without due attention to accessibility-related services, product maintenance and occupant/user welfare policies, the quality of accessibility in a building will rapidly deteriorate.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPS) must not be used to limit or restrict access to any part of a building and its facilities.
Principle 9 – Firefighters
Firefighters must be trained to interact with and rescue people with activity limitations from buildings, using procedures and equipment which will not cause injury to either. Fire services must ensure that they operate such procedures and possess such regularly serviced equipment.
Emergency service organizations must operate reliable systems to notify the fire services of emergency situations, which are accessible for all and useable by the public at all times.
APPENDIX – Terms & Definitions
Area of Rescue Assistance: A sufficiently large building space directly adjoining, and visible from, a main vertical evacuation route – robustly and reliably protected from heat, smoke and flame during and after a fire – where people may temporarily wait with confidence for further information, instructions, and evacuation assistance or rescue, without obstructing or interfering with the evacuation travel of other building users.
Contraflow Circulation in a Fire Building: Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a real fire … while building users are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.
Evacuation from a Fire Building: To withdraw, or cause to withdraw, all users from a building which is on fire … in pre-planned and orderly phased movements to an accessible place of safety remote from the building.
Fire Compartmentation: The division of a building into fire-tight compartments by fire, smoke and heat resisting elements of construction, in order to …
a) contain an outbreak of fire, including any smoke and heat generated by the fire ;
b) prevent damage, within the building, to other adjoining compartments and spaces ;
c) protect a compartment interior from external fire attack, e.g. fire spread across the building’s facade or from an adjacent building ;
d) minimize adverse, or harmful, environmental impacts outside the building.
Human Health: A state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
People with Activity Limitations (E) / Personnes à Performances Réduites (F): Those people, of all ages, who are unable to perform, independently and without aid, basic human activities or tasks – because of a health condition or physical / mental / cognitive / psychological impairment of a permanent or temporary nature.
The above Term includes …
- wheelchair users ;
- people who experience difficulty in walking, with or without a facilitation aid, e.g. stick, crutch, calliper or walking frame ;
- frail, older people ;
- the very young (people under the age of 5 years) ;
- people who suffer from arthritis, asthma, or a heart condition ;
- the visually and/or hearing impaired ;
- people who have a cognitive impairment disorder, including dementia, amnesia, brain injury, or delirium ;
- women in the later stages of pregnancy ;
- people impaired following the use of alcohol, other ‘social’ drugs e.g. cocaine and heroin, and some medicines ;
- people who suffer any partial or complete loss of language related abilities, i.e. aphasia ;
- people impaired following exposure to environmental pollution and/or other irresponsible human activities, e.g. war and terrorism ;
- people who experience a panic attack in a real fire situation or other emergency ;
- people, including firefighters, who suffer incapacitation as a result of exposure, during a real fire, to smoke and poisonous or toxic substances, and/or elevated temperatures.
Place of Safety:
• Any accessible location beyond a perimeter which is  metres from the fire building or a distance of  times the height of such building, whichever is the greater ; and
• Where necessary triage can safely be rendered … and from where effective medical care and supervision can be organized and provided within one hour of injury (the ‘golden hour’) ; and
• Where people can be identified.
Note: If there is a risk of an explosion associated with a fire – multiply the numbers in square brackets above by 4.
Progressive Damage in Fire / Fire-Induced Progressive Damage: The sequential growth and intensification of structural deformation and displacement, beyond fire engineering design parameters, and the eventual failure of elements of construction in a building – during a fire and the ‘cooling phase’ afterwards – which, if unchecked, will result in disproportionate damage, and may lead to total building collapse.
Note: Fire-induced progressive damage may commence long before there is any breach in the integrity of a fire compartment’s boundaries.
Real Fire: A fire which develops in a building and is influenced by such factors as the type of building and its occupancy (numbers, abilities and activities) ; the combustible content (fire load) ; the ventilation, geometry and thermal properties of the fire compartment or building space (should no fire compartmentation exist) ; the fire suppression systems in the building, and the actions of firefighters.
Skill: The ability of a person – resulting from proper training and regular practice – to carry out complex, well-organized patterns of behaviour efficiently and adaptively, in order to achieve some end or goal.
Social Environment: The complex network of real and virtual human interaction – at a communal or larger group level – which operates for reasons of tradition, culture, business, pleasure, information exchange, institutional organization, legal procedure, governance, human betterment, social progress and spiritual enlightenment, etc.
Social Rights: Rights to which an individual person is legally entitled, e.g. the right to free elementary education (Art.26(1), UDHR), but which are only exercised in a social context with other people, and with the active support of a competent legal authority, e.g. a Nation State.
Social Wellbeing: A general condition – in a community, society or culture – of health, happiness, creativity, responsible fulfilment, and sustainable development.
Virtual Environment: A designed environment, electronically generated from within the built environment, which may have the appearance, form, functionality and impact – to the person perceiving and actually experiencing it – of a real, imagined and/or utopian world.
2015-02-02: This is NOT … I repeat NOT … a small niche market in the Global Multi-Billion Euro Fire Safety & Protection Related Construction Industrial Sector ! This IS the whole nine yards !!
This is an Open Call for Innovative, Well-Designed Fire Safety / Protection and Accessibility Related Construction Products and Systems, Other Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC !
This Call is particularly aimed at Manufacturers, Suppliers and Distributors in China, India, Japan, and Mainland Europe !
We want to see ‘Real’ Products and Systems, Measures and Means, Mechanical and Electronic Devices, ETC, ETC, ETC, ETC … not flashy brochures … at the 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Industrial Exhibition, on 9 & 10 April !
An Accessible Building is Safer, Easier to Use and More Comfortable for ALL Building Users
If Fire Safety for All is properly considered at Building Design Stage :
• Buildings are easier to understand (intuitive) during a Real Fire Evacuation
• Fire Evacuation Routes (obvious) are easier to find and to use
• Everyone can safely evacuate a Building on Fire – no more tragic tales about people being left behind in multi-storey schools and offices
• Reality – Reliability – Redundancy – are the 3 Essential Keywords
Client Organizations: A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident !
Grab a Bicycle – Get a Horse – Take a Train or a Plane – Come to Dublin in April !
To Exhibit / To Sponsor … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu
2015-02-01: This important Event is still a few months away, but the following update will be of interest …. a mixture of some good news and some bad news …
To Register / To Attend … please go to the Event WebSite: www.fire-safety-for-all.eu … places are limited in the New Conference Venue.
1. 2015 Dublin ‘Fire Safety for All’ Declaration – A Call to Action & Successful Implementation !
From the beginning, we promised that this would not be a polite gathering in Dublin. It will, instead, be a time for hard work and straight talking by everybody attending … and a good opportunity to have some fun also. Dublin is a very ‘sociable’ city !
As an indication of our serious intent … please now download and examine the Proposed 2015 Dublin Declaration on ‘Fire Safety for All’ in Buildings (PDF File, 153 Kb) …
If you would like to comment on this document, or if you have any questions … please send an e-mail message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Drafting of the CIB W14 Research Working Group V Reflection Document has already commenced.
2. Dublin Fire Safety for All Event’s First Press Release
A strong message from and about the Dublin Event must be widely disseminated at international and national levels … download and read / forward / circulate / publish FireOx International’s First Event Press Release (PDF File, 49 Kb), dated 1 February 2015 …
Please help us to spread the word !
3. Embarrassment about Original Conference Venue
Accessibility of a Building … encompasses the complete cycle of independent use, in a dignified manner and on an equal basis with others … and includes the approach, entry and use of a building and its facilities, egress during normal conditions and removal from its vicinity … and, most importantly, safe evacuation during a fire incident to a place of safety which is remote from the building and reached by way of an accessible route.
As I write … Ireland has a truck load of accessibility-related National Building Regulations and EU Safety at Work Law (transposed at national level a long, long time ago). We have strong Equality Law. We have ease of access to accessibility-related International Standards (such as ISO 21542: 2011) and National Standards from other European Countries, North & South America, and Asia. We have accessibility-related National Guidance Documents coming out of our ears, and easy access to all sorts of other guidance from around the world. Lots and lots and lots and lots of paperwork, in digital and hardcopy formats !
Ireland today … is still one of only a few remaining countries which have yet to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the principal aim of which is to ensure that the Human Environment (including the built, social, economic, virtual and institutional environments) is sufficiently accessible for people with activity limitations to participate positively in all aspects of their local communities … a basic human right, which every able-bodied person takes for granted !
” This is not just a national disgrace, it is a huge embarrassment for our country when you consider that the European Union itself and most of the EU’s Member States have already ratified this UN Convention.”
AND … as I look around Dublin … the City is NOT accessible for its many vulnerable residents and foreign visitors !
Are you sitting comfortably ? Then I will tell you a short story … a ‘real’ story, not a fairy tale … about the Original Conference Venue …
Mr. Sean Sherlock, T.D., Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for Overseas Development Aid, has agreed to open the Event on the evening of Thursday, 9 April 2015. All of Irish Aid’s Partner Countries in Africa have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Given the serious, socially transformative topic of this Conference … the Minister had also kindly offered to waive the fee for the hire of the Printworks Building in Dublin Castle – a very prestigious location in the City, and a building which was been extensively refurbished in time for Ireland’s recent Presidency of the European Union. The audio-visual fit-out for this building is magnificently elaborate. Most unfortunately, the building’s accessibility is entirely inadequate (‘ATROCIOUS’ would be a better word to describe it) !
However, with the right attitude and positive co-operation from the Venue Management Team, many improvements to the building’s accessibility could have been made for the Conference. From the beginning, however, the Management Team’s response to this issue was negative.
” It is entirely unacceptable that this State’s New and Heritage Building Stock is designed, constructed, and/or managed without a full and proper consideration … and successful implementation … of Accessibility for All and Fire Safety for All ! “
The Venue Management Team has refused to honour the Minister’s waiver.
We have had no other option but to move the Conference and Workshop to a far better Venue just around the corner … the Radisson Blu Hotel in Golden Lane, Dublin.
A Building which is NOT Accessible is difficult, if not impossible, for everybody to evacuate during a real fire incident …
‘Rigorous enforcement of building codes and standards by state and local agencies, well trained and managed, is critical in order for standards and codes to ensure the expected level of safety. Unless they are complied with, the best codes and standards cannot protect occupants, emergency responders, or buildings.’
(2005 U.S. NIST NCSTAR 1: Final Report on the Collapse of the World Trade Center Towers … Page 202, Chapter 9: Recommendations)
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
UN CRPD Article 33 – National Implementation & Monitoring
1. States Parties, in accordance with their system of organization, shall designate one or more focal points within government for matters relating to the implementation of the present Convention, and shall give due consideration to the establishment or designation of a co-ordination mechanism within government to facilitate related action in different sectors and at different levels.
2. States Parties shall, in accordance with their legal and administrative systems, maintain, strengthen, designate or establish within the State Party, a framework, including one or more independent mechanisms, as appropriate, to promote, protect and monitor implementation of the present Convention. When designating or establishing such a mechanism, States Parties shall take into account the principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights.
3. Civil society, in particular persons with disabilities and their representative organizations, shall be involved and participate fully in the monitoring process.
The Access Consultants for Dublin Castle were O’Herlihy Access Consultancy.
2015-01-31: The beginning of this 21st Century is deeply unsettling … history is catching up on us, and old certainties are crumbling before our eyes …
The recent, extremely violent Paris Hive Attacks … which occurred between Wednesday and Friday (7-9 January 2015) … have again shown that co-ordinated attacks on a small number of carefully chosen, low-level targets can be just as effective in causing widespread social and economic disruption in a City as a single attack on a high-level target. Search for our previous detailed discussion, here, on the 2008 Mumbai ‘Hive’ Attacks.
On this tragic occasion, the attacks happened in Europe … not, as before, in far-off India.
Following the 2001 WTC 9-11 Attacks in New York City … the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), in 2005 and 2008, recommended that these Building Types should be treated as ‘Risk Priorities’ …
• Tall / High-Rise Buildings ;
• Iconic Buildings ;
• Buildings Having a Critical Function ;
• Buildings Having an Innovative Design.
However, a typical medium-rise office building (in Paris) and off-street supermarket do not fall into the above categories … another indication that the NIST Recommendations must soon undergo a thorough international review and updating.
In the real world, the whole urban and sub-urban infrastructure of a City is at risk from Extreme Man-Made Events … one more risk among significant others, i.e. Hybrid Disasters (e.g. 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Incident), Severe Natural Events (e.g. earthquakes, typhoons, tsunamis) and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies (e.g. mass human migrations, regional famines). And with 50% of the world’s population already living in Cities, and substantial urban population growth projected over the coming decades … it is clear that, in the short to medium term, Cities must become much more resilient. Search for our continuing discussion, here, about Sustainable Urban Resilience.
In this context, compliance solely with the minimal and limited fire safety objectives in current national legislation – from whatever source around the world – is so far from being either adequate or acceptable … that it is no longer worth a moment’s consideration.
A Fire Engineering which is ‘fit for purpose’, i.e. is both ethical and professional, in today’s complex and dynamic Human Environment … has an essential and critical part to play in the realization of a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All !
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