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

Safety Alert Non-Certified Sprinklers

Safety Alert Non-Certified Sprinklers

Tuesday, June 2, 2015, Patterson, New York ‐ As a part of its effort to advance the use of effective fire sprinkler protection worldwide, the International Fire Sprinkler Association (IFSA) has identified a significant concern in certain regions of the world regarding the use of counterfeit fire sprinkler products, as well as those products that have no marking indicating that they have been certified by a reputable third party certification organization.

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