Fire Safety Management Term Paper

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Fire Safety Management

The purpose of this paper is to explore several key concepts related to Fire Safety Management. Specifically this paper aims to explore the following concepts in greater detail: Fire protection/suppression systems, Building Construction and Exit Drill in the Home (EDITH) and other Home Safety Programs.

Fire technology has expanded in recent years, providing for important fire safety management components. This includes construction of more fire retardant buildings and implementation of fire codes and OSHA regulations that require certain safety standards be acknowledged and followed in commercial environments. Residents may also benefit from fire prevention measures geared toward education and safety. Some fire safety measures applicable to the home may also be applied in a commercial setting. For example, use of an emergency evacuation route is an essential fire safety plan with residential and commercial applications. The most critical components of fire safety management are examined in greater detail below.

FIRE PROTECTION/SUPPRESSION SYSTEMS

Planning and preparation are often the key to safety in the event of a fire or any other emergency. The lessons learned in an emergent situation are often critical to prevention of damage in future emergencies. Fire protection and suppression systems were created with safety in mind; these systems fulfill some basic needs including detection, notification and suppression of fires. Alarm systems are obviously structured to notify occupants of a building in the event that a fire occurs. They also serve to summon the assistance of firefighters should an emergent situation occur. Alarm systems were not always required in commercial manufacturing plants. A majority of older structures in fact had very few protective structures in place to ensure the safety of occupants and firefighters. These standards have changed however in contemporary times. Use of fire alarm systems often goes hand in hand with fire suppression systems, which act to reduce the severity of a fire once started. In some instances, in the case of a small fire, a fire suppression system may be all that is necessary to put a fire out.

Traditionally the most commonly utilized form of fire suppression system is automatic sprinkler systems. These systems are reliable for a majority of structures including commercial, industrial, institutional and residential buildings (IFSTA, 1998). Traditionally fire sprinkler systems were developed in an effort to minimize the damage that occurs by fire maintenance systems. The Factory Mutual Research Corporation recently conducted a survey indicating that as many as 70% of all minor structure fires are contained via use of sprinklers (IFSTA, 1998). Unfortunately despite the proven efficacy of such systems, they are still not utilized in a majority of buildings constructed before certain legislation dictated that structures utilized safety measures.

Despite the seemingly common sense methodology behind fire suppression systems particularly sprinklers, major accidents and threats to human safety still occur. This was exemplified in January of 2000 when a fire broke out in a freshman dormitory on the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ. In the devastating fire three students were killed and an additional 62 were injured (Patterson, 2000). The residence halls were typical of many in college environments; there were no fire suppression systems installed in certain older portions of the campus.

Since the accident a university wide plan has been undertaken to ensure that sprinkler systems are adequately installed in all areas of student living facilities. Accidents like these highlight the need for stricter examination and regulation regarding fire safety and protection in buildings.

In a survey conducted by the National Fire Prevention Association, more than 1,500 fires were reported in college dormitories in 1997, resulting in over 50 injuries and more than $7 million dollars in property damage (Patterson, 2000). Interestingly, some very basic fire prevention and safety measures were not in place that could have minimized the impacts of the fires that occurred, even preventing the damage altogether. In another poll conducted in early 2000, at least one dormitory in 67% of campuses surveyed was without an adequate fire suppression system. The overall results indicated that more than 43% of student dormitories were not appropriately protected.

Dormitories are not exclusive in their exposure to major fires. The well reported MGM fire is an example of a situation where a fire suppression system may have minimized damaged. A fire started in the deli in this situation, igniting a lot of plastic paneling in the restaurant. The fumes were sucked up through the HVAC and distributed throughout the building, so many victims died from poison smoke inhalation. If sprinklers had been installed, the fire might have been confined pretty quickly and the build up of smoke and toxins would have been minimized, so that a majority of people could have been evacuated before serious consequence occurred.

There are some common sense steps that all buildings and organizations can take to minimize the likelihood of injury, death and property loss in the event of a fire. The primary form of safety mechanism is ensuring that buildings are equipped with fire alarms and sprinklers or like minded fire suppression systems. These measures alone are often enough to result in adequate safety and reduction in property damage. Fire suppression systems have the capability of localizing a small emergency, providing valuable time for firefighter to arrive on scene and put out a fire completely before massive destruction is realized. Studies suggest that the chance of death occurring in a fire is reduced to one half in a building equipped with adequate fire suppression systems. Remarkably however, there are still a large number of buildings that were constructed before requirements for such suppression systems existed, and owners generally fail to implement such systems where they are currently lacking. One measure that individuals can take in such situations is assessing a given environment for fire suppression systems. If they are not available, potential occupants should consider implementing emergency evacuation plans, and practicing to increase the odds of safety and escape in the event of an emergency.

Smoke detectors are also a commonly utilized fire detection and alarm system that can prove life saving under certain situations. Smoke detectors are commonly utilized in individual residences, though they are also commonly utilized in commercial organization s as well..

A number of buildings can also be equipped with alarm systems that are designed to be set off manually. This type of system will provide a local warning to occupants indicating that a premises need be evacuated (IFSTA, 1998). Automatic fire alarm systems work much like smoke detectors. They are designed to detect heat and initiate a warning.

Some heat detectors are fixed temperature; these type of systems are older units, and relatively inexpensive compared to more modern types of systems (IFSTA, 1998). These systems are sometimes considered less efficient and more prone to give off false alarm; they are designed to activate at a slight elevation of temperature from the fixed temperature.

Other heat detector components and systems that utilize more advanced functionality include the following:

Fusible Devices: This is a fusible link, or type of fire alarm where two electrodes are held together by a piece of soft metal, the 'fusible' link, and used in conjunction with a sprinkler system. The metal holds the two level arms that blocks the sprinkler. The heat melts this and causes the sprinkler to go off Frangible Bulbs: Type of sprinkler with a glass bulb with a liquid in it that expands in it, shatters the bulb and opens the sprinkler valve

Continuous Line Detector: This is a type of fire alarm that consists of a cable with a conductive metal core; basically when there is a fire, two wires with an insulator pick up the heat, and the flow of electricity between the wires is interrupted, thus setting of the alarm

Bimetallic Detector: Similar to the above, more of a spot detector. Two pieces of metal that have to different thermal expansion characteristics; one metal will expand faster than the other when heated, and will flex or bend, initiating an alarm sequence

Smoke detectors vary from heat detectors as they detect smoke that is produced very early on in a fire's development (IFSTA, 1998). Smoke detectors do not require the generation of heat before they give off warning that a fire may have started. Many occupancies actually prefer smoke detectors because of their ability to detect fire early on. There are two basic types of smoke detectors available, the photoelectric and the ionization smoke detector.

A photoelectric detector traditionally uses a beam of light that is focused on a small area used to keep a switch open. When smoke obscures the path to the receiver, the current is not adequately produced, the switch closes and an alarm signal is issued (IFSTA, 1998). A ionization smoke detector responds by detecting the invisible products of combustion, or ionized particles, which enter a chamber and decrease the current flowing between place, resulting in an alarm signal.

Other safety equipment and alarm systems that can be sued include flame detectors and combination detectors. Regardless…[continue]

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