United States of America

CUBA: Still a Target for Ill-Informed Media Opinion & Hysteria !?!

2017-02-21:  The day after the death of Fidel Castro Ruz, Revolutionary Leader and Former President of Cuba … Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, issued a News Release on 26 November 2016, which can be viewed here … http://www.president.ie/en/media-library/news-releases/P24

Media reaction, in Ireland, to this News Release was hysterical and grossly ill-informed !

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery ;  it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous.  A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.”

Mao Zedong

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So here are some images from the ‘real’ Cuba … or ‘real’ images from Cuba … whichever you prefer …

Fidel Castro was one of the Principal Leaders of the Cuban Revolution.  Raul Castro, President of Cuba (and Fidel’s brother), is now the only surviving member of that Group.  Click to enlarge.  [M-26-7 = Movimiento 26 de Julio. See below.]

In 1961, the United States of America attempted a Counter-Revolutionary Invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.  This attempt was an embarrassing failure for the USA … but a resolute and consolidating success for Cuba and the Revolution.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit at Playa Giron.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Playa Giron … one of the 1961 Invasion landing areas in the Bay of Pigs.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-13.  Click to enlarge.

Every group of houses … every street in a community … has its own Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) … an important cohesive feature in a Socially Resilient Society.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Hatuey, Indigenous ‘Taino’ Chief … Cuba’s First National Hero … burned at the stake in 1512 by Spanish soldiers … at Yara, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Monument dedicated to Perucho Figueredo, who wrote the Cuban National Anthem: ‘La Bayamesa’ … in Bayamo, Cuba.  The Anthem was first played in a local church, 1868.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of General Antonio Maceo … Plaza de la Revolución … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

Mausoleum of José Martí, Santa Ifigenia Cemetery … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

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Moncada Army Barracks (formerly) … now a school and museum … in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba.  On 26 July 1953, an attempted attack on the Barracks, led by Fidel Castro, failed.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-09.  Click to enlarge.

The Sierra Maestra Mountains … in Eastern Cuba … birthplace of the second, successful phase of the Cuban Revolution … which began with the landing of the Granma in December 1956.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

Early photograph of Dr. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara de la Serna Lynch, in Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh of a museum exhibit in Yara.  2007-04-10.  Click to enlarge.

1958 Armoured Train Ambush Site & Monument … in Santa Clara, Cuba.  The successful ambush, on 29 December, was led by Che Guevara.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

Bosque de los Héroes … Santiago de Cuba, Cuba … white marble monument in honour of Che Guevara and the comrades who died with him (1967) in Bolivia.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-08.  Click to enlarge.

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José Martí Statue, Parque Central … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of the Republic, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Pasos Perdidos, Capitolio … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

Gran Teatro de La Habana … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

El Floridita Bar & Restaurant … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Main Staircase, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Notice the bullet holes in the marble !  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Salón de los Espejos, Museo de la Revolución (formerly the Presidential Palace) … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-06.  Click to enlarge.

Paseo del Prado … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-03.  Click to enlarge.

The Malecón … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-07.  Click to enlarge.

Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución … in Havana, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-04.  Click to enlarge.

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Mural de la Prehistoria (1959-62, and restored in 1980), by Cuban painter Leovigildo González, in the Valle de Viňales … Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Tobacco Harvest … in Pinar del Rio, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-05.  Click to enlarge.

Statue of Benny Moré (1919-63) … Cuban singer, bandleader and songwriter … Paseo del Prado, Cienfuegos, Cuba.  Photograph by CJ Walsh.  2007-04-14.  Click to enlarge.

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International Work Brigade (December 2011 – January 2012) at the Campamento Internacional Julio Antonio Mella … in Caimito, Cuba.  Click to enlarge.

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Wonderful Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney, Australia

2016-12-21:  Just as President-Elect Humpty Trumpy is turning up the pressure on China … (and IF there is a serious incident between these two countries, the USA will automatically assume that it will have the unconditional and unquestioning support of a select little band of ‘groupie’ allies, each claiming to have a special and unique relationship with it !) … let me to bring to your attention the wonderful Chinese Garden of Friendship, located near Darling Harbour, in the city of Sydney … a symbol of friendship between the people of Guangzhou, capital city of the province of Guangdong in south-eastern China (Peoples’ Republic of China), and the people of Sydney, in New South Wales – two sister cities of sister states.

Colour photograph showing an architectural feature in the Garden. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

Colour photograph showing a water feature in the Garden. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

Colour photograph showing a landscaping detail in the Garden. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

The Garden was officially opened in 1988.

Colour photograph showing the view up, towards the Rinsing Jade Pavilion. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

Colour photograph showing the view down, over the Twin Pavilion and the Lake of Brightness. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

Colour photograph showing a sculptural feature in the Garden. Click to enlarge. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2016-11-10.

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Colour Layout Drawing of the Garden, with Key. Click to enlarge.

Lasting Peace & Effective International Law are Essential Prerequisites for Sustainable Human & Social Development !

During the 12 Days of Christmas … Relax, Enjoy and Be Merry !!

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Firefighter Safety & Solar Photovoltaic Panels On Buildings ??

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’ …

Colour photograph showing a house fire caused by Solar Photovoltaic Roof Panels.

Colour photograph showing a house fire caused by Solar Photovoltaic Roof Panels.

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.

Colour photograph showing two firefighters on a roof, one with cutting equipment. Solar Photovoltaic Roof Panels restrict firefighter access to building interior roof spaces.

Colour photograph showing two firefighters on a roof, one with cutting equipment. Solar Photovoltaic Roof Panels restrict firefighter access to building interior roof spaces.

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.

Colour photograph showing a large array of Solar Photovoltaic Panels on a roof. Extra loading on roof structures must be considered, as well as possible interference with roof fire evacuation routes for able-bodied occupants.

Colour photograph showing a large array of Solar Photovoltaic Panels on a roof. Extra loading on roof structures must be considered, as well as possible interference with roof fire evacuation routes for able-bodied occupants.

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.

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Office of California’s State Fire Marshal – November 2010

Fire Operations for Photovoltaic Emergencies (CAL FIRE – 2010)  (PDF File, 1.99MB)

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UL Report (2011):  The Following Summarizes the Findings of This Fire Research Project:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Severing of conductors in both metal and plastic conduit results in electrical and fire hazards.  Care must be exercised during ventilation and overhaul.
  1. Responding personnel must stay away from the roofline in the event of modules or sections of an array sliding off the roof.
  1. 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.

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U.S. Implementation of NIST’s 9-11 WTC Recommendations ?!?!

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 !

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LEED, PassivHaus & BREEAM Housing ~ Atrocious Fire Safety !!

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.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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).

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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 …

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

[ See my Blog, dated 2011-04-06 … about a different, but related, 2011 Terraced Housing Fire in Terenure, a suburb of Dublin City.]

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

[ 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.]

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

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.

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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 !

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

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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

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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

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Open E-Mail to ISO TC 92 (Fire Safety) – Treatment of ‘Disability’

2014-11-05:  ISO TC 92: ‘Fire Safety’ is a long-established Technical Committee within the International Standards Organization (ISO) …  www.iso.org/iso/home/standards_development/list_of_iso_technical_committees/iso_technical_committee.htm?commid=50492  … and down through the many years of its existence, since 1958, it has laboriously constructed a robust foundation which has facilitated the modern evolution of Fire Science and Engineering and the development of many standard fire safety practices and procedures around the world.

BUT …  and in spite the existence of ISO/IEC Guide 71: ‘Guidelines for Standards Developers to Address the Needs of Older Persons and Persons with Disabilities’ (a weak document which is badly in need of revision and updating !)

Recently, having examined some draft standards being processed through ISO TC 92 … I have become very tired of the blatant incompetence … and lack of care and concern merging with feigned ignorance and/or stubborn resistance, within the Technical Committee, when it comes to the issue of ‘disability’ … in other words, the major matter of the real fire safety of vulnerable building users and occupants, i.e. people with activity limitations, in real buildings.

SO …  a few days ago, I wrote the following e-mail message to a Working Group Chairperson (who shall remain nameless, because this same problem pervades the whole TC) …

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Dear X,

With regard to All Aspects of the WG’s Work … one issue, in particular, sticks out like a sore thumb … how you treat ‘disability’.  There is no clarity here, only confusion.  There are no precise terms, only a garbled use of language and concepts.

Please allow me to suggest, with accompanying explanations, a suitable and necessary path forward.

I will circulate this e-mail message separately within ISO, and beyond.

Concerning Normative References … reference must be made to …

ISO 21542 (2011): ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’

Within this document, Accessibility is understood to mean the full cycle of independent building use, in an equitable and dignified manner … and to include the approach, entry to and use of a building, egress during normal conditions and removal from the vicinity of the building … and, most importantly, evacuation during a fire incident to a ‘place of safety’ which is remote from the building.

Texts relating to ‘fire safety’ have been incorporated into the main body of this International Standard.  It is, however, just a small beginning.  Much work remains to be done.

Accessibility Design Criteria, as described in ISO 21542, must now be applied to the design and maintenance of all fire evacuation routes, fire safety related signage and fittings, etc., etc.

Use of the word escape, in any context, is strongly discouraged.

Concerning Terms & Definitions

People with Activity Limitations:  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.

Attached, please find the FireOx International ‘Fire Safety for All’ Matrix … which illustrates how the separate pieces, including ‘disability’, fit together.

Contraflow:  Emergency access by firefighters or rescue teams into a building and towards a fire, while people are still moving away from the fire and evacuating the building.

Concerning Building User/Occupant Numbers & Provision … ‘token’ is not only entirely unacceptable, it is a clear case of professional negligence …

And why, suddenly, all of these ‘musts’ ??

Cogently mandated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) … the UN CRPD’s principal aim is to ensure that the Built, Social, Economic and Virtual Environments are sufficiently ‘accessible’ to permit a vulnerable and major population group in all of our societies to enjoy the fundamental freedoms and human rights set down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

The language of the Convention is always very robust and very direct: ‘States Parties shall …’

Also attached, please find a United Nations Global Map showing the status of Convention Ratification back in July 2014.  At the time of writing this e-mail message, 151 Countries have ratified the UN CRPD.

Full and Effective Accessibility of the Built Environment is a human right.  Adequate provision must be made for people with disabilities to use all buildings … not just some buildings … and certainly not just limited parts of a building !

In practice, people with disabilities must be included in all practice evacuation drills … and they must be included in all activities related to ‘fire safety’ and/or necessary to prepare for safe evacuation.

Furthermore … because Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) now serve a function which is critical, during a fire incident, for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability … they must have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

With regard to ‘adequate’ provision … please find attached the 2010 USA Disability Statistics … which indicate:

  • Minimum Reasonable Provision for People with Disabilities in a Building … 10% of User/Occupant Population ;
  • Minimum Reasonable Provision for People with Activity Limitations in a Building … 15% of User/Occupant Population.

The numbers of people with disabilities in developing and the least developed economies far exceed numbers in developed economies !

Best wishes for the success of your meeting in Sydney.

C.J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller.

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Good Design Practice: ‘Fire Safety for All’ & EICT Accessibility

[ EICT’s = Electronic, Information & Communication Technologies ]

2014-10-13:  Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies have rapidly become an essential feature of the Built, Social and Economic Environments; they are everywhere.  During a fire incident, however, these e-Technologies serve a function which is critical for the safety of all building users and firefighters, property protection, minimizing environmental damage, and sustainability.  They must, therefore, have a user interface which is Accessible for All … from both ends.

This is a requirement of International Law … and an unambiguous National Requirement (expressed in the form of law and/or mandatory administrative provisions) in those jurisdictions which are States Parties to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

There is no European Standard (EN) on e-Technology Accessibility … and, in the European Union (EU), a coherent approach to the accessibility of even a modest range of EICT’s has not yet even been developed.

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Electronic, Information and Communication Technologies (EICT’s) must comply with Section 508 of the United States Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998 … or with a suitable Standard/Guidance Document of another country which details an equivalent level of e-Accessibility performance.

U.S. Section 508 covers the following range of e-Technologies:

  • Software Applications & Operating Systems (1194.21) ;
  • Web-based Intranet and Internet Information and Applications (1194.22) ;
  • Telecommunications Products (1194.23) ;
  • Video and Multimedia Products (1194.24) ;
  • Self Contained, Closed Products (1194.25) ;
  • Desktop and Portable Computers (1194.26)

Source WebSite, Helpful Guidance & Support …

www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/communications-and-it/about-the-section-508-standards

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Upcoming CIB/NIST Workshop on Structural Reliability in Fire ?!?

2014-05-16:  Anybody with even the slightest interest in the Future Development of Fire Engineering Design, and Structural Fire Engineering in particular, should pay attention to the proceedings of an upcoming CIB/NIST Workshop, which will be held on 21-22 May 2014, at the NIST Campus in Maryland, USA …

CIB/NIST Fire Resistance/Resistant/Resisting/Resistive Structures Workshop

It is essential to read 3 White Papersproduced by three separate teams of experts, contracted by NIST, in advance of the Workshop … to get a ‘real’ flavour of how discussions may, or may not, develop next week.  All three papers are available to download from the NIST WebSite (and the links below).  I suggest that you get your hands on them … ASAP !

1.   Fire Behaviour of Steel Structures (March 2014).  20 Pages, 786 Kb.
2.   State-of-the-Art on Fire Resistance of Concrete Structures: Structure-Fire Model Validation (March 2014).  32 Pages, 1.26 Mb.
3.   Fire Resistance of Timber Structures (March 2014).  20 Pages, 998 Kb.

After reading these 3 NIST White Papers … I was not surprised by the large number of ‘unknowns’, or the enormous gaps in our ‘knowns’ …

Taken in whole and all together, however, the three documents are a public confirmation that today’s general practice of Fire Engineering is more akin to that of mid-19th Century Alchemy.  Blinkered practitioners are isolated from the building design process … because they have no understanding of that process, and have no means of effective communication with the many other design disciplines involved.  And minimal, i.e. ‘cost-effective'(?), compliance with the limited and inadequate fire safety objectives in current building codes/regulations is widely regarded as the one and only target for their efforts … a minor one compared to the fundamental, long-term target of realizing a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All.  At the same time, frontline fire service personnel are forced to operate on shoestring budgets … and, when a fire emergency inevitably occurs, they are regarded as nothing more than an expendable resource.

!!  Structure … Does Not A Building Make  !!

Some comments on the 3 NIST White Papers …

A.  The Papers contain a number of important technical errors:

  • A similar Introduction in two of the Papers refers only to the 2005 NIST Report (NCSTAR 1) on the 9-11 Collapse of WTC Buildings 1 & 2 in New York City, which contained 30 Recommendations.  However, NIST published a later Report in 2008 (NCSTAR 1A) on the Collapse of WTC Building 7, which contained a further 13 Recommendations … 1 new, and 12 revised/updated from the earlier 2005 Report.
  • There is a reference in one of the Papers to a 1989 European Directive on Construction Products (89/106/EEC), and as later amended.  This Directive was repealed, in 2011, by Article 65 of the new European Union (EU) Regulation No.305/2011 on Construction Products.  Unlike a Directive, a Regulation is addressed directly to the EU Member States, and does not permit any flexibility with regard to national implementation. Annex I of Regulation 305/2011 sets out 7 Basic Requirements for Construction Works:

–  Mechanical resistance and stability ;
–  Safety in case of fire ;
–  Hygiene, health and the environment ;
–  Safety and accessibility in use ;
–  Protection against noise ;
–  Energy economy and heat retention ;
–  Sustainable use of natural resources.

Concerning fire safety in buildings … it is incorrect to state, or even suggest, that only the second Basic Requirement is relevant … a building must satisfy all of the Basic Requirements taken together, i.e. the 7 Basic Requirements are inter-dependent.

B.  Having carefully read the Papers … none of the expert teams appear to have paid any attention to any of the NIST Recommendations, in either the 2005 or the 2008 Reports !   Note well that two separate series of posts on both sets of NIST Recommendations have been carried here on this Technical Blog.

C.  If we have learned anything from the WTC 9-11 Building Collapses, it is that the Fire Engineer must be able to communicate effectively with other mainstream building design disciplines … especially ‘ambient’ structural engineers who speak the language of Structural Reliability, Limit State Design and Serviceability Limit States.  The Fire Engineer must also become an active participant in the creative, trans-disciplinary process of design.  These issues have not been seriously considered in any of the Papers.

D.  All of the Papers lack a common and precise starting point … relevant structural fire engineering concepts are either not defined or badly defined … and the ‘dynamic, complex architectural interaction between a building’s structure and fabric under conditions of fire’ requires immediate and urgent investigation …

Structural Reliability

The ability of a structural system to fulfil its design purpose, for a specified time,
under the actual environmental conditions encountered in a building.

Structural Fire Engineering

Those aspects of fire engineering concerned with structural design for fire …
and the dynamic, complex architectural interaction between a building’s structure and
fabric, i.e. non-structure … under conditions of fire and its immediate aftermath,
including but not confined to the ‘cooling phase’.

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.

[ *fire serviceability limit states ]

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Disproportionate Damage

The failure of a building’s structural system:
(i) remote from the scene of an isolated overloading action ;
and (ii) to an extent which is not in reasonable proportion to that action.

[ Fire-Induced Progressive Damage and Disproportionate Damage are fundamental concepts in the Fire Engineering Design of All Buildings ! ]

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E.  It is not acknowledged in any of the Papers that the Fire Safety Objectives in Current Building Codes/Regulations are, of necessity, limited in scope … and entirely inadequate in the context of Annex I in EU Regulation 305/2011, and the long-term goal of realizing a Safe, Resilient and Sustainable Built Environment for All.  Refer to the updated Scope, Aims & Objectives of CIB Working Commission 14: ‘Fire Safety’.

F.  Once and for all … use of the term Fire Resistance (and any number of variations thereof, e.g. resistant, resisting, resistive, etc.) in connection with any aspect of structural performance in fire … is ridiculous !   It is roughly comparable to use of the term Fire Proof during the first half of the 20th Century.

G.  Finally, for now … the current unwise focus on Crude Pass/Fail Results from the ‘standard fire’ testing of single loadbearing structural elements must evolve … must be transformed into the more detailed and precise measurement of all aspects of ‘real’ structural system performance over the full duration of a ‘design’ fire (including the cooling phase afterwards) … using a much wider range of performance monitoring equipment, e.g. short wave infra-red thermography.

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It is no longer acceptable for Fire Engineering to exist in an isolated Twilight Zone … completely removed from the everyday realities of Mainstream Building & Construction.

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9-11 WTC Attacks in New York – ‘Reflections in a Cold Eye’ !

2013-09-13 …

Two days ago, on the 12th Anniversary of the 9-11 World Trade Center Attacks in New York City … I couldn’t help recalling a period of time 20 years earlier, and the still vivid memories of institutional ‘after-shocks’ following the 1981 Dublin Stardust Discotheque Fire in February of that year.  For a very long time afterwards, the Irish Fire Establishment disappeared from public view and hearing … without any trace !   As a young architect, at the time, just starting out in private practice … it was a critical lesson on the importance of ‘reality’ … and the malignancy of ‘realpolitik’.

As the years rolled by, and more and more information was revealed by troubled ‘insiders’ and uncovered by brave journalists … it was clear to me that the Dublin Fire had spawned two entirely separate and unconnected realities:

  1. The Frontline Tragedy … of the fire victims (those who were killed or injured on the night, and those who survived), their families and (to this day) their mournful pleas for justice and truthful answers, the local communities, the first responders, e.g. firefighters, ambulance personnel, and Garda/police and (to this day) their continuing struggle for adequate resources, the staff of the Dublin hospitals … and a shocked public.
  2. Defensive Institutions … senior policy and decision makers in national and local authorities, or agencies, having jurisdiction and/or responsibility for blatantly inadequate building codes and standards, poorly resourced technical control systems over building design and construction, and a dysfunctional emergency response infrastructure … senior politicians, on both sides of the political spectrum, who ‘fixed’ the format and major outcomes from the post-incident investigation (they ensured that minor outcomes were either implemented in a ham-fisted bureaucratic manner, or were ignored) … the various building design disciplines directly involved and their respective professional organizations … etc., etc.

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These Same Realities have been re-born … and have evolved in scale … out of the savage destruction on that Tuesday, 11 September 2001.

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Responder Safety on Roads & ‘Eye-Popping’ Vehicle Markings

2013-09-05:  A few days ago, I was travelling on a motorway in Ireland … the scenery was luscious, and daylight and weather conditions were good … when I noticed that the visibility and marking of Emergency Response and Public Service Vehicles varied considerably.  The rear of one vehicle, in particular, had highly visible markings … but it was pulling a high trailer, without any markings … and, of course, the vehicle itself and its bright luminescent markings were almost obscured.

What would happen at night, in heavy rain … if any of these vehicles had to stop on a road without any public lighting … as they responded to a traffic accident … or because they were part of a Garda/police checkpoint ?   Serious danger for the responders and other road users is the obvious answer !

Then, more recently, while walking around Howth Harbour, in Dublin … I spotted this Irish Coast Guard Vehicle … which made me feel more optimistic …

Irish Coast Guard Vehicle, with High Visibility Markings, at Howth Harbour in Dublin.

Colour photograph showing an Irish Coast Guard Vehicle, with High Visibility Markings, at Howth Harbour in Dublin. Photograph taken by CJ Walsh. 2013-08-24. Click to enlarge.

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CVVFA-ERSI: ‘Vehicle Marking and Technology for Increased Highway Visibility – A Reference Guide for Decision-Makers’ (2013)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.35 MB)

Produced by the U.S. Cumberland Valley Volunteer Firemen’s Association (CVVFA) Emergency Responder Safety Institute (ERSI) … with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s United States Fire Administration (USFA), and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) – the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Author: Ron Moore – Chief Instructor, CVVFA Emergency Responder Safety.

CVVFA ERSI WebSite: www.respondersafety.com

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Cover Page - U.S. Fire Administration Report FA-330: 'Traffic Incident Management Systems' (2012)U.S. Fire Administration Report FA-330 – March 2012

USFA: ‘Traffic Incident Management Systems’ (2012)

Click the Link Above to read and/or download PDF File (4.87 MB)

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Both of these documents must be carefully adapted by the reader to suit a European context … as the following List of Recommendations from USFA Report FA-330 will clearly indicate …

To help decrease vehicle-related injuries and fatalities of emergency responders if implemented at the appropriate levels:

1.   Develop a comprehensive database that tracks accidents involving emergency vehicles and any resulting injuries and/or deaths to both emergency responders and civilians.

2.   Limit speeds to a level that is safe for the vehicle being driven and the road conditions on which it is being operated.

3.   Adopt a zero-tolerance alcohol (and drugs) policy and enforce an 8-hour time difference between alcohol consumption and the commencement of work.

4.   Equip all emergency vehicles with appropriate traffic control and safety equipment.

5.   Ensure all traffic-channelizing devices meet applicable standards.

6.   Ensure flaggers, if used, are properly trained and meet Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices for Streets and Highways (MUTCD) qualifications.

7.   Require members to wear highly reflective American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) 107 Class II, Class III, or ANSI/ISEA 207 compliant public safety vests whenever they operate in a roadway.

8.   Mark the emergency vehicle perimeter with retro-reflective striping or markings.

9.   Extinguish forward facing emergency vehicle lighting when parked on the roadway, especially on divided roadways.

10.  Fire departments should consider the implementation of traffic safety response units.

11.  Position the initial-arriving emergency vehicle in a blocking position to oncoming traffic.

12.  Establish an adequately sized work zone.

13.  Develop a formalized Traffic Incident Management (TIM) information sharing method between public safety and transportation agencies.

14.  Manage major traffic incidents using the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS).

15.  Consider the use of Unified Command (UC) to manage traffic incidents involving multiple jurisdictions or disciplines.

16.  Incorporate transportation departments into ICS when appropriate.

17.  Ensure adequate training on roadway hazards and safety procedures for responders.

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