Why "Loads" Matter

A night that started out with fun, partying, and dancing, ended in tragedy. On July 17, 1981, 100 people were killed, and nearly 200 injured, when an elevated walkway collapsed at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City.

The 40-story Hyatt Regency had opened its doors only one year before this incident. The defining features of the structure were the elevated walkways that were suspended from the ceiling.  Each walkway was about 40 yards long, and weighed 63,934 pounds. These walkways were configured in such a manner that the second and fourth level walkways were in line vertically.

The original design for these walkways was that they would be suspended from the ceiling with continuous threaded rods and secured with nuts. Contractors and the manufacturer had concerns regarding the installation and workload required to install and secure four-story long threaded rods, and then rotate nuts two stories into place. So, a decision was made to hang the fourth floor walkway from the ceiling, and suspend the second floor walkway from the fourth with a different set of rods.  This design change was approved without a detailed review, or revised calculations.

This configuration doubled the load on the main supporting beams (from which supported the fourth floor walkway).  The added load caused the welded seam beams to fail and allowed the nuts to pull through. This caused the fourth floor walkway to “pancake” onto the second floor walkway beneath.

The full investigative report is available here, from NIST.  

Primary contributing factors identified in the cause of this collapse, include:
  • Design changes
  • Poor communication
  • Improper testing of the new design
  • Poor, or no, load calculations of the new design
  • General negligence

Guide to NFPA 13 Occupancy and Commodity Classifications

Perhaps you are conducting a fire inspection or survey and you notice that the hazard or commodity classification on the hydraulic calculation plate at the riser seems odd for the actual contents of the structure.  Or, you are sitting down to do a plan review, the occupancy hazard and commodity class is listed. Are these classifications correct based on the use of the structure?

NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, chapter five defines occupancy hazard and commodities classifications for the design and installation of sprinkler systems. In book form, this information can sometimes be difficult to recall. This slideshow presentation can be utilized as a reference to quickly review and confirm occupancy and commodity classifications.

8 Factors for Avoiding a FF Close Call

In the January 2018 issue of Firehouse Magazine, Billy Goldfeder shares “a simple list to help you consider some of the key factors in avoiding a firefighter close call, line-of-duty injury or line-of-duty death".

This article is recommended reading for all members of the fire service, and can be accessed here.

Eight critical factors discussed are:

  1. Learn about fire behavior
  2. Conducting a size-up
  3. When, how, and why to perform ventilation
  4. Getting water on the fire
  5. Rapid-intervention crews/teams
  6. Love your apparatus, tools, and equipment
  7. Clear fireground communication
  8. Deployment staffing

Firehouse Magazine, January 2018, Close Calls: New Year, New Lessons: 8 Critical Fireground Factors, Billy Goldfeder.

Five Lessons from, "A Message to Garcia"

It is not a “millenials” problem, it’s a people problem. We seem to constantly hear the millenials getting blamed for a poor work ethic. However, a book published in 1899 shows that the problem of poor work ethic and lack of quality in workmanship has been a people problem throughout the history of humanity.

A Message to Garcia, has long held a place on the Marine Corps Commandant’s reading list.  Written by Elbert Hubbard, this is short parable of a man named Rowan who must get a message to a man named Garcia. The parable presents the lessons learned through Rowans diligence and success in accomplishing the task he was assigned and agreed to complete.

The opening paragraph sets the scene:

When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents.  Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastness of Cuba - no one knew where. No mail or telegraph message could reach him. The PResident must secure his co-operation, and quickly. What to do!

Someone said to the President, “There is a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you, if anybody can....”

“...The point that I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, “Where is he at?”

This short booklet provides a wealth of value into the insight of human behavior and work.  All people entering the workforce would be well served to read and observe the statutes presented within its pages.  This booklet serves as a great reminder and motivator of the importance of the work we do, and why we must strive to be the best at what we do.  

Here are 5 lessons learned about work from, A Message to Garcia:

Attitude -- “If you work for a man, in Heaven’s name work for him. If he pays wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him, speak well of him, think well of him, and stand by him, and and stand by the institution he represents.”

Competence -- “...but out and forever out the incompetent and unworthy go. It is survival of the fittest. Self-interest prompts every employer to keep the best - those who can carry a message to Garcia.”

Motivation -- “...He is impervious to reason, and the only thing that can impress him is the toe of a thick-soled Number Nine boot.”

Demand -- “Civilization is one long, anxious search for just such individuals. Anything wuch a man asks shall be granted. His kind is so rare that no employer can afford to let him go.  He is wanted in every city, town, and village - in every office, shop, store and factory.”

Accomplishment -- “It is not book learning young men need, nor instruction about this and that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies: do the thing.”

MGOSIPs for Fire Proof Homes

Innova Eco Building System manufactures ready-to-assemble panels made with a magnesium oxide board (MGO).  These MGO panels are made with magnesium skins which are stronger and have a more superior fire ratings than fiber cement and OSB SIPs panels. These are being used to replace concrete block and wood framing.  These panels are 60% lighter than masonry block and concrete, do not rot or mold, are not subject to destruction by termites, are toxin free, can withstand 200 mph winds, and are fire resistant.

Have you seen these?
Are these in your community?
Are there any specific firefighting or construction challenges that they may pose?

ARFF Operations at Air Shows

"Waddington Air Show 361" by Alan Schoolar

The 2018 edition of NFPA 403, Standard for Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Services at Airports, includes an added section (Chapter 10, Special Events) for ARFF services at air shows.  Though it is a short section, it provides needed minimum guidance for ARFF departments tasked with hosting these events.

  • ARFF units must be able to respond and deploy agents within 60 seconds, within the aerobatic box.
Aerobatic box: airspace at an airshow where aircraft are authorized to perform aerobatic maneuvers.
  • Firefighter shall have full PPE donned during the period of air show waiver.
Air show waiver: FAA document that authorizes certain aircraft operations to deviate from a regulation

  • ARFF apparatus must continuously have their engines running.
  • A pre-plan must be created and shared with fire department personnel.
  • At least (1) Firefighter from each ARFF apparatus must meet with the pilot-in-command to discuss the following items:
    • Emergency extraction
    • Canopy release
    • Fuel shutoff
    • Master on/off switch
    • Aircraft lift points
  • The fire department must meet with air traffic control tower operators, air show operators, and air boss to determine:
    • Standard radio communications
    • runway/taxiway clearances
  • Incident Commander (or a Liason) should be stationed with the air bos throughout the air show.

Air boss: individual with primary responsibility for air show operations