Fire Department Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Fire Department

Reviewing and changing standard fire fighting procedures for high rise buildings incidents

The main aim of this research paper is to not only review the current standards for fighting fire in high rise buildings but to also recommend various ways to improve those standards. Furthermore, the paper also reviews how these standards may affect the current fire fighting methods. The needs of the local Chief Fire Officers, the current fire department hierarchy as well as the international contemporary practices have been kept in mind while suggesting the recommendations for change and improvement. According to the opinion of the people working in the fire departments the reason why the high storey buildings are at a higher risk of a fire starting there is because since, these buildings are larger in size therefore a lot more people work there who can become more careless (Russell, 2004). Also, there is a lot of combustible material present in the buildings along with a lot of different paths from which the fire can spread very quickly (Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire, 1992).

The buildings that are usually over 25 meters (more or less 75 ft) tall are usually included in the category of the high rise buildings and it is in these buildings that the adjustment of a rise is very important according to the experts. However, it is also suggested that high rise procedures should be taken into consideration by the owners of the buildings having four or more floors. The officers who are responsible for ensuring the safety of the buildings are not only allowed but also encouraged to have the high riser installed in even the buildings that are less than twenty-feet tall as, according to the experts this precautionary measure would have increase the chances of diminishing the fire very quickly (AOC, 1996).

A lot of details can be found about the fires that took place in the history in high rise buildings and from those fires and the reasons why they took place and how they were controlled a very clear idea can be achieved about what should and should not be done to prevent these fires from occurring or, in case they do occur how to demolish them. Therefore, a very efficient Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) can be developed with the help of these historical incidents.

Given below are the three of the most damaging fires in the history of the world:

1. First Inter-state fire in a Los Angeles Bank (1988)

2. One Meridian Plaza fire in Philadelphia (1991)

3. New York City fire occurring in a Bank (1993).

By studying these incidences of fires the importance of precautionary measure to avoid such events from taking place can be very clearly understood. With the help of these fires as examples it can be noted that it is very important for the high rise building to have proper ventilation systems to minimize the spreading of the fire as much as possible, there should be a proper protocol followed in the event of a fire and all employees working in the building should be familiar with the protocol also, the infrastructure of the building should be such that the lifts and stairwells should help the firemen in putting out the fire as quickly as possible.

It should also be noted that the World Trade Centre fire has not been taken as an example here. The reason for this is the fact that the fire that took place in the World Trade Centre can't be categorized in the usual fires and therefore, it can't be helpful in building an SOP for a the fires that may take place in the high rise buildings in normal circumstances.

According to Routley (report 082) the fires that take place in the high rise buildings are very difficult to diminish along with the whole evacuation process. The reason for this is the fact that since the buildings has numerous stories it is very difficult to reach so many floor and recue the people quickly.

According to Smith (1995) in order for the buildings to have effective incident command system they should have room for changes and adjustments so that when there comes a need, appropriate alterations can be made in them. In Chapman (1995) point-of-view when there is a fire in a high rise building, even a small one, it is very difficult to control it and it requires the fire department to make use of a lot of their resources to diminish it as compared to the fires that take place in the smaller buildings.

The Los Angeles Fire Department made an Incident Management System based on the idea of the fire in high rise buildings. What they did in this system was, they kept the efficiency of the organization in mind by telling the people to assign specific duties to particular individuals and then they told them that in case the fire get out of hand and the situation prolongs there should be a proper way through which the duties can be transferred to other individuals, which basically shows that the incident management system suggested by the Los Angeles Fire Department was very flexible (Gerard, 1981).

However, this Incident Management System proved came in very handy in the case of the fire in First Interstate Bank (Routley, report 022; Building Official and Code Administrator Magazine, 1989).

In case of the fire at One Meridian Plaza the incident management system wasn't very effective. In response to this failure Routely, Jennings and Chubb (report 049) suggested that in a situation where at a time there are multiple building system failures the approach should always be give more importance to the safety-oriented strategies instead of the command decisions as these are the unknown and unanticipated situations where one can't really judge the effectiveness of the fire ground decision. In the fire at the One Meridian Plaza, three firemen lost their lives and it was after this that the Philadelphia Fire Department reevaluated there incident management system and then altered it in 1989 (Dyer, 1996).

The smoke that occurs because of the fire along with the fire itself can prove to be a great hazard for the firemen in reaching the people stuck in the buildings as well as controlling the fire. It was noted in the case of the One Meridan Plaza fire that the fire spread vertically as well as horizontally and the reason for this was the fact that there were no fire dampers in the ventilators and the unprotected penetrations through fire resistant construction. All this made it very difficult to control the fire quickly (Routley et al., report 049). Another reason for this expansion of the fire was the auto exposure.

In case of the First Interstate Bank building fire the lack of compartmentalization along with the open floor plan were the reasons for the expansion of the fire, in this case as well there was the fire spread in the vertical direction.

According to Bennett (2000) the main purpose of an SOP is not only to minimize the expansion of the fire as quickly as possible but to also remove the smoke from as many areas as possible (Bennett, 2000).

According to Iklim (2003) it is very important for the buildings to have a proper and effective ventilation system to get rid of the smoke as, 85 people once died in hotel fire in Las Vegas because of the smoke inhalation. All those people were on the top floor of the hotel and just because the building didn't have a proper ventilation system the smoke travelled through the central air conditioning system and resulted in the death of all those people (Iklim, 2003).

According to the LA Fire Department (1995) in the high rise buildings a proper ventilation system is very important. However, according to Routley (report 082) the vertical ventilation can only be made possible with the help of the lifts and the stairwells but if these are going to be used for the ventilation purposes then they can't be used by the firemen for the sake of evacuation or fire extinguishing, this explanation was further agreed upon by the Pittsburgh Fire Department (1992).

The use of the lifts in the high rise buildings in the fires scenarios by the firemen has resulted in the death of a lot of them often because of the reason that the lifts lose control (Leihbacher, 2003). This is the reason why the use of lifts for the sake of evacuation of putting out the still remains a debatable issue among many experts. In the fire that took place at the One Meridian Plaza a security guard had to be rescued because he inhaled the smoke after his lift opened on a floor that was on fire (Routley et al., report 049).

In is evident from the scenarios described above that the use of the lift by the firemen can prove to be very dangerous. However, in the case of fires in high…

Sources Used in Document:


AOC (Aukland Operations Center). (1996). High rise building procedure FG/III/5. Auckland, NZ: Auckland Area, NZFS.

Bennett, J.A. (2000). High rise firefighting from top to bottom, part 3. American Fire Journal, May, pp.16-17.

Bennett, J.A. (2000). High rise firefighting from top to bottom, part 4. American Fire Journal, October, pp.12-15.

Carter, H.R. (1992). High rise firefighting: A look at the problems. The VOICE, October, pp. 8-9.

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