Initiatives

National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research & Education Foundation – Project FAIL-SAFE – 2014-2017

Since the inception of the Alliance for Fire and Smoke Containment and Control, the predecessor of FSNA, the primary objective has been to investigate the sprinkler trade-offs permitted by the IBC in sprinklered buildings. After 15 years, Project FAIL-SAFE, under the direction of the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research & Education Foundation, will examine the value of safety layering in buildings in a multi-step, multi-year study. In the context of building/fire safety and community resiliency, this project will investigate the value of safety layering, or reliability enhancement, in a building that has been impacted by a natural or man-made disaster and has been subjected to a fire due to the disaster. The study will investigate whether a sprinklered building, including all trade-offs, can perform its pre-incident function without successful sprinkler operation, even if there was no building collapse.

FSNA, working with Jim Narva, Executive Director and Jon Narva, Director of External Relations of NASFM, was instrumental in the development of the details of Project FAIL-SAFE, including the framework, funding initiatives, reviewing proposals, as well as the preparation of multiple informational documents for distribution to prospective contributors.

Because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback following the June meeting, a Summit meeting was held on October 29, 2015, in Denver. Presentations at the Summit provided the answers to requested information on test scenario planning and project management. Shared with prospective financial sponsors who attended the meeting was the research plan and budget prospectus for Project FAIL-SAFE.

Monthly progress meetings are now being held on the first Thursday of each month via teleconference at 11:00 AM ET. Jon Narva, Director of External Relations for the National Association of State Fire Marshals, provides an update on activities and all stakeholders are invited to attend. If you are interested in participating in these monthly calls, please email christine.valentino@firesafenorthamerica.org for more information. An update meeting is being planned for August 9, 2016, in Baltimore, with key individuals from Worcester Polytechnic Institute to discuss their literature review findings and advise on a modeling plan.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Study – 2014-2015

Fire Safe North America initiated and completed a study with Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) entitled, “Impact of Smoke Compartment Size on Horizontal Evacuation Time in Healthcare Facilities.” ICI hosted dozens of weekly teleconferences and kept FSNA members informed during the study of the progress and also the outcome, which resulted in the approval of a compromise agreement between the ICC Ad Hoc Health Care Committee and National Association of State Fire Marshals on the size of smoke compartments in hospitals.

The study itself has been presented at two international conferences; the International Symposium on Human Behavior in Fire in London, and the first ever European Society of Fire Protection Engineers conference in Copenhagen, on health care and fire safety. The paper was nominated for a Certificate of Achievement and was also integral in getting an IBC code change proposal approved regarding the size of smoke compartments.

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Jensen Hughes Technical Paper – 2013-2015

Fire Safe North America worked with Mike Ferreira, VP of Jensen Hughes, to complete a multi-phase research and technical paper based on the study entitled, “Impact of Stairwell Pressurization on Elevator/Ventilation Shaft Stack Effect.” This multi-year study was the single most important technical contribution for the disapproval of code change G200 in the Group A IBC Code Change Cycle, which would have eliminated elevator lobbies in high-rise buildings. The approval of this code change would have been the pre-cursor to other changes to rely on sprinklers for management of the vertical migration of both smoke and fire. The research paper that FSNA sponsored has been vigorously peer-reviewed and published online in January 2016, in Fire Technology magazine.

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The “Full Throttle” Campaign – 2006-2007

In light of our successes and losses in the 2006 IBC, the FSNA carefully reflected on and evaluated which strategies and tactics are “working” well for the FSNA in order to establish the next set of strategies and tactics.

In order to grow the organization and to expand FSNA outreach and educational programs, the Board moved from a volunteer organization to a fully paid staff to attend to ever expanding daily administrative tasks and technical issues, including writing articles, managing consultants and their contracts, communication and contact with code and fire officials and FSNA members. Historically, Board members have individually volunteered to help run the organization. While the efforts were much appreciated and well intended, it resulted in less than maximum efficiency.

The Full Throttle Campaign was intended to implement many of the same activities from the FAST TRACK campaign in 2006-2007, but with more intensity. The FSNA has helped the fire services to become aware of their conspicuous absence during the building code development process, and has responded positively to address that void.

The “Fast Track” Campaign – 2004-2005

The Fast Track campaign was intended to reach directly to, or otherwise contact, specific individuals who are thought-leaders at ICC – either through their chapters or in one-to-one meetings. FSNA submitted 24 code change proposals to the 2006 Edition of the International Building Code. During the Fast Track campaign, the FSNA sent out packages of information to 275 ICC Chapters, and communicated directly with specific Building and Fire Officials Associations in FL, CA, UT, IN, AZ and NY after First Hearing and before Final Action. Out of the code changes that FSNA either proposed or targeted for the 2006 IBC Final Action hearings, we reported 15 wins and 9 losses in the 2006 IBC. Of the 9 losses, 5 were only short a handful of votes, which means that at least 50% of the audience was in support of our proposals. At least three jurisdictions (NYC, Florida, and California) captured some of the 2006 FSNA proposals in their local amendments.

FSNA commissioned William Koffel of Koffel Associates to investigate the NFPA data on sprinkler reliability. The report challenged and clarified traditional thinking on sprinkler performance. The report, which was validated by NFPA’s statistician Dr. John Hall, supported a 1 in 6 failure rate of automatic sprinkler systems rather than the previously touted 99 out of 100.

FSNA received approval through ICC for a 90-minute presentation: “Preventing Catastrophic Fires Through Balanced Design and Maintenance Inspections” plus three 20-minute presentations, cracker barrel style on same subject at the ICC Final Action Hearings and Annual Conference.

In 1991, FSNA collected over 150 letters to petition ICC to form a special committee to study balanced fire protection in the IBC. That committee was formed by the ICC Board of Directors in 1992 and numerous changes related to safety layers have been investigated. Studying balanced fire is part of their scope and areas of investigation. The ICC Board of Directors established the Code Technology Committee and directed them to study balanced fire protection requirements in IBC. Shortly after 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the ICC Board also established another committee, the Terrorism Resistant Buildings Committee. Both committees were directed to review the NIST report on the WTC collapse and draft code change proposals to the 2009 IBC that reflect those recommendations. FSNA participated on both Committees, and FSNA is now a voting member on the Code Technology Committee.

The “Alliance for Fire Safety” (AFS) Public Awareness Campaign
– 2003 through 2004

Dr. Gene Corley, lead investigator in the World Trade Center fire, served as the AFS spokesperson. His opinion piece outlining concerns about the International Building Code and over-reliance on sprinklers was sent to op ed-page editors at more than 1,000 newspapers, and resulted in nearly 122 placements, including major market “dailies” such as the New York Daily News, Newsday, Chicago Sun-Times, the Newark Star Ledger, the Miami Herald, the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. The estimated total readership of all newspapers that ran the commentary exceeds 6.5 million.

FSNA prepared informational binders and distributed them to hundreds of code and fire officials that included a white paper on safety layering, Dr. Corley’s commentary on balanced fire protection, an exclusive technical paper on sprinkler reliability prepared by former SFPE president and consultant William Koffel of Koffel and Associates, and a collection of high- profile news clips generated by the national media campaign.

FSNA prepared amendments to the 2003, 2004 and 2006 International Codes, the NFPA, and for local/state codes for New York City, Louisiana, Phoenix, Florida, and Denver. The FSNA was instrumental in calling attention to the need for improved the passive requirements for maintenance of materials and assemblies, high-rise buildings, protection for elevator shafts, and fire walls in Clark County Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida.

FSNA exhibited at numerous trade shows and code expos where building and fire officials were meeting in order to gain more exposure to our mission and draw interaction with voting members. Several credible fire protection engineers and fire officials began supporting the campaign and worked to promote the goals of the FSNA.

FSNA commissioned Hughes and Associates to model an IBC building with all trade-offs
implemented under sprinkler failure conditions.