Topic 1: High Rise Fire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991 Part 1

Read the High Rise Fire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991 case study on page 138-139.

As a fire protection specialist, what type of fire protection systems and features would you recommend to a developer to minimize a major fire in a high-rise? Explain your answer. (When you read this case study look close at the pressure reducer issue. This was not an over sight or code violation. They were in place to reduce the pressure on the occupant hose lines. So, would having pre planned the building helped firefighters be aware of this situation?)

Topic 2: High Rise Fire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991 Part 2

Read the High Rise Fire, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1991 case study on page 138-139 of your text.

What was learned from this fire in terms of the benefit of having an automatic sprinkler system? Explain your answer. (Look at all the resources sent to this fire. What finally put the fire out? Is there any doubt about the value of a sprinkler system?)

Case Study (page 138-139) :

On February 21, 1991, a fire started on the vacant 22nd floor of a 38-story building in Phiadelphia, Pennsylvania, when a pile of linseed oil-soaked rags left by a contractor underwent the process of spontaneous combustion (self-heating). A smoke detector activated at approximately 8:23 L I, but by that time a significant fire had already developed. Upon receiving the initial alarm, the private alarm monitoring company chose to call the building personnel, and the building personnel chose to investigate the alarm. Neither entities contacted the fire department; instead, the first call to the fire department came from a passerby who did not know the exact address of the building.

By the time department units arrived and organized their attack, the fire had burned through the unprotected feeder cables for the wiring of the primary and secondary power, causing the electrical system to fail. The emergency generator then failed, resulting in a total electrical system shut down that left fire fighters operating in complete darkness. When they were finally able to stage on the 22nd floor, crews attempted to advance a 1¾-inch hose line, but due to extreme heat and low water pressure, they made no advance on the fire. Another attack was attempted through a convenience stair between the 21st and 22nd floors—first with a hose line installed for use by untrained building occupants, which provided no water, and then with a 1¾-inch hose line, which produced the same problem found on the 22nd floor: low water pressure. Operating in the dark, unable to mount an interior attack, and with no success improving the water pressure, crews took a defensive position, which permitted vertical and horizontal smoke and fire spread through many penetrations and breeches in the walls and ceiling, the fire-resistant construction, and the ventilation shafts that lacked fire dampers. In addition, the fire broke windows on the 22nd floor, resulting in exterior extension of the fire onto the 23rd and 24th floors and beyond. The fire burned unchecked for a number of additional hours but when it reached the 30th floor, a water supply that was established with fire apparatus pumps through the fire department connection (FDC) was able to feed the sprinkler system, activating ten fire sprinkler heads and extinguishing the fire.

Failure of many significant building systems contributed to the overall disaster of the fire but one of the most significant problems encountered was the lack of adequate water pressure at the fire hose valves. Although failure of the electrical system prevented the building fire pumps from operating, the fire engine pumps should have been able to deliver the necessary pressure through the FDCs. A post-fire investigation determined that the standpipe system pressure-regulating fire hose valves were improperly installed and adjusted, preventing the water pressure and flow needed at the hose valve outlet to support manual firefighting in the building.

 
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