IFSA Seeking Full-time Managing Director

The International Fire Suppression Alliance (IFSA), a 501(c)6 non-profit trade group currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, is seeking a full-time Managing Director to lead the organization forward. A search committee has been charged with the responsibility of recommending final candidates to the organization’s Board of Governors.

The ideal candidate for Managing Director will enjoy travel, communication, and intercultural opportunities.

The Managing Director will assist the Board in the development of IFSA strategies, and will be responsible for overall administration of the organization, including oversight of its website, newsletter, grant and training programs, and membership solicitation and services. The Managing Director will be asked to set up a suitable headquarters office for the organization, and hire and supervise an administrative assistant to assist management efforts.

Skill requirements:

•      Basic understanding of business management

–  Ability to prepare a business plan

–  Ability to execute plans and achieve given targets

•      People management and relationship competencies

•      English speaking and writing abilities

Helpful additional attributes:

•      Multiple language abilities

•      Multi-cultural experience

•      Background in codes and standards driven markets

•      Experience in international business development

•      Experience in the fire suppression industry

•      Experience in leading and/or growing non-profit organizations

The salary and office location are negotiable, and efforts will be made to accommodate the successful candidate. The successful candidate will be asked to hire an administrative assistant at an early opportunity.

Please send an indication of interest, resume, and salary requirements no later than July 22, 2019 to Russ Fleming, IFSA Secretary using: rfleming@firesprinkler.global.  All responses will be confidential to the Search Committee.

Notre Dame Fire Points Out Need for Sprinklers in Churches

While the investigation continues, preliminary reports from Paris suggest that the April 15, 2019 fire that devastated the 850-year old Notre Dame Cathedral was most likely caused by an electrical short circuit. Firefighters moving quickly up hundreds of steps to reach the attic level where the fire originated were credited with preventing the damage from being even worse. The response of 500 firefighters was able to bring the fire under control within 5 hours, but only after the cathedral’s roof and spire fell to the ground, with the stained-glass windows and wooden interior destroyed.

The New York Times reported that the cathedral’s attic was equipped with an automatic fire alarm system, but with an arrangement that made a substantial delay in response almost a certainty. Rather than send a signal automatically to the fire brigade, it required that a guard climb a set of steep steps to the attic to confirm the fire, a trip that was estimated to take six minutes or more. Once confirmed, the fire could be reported, but by the time the fire brigade could arrive there could be a total delay of 20 minutes or more. In addition, a computer glitch may have first inaccurately indicated the location of the fire.

Inadequate alarm systems are a significant fire protection deficiency, but automatic sprinkler systems have proven their ability to make up for a wide range of deficiencies, including inadequate alarms. Sprinkler systems start working before the arrival of the fire brigade.

Fires have been the bane of churches since the Middle Ages, and continue to be the leading cause of their destruction. In the Boston area alone, two devastating fires in historic churches within the past year have resulted in firefighter injuries and over a million dollars each in damage. The First Baptist Church in Wakefield, Massachusetts burned on October 23, 2018, and the Holy Mt. Zion Church in Roxbury, Massachusetts was totally destroyed on February 2, 2019.

The list of churches that have succumbed to fire is a long one, but there is another list that is growing – churches that survived fires due to protection by fire sprinkler systems. Here are some examples from the U.S. within the past five years: 

Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas – January 1, 2015

A single sprinkler extinguished a fire that broke out in a television set in the lobby of the unoccupied church. A small amount of water damage resulted.

New Shiloh Christian Center, Melbourne, Florida – February 16, 2015

Burglars broke into an area of the building that was slated for a trade school, kicked in doors, scrawled graffiti, and set fire to some furniture and chairs in an attached storage unit, and a locked door leading into the maintenance area where the electrical room and a large diesel tank were located.  Sprinklers operated, keeping the fire from spreading to the electrical room.  The main sanctuary, housed in the same 125,000 sq ft building, was not affected by smoke or fire.  Damage was limited to $5000.

 Lutheran Church of Hope, Anchorage, Alaska -- January 30, 2016

Vandals broke into the church through a back window, tipped over the baptismal font in the sanctuary, ripped through some mail, then made their way to the kitchen, where they ignited the stovetop and piled papers on top of the burners.  The fire activated the sprinkler system, with a single sprinkler dousing the fire before it could spread to other parts of the church. Smoke and heat damage was limited to the kitchen itself.

 Love Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana – June 28, 2017

A fire in a storage area was largely extinguished by the sprinkler system. Officials said the sprinkler system prevented major damage to the building.

Silverdale Baptist Academy, Chattanooga, Tennessee – August 4, 2017

A fire that began in a utility room was completely extinguished by the sprinkler system, and investigators estimated the damage at $2000. A fire department spokesman credited the sprinkler system with saving the $4 million structure.

Christ Unity Baptist Church, Modesto, CA – August 7, 2017

A 57-year old caretaker for the church set 7 fires in the basement, which were contained by the sprinkler system. Firefighters were prevented from entering the building due to a standoff between the arsonist and a SWAT team. The caretaker was convicted of felony arson and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Christian Church Voice of Salvation, Methuen, Massachusetts –September 24, 2017

An arsonist used accelerant to start a fire, but one sprinkler activated to contain the damage to a rug and some chairs until the arrival of the fire department.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Tracy, California – October 23, 2017

A fire in a staircase was extinguished by the sprinkler system.  Responding firefighters found only light smoke and water, which they were able to clean up in an hour after their arrival.

Concord Fortress of Hope Church, Kansas City, Missouri – October 29, 2017

A maintenance worker scrawled racist graffiti and set a fire in an attempt to cover up a burglary that allowed him to buy drugs. The fire, which started with the ignition of paper towels and clothing placed beside an office chair, was extinguished by the sprinkler system.

 Lithia Springs Church of God, Lithia Springs, Georgia – March 31, 2018

Vandals broke into the church gym, mixed chemicals in a trash can, and spread them as accelerants over tables to set fire to bags of food donations intended to feed 2,000 needy students over their spring break. The sprinkler system activated to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to the building structure.

Timberwood Church, Nisswa, Minnesota – April 20, 2018

A kitchen fire on the morning of Friday April 20th activated the sprinkler system, but the church was cleaned up and ready for Sunday morning services on April 22nd.

Lifeway Fellowship Church, Killeen, Texas – May 13, 2018

An electrical short circuit in a wall ignited insulation materials at 4 am, but was controlled by the fire sprinkler system until the arrival of the fire department.  

Brooklake Church, Federal Way, Washington – June 21, 2018

A fire at the church entrance, believed to been ignited by a discarded cigarette, spread to an overhead awning but was prevented from entering the interior of the church by the activation of a fire sprinkler. Damage was estimated at $150,000, but was limited to the building exterior.

Living Waters Lutheran Church, Lino Lakes, Minnesota – January 25, 2019

A fire started in a pot being heated on a stovetop to melt wax for a pre-school program class project.  A teacher removed the flaming pot from the stove with the intention of taking the pot outside but only made it as far as the hallway before being burned. A single sprinkler activated to extinguish the fire.

 

 

IFSA Looks Back on Its First 20 Years

On May 18, 1999, the inaugural meeting of the International Fire Sprinkler Association was held in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Representatives of ten companies along with staff from the National Fire Sprinkler Association agreed on the establishment of a new organization that would work to increase global awareness of the effectiveness of automatic sprinkler and other water-based fire suppression systems.

From the start, the IFSA founders envisioned a supporting role for IFSA: it would be an organization that would put most of its resources into a grant program, distributing millions of US dollars around the world. What has it accomplished in its 20 years of existence? Here are two primary examples:

1. IFSA has helped to grow the global market.

 The IFSA has utilized a unique strategy to help grow the worldwide market for fire sprinkler and other water-based fire protection systems and their components. It recognized from the start that local groups are in the best position to drive the demand for improvements in codes to protect the public, which in turn drives the demand for fire protection systems. So IFSA has helped organize and establish national and regional organizations with the same objectives as the IFSA, organizations that include the European Fire Sprinkler Network (EFSN), the Brazilian Association of Sprinklers (ABSpk), and the National Association of Automatic Fire Sprinkler Systems Colombia (ANRACI). The IFSA has also provided funding in support of the programs and projects of already-existing organizations that share IFSA priorities, including the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, the Mexican Association of Automatic Fire Sprinklers (AMRACI), the National Fire Sprinkler Association (USA), the National Fire Sprinkler Network (UK), and Sprinklerfrämjandet (Sweden).

All of these groups have received support for programs that encourage broader use of fire sprinkler and water mist systems.  These include research programs demonstrating the effectiveness of water-based fire protection systems, side-by-side burn demonstrations showing how systems operate in fires, and training programs aimed at Authorities Having Jurisdiction and others in the building community. 

Although it is obvious that economic cycles and other factors are involved in the market for systems in any one place at a given time, success can be recognized when a larger percentage of new buildings are being equipped with built-in fire suppression systems. In Europe, for example, which received the bulk of the attention during IFSA’s first decade of existence, the efforts of the EFSN and national associations supported through the EFSN have led to an ever-increasing use of fire sprinklers. Despite the fact that building construction decreased by 11% between 2008 and 2018, fire sprinkler installation has increased by 15%.

Consider another region, Latin America, the primary focus of IFSA’s second decade. IFSA began its efforts in the region in 2009 by meeting with members of the local sprinkler industry and fire officials. Subsequent efforts included formation of sprinkler associations in Brazil and Colombia, training programs, support of the new association in Mexico, and hosting “Fire Sprinkler Americas” conferences in Panama in 2014 and in Medellín in 2016.  Although construction data is difficult to obtain, the increased use of fire sprinklers is undeniable. While World Bank statistics put the growth of total Latin American gross domestic product between 2009 and 2017 at 34 percent, the increase in annual fire sprinkler shipments to the region by IFSA manufacturers was more than triple that, an increase of 114%.

2. IFSA has helped to increase awareness of the need for product certification.

 The IFSA has recognized that market growth is not enough. Without attention to product quality, the demand for water-based fire protection will be filled by suppliers of substandard equipment available at lower cost in the international marketplace. As such, the IFSA has made it a priority to stress the need for product certification from reputable testing and certification bodies such as UL, FM, LPCB, and VdS. Recently the IFSA produced a video stressing the need for certification by revealing the inadequacies of non-certified sprinklers removed from service in Brazil, which has been hard-hit by such products in the marketplace. The video has been made available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and the IFSA is currently arranging for translations into Chinese, Arabic and Turkish.

Efforts are proving successful. At the end of 2018, it was announced that ABSpk had won a considerable victory, with legislation passed in the State of São Paulo to require product certification. Due to the fact that most of Brazil follows the leadership of São Paulo State, ABSpk expects that this regulation will bring about profound changes throughout all of Brazil.

As the IFSA enters its third decade, it continues to seek new partners for its mission – “To globally promote the use of effective water-based fire protection systems.”

 

Four Years Later - A Big Win for ABSpk in Brazil

Four years ago, on January 6, 2015, the São Paulo State Law No. 1257 was published, establishing a new São Paulo State Code of Fire Protection and Emergencies. To enact this law, three decrees were created, two of which were signed by the governor and published. To the disappointment of ABSpk, the third decree was not signed by the governor and therefore did not become part of the new law. This third decree would have established requirements for certified products for building protection and firefighting, as well as giving a police power with regard to building safety to the São Paulo State Fire Department.

With the São Paulo State governor involved in the recent Brazilian Presidential elections, and realizing that the vice-governor could act in his absence, ABSpk coordinated a new effort, enlisting the support of a wide range of Brazilian fire protection and construction associations. A joint letter was forwarded to the vice-governor with the help of Colonel Cássio Armani (formerly a São Paulo Fire Department Commander).

As a result, the third decree was signed on December 10, 2018, published the day after, and will be valid in 120 days following publication. Among several important regulations, the Fire Department will require the certification, or other conformity assessment mechanism, of fire safety products for buildings and risk areas, through certification bodies accredited by the National Institute of Metrology, Quality and Technology (INMETRO), proving compliance with national technical standards. Implementation will also take place through an ordinance to be published by CBPMESP (the Military Police of São Paulo), which will establish deadlines for adapting the market to these legal provisions.

ABSpk, which has previously gone on record to warn about the proliferation of noncertified fire sprinklers in Brazil, has won a considerable victory. Due to the fact that most of Brazil follows the leadership of São Paulo State, ABSpk expects that this regulation will bring about profound changes, since it will affect all of Brazil once the other Brazilian states adopt the São Paulo State Regulations.

Triple Success for Latin American Fire Sprinkler Associations

Fire sprinkler conferences and exhibitions conducted in Mexico and Brazil in October of 2018, along with a conference in Colombia two months earlier, were evidence of a major milestone for IFSA efforts in Latin America. All three of these conferences were conducted by national associations affiliated with the IFSA, and helped fulfill one of IFSA’s major goals since its founding in 1999:

Development of National and Regional Organizations – To foster the development of national and regional organizations whose activities would increase the use of competently installed automatic water-based fire suppression systems for the purpose of saving lives and protecting property.

During its early efforts in Latin America, the IFSA sponsored its own “Fire Sprinkler Americas” conferences, held in Panama in 2014 and Colombia in 2016. The purpose of these conferences was to grow interest in the fire sprinkler concept while stressing the importance of product and installation quality. But the mantle has been passed to the three organizations that, with IFSA assistance, have now stepped to the forefront: 

-  On 21-23 August in Bogota, ANRACI-Colombia sponsored its first-ever international conference, including the first side-by-side fire sprinkler burn demonstration conducted in that country.

-  On 9-10 October, AMRACI held its 3rd Fire Protection International Forum in Mexico City in conjunction with the National Council for Fire Protection (CONAPCI) and a theme of  “Integral Protection for Modern Infrastructure.”

-  On 23-26 October the CBSpk III conference was held in Atibaia, SP, Brazil, and featured a discussion of the September 2018 fire that destroyed Brazil’s 200-year old National Museum in Rio de Janeiro.

IFSA was represented on the program at all three events, and was able to premier Spanish and Portuguese versions of its video in support of product certification.

IFSA Releases New Product Certification Video

The IFSA has released a new video explaining the need for fire protection industry professionals and regulators to demand product certification by reputable testing laboratories. The 6-minute video can be viewed using this link:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwdqBIhe3bqy4dRxQOBfPWQ

In addition to the posted English version, the video is being produced in Spanish and Portuguese versions and will be shown at the following upcoming events:

·       ANRACI Colombia’s August 21-23 International Conference on Protection Against Fire in Bogota, Colombia

·       AMRACI’s Fire Protection International Forum 2018, October 9-10, in Mexico City, Mexico

·       ABSpk’s 3rd Brazilian Congress of Sprinklers (CBSpk) October 25-26, in Atiabaia (near São Paulo), Brazil

The IFSA video focuses on the shortcomings of noncertified fire sprinklers that have been identified and tested for the IFSA by Underwriters Laboratories and FM Approvals. As described in the video the Brazilian Fire Sprinkler Association ABSpk cooperated in the removal of noncertified sprinklers from two occupancies in São Paulo, Brazil, where they were in service and presumably providing protection to the public. As expected, when tested using standard product test protocols, they failed to demonstrate adequate performance. While these sprinklers were replaced with properly certified sprinklers, it is not known how many other substandard installations are currently endangering the public.

It is hoped that the video will be successful in explaining the dangers of noncertified fire sprinklers and other system components, and convince government regulators to prevent the installation of the substandard products.

UL Uncovers Counterfeit Sprinklers in Colombia and Indonesia

Underwriters Laboratories has reported on new discoveries of counterfeit sprinklers in Colombia and Indonesia. In two separate Public Notices published on its website, UL has identified the sprinklers as carrying fake US or Canada UL certification markings.

The first set of counterfeit sprinklers, discovered in Medellin Antioquia, Colombia, have markings indicating they were manufactured by the Nanjing Fire Protection Technology Co. of China, carrying the Sprinkler Identification Numbers (SINs) NX003 and NX005, and are respectively upright and pendent chrome-plated sprinklers with 68oC temperature ratings. The upright sprinkler contains a 5 mm glass bulb marked “JOB F5” and the pendent contains a 3 mm bulb marked “JOB FR”, but the bulbs were not produced or labeled by JOB GmbH or its agents. Photographs of the counterfeit sprinklers can be viewed along with the UL notice at:

www.ul.com/newsroom/publicnotices/ul-warns-of-counterfeit-ul-mark-on-fire-sprinklers-release-18pn-08/

The second set of counterfeits, found in Indonesia, are marked with the Sprinkler Identification Number PS002, but were not manufactured by the Protector Sprinkler Co. of Taiwan. The sprinklers are glass bulb chrome-plated pendent sprinklers with a 68oC temperature rating and “PRO” marked on the wrench boss, and can be viewed at:

www.ul.com/newsroom/publicnotices/ul-warns-of-counterfeit-ul-mark-on-fire-sprinklers-release-18pn-07/

The use of counterfeit or other noncertified sprinklers presents a major public safety hazard, since past testing of such sprinklers has shown they can be manufactured using materials that will not withstand fire temperatures or expected water distribution forces, or can be otherwise deficient in their ability to control and suppress fires.  All responsible design professionals, installers and approval authorities should be on the lookout for these dangerous products.

IFSA Changes Name to Reflect Interest in All Water-Based Suppression Systems

 

At its 2017 year-end meeting, the Board of Governors of the IFSA voted to legally change the name of the organization to the International Fire Suppression Alliance, consistent with its mission “to globally promote the use of effective water-based fire protection systems”.  Since its original formation in 1999, the IFSA has included water mist and other water-based systems within its scope of activities. In fact, the original mission statement of the IFSA was “to promote and enhance the business of manufacturing and installing fire sprinkler, water spray and water mist systems and devices in all buildings, from homes to high rise, worldwide, with the highest degree of competence and professionalism, for the purpose of saving lives and protecting property. “  It was later shortened with the word “effective” added to highlight that product quality is a focus of IFSA efforts.  In recent years the IFSA has consistently pointed out the need for authorities to require proper product certification to guard against substandard products reaching the marketplace

As part of changes also adopted at year-end, the IFSA has created a Country Campaign Steering Committee to help make decisions relative to where IFSA efforts can be most productive. The committee will also oversee the efforts of Country Campaign Managers, individual members of the IFSA Board assigned as liaisons to specific countries and organizations receiving IFSA grants. In this manner the IFSA can be kept better informed of the progress of its funded activities.

British Labour Leader Calls for Sprinkler Retrofit

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom, is calling for fire sprinkler retrofit of all social housing tower blocks in the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell fire disaster. In a November 9th speech in London alongside the party’s shadow housing minister, John Healey, Corbyn suggested that the government set aside £1bn in the forthcoming budget to begin the effort.

Noting that only 2% of all tower blocks are currently protected with fire sprinkler systems, Corbyn has suggested the retrofit project should begin with tower blocks exceeding ten stories in height, but eventually be extended to all council and association tower blocks. He pointed to the reduction in the nation’s ability to manually fight fires as helping to create the need, stating that 10,000 frontline firefighter jobs, one in six, have been eliminated over the past seven years as part of austerity measures. Corbyn’s remarks included some very positive statements with regard to automatic fire sprinkler systems:

“The retrofitting of sprinklers in all high-rise social housing is something that could make a vital difference to people's safety. The evidence is clear: where sprinkler systems have already been fitted, injuries sustained from fires have been cut by approximately 80% and deaths from fires have almost been eliminated entirely.

“When almost every authoritative source on the matter is saying the same thing - that retrofitting of sprinklers is necessary in high-rise housing - this measure is just common sense and will protect thousands of lives. Grenfell was an avoidable tragedy. It did not have to happen and it would not have happened if adequate precautions, including sprinklers, were in place.”

New Findings Show Sprinkler System Could Have Prevented London Tragedy

Recent reports that detail the origin of the deadly Grenfell Tower fire in London suggest that an automatic fire sprinkler system could have prevented the tragedy. According to the London police, the fire that killed at least 79 individuals on June 14th started in a refrigerator within a 4th story apartment, then spread to the building’s combustible exterior cladding. If an automatic fire sprinkler system had been installed in the building, it would have been expected to intervene and prevent the fire from reaching the building exterior.

Most large fire disasters involve some type of code violation or human error, and the Grenfell Tower fire may be no exception. Much attention is being focused on the fact that the aluminum-clad panels used on the exterior of the building contained a combustible plastic core. Although the aluminum cladding was intended to prevent casual ignition of the panels, the exposure from the fire inside the building reportedly ignited the exterior assembly, causing the fire to spread rapidly.

However, according to fire protection engineer Russ Fleming, who serves as the managing director of the International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA), “automatic fire sprinkler systems have a unique ability to make up for a wide range of other fire deficiencies.” He points out that in the 1990s, the U.S. General Services Administration asked the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to study the capabilities of automatic fire sprinkler systems and the level of protection that could be expected. NIST reported back three fundamental capabilities.  The first was the ability to prevent the room of fire origin from proceeding to flashover, a phenomenon in which all combustibles are ignited.  The second was the ability of sprinklers to limit a fire to a maximum size not exceeding 1 MW, roughly the peak burning rate of a single upholstered chair.  The third was the ability of sprinklers to prevent flames from leaving the room of fire origin. Fleming notes that “If an automatic fire sprinkler system had been in place to intervene, the Grenfell Tower fire should never have reached the building exterior.” This view is supported by a report on combustible exterior cladding published in 2014 by the Fire Protection Research Foundation, which contained the statement  "It is concluded that sprinkler systems are likely to have an effect on the risk of interior fires spreading to the external wall to become exterior wall fires.”

The capability of automatic fire sprinkler systems is now being recognized in the UK in the aftermath of the Grenfell fire tragedy.  Although the national government has not yet acted, individual towns and cities have already announced plans to retrofit their public housing tower blocks with sprinkler systems.  These include Birmingham (213 tower blocks), Croydon (25 tower blocks), Sheffield (24 tower blocks) and Stoke-on-Trent (16 tower blocks). While it is an unfortunate fact of fire protection that progress is most often made in the wake of tragedies, the IFSA applauds the action of these communities for their decisive move toward improved safety for their citizens.

London Fire Tragedy Proves Need for Sprinkler High-Rise Retrofit

The Grenfell Tower residential high-rise fire that killed at least thirty (30) residents of London on June 14th and injured dozens of others reinforces the need for fire sprinklers in high-rise buildings, including the retrofit of these existing fire hazards. 

While all the details of the fire tragedy are not yet known, the International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA) points out that automatic fire sprinkler systems are the single most effective fire protection measure available, and are able to make up for a wide range of other fire protection deficiencies.  There has never been a multiple loss of life from a fire developing in a building protected by a properly designed, installed and maintained fire sprinkler system.

"Our question at this point is for decision makers, especially those who made the choice to not include fire sprinklers when improvements were made in the building last year," explains Bruce LaRue, Chair of the International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA). "Fire sprinklers minimize the impact fires like this one have on people, property, pets and the community. Fires like this shouldn’t grow to this magnitude because the technology exists to keep fire small and allow occupants to escape and firefighters time to set up and keep it under control." 

Alan Brinson, Executive Director of the London-based European Fire Sprinkler Network, stated “While fire sprinkler systems have been required in new high-rise residential buildings in England since 2007, we are still lacking legislation that would provide fire safety in existing buildings of this type.”

Why are fire sprinkler systems not being installed in these types of existing buildings? The uninformed answer is usually that it would cost too much. However, reality is that in 2012 the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) commissioned a report on the economics of fire sprinkler retrofit in residential apartment blocks of this type. The study concluded that fire sprinklers could be retrofitted with tenants in place at a cost of about £1150 per flat. Since the 24-story Grenfell Tower contained 120 flats, BAFSA reports that a fire sprinkler system could have been installed for less than 2 percent of the £10 million spent on refurbishment of the tower just last year, money that was wasted considering that the tower now appears to be a total loss.

The BAFSA report, entitled Safer High-Rise Living, the Callow Mount Sprinkler Retrofit Project, can be accessed at http://www.bafsa.org.uk/pdfs/publications/1/00000111.pdf.

Some suggest that individuals living in high-rise buildings experiencing a fire are safer to stay within their units than attempt to evacuate through smoke-filled corridors and stairways. However, it was obvious in the Grenfell fire that the extensive exterior fire spread made that impossible, and responding firefighters urged rapid evacuation.

Although fire sprinkler systems are not designed to control or extinguish exterior fires, experience has shown that they can play a major role in providing fire safety during such events.  In both the Monte Carlo casino hotel fire in Las Vegas in 2008 and the Sulafa residential high-rise fire in Dubai in 2017, individual sprinklers activated to prevent the exterior fires from entering the building, and no fire deaths took place.

The IFSA expresses its sympathy for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, and calls upon British authorities to revisit the issue of fire safety in existing high-rise buildings, specifically to consider a program for fire sprinkler retrofit of high-rise occupancies. Fires tragedies such as the Grenfell Tower can be prevented. Fires occur around the world in these same types of buildings that have fire sprinklers and, when that is the case, they seldom even make the news because the damage is minimal and no one dies.

EFSN Warsaw Conference a Success

EFSN Warsaw Conference a Success

IFSA Chair Bruce LaRue addresses Fire Sprinkler Warsaw 2017

The European Fire Sprinkler Network, in conjunction with its 2017 Annual General Meeting on 25 April, sponsored a 1-day conference in Warsaw, Poland, on 26 April. The German VdS and the Polish Scientific and Research Centre for Fire Protection (CNBOP) cooperated in the sponsorship of the conference. Approximately 170 delegates attended the Fire Sprinkler Warsaw 2017 and heard from a number of internationally-known speakers, including FM Global Vice President and Manager of Research Dr. Louis Gritzo.  Dr. Gritzo noted that fire sprinkler systems are capable of achieving more than 99% reliability, which EFSN Managing Director Alan Brinson noted was reinforced by a recent Swedish study indicating 100% success in that country.

Appearing on the program on behalf of the IFSA were Chairman Bruce LaRue, who discussed the potential role of the IFSA in assisting the fire sprinkler industry in countries like Poland, and Managing Director Russ Fleming, who updated the group on NFPA sprinkler standards and their advantages in bringing new technology to the marketplace.

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Need Confirmed for Fire Sprinklers in British Schools

A debate that has taken place over the past year regarding the need for fire sprinkler systems in British schools appears to have been settled in favor of sprinklers. On behalf of the National Fire Sprinkler Network (NFSN), Ronnie King OBE, who serves as Honorary Administrative Secretary of the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety & Rescue Group, has been steadfast in his support of fire sprinklers for new schools, which generally have been fitted with sprinklers since the 2007 publication of Building Bulletin 100: Fire Safety Design for Schools (BB100). As such, he has led the opposition to a recent proposal to amend the bulletin by removing the “expectation that all new schools are sprinklered with the exception of low risk schools.” 

Although Mr. King’s concern’s were originally dismissed, he was able to point to an Executive Summary for the proposed revised BB100 published during 2016 that specifically stated:  “The Building Regulations do not require the installation of fire sprinkler suppression systems in school buildings for life safety and therefore BB 100 no longer includes an expectation that most new school buildings will be fitted with them”.

Mr. King set about raising support from the fire protection community, and in a letter dated 16 December 2016, Lord John Nash, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools, clarified that while the draft revision of the bulletin was intended to make the guidance in the document more user-friendly, “unclear phrasing” in the draft has “inadvertently given stakeholders the impression that we have changed our position on fire safety. This is absolutely not the case.”

It has been pointed out that some fire risk assessments are being used to determine that schools can be considered “low risk” on the basis of life safety and that sprinkler systems are therefore not needed.  However, unlike fire safety regulations based on life safety considerations only, the risk associated with school properties is also required to be based on property protection considerations, and British schools have a long history of arson incidents.  British Home Office figures show there have been 1,900 fires in schools over the past 3 years with many resulting in a level of damage such as that experienced in the August 2016 fire at the Selsey Academy in Chichester, a total loss despite the efforts of 75 firefighters over hours of time. Students will be in temporary quarters until a new school can be built in two years. Although insurance covers some of the cost of such fires, national finances and society also bear costs, since a growing number of Academies are insured under a government program and because pupils’ education suffers when they have to use temporary accommodations.

Mr. King and the NFSN are now working to ensure that all ambiguities are eliminated in the revised bulletin, and that new British schools will continue to have the benefits of fire sprinkler protection as the norm.

IFSA Releases Reports Showing Dangers of Non-Certified Sprinklers

The IFSA has released two new test reports showing problems with non-certified fire sprinklers, in this case sprinklers removed from two existing occupancies in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  Sprinklers were removed and replaced from a high-rise office building and an underground parking garage, both existing facilities in which the sprinklers were expected to be providing life safety to the public from the dangers of a potential fire.  The sprinklers from the office building were shipped to the Factory Mutual Approvals laboratories for testing, while those from the parking garage were sent to Underwriters Laboratories.  In both cases, the sprinklers were tested against requirements that all certified fire sprinklers are expected to be able to meet in order to carry out their mission to protect lives and property.  However, both laboratories uncovered significant protection problems with the non-certified sprinklers, making it clear that they would not have been expected to perform adequately in a real fire situation.

The Brazilian Fire Sprinkler Association ABSpk is currently attempting to alert fire authorities in that country about the dangers of non-certified sprinklers. It is hoped that these reports will help the effort to convince all levels of government that the quality provided by certified fire sprinkler system products is important to public safety.

Click here to download the UL Test Report

Click here to download the FM Test Report

AMRACI Forum Introduces New CONAPCI Organization

The first “Fire Protection International Forum – Mexico 2016”, held in Mexico City on September 13-14, 2016, was a success for its two co-sponsors: the Fire Sprinkler Association of Mexico (AMRACI) and the new Consejo Nacional De Protección Contra Incendio(National Council on Fire Protection), or CONAPCI. The event featured a product expo as well as two days of parallel sessions on various fire protection topics from an international roster of speakers. Speakers included IFSA Board Member Larry Thau and Managing Director Russ Fleming, who was honored at the event with a lifetime achievement plaque.

The new CONAPCI organization actually held its organizational meeting just prior to the event, and elected David Morales of FM Global as its inaugural president. The new organization ( www.conapci.org ) hopes to influence fire protection regulations in Mexico. 

The Forum also coincided (September 12-16) with the 2nd “Campaña Nacional de Protección contra Incendios”, (National Fire Protection Campaign), an effort to build public knowledge of fire safety. The effort is officially led through a burn foundation named Prevenir (website www.prevenir.org.mx).  Support for the program was demonstrated by the wearing of orange lapel ribbons. While the Forum itself had about 200 registrants, it is estimated that more than a thousand took advantage of the exposition, and plans will be announced shortly for the 2017 event.
Dais at opening of International Fire protection forum in mexico city

Dais at opening of International Fire protection forum in mexico city

ANRACI-Colombia Releases Conference Conclusions

Colombia’s fire sprinkler association has released a summary report on an international conference it organized only a year following its formation. Officially founded in July of 2015, ANRACI-Colombia hosted a highly successful international conference on July 28, 2016 in conjunction with the Colombian Society of Engineers, focusing on the present and future of fire protection in Colombia. The conference featured an impressive roster of speakers from both within and outside Colombia, including representatives from National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), FM Approvals, and AMRACI, the fire sprinkler association of Mexico. There were about 250 attendees, including representatives of the engineering community, the fire service, universities, and government, including Colombia’s National Fire Service Director.

The summary report can be found here:

http://anraci.org/agenda-academica-2016/presente-y-futuro-de-pci-en-colombia/conclusiones/

One of the keynote presentations was by Eng. José Joaquín Alvarez Enciso, Chairman of the Committee on Structures and Building Construction of the Colombian Society of Engineers, who discussed the present Colombian standards for fire protection of buildings, and potential areas of improvement. The IFSA was represented by Javier Leon of the Lubrizol company, who presented a congratulatory statement on behalf of the International Fire Sprinkler Association.

 

Attendees at JULY 28th ANRACI-COLOMBIA CONFERENCE in BOGOTA 

Attendees at JULY 28th ANRACI-COLOMBIA CONFERENCE in BOGOTA 

IFSA Alert - Avoid Overheating Fire Sprinklers

Automatic fire sprinkler systems are becoming more common in buildings around the world as they are recognized for their ability to protect lives and property from fire. To do their job effectively, fire sprinklers are engineered to be sensitive to heat, so that the sprinklers closest to the fire open quickly to distribute water, extinguishing or controlling the fire while it is still small.  But for these systems to be truly successful, it is also important that sprinklers NOT activate in the ABSENCE of a fire. For this reason system installers and users of sprinklered buildings must be careful to prevent excess heat from non-fire sources from accidentally activating sprinklers, including heat sources that have arrived on the scene fairly recently.

When a sprinkler system is originally designed and installed, building regulations require that potential sources of heat be taken into consideration. Prior to installation, sprinklers are required to be stored in a cool, dry place.  Direct exposure to sunlight and close proximity to heat sources must be avoided. While “ordinary” temperature rated sprinklers are typically installed in areas where ambient room ceiling temperatures are not expected to exceed 38oC (100oF), higher temperature rated sprinklers are available and are required to be used in areas where temperatures are likely to exceed this threshold.  Such spaces typically include areas near unit heaters, under skylights, in unventilated attics, and near heat-producing appliances and fixtures.

Although ordinary temperature rated sprinklers are designed to operate only when they reach temperatures between 57°C to 74°C (135°F to 165°F), repeated or long-term exposure to temperatures above 38oC (100oF ) can weaken the sprinkler’s thermal operating element.  While a weakened sprinkler may not fail immediately, it could potentially operate at an undetermined point in the future in the absence of a fire. 

Installing contractors should strongly consider providing specific direction to builders, within the contract documents, to avoid exposing sprinklers to excessive heat inadvertently during the completion of construction once sprinklers are installed.

During the use of a building, if it is recognized that unusual heat is to be present in an area protected with fire sprinklers, a qualified contractor or engineer should be asked to evaluate if ordinary rated sprinklers should be temporarily or permanently replaced with higher temperature rated sprinklers.

Here are some examples of potential problem areas involving excessive temperatures not related to the original building design, some of which are new:

Construction or Alteration-Related Heating

In some climates heaters are placed in areas where sprinklers are already installed to help dry plaster or paint more quickly, easily raising ceiling temperatures above 38oC (100oF ).

“Hot Yoga” Studios

Heating yoga studios to temperatures of between 32 to 47°C(90 to 117°F) has become a huge craze in many parts of the world.  Most classes reportedly aim for 37 to 41°C(98 to 105°F) to maximize the impact of the workout.

Bed Bug Remediation

While bed bugs were almost eradicated years ago, the surge in global travel and other factors have contributed to regular infestations. Room heating has become a popular treatment method and entails raising room temperatures to levels that are lethal for bed bugs in all areas the bugs can get to, including cracks, crevices, inside walls, etc. methodThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that bed bugs die when their body temperatures reach 45°C (113°F), but room treatments generally range from 47 to 50°C(117 to 122°F).

Ventless Clothes Dryers

 While ventless clothes dryers have been used in Europe for many years, they are fairly new to the North American market, where vented clothes dryers have been the norm. More energy efficient and more expensive than vented dryers, they generally incorporate condensers in a “two-loop” system to first heat some incoming air, allowing it to absorb moisture from the damp clothes, then continually condense the heated moist air to release the water before recirculating the resulting dry air within the clothes dryer. Unlike vented dryers, where moist heated air is exhausted to the building exterior, these devices capture the water to a drain or pan, while the heat from the condensing cycle is exhausted into the immediate area. Ventless dryers are so unusual in North America that the NFPA sprinkler installation standards don’t yet include them in the lists of heat sources (fireplaces, ranges, heat ducts, water heaters, skylights, etc.) for which higher temperature classifications of sprinklers must be used.

The condensers in combination machines that both wash and dry the clothes are generally water-cooled, such that quantities of cold water are used to condense the moisture evaporated from the clothes during the drying cycle, and pumped away through the drain line. But the standalone dryer units are air-cooled, using the ambient air as a heat sink. While this heat can be dissipated in a large laundry room, it can be expected to raise the temperatures within a laundry closet to levels unacceptable for ordinary temperature rated sprinklers. All makes of standalone ventless dryers are reportedly of this type.

In all of the above situations, the replacement of ordinary temperature rated sprinklers with higher temperature rated sprinklers can help avoid the possibility of an unwanted sprinkler discharge. With proactive communication, and adherence to code requirements and common sense best practices, installers, builders, and property owners can have a greater sense of confidence that their automatic fire sprinkler systems will perform as intended.

British Homebuilder Shows Sprinklers Can Protect Mobility Scooters

A British homebuilder, Lewisham Homes, has become an advocate for fire sprinklers in homes, funding research that demonstrates their effectiveness against fires originating in mobility scooters.  Storing and charging these scooters, which are becoming more commonplace, presents a fire hazard that the homebuilder believes should be addressed.

Partnering with the London Fire Brigade, the British Research Establishment (BRE) and the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA), Lewisham sponsored tests at BRE that demonstrated the ability of residential sprinkler systems to provide protection for scooters equipped with either traditional lead-acid batteries or newer lithium batteries. Lewisham Homes has adopted a policy of providing sprinkler protection for its sheltered accommodations for older residents.

A link to the May 2016 research report and test video can be found at: http://lhomes.org.uk/1P3rLnR