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					Volume 2 Issue 3                                                                    Summer 2008
    BRANCH CHAIR’S MESSAGE                                        - FRANK BAKER CSP, CFPS

                          This newsletter           potential speakers submit eleven topics
                          marks the beginning       to be considered for the 2009
                          of a new Society          conference.
                          year for the Practice
                          Specialties and           Although the deadline for the 2009 PDC
                          Branches. Some            has already passed, it is not too early to
                          new things are in         start thinking about Safety 2010 in
                          store for us in the       Baltimore, MD. If you are an
                          next year. And since      experienced speaker/presenter, we
     Safety 2008 in Las Vegas, NV just              encourage you to submit a presentation
     concluded, I will also report what             proposal for evaluation. If the
     happened there. It was a great                 presentation topic is appropriate, we
     conference—as always!                          would like to sponsor you. If you need
                                                    help developing your proposal, we can
     I am pleased to announce that the              assist you with that as well.
     Society Board of Directors has approved
     the recommendation from the Council            I would like to extend a gracious thank
     on Practices and Standards for us to           you to those corporate sponsors who
     become a Practice Specialty. We are the        provided promotional items for the
     first Branch to transition to a Practice
     Specialty under the current rules.                         Table of Contents

     This will be our last issue of Fireline        Sprinkler Knowledge Marches On ........3
     published under the Fire Protection
     Branch banner. Our first issue of              History of Sprinklers & Pipe Scheduled
     Fireline as the Fire Protection Practice       Systems ..................................................7
     Specialty will be published later this fall.
                                                    Lessons Learned from the Charleston
                                                    Sofa Super Store Fire: Part 1 of 2 ...... 16
     The Branch sponsored three
     presentations at Safety 2008 out of 11
                                                    Victory for Automatic Sprinkler
     total sessions approved for Certified Fire
                                                    Initiative ............................................. 22
     Protection Specialist (CFPS)
     recertification continuing education
                                                    Ask an Expert .................................... 22
     credit. We hope to sponsor more
     sessions next year, as we had eight
Branch during the conference.                   Key Issues help us target our efforts for
                                                our members as well as help the PDC
Geoffrey Peckham, President of Clarion          Planning Committee determine what will
Safety, donated several hundred Fire            be discussed at the next conference.
Protection Branch photoluminescent key          Thanks to those who responded to the
fobs for distribution at the CoPS booth.        recent Key Issues request.

Jim Evans, Plant Safety and                     I would also like to welcome Randy
Environmental Coordinator at American           Oltmanns to the Advisory Committee as
Valve and Hydrant Manufacturing,                our new Awards & Honors Chair.
donated two cast-iron miniature fire
hydrant replicas that were raffled off          Kim Johnson has returned to the
during the conference. Congratulations          Advisory Committee after a hiatus. She
to raffle winners Dick Decker and Don           is a founding member of the Branch and
Gignac.                                         served as Vice Chair in the early years.
                                                Kim will become our Nominations
By January 2009, all Practice Specialty         Chair.
technical publications will be published
in electronic format only. This will save       As a Branch, we did not have a
direct printing and mailing costs and           Nominations Chair. Our leadership was
conserve natural resources.                     appointed by our sponsoring Practice
ASSE’s membership department will               Specialty, Engineering. As a Practice
work with us on some promotional ideas          Specialty, members of the group elect
to help us gain members as a new                our leaders once the inaugural terms are
Practice Specialty and for the Society by       completed. Therefore, it is important to
strengthening our relationship with the         seek out individuals who may one day
National Fire Protection Association            aspire to leadership positions within our
(NFPA) and the CFPS program.                    new Practice Specialty. If you are
                                                interested in a leadership position, would
I would like to recognize and thank Greg        like to help the Advisory Committee or
Duncan, a valued member of our                  serve on a subcommittee, please contact
Advisory Committee, who for the last            Kim at
two years has served as our Awards &
Honors Chair and has also coordinated           Our membership provides the content for
our Professional Development                    Fireline. The more involvement we
Conference (PDC) speaker submissions.           have, the better Fireline will be as a
Greg has taken a job transfer and has           Practice Specialty technical publication.
stepped down from his Awards &                  If you would like to submit an article for
Honors Chair position—his efforts have          inclusion in the inaugural issue of
been greatly appreciated.                       Fireline as the Fire Protection Practice
                                                Specialty, we would be happy to review
Gabe Miehl, who has previously worked           it. Mike Messner, Fireline Editor, can be
on special projects for us, has taken on        reached at
the PDC speaker submissions and is also
working on our Key Issues project. The

I once again would like to take this               Sprinkler System Discharge Criteria.
opportunity to personally thank those              This article addresses new information
Advisory Committee members who                     provided to the Discharge Criteria
assisted with Branch operations during             Committee for this cycle. The Discharge
the last year. It was a very productive            Criteria Committee relies heavily on fire
year for us, and everyone’s hard work              testing for standard revisions.
has paid off.
If it is not safe, make it safe!                   Some basic fire growth information will
                                                   help explain some of the proposed
                                                   changes to NFPA 13. Combustible
                                                   materials could be viewed as fuel
                                                   packages. Spatial separation between
      Sprinkler Knowledge                          fuel packages is good for fire control
                                                   because the spaces permit a fire to grow
          Marches On
      By James G. Gallup, P.E., CSP
                                                   quickly toward ceiling-level sprinklers,
                                                   minimize fire spread to adjacent
Safety professionals often have fire               combustible materials and permit water
protection responsibilities as part of their       to reach the lowest levels where a fire is
job description. Automatic sprinkler               likely to start.
knowledge is often helpful. The
sprinkler industry has undergone                   An example of the spaces between fuel
constant improvements over the years               packages is the space between loads in
based on new products and fire testing.            rack storage systems. A solid shelf in a
This article provides safety professionals         rack storage system will permit a fire to
with preliminary knowledge of potential            grow horizontally and to be shielded
changes to the sprinkler standard prior to         from sprinkler discharge. The fire will be
publication in 2010.                               larger, and more sprinklers will open
                                                   than with a porous shelf. Vertical
The National Fire Protection Association           barriers help to limit this fire spread.
(NFPA) writes the primary public sector
standard for fire sprinkler systems. The           Automatic sprinklers are designed to
document is NFPA 13, Standard for the              provide a density of water (gallons per
Installation of Sprinkler Systems. NFPA            minute per square foot [gpm/ft2]) over a
13 is a consensus standard written by              specific number of square feet to achieve
several NFPA committees. Committee                 fire control. Historically, fire tests have
members are volunteers from various                determined the required density and
sectors, including end users, owners,              square feet of application.
consultants and equipment
manufacturers.                                     Plastic materials burn more aggressively
                                                   than wood or paper products. Therefore,
NFPA 13 recently entered a revision                plastics fires require a higher water
cycle. The next edition will carry a 2010          density to control a fire compared to an
date. One of the committees writing the            equal mass of wood or paper.
standard is the Technical Committee on

The historical development of sprinklers           control the same fire at increasingly
started with half-inch orifice sprinklers.         lower pressures.
As fire challenges increased with plastics
and taller storage, sprinkler orifices have        Fire Hose Demands
increased in size. In addition, the speed          Historical controversy over 250 gpm
of the sprinkler operating mechanism has           overhaul hose demands and 500 gpm
increased to meet the higher challenges.           will likely be clarified in the 2010
                                                   Edition. The lower 250 gpm will only be
Except for Early Suppression Fast                  used for ESFR sprinklers where full
Response (ESFR) sprinklers, all                    extinguishment by the sprinklers is
sprinklers are designed to control fires.          expected. All other sprinklers are
With fire control, firefighters are needed         control-mode sprinklers. Extinguishment
for final extinguishment of fires. ESFR            will require 500 gpm from hoses.
sprinklers are designed to extinguish
fires in high-challenge configurations,            Area/Density Curves
such as in rack storage, early in fire             Area/density curves in Chapter 11 and
growth.                                            the storage chapters were developed long
                                                   ago using minimal hard test results and
NFPA 13 has traditionally addressed                mostly for the less challenging fires.
hazard levels by categorizing the hazards          NFPA 13 has tried recently to specify
into light, ordinary hazard, extra hazard,         only requirements at the bottoms of the
solid pile storage, rack storage and               curves where hard data is available. The
plastics. Each category has specific               sprinkler industry objected, stating that
density requirements.                              no fire loss evidence proves the curves
                                                   are incorrect. Also, the curves provide
New Development: CMSA                              flexibility in some instances.
Control Mode Special Application
(CMSA) will likely be a new category of            The 2010 Edition will likely truncate the
sprinklers in the 2010 Edition.                    curves between 2,000 square feet and
Previously, the sprinklers were known              3,000 square feet. This appears to be a
by individual names such as large drop,            workable compromise.
K-11.2, K-16.8 and K-19.6. The
sprinklers are in the fire control category        Compact Mobile Storage
rather than in the suppression mode of             Compact mobile storage is the type of
ESFR sprinklers. As more sprinklers                high-density modular moveable storage
were tested in the CMSA category, it               that would be seen in a doctor’s office.
became clear that many of the tables in            Generally, the sprinkler systems in a
NFPA 13 could be combined, which will              doctor’s office are designed to a light-
likely happen in the 2010 Edition.                 hazard density. Light-hazard densities in
                                                   high-density storage have been suspect,
CMSA sprinklers increase in orifice size           but no test work had previously been
as the K values increase. All have been            conducted. Recent test work results are
tested using full-scale fire tests. As the K       now available.
value increases, the sprinklers will

Testing shows that light-hazard densities           tall storage with a rack configuration that
are adequate. If a fire occurs on the face          guarantees flue spaces. Sprinklers are
of the storage (between movable                     located at the ceiling, in the rack flue
shelves), the fire will likely travel up the        spaces and under the catwalks.
face and self-extinguish with no                    The fires that originate in the racks are
sprinkler activation. Increased densities           controlled by in-rack sprinklers in the
are unnecessary if sprinklers do not                flue spaces with no ceiling-level
activate. If the fire occurs inside the             sprinklers operating. Fires near the top of
densely packed area, the fire will burrow           the racks are controlled by ceiling
into the storage slowly with no sprinkler           sprinklers with a density of 0.30 gpm/ft2
activation. Again, increasing sprinkler             over 2,000 square feet or by ESFR
density will have no impact on fire                 sprinklers.
control because of the shielding the
compact shelving provides.                          Mobile High-Bay Storage
                                                    Another form of record storage was also
If the density of the storage is decreased          tested. The racks were mobile and were
to 70% of high density, the fire is more            33 feet tall. Storage was archival records.
aggressive due primarily to the                     With specific vertical barriers to ensure
additional amount of oxygen available to            that the storage does not intrude in the
the growing fire. However, ceiling                  flue spaces and with barriers to slow fire
sprinkler densities will not affect the fire,       growth, ceiling-only ESFR sprinklers
so light-hazard densities are adequate.             will extinguish the resulting fire.
The heat release rate of the 70% density
results in a larger fire. Vertical sheet            Mobile Shelving
metal barriers within the storage system            Another set of tests showed that 15-foot
are needed to slow fire propagation.                tall storage of plastics in mobile shelving
                                                    could be protected with special ESFR
Retail Display                                      sprinklers with pressures as low as 18
Retail display areas include products               psi.
with substantial plastic materials and
solid shelves. Recent test work indicates           Rubber Tires
what the ceiling densities should be for            Fire testing in France has provided
15-foot-tall, 30-inch-wide shelves back             additional sprinkler information for the
to back with a divider between the                  high-challenge storage of rubber tires.
shelves. The density is 0.70 gpm/ft2 over           New tests provide information on
2,000 square feet.                                  density requirements for tires stored in a
Record Storage                                      laced configuration, which increases the
In the past, fire testing of cartoned paper         number of tires that can be stored but
record storage did not match many of the            also increases the fire challenge.
modern storage configurations. Modern
record storage facilities use a rack                Container Storage
system accessed by several levels of                of Household Goods
catwalks with narrow aisles of 36 inches.           Full-scale testing of large containers of
Based on recent full-scale fire tests, the          household goods is years away, while
2010 Edition will likely permit 38-foot-            storage of such containers is available at

many locations. The containers go by
several names such as PODS, Pack Rat
and Door-to-Door. The units are
typically eight feet by eight feet by
twelve feet long. Household goods
generally contain large quantities of
                                                  Links to Useful Resources
Fires in containers are shielded from
sprinkler discharge. Storage does not             NFPA codes can be viewed for free at:
include flue spaces. Oxygen availability
to a fire is also limited. The 2010 Edition       of_codes_and_standards.asp
of NFPA 13 will limit the height of
storage to three units high.                      Factory Mutual Data Sheets are available
                                                  for free at:
The 2010 Edition of NFPA 13 will likely           04010200
solve some of the controversial items
such as area/density curves and when to           Upcoming Events
apply a 250-gpm hose demand rather
                                                  August 18-22, 2008: National
than a 500-gpm hose demand. In
                                                  Firefighter Health Week
addition, recent test work will show up
in the 2010 Edition in the form of
                                                  September 2008: National Preparedness
sprinkler requirements for specific
applications, such as record storage in a
doctor’s office and high bay mobile
                                                  October 5-11, 2008: Fire Prevention
records storage. Sprinkler knowledge is
truly marching on.

James G. Gallup, P.E., CSP is a Senior Fire       October 7-8, 2008: ASSE Loss Control
Protection Consultant for Rolf Jensen &           Symposium, Chicago, IL
Associates, Inc., the U.S.’s largest fire
protection engineering consulting firm. He        October 6, 2007: article submissions
holds a bachelor of science degree in fire        due for next issue of Fireline
protection and safety engineering from the
Illinois Institute of Technology. He is a
member of the Society of Fire Protection
Engineers, the National Fire Protection
Association (where he serves on NFPA 13)
and the American Society of Safety
Engineers. He is also the ASSE Region II
Vice President.

                                                  to minimize possible panic hazard.

                                                  Fundamentals of
                                                  Sprinkler Protection
                                                  Automatic sprinkler protection is
                                                  effective for extinguishing fire in
                                                  combustible materials. Many standards,
 History of Sprinklers & Pipe                     codes, regulations and insurance
     Scheduled Systems                            guidelines have specific provisions for
  By Alan McCartney, CSP, CFPS, EMT-P             sprinkler protection. Automatic sprinkler
                                                  systems of one type or another have been
The automatic sprinkler is by far the             designed to extinguish or control
most important of all fire protection             practically every known type of fire in
devices, and a thorough understanding of          practically all materials in use today. For
it is essential for everyone involved in          the given hazard, it is essential that the
building and personnel safety. Those              proper system be installed, or if already
who are intimately involved with                  installed, properly assessed.
employee safety must also have an equal
understanding of the basics tenets of             Usually, all portions of a building,
sprinkler systems, since sprinkler                including concealed spaces, shelves,
operation is so important in the                  racks, closets or cabinets, ovens, dryers,
prevention of worker death and                    etc., need automatic sprinklers. Water
disability.                                       discharged from sprinklers must reach
                                                  the seat of the fire. Stock must never be
Value of Automatic                                piled around the sprinklers so as to
Sprinkler Protection                              obstruct the distribution of water.
Without automatic sprinkler protection,
the modern industrial, commercial and             Sprinklers must be kept clean, protected
mercantile practices exhibited today              against corrosion and never covered with
could never have developed.                       paint or similar material otherwise their
                                                  sensitivity will be affected.
Large areas, high buildings, hazardous
occupancies, large numbers of people              Water pressure and volume must be
subject to loss of life by fire and large         adequate for the number of sprinklers
values in one fire area all tend to develop       that will operate and must be maintained
conditions, which could not be tolerated          until the fire is extinguished or under
except for automatic sprinkler                    control.
                                                  A sprinkler system is of no value if for
Safety to Life                                    any reason the water supplies are not in
Properly installed and maintained                 service or if a valve is closed. The
automatic sprinklers are the most                 system must at all times be in good
effective of any safeguards against loss          working order with all valves open.
of life by fire. They give a sense of             Regular testing, inspections and
security to building occupants and tend           maintenance in accordance with the

methods and frequencies as outlined in          fire with hose streams was often
the current edition of NFPA 25,                 ineffective, and simple fire protection
Standard for the Inspection, Testing and        such as water pails, standpipes and hose
Maintenance of Water-Based Fire                 equipment proved inadequate unless the
Protection Systems, are essential.              fire was discovered in its early stages.

In multistory buildings, stairways and          Although improved building
other floor openings should be protected,       construction made fire control easier,
preferably by enclosures. Under certain         comparatively little headway was made
conditions, special sprinkler or spray          to reduce fire loss involving delayed
systems combined with fire curtains or          detection until the advent of the
draft stops may be used to prevent the          automatic sprinkler.
upward spread of heat and smoke.
Failure to take such precautions may            Perforated Pipe Systems
cause the opening of a larger number of         Perforated pipe and the open sprinkler
sprinklers than the system was designed         were the forerunners of the automatic
to supply, thereby overtaxing the water         sprinkler. They were installed in many
supply and resulting in poor sprinkler          mill properties from 1850 to 1880.
                                                The perforated pipe system was
Automatic sprinkler systems should not          comprised of pipes attached to the
be relied upon to control fires under           ceiling and divided into sections, one or
conditions of construction, occupancy or        two to a floor. Each was fed by a main
hazard more severe than those for which         pipe or riser and controlled by a gate
the protection was designed. Although           valve generally located outside the room
automatic sprinkler systems help control        or building. The small discharge
fires even under the most adverse               openings were subject to clogging by
conditions, such as severe exposure fires       rust and foreign materials. With such a
in neighboring buildings, fires spreading       system, poor water distribution and
from portions of a building that are not        water waste occurred, with not enough
equipped with sprinklers and quick-             water at the seat of the fire. Discharge
spreading flash fires, an abnormally            over areas of the room where there was
large number of sprinklers may open,            no fire usually caused heavy water
which neither the water system nor the          damage. In addition, the system was not
piping system is designed to supply.            in any way automatic.

Development of                                  Open Sprinklers
Sprinkler Protection                            Open sprinklers, which were an
The rapid growth of industry and                improvement over perforated pipes,
business during the last half of the 19th       consisted of metal bulbs, with many
century and resultant increase in fire          perforations, attached to piping and
hazards and property values as well as          intended to give improved water
recognition of employee safety brought          distribution. These systems were divided
the need for more adequate fire                 into sections and were controlled by
protection. The difficulty of reaching a

outside valves the same as perforated             head, his design superior to many that
pipe systems.                                     followed it. However, Henry Parmelee,
                                                  of New Haven, CT and Frederick
First Automatic Sprinklers                        Grinnell, of Providence, RI are credited
The idea of automatic sprinkler                   for giving the automatic sprinkler its
protection, a system in which the heat            practical application and laying the
from a fire opens one or more sprinklers          foundation of what is now a worldwide
and allows the water to flow, dates back          industry.
to about 1860, but its practical
application in the U.S. began in about            In 1878, Providence Steam and Gas Pipe
1878, when the Parmelee sprinkler was             Company, which had installed perforated
first installed. This sprinkler, very crude       pipes for fire protection, developed a
compared to modern devices, gave                  “schedule” using pipe sizes such that the
generally good results and proved                 area of openings did not exceed 60% of
conclusively that automatic sprinkler             the pipe cross section. The company also
protection was both practicable and               adopted a schedule of sizes for pipe.
valuable.                                         This schedule was the beginning from
                                                  which all automatic sprinkler pipe
Rapid commercial development of the               schedules have developed.
automatic sprinkler in the U.S. began
with Frederick Grinnell. First with               In the U.S., local changes resulted in
Providence Steam and Gas Pipe                     different standards. In 1896, a
Company and later as president of its             conference out of which grew the
successor, the General Fire Extinguisher          National Fire Protection Association
Company (Grinnell Company, Inc.),                 formulated a schedule (1-2-4), which,
Grinnell was more closely identified              until 1905, was the generally accepted
than any other man with the growth and            standard for stock insurance
improvements in automatic sprinkler               organizations.
protection. The first sprinklers bearing
his name were used in 1882.                       Prior to 1905, John R. Freeman
                                                  conducted an extensive series of
History of Pipe Schedules                         experiments. The significance of those
Although the story of the invention and           tests was reflected in the 1896 standards
development of the automatic sprinkler            by some reduction in the number of
as a firefighting device has so often been        sprinklers to be supplied by each pipe
told, few people realize that it was a            size above ¾-in. In 1905, Freeman’s
British invention. In 1806, John Carey of         proposed schedule, which further
England conceived the idea of a heat-             reduced the number of sprinklers
operated device through which water               supplied by pipe sizes of 1½-in and
was distributed through a system of               larger, was adopted in the Sprinkler
perforated pipes to extinguish a fire.            Standard, which (with revisions)
                                                  remained in force until 1940.
In 1864, Major Stewart Harrison of the
First Engineer (London) Volunteers                In 1940, the Sprinkler Standard made a
created the first automatic sprinkler             radical departure with the elimination of

¾-in pipe for branch lines to improve            sprinkler spacing, established the present
water discharge at end sprinklers and to         schedule, which is known as the 2-3-5
reduce the danger of clogging. Also, the         schedule. The number of sprinklers on
number of sprinklers permitted on                2½-in and larger pipe for light-hazard
branch lines for each occupancy                  occupancies was reduced, and for 6-in
classification was changed. For 3-in and         and 8-in pipe for ordinary-hazard
larger pipe for ordinary-hazard                  occupancies was increased.
occupancies and for 2½-in and larger
pipe for light-hazard occupancies, the           The 1955 Sprinkler Standard also
number of sprinklers permitted was               included a reduction in the number of
increased over the 1905 schedule.                sprinklers for branch lines exceeding 12
                                                 feet in length and for branch lines more
Early pipe schedules (prior to 1896)             than 12 feet apart. No changes in pipe
were commonly referred to as the 1-3-6           size requirements were made in the
schedule, and the 1-2-4 schedule (1896)          1956, 1958, 1960 and 1961 editions.
was otherwise known as the “stock
company schedule.” The 1-2-3 schedule            Maximum Number of Sprinklers
(1905) became known as the “mutual               on Closed-Head Systems
company schedule.” The number                    The table below gives several schedules
founding the schedule was the number of          of sprinkler pipe sizes as published in
sprinklers allowed on the ¾-inch, 1-inch,        the standard since 1896. This table can
and 1¼-inch pipe sizes, respectively.            be used to determine the type of pipe
                                                 schedule found in buildings surveyed
The 1953 edition of the Sprinkler                today. Depending on where you are, you
Standard, which first included the               will likely see at least 1-2-3 schedules
“spray” sprinkler (now the standard              still in existence.
sprinkler) and allowed increased

General Pipe                                     No practical sprinkler piping
Schedule Requirements                            arrangement can produce a completely

uniform protective water discharge from             large unprotected openings or where
sprinklers in different locations or with           sprinklers are installed in blind attics.
various numbers of sprinklers
simultaneously discharging water.                   If for special reasons it is desirable to
                                                    increase the normal maximum of eight
For a particular pipe size, no more than            heads on a branch line to nine heads,
the specified number of sprinklers may              which is permissible, the one-inch,
be installed on piping fed by that pipe for         second length of branch piping should be
the specified occupancy in any one fire             increased from one inch to 1¼ inch.
area. For example, if a riser in an extra-
hazard occupancy is six inches, no more             Where cross mains supply branch lines
than 150 sprinklers can be connected to             of only two heads, a maximum of 14
piping fed by that riser. If a fire area in         such branches may be supplied by a
that occupancy requires the installation            center-end feed arrangement.
of 200 sprinklers, that installation cannot
be fed by one six-inch pipe.                        The cross main sizes for this
                                                    arrangement are:
The pipe schedules are specific, and
must be followed without deviation.                 Ordinary-Hazard Occupancy
                                                    1¼-in. pipe 2 sprinklers
If conditions call for either unusually             1½-in. pipe 4 sprinklers
long runs of pipe or many angles, an                2-in. pipe  8 sprinklers
increase in the size of risers or feed              2½-in. pipe 16 sprinklers
mains may have occurred to compensate               3-in. pipe  28 sprinklers
for friction loss.
                                                    Extra-Hazard Occupancy
Wet pipe and dry pipe scheduled                     1¼-in. pipe 2 sprinklers
installations follow the same piping                1½-in. pipe 4 sprinklers
schedule, except that the longer average            2-in. pipe  8 sprinklers
time required between the operation of              2½-in. pipe 12 sprinklers
sprinklers and the discharge of water in            3-in. pipe  20 sprinklers
dry-pipe and wet-pipe systems calls for             3½-in. pipe 28 sprinklers
specific restrictions on the air capacity of
dry-pipe system piping.                             Arrangement of
                                                    Sprinkler Supply Piping
Sprinklers on Branch Line Piping                    Two common arrangements identify pipe
Branch lines for light-hazard and                   scheduled systems with each having two
ordinary-hazard occupancies should not              differing forms. These common
have more than eight sprinklers on either           arrangements are called:
side of a cross main, and for extra-
hazard occupancies, not more than six.                     Tree center feed
This number may have been increased or                         - Center central feed (see
decreased in some special cases, such as                           “A” below)
where floors are slatted, where there are                      - Center end feed (see “C”

      Tree side feed                           especially where there are more than six
          - Side central feed (See              sprinklers on a branch line.”
               “B” below)
          - Side end feed (see “D”              Also, various forms of pipe schedules
               below)                           required staggered heads, although this is
                                                not a requirement today.
The 12th edition of the NFPA Handbook
(1962) states, “Center central or side
central feed to branch lines is
recommended, with the former preferred,

Standard Sprinkler Installations                hand hose connections are also
The terms “sprinkler protection,”               frequently part of the sprinkler
“sprinkler installations” and “sprinkler        protection system.
systems” usually signify a combination
of water discharge devices (sprinklers),        When considering water supply
one or more sources of water under              problems, sprinkler performance, dry-
pressure, water flow-controlling devices        pipe systems or special arrangements of
(valves), distribution piping through           sprinkler protection, the designation
which water is supplied to the discharge        “sprinkler system” applies to the number
devices and auxiliary equipment, such as        of sprinklers to which the water supply is
alarms and supervisory devices. Outdoor         controlled by an individual valve. Under
hydrants, indoor hose standpipes and            this definition, large buildings require

several sprinkler systems, and a single             minimum water supply
water system may supply many sprinkler              requirements.
                                           The pipe schedule
“Installation of sprinklers” refers to              method shall be permitted for use
installing the equipment, a trade carried           in systems exceeding 5,000 ft²
by skilled mechanics. A “sprinkler                  (465 m²) where the flows
installation” is a fire protection system.          required in Table are
                                                    available at a minimum residual
NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation              pressure of 50 psi (3.4 bar) at the
of Sprinkler Systems, covers the planning           highest elevation of sprinkler.
and design of sprinkler protection, the
kinds and types of materials used and the  The pipe schedule
operations used to make the installation.           method shall be permitted for
It is referred to as the Sprinkler Standard.        additions or modifications to
                                                    existing extra hazard pipe
Pipe scheduled systems were allowed to              schedule systems.
be installed for complete building or
hazard protection up through the 1989               Existing pipe schedule methods,
edition of NFPA 13. Beginning with the              which are discussed in
1991 edition, the design for new pipe               through, must comply
scheduled systems was severely                      with provisions of Section 14.5 if
restricted. The 2007 edition of the NFPA            they are to be expanded.
handbook includes the following
sections. Blue text indicates commentary            Many mistakenly believe that
by the editors of the sprinkler handbook:           pipe schedule systems are
                                                    restricted to small buildings of Pressure and flow                   less than 5,000 ft² (465 m²). The
       requirements for extra hazard                size of the building only affects
       occupancies shall be based on the            the required residual pressure
       hydraulic calculation methods of             (see Table, not whether
       11.2.3.                                      the pipe schedule method can be
                                                    used. The pipe schedule
       method shall be permitted only               In 1991, NFPA 13 prohibited the
       for new installations of 5,000 ft²           use of the pipe schedule method
       (465 m²) or less or for additions            for new extra-hazard
       or modifications to existing pipe            occupancies. However,
       schedule systems sized according             permits the use of pipe schedule
       to the pipe schedules of Section             systems for additions and
       22.5.                                        modifications to existing extra-
                                                    hazard systems. Table shall be
       used in determining the

           Sprinkler Area Limitations of Pipe Scheduled Systems

           Light-Hazard Occupancy

               Construction Type                  Max Area/ Head        Max Spacing/

               Noncombustible obstructed          200 square feet       15 feet
               with members ≥3 ft on center

               Noncombustible unobstructed        200 square feet       15 feet
               with members ≥3 ft on center

               Combustible unobstructed           200 square feet       15 feet
               with members ≥3 ft on center

               Combustible obstructed with        168 square feet       15 feet
               members ≥3 ft on center

               Combustible obstructed with        130 square feet       15 feet
               members <3 ft on center

               Combustible unobstructed           130 square feet       15 feet
               with members <3 ft on center

               Combustible concealed space        120 square feet       15 ft parallel to the
               under a pitched roof having                              slope
               combustible wood joist to                                10 ft perpendicular
               truss construction with                                  to the slope
               members <3 ft on center with
               slopes having a pitch of 4 in
               12 or greater.

*Where the dimension perpendicular to the slope exceeds eight feet, the minimum pressure shall be not less
than 20 psi.

Ordinary-Hazard Occupancy                                 was redesign of the deflector.
    For all types of construction
         - The maximum protection area per                Many additional types of approved sprinklers are
             sprinkler is 130 ft²                         available and have undergone rigid tests by
         - The maximum head spacing is 15                 Factory Mutual Laboratories, Underwriters’
             feet                                         Laboratories and Underwriters’ Laboratories of
      For miscellaneous storage
          - The maximum protection area per               Alan McCartney is currently the corporate Property
              sprinkler is 100 ft²                        Technical Director for Liberty Mutual Agency
                                                          Markets. He has worked for Liberty Mutual for nearly
                                                          ten years
Extra-Hazard Occupancy
For all types of construction, the maximum
                                                          McCartney has also served as Fire Safety
protection area/sprinkler is 90 ft².                      Coordinator for Brigham & Women’s Hospital in
                                                          Boston, MA, Fire Marshal for the Concord, NH Fire
Sprinkler Piping Terminology                              Department and Fire/Safety Analyst for Phillips
                                                          Chemical Company in Borger, TX.
      Branch Lines—lines of pipe in which the
       sprinklers are directly placed.                    His professional certifications include Certified Safety
                                                          Professional, Certified Fire Protection Specialist,
      Cross Main—the pipe directly supplying             Nationally Registered Paramedic, Certified Hazard
                                                          Control Manager and Certified Healthcare Safety
       a number of branch lines.
      Riser—the vertical pipe supplying the              McCartney is a graduate of the School of Fire
       sprinkler system.                                  Protection and Safety Engineering Technology at
                                                          Oklahoma State University. He holds associate
      Feed Main—the pipe supplying a cross               degrees in fire protection from NH Technical College
       main from the top of a riser.                      and Tarrant Co. Junior College in Fort Worth, TX as
                                                          well as bachelor degrees in human relations and
The size of piping supplying automatic sprinklers         social work from Salem College, WV.
is determined by the piping schedule.

Improvements in Automatic Sprinklers
Experience plus manufacturer and testing
laboratory efforts have continually improved the
automatic sprinkler’s performance and reliability.

In 1952 and 1953, a radical change occurred in the
pattern of water discharge, which improved its
effectiveness considerably. Originally, this
improved sprinkler was called the “spray
sprinkler,” but in 1958, it became the “standard
sprinkler.” The improvement’s principal feature

     Lessons Learned from the                                 deteriorating. The fire also communicated
  Charleston Sofa Super Store Fire                            unchecked through unprotected doorways and
                                                              directly penetrated walls that were not constructed
   A Review of Published Investigation Reports:               of fire-rated materials to reach more fuel.
                    Part 1 of 2
          By Frank J. Baker, CSP, CFPS                        By 7:52 p.m., the roof of the west showroom
                                                              began to sag due to heat exposure, and at 7:56
On June 18, 2007 at 7:09 p.m., the first call                 p.m., the center showroom roof suffered a
reporting a fire behind the Sofa Super Store on               catastrophic collapse.
Savannah Highway in Charleston, SC was
received by the 911 dispatch center. The first due            Several investigations conducted after the incident
Battalion Chief and crew from the dispatched                  revealed that many factors contributed to the
apparatus of Fire Station 11 observed visible                 tragic outcome. Thos investigations and this
smoke immediately upon leaving the station                    review are not intended to place blame but to help
driveway and arrived on the scene less than three             others learning how similar situations might be
minutes later.                                                avoided.
The evening would end in tragedy as nine City of              This review will examine the common factors of
Charleston firefighters would perish in an incident           construction, occupancy, protection, exposures
that would later be determined to have been                   and the operational strategies and tactics
entirely preventable, from the fire itself to the loss        employed as well as the recommendations
of life.                                                      developed by the Charleston Post Incident
                                                              Assessment and Review Team led by noted fire
Preexisting conditions inside the building and                service expert J. Gordon Routely.
inadequately managed fireground operations
caused conditions inside the structure to worsen              Investigations Conducted
rapidly. Many hose lines would be stretched into              It has now been more than one year since the fire.
the building in an effort to combat the fast-moving           Because of the high-profile nature of the incident
fire, taking firefighters at times as far as 200 feet         in which nine firefighters died in the line of duty,
inside the structure with zero visibility.                    several different agencies have examined the
                                                              event to shed light on what happened and how it
By 7:40 p.m., the nine firefighters had become                or future incidents could be prevented.
disoriented and could not find their way out of the
building. Running out of breathing air, they would            Investigations conducted by the South Carolina
eventually succumb to carbon monoxide                         Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation/
poisoning, smoke inhalation, thermal burns or a               OSHA and the Charleston Post-Incident
combination in the untenable environment inside.              Assessment and Review Team investigations are
                                                              complete. The final NIOSH Firefighter Fatality
The most likely cause of the fire is believed to be           and Injury Prevention Program investigation has
carelessly discarded smoking materials that                   not yet been released, although a draft report was
ignited trash outside the loading dock, which in              released in May 2008.
turn ignited furniture stored inside the loading
dock, eventually spreading throughout the                     The OSHA investigation results were released on
building. The fire spread through concealed                   September 20, 2007. Both the Sofa Super Store
spaces above the firefighters’ heads without them             and the City of Charleston Fire Departments were
realizing how rapidly the conditions were

cited for both willful and serious violations of          and U.S. territories. The state provides for a
occupational safety standards.                            reduced fine structure for governmental entities as
Sofa Super Store—OSHA Citations:                          compared to those in the private sector. The
                                                          Charleston Fire Department would eventually
   Willful violation—exit doors locked while             reach what many would consider a controversial
    the building was occupied; initial penalty            settlement with the U.S. Department of Labor and
    $49,000, assessed penalty $29,400                     agreed to pay only $3,160 of the original $9,325
   Serious violation—failure to properly                 in fines but admitted to no wrongdoing. The
    maintain fire doors; initial penalty $7,000,          agreement resulted in fines on only two of the
    assessed penalty $2,500                               violations originally cited. (SC OSHA)
   Serious violation—no Emergency Action
    Plan for employees; initial penalty $7,000,           Based on the Post-Incident Assessment and
    assessed penalty $875                                 Review Team investigation, many more OSHA
                                                          citations could have been issued if more NFPA
Charleston Fire Department—OSHA                           1500 (and other associated safety) standards were
Citations:                                                used in addition to the OSHA Fire Brigade
                                                          standard as the benchmark for compliance.
   Willful violation—the employer knew or
    should have known that the command system             The NIOSH Firefighter Fatality and Injury
    does not provide for the overall safety of            Prevention Program conducted an investigation
    personnel and their activities; initial and           with the assistance of the National Institute of
    assessed penalty $7,000. Cited under the              Standards and Technology (NIST). Although their
    General Duty Clause Sec. 5 (a) (1) of the Act.        preliminary report was released in May 2008, the
                                                          final report with recommendations is not expected
   Serious violation—standard operating                  to be released until comments from several
    procedures were not developed to cover the            entities involved in the investigation can be
    special hazards associated with fighting and          reviewed and incorporated. That is expected to
    attacking a fire involving a metal truss roof;        occur sometime later in 2008. (NIOSH)
    initial penalty $1,000, assessed penalty $900.
    Cited under 1910.156 (c) (4).                         The Charleston Post-Incident Assessment and
                                                          Review Team has done the most comprehensive
   Serious violation—body protection was not             work and to date has released two reports—the
    required to be worn by nine firefighters              Phase 1 Report (38 pgs.) on October 16, 2007 and
    involved in interior structural firefighting;         the Phase 2 Report (272 pgs.) on May 15, 2008.
    initial penalty $1,000, assessed $900. Cited          This report detailed the timeline of events and
    under 1910.156 (e) (1) (i).                           included recommendations and lessons learned for
                                                          others in fire service.
   Serious violation—self-contained breathing
    apparatus not required to be worn by four             Building Construction
    firefighters while exposed to smoke and toxic         The original building was constructed in the
    substances; initial penalty $1,000, assessed          1960s of hollow concrete block and a metal deck
    $525. Cited under 1910.156 (f) (1) (ii).              roof supported by open web steel bar joists. Later,
                                                          flanking additions of lightweight metal on pre-
The state of South Carolina administers its own           engineered steel beams were added to the original
OSHA enforcement program, as do 25 other states           building in 1995 and 1996, bringing the total area
                                                          to over 31,000 square feet. This comprised the

showroom area that was separated into three fire            were. However, had a thermal imaging camera
areas by hollow concrete block walls with rolling           been taken into the building, these conditions
steel fire doors protecting the openings.                   could have been readily identified. A similar
In 1996, a 15,600-square-foot pre-engineered                condition began to occur below the ceiling that
warehouse was added to the rear of the structure            was visible to the firefighters, but that was only
and connected only by an enclosed hall protected            part of the problem.
with a rolling steel fire door to provide the
necessary fire separation to classify the structure         The roof of the building lacked “natural” vents.
as two fire divisions. A variance was granted to            These natural vents consist of powered ventilation
not require a fire wall on the warehouse wall that          fans, HVAC units, air handlers, skylights,
exposed the showroom building. All of this                  automatic smoke vents, etc. Natural vents, while
construction was regulated under the city code              not always the best means of vertical ventilation,
enforcement process through proper permitting.              can give some relief inside by releasing products
                                                            of combustion if “assisted” by manually opening
After 1996, several small wood-frame additions              them up. They also can help Incident
covered with metal siding and roofing were added            Commanders better gauge fire spread by
to create what are termed “fill-in” additions.              providing more opportunities to read the smoke
These typically take advantage of existing walls of         conditions.
one or more structures to “fill in” the space
between them. In this case, no building permits             Occupancy
were obtained for these additions nor is it likely          The occupancy under the NFPA classification
they would have been approved.                              system would have been primarily mercantile. The
                                                            warehouse would have been separately classified
These additions caused two primary problems.                as a storage occupancy due to the high rack
First, they circumvented the fire separation                storage containing appreciable amounts of Group
created by the enclosed tunnel with a fire door.            A plastics in the form of upholstered furniture
Second, these additions enclosed previously                 containing large amounts of expanded urethane
required exits. This created dead-end rooms that            foam.
would later house high-hazard operations where
an employee would be rescued by forcible entry              The showroom was typical of a furniture sales
directly through one of the exterior walls.                 operation with relatively narrow aisles separating
The entire combined structure would now cover               large congested areas of furniture displays. These
over 46,000 square feet. Because of the                     caused significant difficulty for firefighters
unapproved construction, lack of proper fire walls          attempting to stretch hose lines through the
and opening protective devices, all but 7,200               showroom areas as well as for those who became
square feet of the building would comprise a                separated from their hose line and were attempting
single fire division. That section of the building          to find their way out.
would be the only part to even partially survive
the fire.                                                   The warehouse building was 29 feet from the
                                                            floor to the roof deck and contained single- and
Concealed or “void” spaces above the showroom               double-row racks at least four tiers high based on
ceilings and a combustible roof coating of                  photos in the NIOSH report. They were filled with
polyurethane foam caused heat and products of               upholstered foam-filled furniture. Narrow aisles
combustion to become trapped and to spread                  between these racks allowed significant radiation
laterally through the structure without being easily        feedback, and natural flue spaces caused the fire
detected at the floor level where the firefighters          to spread quickly through the building.

                                                            was trapped in one of the workshop areas that
It would be discovered during the course of the             were part of the fill-in construction with no exit
post-fire investigations that a significant quantity        except through the warehouse or showroom that
of flammable and combustible liquids were kept              were already well involved in fire. He called 911
in the building in one-gallon cans and aerosols.            with a cellular phone to report his situation.
                                                            Management onsite was not aware this worker
Private Protection:                                         was in the building until they recognized his
Building Owner/Occupant                                     vehicle in the parking lot. The worker was rescued
Fire protection for this structure consisted only of        by forcible entry after an opening was sawed
portable fire extinguishers. Based on an account            through the exterior wall of the building.
from an employee who went to the loading dock
area to attempt to extinguish the fire reported by a        A common practice in buildings frequented by the
passerby, the fire was already too large to control         public is to implement a “Fire Warden”-type
with a single handheld unit. Upon locating and              program where certain employees are responsible
retrieving a second extinguisher from the                   for “sweeping” designated sections of the building
showroom, he could not even enter the loading               to ensure that everyone has been cleared from the
dock and had to discharge that unit through a               structure. This is in addition to the manual
doorway from the adjacent holding room. He was              headcount conducted at predetermined muster
ultimately unsuccessful in controlling the fire.            sites outside to ensure that all are accounted for.

The building had no automatic heat or smoke                 Public Protection:
detection or automatic sprinkler system in place.           Charleston Fire Department
Had building permits been obtained for the fill-in          The last city fire code inspection occurred on
sections constructed, an automatic sprinkler                March 30, 1998 prior to the city suspending fire
system would have been required to be installed at          code inspections for mercantile occupancies in
that time since proper fire separations were                2000. Although preplan visits had been made
compromised as a result.                                    between 1998 and 2007, they were not complete
                                                            and did not acknowledge the presence of the high
South Carolina now requires mercantile                      rack storage in the warehouse.
occupancies over 12,000 square feet to be fully
protected by automatic sprinklers. With the                 The Insurance Services Organization (ISO) grades
presence of Group A plastics, a sprinkler system            public protection capabilities. This complex
for the showroom and loading dock area would                system is based on many factors. Ten percent of
have needed to be designed for at least Ordinary            the scoring matrix is based on fire department
Hazard Group 2. A sprinkler system for the                  resources and reliability. Fifty percent is based on
warehouse would have a minimum required                     primarily availability of engine companies and
design capability for Extra Hazard Group 1 (based           water demand throughout the community. The
on occupancy classification). Installation of in-           remaining 40% is based on how much of the
rack sprinkler protection may also have been                required fire demand can be supplied over and
required depending on the specific rack                     above the daily community consumption. (ISO
configuration and design parameters of the                  Mitigation)
overhead sprinkler system. (NFPA 13)
                                                            ISO listed the City of Charleston as a PPC 1
The lack of an effective emergency action plan to           department, representing what is ordinarily
account for employees and patrons compounded                considered exemplary fire protection capability.
problems and diverted resources. An employee                Fewer than 60 departments have achieved this

grading, representing less than 0.2% of all                 available hydrants in close proximity to the
departments in the US. (ISO Mitigation)                     building, those that were available and used
                                                            during the initial phases of the operations were not
However, this event sheds light on the issue that           even on the same side of the four-lane highway as
some elements of the ISO PPC system may be                  the structure. The nearest hydrant to the building
outdated, such as minimum supply hose diameter              had been removed from service, as it was
and ensuring that departments have adopted use of           continually struck by truck traffic in and out of an
modern strategies and tactics applicable to today’s         adjacent property. The next nearest hydrants were
fire scenarios.                                             over 500 feet away, requiring relay pumping
                                                            through a single 2½-inch-diameter hose lay of 850
Current ISO requirements for an adequately                  feet and a second single hose lay of 1,750 feet of
equipped engine company reflect outdated                    2½ connected to 100 feet of 3 inch. Even with
technology such as small-diameter supply lines              pressure from the city hydrants boosted by placing
and marginal onboard water tanks. The fire flow             an engine at the hydrant and pumping toward the
(water necessary) for combating today’s fires with          engines at the scene, they could not overcome the
large quantities of hydrocarbon-based fire loading          friction loss in the hose to deliver the necessary
is higher than ever and continues to grow each              water. Friction loss in a hose or pipe is caused by
year. Hence, the trend away from 2½- and 3-inch-            disruption of the laminar flow of water within it
diameter supply hose to large 5- and 6-inch-                due to the interior surface texture. The larger the
diameter hose and movement from the ISO                     diameter of hose, the lower the ratio of disrupted
minimum 300-gallon water tank capacities toward             flow to laminar flow with the result being more
those of 1,000 gallons and higher.                          water flowing through the same combined cross-
                                                            sectional area.
Flow rates through modern 1½- and 1-¾ inch hose
lines with adjustable nozzles can be as high as 125         For example, a single 5-inch-diameter supply line
and 175 gallons per minute respectively. With               can flow 1,250 gallons per minute through 600
only 300 gallons of water onboard that equates to           feet of hose using the hydrant pressure of 65 psi
less than 2½ minutes of water flow with only one            and a residual pressure of 10 psi at the discharge
1½-inch-diameter hose operating. Even with a                end. It takes six 2½-inch diameter hoses at the
1,000-gallon tank and a single 1¾-inch hose line            same pressure and distance to flow 1,260 gallons
flowing up to 175 gallons per minute, the water             per minute. (STICO)
supply would last less than 6 minutes. The
minimum size attack hose lines for many                     The total water available from the two initial
departments fighting commercial building fires is           supply lines was less than 600 gallons per minute,
2½ inches in diameter because it is capable of              even boosting them to dangerously high pressures
flowing as much as 275 gallons per minute. Flow             in an attempt to overcome the friction loss. As
rates such as these, even with larger tanks, provide        many as nine hose lines had been extended from
barely enough time to get supply lines connected            the two engines pumping at the scene with a
and water flowing from a hydrant to the apparatus           calculated demand of nearly 968 gallons per
before the onboard water supply is exhausted.               minute. Therefore, none of the hand lines used
Beginning an aggressive offensive fire attack               during the initial attack performed at their optimal
inside a building using only tank water is a very           flows. The hydrants in the area were capable of
dangerous practice.                                         providing the necessary water flow for those
                                                            attack lines used during the first 30 minutes of
Water supply was one of the major challenges in             operations if proper supply lines would have been
this fire. Not only was there an immediate lack of          established. Later in the operations, master

streams would be set up that caused the demand to           building where there was space to set up the aerial
exceed the water main and hydrant capacity in the           ladder.
area.                                                       Ladder operations were restricted along the sides
Fire flow for purposes of common firefighting is            of the building due to the narrow paved drives on
calculated based on the total square footage                each side that were within the standard collapse
involved divided by three. The showroom at over             zone. Access to the rear of the showroom building
31,000 square feet and the warehouse at over                was not possible due to trees and insufficient
15,000 square feet would have demands of 10,300             paved space. The rear of the warehouse area was
gallons and 5,000 gallons per minute respectively           accessible only on the side that abutted the public
if in fact they were separate fire divisions.               street, as the other sides were unpaved or had
Combined, due to lack of proper fire separation,            adjacent exposures.
total fire flow in excess of 15,000 gallons per
minute could be needed to control the fire when             The lack of conventional roof operations caused
fully involved in fire.                                     the conditions inside the building to deteriorate
                                                            much faster than if normal vertical ventilation had
Exposures                                                   been possible. Without being able to release the
Exposures on the fire scene can be external, which          products of combustion, they spread laterally at a
must be protected from ignition or radiant heat             much faster rate, thus contributing to the risk of
damage, or they can be those that create problems           flashover inside.
with normal fireground operations based on the
building’s own layout or construction.                      Part 2 of this article will address the fireground
                                                            operations and recommendations from the
Some exterior exposures to the fire building were           investigation.
created by nearby properties, namely, some
residential properties and a garage building close          Frank J. Baker, CSP, CFPS, ALCM is Chair of the Fire
                                                            Protection Branch of the Engineering Practice Specialty. He is
to the warehouse. Once it was determined that the           the Field Services Manager for Employers Security Insurance
fire in the warehouse was moving faster than                in Indianapolis, IN.
could be overcome, the crews on that assignment             He currently consults with insured departments and serves as a
went to a defensive strategy to protect the adjacent        volunteer consultant in firefighter health and safety issues for
                                                            the Pike Township Fire Department (Indianapolis).
residential exposures.
                                                            As a speaker at ASSE’s Professional Development
In this case, the most critical factor was that the         Conferences, he has presented on the subject of fireground
building created its own exposures. This was                strategies and tactics.
caused by lack of proper fire separations and               Baker holds a bachelor of science degree in safety from Illinois
opening protection that permitted the fire to               State University. He is certified as a Master Firefighter in
extend from its area of origin by communicating             Prevention and Investigations, Fire Officer Strategies and
                                                            Tactics, Incident Safety Officer and Fire Officer 1 by the state
through unprotected openings or directly through
                                                            of Indiana.
the metal siding into three adjacent areas.

Other problems with the building construction
that prevented traditional roof ventilation
operations were the lack of “natural” openings in
the roof and the design of the front parapet wall
behind the entrance facade. The height of the front
parapet wall prevented normal ladder operations
from being conducted via the front side of the

                                                              We have 3-4 people on the first shift, 2-3 on the
                                                              second shift and 1-2 on the third shift. They have
    Victory for Automatic Sprinkler                           all come together to voice their concerns
                                                              regarding an additional exit discharge in case of a
             Initiative in SC                                 fire (at the bottom of the stairs). The upstairs QA
                                                              building has two exit doors but only one exit
The South Carolina legislature sent a bill to                 discharge. However, there is one other exit door
Governor Mark Sanford in June 2008 that would                 inside the QA building that leads to the roof, but it
provide a local property tax credit to those                  is only used by maintenance (unlocked). The QA
building owners who voluntarily installed an                  building is off to the side of our security building
automatic sprinkler system. The credit would be               and near the main parking lot. So if they did use
equal to 25% of the cost of the system for those              the maintenance exit to get to the roof, then they
property owners if current codes did not already              could “yell for help.” Security as well as the fire
require one to be installed. In a move that brought           department would be able to see and hear them.
about public outcry in the wake of incidents                  Well, this did not sit too well with them. They still
involving nine Charleston firefighters killed in an           insisted on an escape ladder to throw over the
unsprinklered commercial building, six patrons                outside “railing” and climb down (24-36 ft). I
killed in an upstate hotel fire and seven South               informed them that using something like this
Carolina college students killed in a fire in the last        could be a greater risk because the railing may not
year at a North Carolina beach house, the                     be able to support the weight. But they said they
governor vetoed the legislation. The bill would               would “rather jump” off the side than climb up the
have also provided a matching income tax credit               maintenance ladder to the roof. Has anyone ever
from the state if the local governments approved              encounter something like this?
funding the property tax credit and tap fees for the
systems would be capped at actual costs.                      Is there an OSHA, NFPA or ANSI standard on
                                                              using emergency escape ladders in a business or
The South Carolina House of Representatives                   manufacture?
voted 109-0 in favor to override the veto. The
Senate joined in by applying its membership roll              Answer
to a vote without any debate.                                 Your question is complex and must consider
                                                              many factors, the least of which is the Local
(Sources:, &                                    Authority Having Jurisdiction (LAHJ). The LAHJ
                                                              has the final approval in all cases. This response is
                                                              based on NFPA 101, Life Safety Code (2000 ed.
Ask an Expert
                                                              as recognized by OSHA), which may or may not
                                                              be adopted directly, in full or in part by your state,
                                                              county or municipality.
I have a question regarding the use of escape
ladders in an event of an emergency. One of my
                                                              First, according to OSHA Subpart E:
facilities has a small upstairs quality assurance
                                                              1910.36(a)(1), an exit route must be permanent.
(QA) building that is off to the side of the main
                                                              Each exit route must be a permanent part of the
building. This building is attached to the main
                                                              workplace. Therefore, a temporary rope ladder
building by a concrete walkway, which leads to a
                                                              would not be permitted under any circumstance.
set of double doors that exits out to the main
parking lot.
                                                              Based on research of NFPA 101, your occupancy
                                                              appears to be classified as an industrial occupancy

(Chapter 40). However, the hazard classification             permitted from any story or section, provided that
is not clear, and I cannot determine if the structure        the exit can be reached within the distance
is protected by an approved automatic sprinkler              permitted as common path of travel. (See

In Chapter 40, emergency escape ladders                      NFPA 101, Chapter
(permanently affixed to the structure) are                   Common paths of travel in general industrial and
permitted under certain situations. Based on my              special purpose industrial occupancies shall not
interpretation of your scenario (upstairs QA                 exceed 50 ft (15 m).
building), use of the space served does not qualify
for one of the exceptions where a fire escape                Exception: In buildings protected throughout by
ladder is permitted.                                         an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler
                                                             system in accordance with Section 9.7, common
However, depending on the hazard classification,             path of travel shall not exceed 100 ft (30 m).
a single means of egress may be permitted,
provided it can be reached within 50 feet          
(common path of travel). This is only permitted in           Common paths of travel shall be prohibited in
low- and ordinary-hazard industrial occupancies.             high-hazard industrial occupancies.

NFPA 101, Chapter 40.2.4 Number of Means of                  Exception: As permitted by 7.11.3.
Egress.                                                      Although an exception may be permitted under
(See also Section 7.4)                                       the code (provided all requirements and                                                     specifications have been met, and it is approved
Not less than two means of egress shall be                   by the LAHJ), a suitable secondary means of
provided from every story or section, and not less           egress is always recommended in Life Safety
than one exit shall be reached without traversing            situations. The Americans with Disabilities Act
another story.                                               requirements may override any fire or life safety
                                                             code requirements related to evacuation of
Exception: In low- and ordinary-hazard industrial            persons with physical limitations.
occupancies, a single means of egress shall be