Monday, October 12, 2015

The 4 - 1 - 8 on Heliport Design

A heliport is defined as, "an identifiable area...used or intended to be used for landing and takeoff of helicopters."   NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars  applies to all ground-level based aviation structures and facilities. Aviation facilities not at ground-level, meeting the definition of a heliport, must comply with the provisions of NFPA 418, Standard for Heliports.

"Heliport Monaco" by Neil Howard

NFPA 418 addresses the following heliport design and safety considerations:

  • Rooftop landing facilities
  • Rooftop hangars
  • Offshore heliports
  • Water supply
  • Emergency operations
Chapter 4 of this standard identifies the basic requirements for these facilities.  When reviewing plans for heliport facilities, the plans must meet the requirements of NFPA 418. Additionally, the facility must be designed in accordance with FAA A/C 150/5390-2B (this advisory circular has been updated to 150/5390-2C), Heliport Design Advisory Circular.   As a consultant, or design professional, these documents should be utilized together to create a complete fire protection, life safety, and code compliance strategy.  As a fire plans reviewer, the primary concern is NFPA 418 compliance. The local fire official should place the responsibility for FAA compliance on the structure's owner/engineer and can require an FAA special expert to ensure the proper design criteria is met.

In addition to meeting the requirements of NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, tanks should be located per the requirements of NFPA 418. Flammable liquid, compressed gas, fuel storage, and liquefied gas storage tanks are not permitted to be installed within 50' of the FATO (final approach and takeoff area).  The required dimensions and space for the FATO are defined in FAA A/C 150/5390-2C.

Access for emergency response must be accessible, no fence or barrier that could prevent access is allowed to be installed.  A minimum of 2 access points to the landing pad are to be provided for fire department access.

All fueling systems are required to be installed in accordance with NFPA 407, Standard for Aircraft Fuel Servicing.  Fuel equipment cannot interfere with the FATO and safety obstruction clearances required by the FAA Advisory Circular. Additionally, the fueling equipment cannot be installed within 25' of a hangar or fixed fire protection equipment, or obstruct egress or emergency access points.

For emergency egress from the landing pad, two ways are to be provided.  These two means of egress are to be remotely located from each other and on different sides of the pad. A proper egress configuration is shown below:
image source: NFPA 418:A.4.8.1(b)

This is a brief outline of the basic protection requirements for heliport design.  Individual configurations are addressed by the NFPA 418 standard.  Each configuration will have additional requirements to be reviewed.

Monday, September 28, 2015

QA Inspections for Firestopping

The model code organizations, International Code Council (ICC) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), each require special inspections for fire firestopping of penentrations and joints. These inspections are required to be conducted to ensure that the proper firestopping system has been utilized and installed properly.

Where is the requirement stated?

NFPA 1, Chapter 12, section 3 states that inspections must be conducted to ensure quality assurance for penetrations and joints.

The International Building Code, Section 1705.16 requires verification and inspection of fire-resistant penetatrations and joints.

When is an inspection required?

NFPA requires inspections of penetrations and joints, “In new buildings three stories or greater in height…” Additionally, fire-resistance rated assemblies in high-rise builidngs are to be visually inspected every 5 years.

The International Building Code, requires these inspections in all high-rise buildings (75’ high and over), and all buildings assigned a Risk Category of III and IV.  Buildings within these risk categories are those structures that “represent a substantial hazard to human life in the event of failure,” or those “designated as essential facilities”.  A complete list of these structures can be found in IBC 1604.5.

What inspection criteria is required?

These inspections will be conducted based on the following ASTM standards:

  • ASTM E2174, Standard Practice for On-site Inspection of Installed Fire Stops
  • ASTM E2393, Standard Practice for On-site Inspection of Installed Fire Resistive Joint Systems and Perimeter Fire Barriers

Additional Resources

Thursday, September 17, 2015

5 Step Fire Door Check

Fire Door Safety Week is giving these tips for a 5 Step Fire Door Check that anyone can do:

  • Check for certification Is there a label or plug on top (or occasionally on the side) of the door to show it is a certificated fire door? You can use the selfie function on your camera phone or a mirror to check. If there is, that’s good news, otherwise report it to whoever is in charge of your building.
  • Check the gaps Check the gaps around the top and sides of the door are consistently less than 4mm when closed. You can use a £1 coin to give a feel for scale, this is about 3mm thick. The gap under the door can be slightly larger (up to 8mm is not uncommon), but if does depend on the door - as a rule of thumb, if you can see light under the door, the gap is likely to be too big. It’s good news if the door fits the frame and it’s not damaged. If not, report it. If the gaps are too big smoke and fire could travel through the cracks.
  • Check the seals Are there any intumescent seals around the door or frame, and are they intact with no sign of damage? These seals are usually vital to the fire door's performance, expanding if in contact with heat to ensure fire (and in some cases smoke) can’t move through the cracks. If not, report it - the door may not be properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not protect you long enough.
  • Check the hinges Are the hinges firmly fixed (three or more of them), with no missing or broken screws? If you see problems, report it - the door is obviously not properly maintained and in the intensity of a fire may not perform and hold back the fire for long enough.
  • Check the door closes properly Open the door about halfway, let go and allow it to close by itself. Does it close firmly onto the latch without sticking on the floor or the frame? If not, report it. A fire door only works when it’s closed. A fire door is completely useless if it’s wedged open or can’t close fully.

If you think the building you're living in, working in or visiting has a faulty fire door, don't walk by. Report it to whoever manages or owns the building. You could save a live that day.