Doorway to Hell - an Analysis of Potential Sprinkler Performance

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association
In 1984 tragedy struck the Great Adventure theme park when 8 teenagers were killed in the Haunted Castle attraction.  The fire, believed (not proven) to have been started by a an individual playing with a lighter, has seen a great deal of controversy, and differing of opinions, through out the years. The resulting code changes created the special amusement requirements in NFPA 101.  

In the video below, Jack Fairchilda certified fire protection specialist with Ballinger A/E, discusses the history and impact of this fire, and guides us through his analysis of the potential effectiveness of fire sprinkler systems, he answers the question, "Would sprinklers have saved these kids?"

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association

Show Notes

Doorway to Hell - the documentary film

Copyright © 1984 National Fire Protection Association

Host a Successful Tent Event

When industrial, manufacturing, or aviation facilities want to announce a new product, host a dignitary, or throw a party, the solution for where to host these people is often found in tents or temporary membrane structures.   These are a viable and cost effective solution, however, they require compliance with a different set of codes than the normal facility activities.  Used in these conditions, these tents must be protected as places of assembly.

There are three code sections that address the fire prevention and life safety requirements for tents:

  • NFPA 101, Life Safety Code
    • Chapter 11 - Special Structures and High Rise Buildings
    • Chapter 12/13 - Assembly Occupancies
  • NFPA 1, Fire Code
    • Chapter 25 - Grandstands and Bleachers, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
  • NFPA 102, Standard for Grandstands, Folding and Telescopic Seating, Tents, and Membrane Structures
    • Chapter 8 - Tents
These codes state that any tent over 200 sq. ft. requires a permit and, therefore, must comply with these standards. 

All tents must be flame and fire resistant. This is evidenced by a certification stating that the tent has been tested and approved per the criteria of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Test for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. Certification should be sent to the local authority or agency responsible for the tent.  This certificaiton should also be sewn into the tent fabric. As an event planner, or facility safety person you should also request these certifications from the vendor.

If your event requires multiple tents, a minimum of 10’ between stake lines must be maintained.  This is to ensure an adequate means of egress and emergency access. Any tent stakes adjacent to a means of egress should be capped off or covered to avoid injury.
The ground under the tent and and at least 10’ outside of the tent, is required to be clear of flammable/combustible materials or vegetation. This would include straw, mulch, trees, grasses, and fuel sources, such as fueled vehicles.

Smoking inside of tents is not permitted.  “No Smoking” signage should be posted.

At least 1 (minimum 5lb, 2A:10BC) fire extinguisher is required.  Anything over 200 sq. ft. will require more than 1. The amount, extinguisher locations, coverages, and travel distance should be in accordance with NFPA 10, Standard for Portable Fire Extinguishers.

LP tanks (typically used for cooking and heating) cannot be installed within 5’ of the tent.  The tanks should be secured and protected from damage.

Exits shall be designated and clearly marked (minimum of 2).  This is required on every tent, but is more important for tents with closed sides. This ensures that certain areas inside the tent will be free of tables, chairs, stages, or any other elements, and will be maintained as a safe point of egress. If the even will be taking place at night, the lighted exit signage and emergency lights must be installed.

All electrical chords, boxes, and related components are to be protected from contact by the public.  This can be accomplished with proper covers, temporary fencing, and warning signage. Electric generators cannot be installed within 5' of a tent and are required to be protected from public contact, as well.

Assembly occupancies with more than 200 seats are required to have the seating permanently attached to the floor. The code realizes that in some instances this may be impractical, so it makes allowances for differing types of floor plans and seating arrangements. However, if the chairs will be in rows they must be attached in groups of not less than 3.

2014 ARFF Working Group Conference - In Review

I recently returned from the 2014 ARFF Working Group annual conference, which was held in Galveston, TX.  This is a "must-attend event" for anyone involved in the aircraft rescue and firefighting field.  Every session is filled with value adding information, education, and resources.  The vendors in the exhibitor showcase are all relevant to ARFF operations, and provide useful products and services.

The opening session was brought by Tony Brigmon, Ambassador of Fun, from Southwest Airlines.  He delivered an engaging and lively presentation on "fun".  He talked about how music can change the whole attitude of an event or meeting.  He provided the following guide to selecting the right audio track, for the mood you want to set:

M - Motivate - fast tempo, lots of bass, loud volume ("Eye of the Tiger") 
U - Unwind - slow tempo, more treble, soft volume (classical music)
S - Smile - songs that make you smile - country music ("Mississippi Squirrel")
I - I Love You - songs that make you feel 'frisky'
C - Communicate - the lyrics match a message you are sending to someone

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton is a fire officer and psychologist from Wales. She delivered an insightful presentation on the psychology of incident command.  In her session she defined what command truly is, and identified 6 findings from her extensive research in this field.

Representatives from the  FAA were on hand to provide information on their standards and requirements. And to provide updates that will affect ARFF operations.

Chief Duane Kann, newly appointed Chairman of the ARFF Working Group and Chief at Orlando International Airport, provided updates on the applicable NFPA standards. And he encouraged more involvement in the NFPA technical committees and code development process.

There were several case-studies/lessons learned presentations given based on current aviation related incidents.  We heard about the Challenger Accident (Aspen, CO), the crash of Asiana Flight 214 (San Francisco, CA) , and the Active Shooter incident at LAX.  Each of these department heads shared about the incident in general, but also what lessons were learned and how they could be applied to our individual operations. There were several common lessons between these events:
  1. Compliance does not equal preparedness - minimum standards may need to be exceeded in order to truly be prepared for an emergency incident.
  2. Unified command/mutual aid - this should be practiced, and every agency should have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
  3. Realistic training - training should be conducted in a realistic way, in an environment that can mimic actual conditions, and it must be conducted often.
There were a few presentations on specific aircraft types, familiarization, and emergency procedures.  ARFF Training Concepts discussed airplane construction, systems, and materials, and connected these to emergency response procedures.

Representatives from the DFW Fire Research and Training Center, identified and "busted" 9 training myths, commonly heard around the fire house. 

Myth #1 -  They attended _______ training.  They know how to do that.
Myth #2 -  Everybody knows about "throttles-bottles-batteries".
Myth #3 -  Dangerous goods are always located in the most forward position.
Myth #4 -  Everybody knows the importance of early ventilation.
Myth #5 -  If we shut off the battery switch we cannot open the cargo doors.
Myth #6 -  We have plenty of air.
Myth #7 -  Engine fires can be extinguished from front, back, and access panels.
Myth #8 -  ARFF driver/operators know everything about their apparatus.
Myth #9 -  It won't happen here.

This conference was a really great event.  The education received and value added far exceeds the associated conference costs.  That makes this conference a deal!  Any departments with ARFF responsibilities should make it a point to send their personnel to this event each year.

All the presentation will be available on-line at the ARFF Working Group website,  

Conducting Hot Work Operations

Smoke Showing Photography: Boston Ma - 9 Alarms 2 LODD's - March 26 2014 &emdash; On March 26, 2014 Lt. Edward Walsh, Jr. and Firefighter Michael Kennedy of the Boston Fire Department lost their lives in the line of duty.  The fire, a brownstone in the 200 Block of Beacon St., would escalate to 9-alarms. The cause of the fire was determined to be wind-driven sparks from a welding operation.

D & J Iron Works were found to be at fault in this fire and these deaths.  Though, not intentional, their lack of proper fire safety precautions will cost them $58,000 in fines.  This seems like a small financial penalty for the damage and lives lost.  However, this incident will, no doubt, put this company out of business due to lost revenue, damaged reputation, and lost standing in the community.

D & J Iron Works was cited and fined for 10 violations, among them are the following:
  • lack of employee fire safety training
  • ineffective fire prevention precautions
  • no posted "fire watch" during the welding operation
OSHA and the NFPA have specific guidance and safeguards that must be followed when performing hot work operations.  This can most readily be achieved by instituting a hot work permit program/system at your facility or within your community.  FM Global freely provides a complete hot work system and information.  These can be ordered through their website.

Below is a brief slideshare that provides an overview of the hot work process and considerations.  This presentation is based on the requirements found in NFPA 1:41 and NFPA 51B.

If you would like any further information, training materials, or assistance in creating your own hot work program, feel free to contact me.

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