In 2000, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) had developed a fundamental method to reduce fire risk. It is known as Fire Safety Concepts Tree (FSCT). FSCT was developing to achieve the life safety and structure protection for the building. There are two general principles of FSCT are the prevention of fire ignition and managing fire impact. Prevention of fire ignition can be completed in the inception stages of the building design process by obviate fire sources but to completely obviate fire sources is an impossible matter. No matter how much effort we put in to obviate the fire ignition, it will not success and fire will still continue to start. We have to manage the fire by minimize the impact on the people and structures once fire had started. FSCT highlight the fire suppression, control of combustion and containment of fire by construction. It also emphasizes that safeguard exposure and limit amount exposed. Among measures that can be applied to achieve the fire extinguishing equipment, controlling fire from spread the fire to the other parts of building and allow adequate time for people to evacuate from the building. Life safety is also influenced by the knowledge and experience that people have about the fire and fire spreading in buildings. With understanding of the fire behavior and fire characteristics, casualties can probably be reduced if appropriate measures have been taken when evacuating from the building. Therefore, my research will concern on the fire safety or minimum requirement of firefighting equipment for commercial building and what action can we done when fire happening on a commercial building.
To explain to humans that firefighting can provide well protection to them when fire happen on commercial building.
Identify the minimum firefighting requirement for a commercial building
The usage of the firefighting
Identify the action to be carry out when fire happen
1.5 Literature Review
In my final year project, I used books in my college library and internet sources, along with personal contacts with fire service officials in different states to complete my thesis.
Chapter 2: Understanding of Fire
Fire is the visible effect of the process of combustion. It is a special type of chemical reaction. It is coming from three main ingredients which there are oxygen (Oâ‚‚), heat, and fuel where the fuel is like combustible or flammable materials. Fire cannot be form if there are without these three main materials. While at the end of the chemical reaction, the products from the chemical reaction are totally different form the initial material.
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Combustion occur when fuel reacts with oxygen to release heat energy. Due to make some combustion, the fuel must be heated until its temperature hit the ignition level. Otherwise, it would not have any combustion happen. Combustion can be happen slow or fast which is depending on the amount of oxygen available. The reaction will keep going as long as there is enough heat, fuel and oxygen. This is known as the fire triangle.
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Combustible or flammable materials are those materials that will easily to getting burn, for example fuel, paper, petroleum product, textile, wood and etc. Flammable materials can be found as solids, gases, or liquids.
is solid other than an explosive or blasting agent, that can catch fire through friction, absorption of moisture, spontaneous chemical change, heat retained from a manufacturing or other process. Besides, flammable solids can also be ignited easily and, when ignited, burn is vigorously or persistently as to create a serious fire hazard. Furthermore, flammable solids can also be classified in three categories which are desensitized explosive, self-reactive materials, and readily combustible solids.
Flammable gases are those gases at ambient temperature and pressure which been compressed and until can be ignite at 14.7 pounds per square inch (PSI). It also can ignite at 14.7 PSI when mixed with 12% or less by volume with air. Examples include butane, methane and hydrogen.
Flammable liquids are those liquids that have a flashpoint (minimum temperature needed for the liquid to produce a vapor with enough of a concentration to ignite) below 100 degree Fahrenheit (°F), or 37.78 degree Celsius (°C) at a vapor pressure less than 60 pounds per square inch (PSI). If any of the components of the mixture have flashpoints of 100°F or higher, then the materials is no longer classified as flammable but is known as combustible.
In another way, we can classify the flammable liquid in order to make us easier to get know that flammable liquids. It is important to remember that with flammable liquids that it is the vapor coming off from the liquid that will occur ignition and burning, not necessarily the liquid itself.
Class I, A – liquids have flashpoints below 73°F and boiling points below 100°F.
Class I, B – liquids have flashpoints below 73°F and boiling points at or below 100°F.
Class I, C – liquids have flashpoints at or above 73°F and below 100°F. For examples include alcohols, gasoline, paint thinners, and spray paints.
For combustible materials, it can be found as solids or liquids.
Combustible solids have the capability of igniting and burning such as wood and paper.
Combustible liquids is define as liquid whose flash point is above 37.78°C(100°F) but below 93.3°C(200°F) by US National Fire Prevention Authority(NFPA) and the US Department Of Transport (DOT). Combustible liquids also have a flashpoint which will get burn at or above 100°F but below 200°F. Combustible liquids can be classify as
Class II liquids have flashpoint at or above 100°F and below 140°F
Class IIIA liquids have flashpoint at or above 140°F and below 200°F
Class IIIB liquids have flashpoint at or above 200°F. For example include diesel fuel, oil-based paint and furniture polish.
A material is easier to get burn if its flashpoint is higher.
Chemical reaction in the combustion process
Fuels can be solids, liquids or gases. During the chemical reaction that produces fire, fuel is heated to such an extent that (if not already a gas) it releases gases from its surface.
Only gases can react in combustion. Gases are made up of molecules (groups of atoms). When these gases are hot enough, the molecules in the gases break apart and fragments of molecules rejoin with oxygen from the air to make new product molecules such as water molecules (Hâ‚‚O) and carbon dioxide molecule (COâ‚‚) and other products if burning is not complete.
The heat generated by the reaction is what sustains the fire. The heat of the flame will keep remaining fuel at ignition temperature. The flame ignites gases being emitted, and the fire spreads. The fire will keeps burning as long as the area is enough fuel and oxygen.
Fuel + oxygen (from the air) = combustion products (mainly COâ‚‚ + Oâ‚‚) + heat energy.
When the fire is complete combustion, the burning fuel will produce only water and carbon dioxide (no smoke or other products). The flame is typically blue. For this happen, there needs to be enough oxygen to combine completely with the fuel gas.
Many of us use methane gas (CH4), commonly known as natural gas, at home for cooking. When gas is heated (by a flame or spark) and if there is enough oxygen in the atmosphere, the molecules will break apart and reform totally as water and carbon dioxide.
CH4 (g) + 2Oâ‚‚ (g) + heat > COâ‚‚ (g) + 2Hâ‚‚O (g) + heat
Methane + oxygen + heat > carbon dioxide + water + heat
During a chemical reaction, if incomplete combustion is occurs, this will bring the conclusion that the area is not available with enough oxygen. For example, ethanol (Câ‚‚H5OH) mixed with oxygen (3Oâ‚‚) will form carbon dioxide (2COâ‚‚), water (3Hâ‚‚O) and heat, and then complete combustion will occurs.
Câ‚‚H5OH + 3Oâ‚‚ = 2COâ‚‚ + 3Hâ‚‚O
Ethanol + Oxygen = carbon dioxide + water + heat
But if ethanol cannot mixed with oxygen, which is means the area is vacuum, then that will become incomplete combustion. Incomplete combustion will released less heat energy compare to complete combustion.
Chapter 3: Minimum Fire safety requirement for commercial building
Fire safety is “an objective to reduce the probability that a person in or adjacent to a building will be exposed to an unacceptable fire hazard as a result of the design and construction of the building”, defined by the National Building Code of Canada (NRC, 1995). Design and construction of the building particularly escape routes and safe assembly, needs to be reviewed. The current practice whereby buildings owners were inspired to harness security measures by putting an iron grill to an extra safety precaution such as double locked iron gates at the main entrance and other exit routes of their property, has increased the risk of being trapped of fire breaks out.
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Every country has their own fire safety regulations. The objective of the Regulations is to ensure the safe and expeditious evacuation of all building occupants. Fire safety is important as it relates to injury and loss of life. Due to comply with the minimum standard of fire safety, Malaysia building regulations should provide adequate protection for humans, non-humans and property itself in the happening of fire. For this reason, more effort should be put in to be invested in providing buildings which are safer from fire. But unfortunately, a significant factor in this is the one of human error and intent, such as with arson.
The main fire protection is to ensuring the occupants can escape quickly, without any loss of life and harm, and also the protection for other property.
Glaze is one of the materials for building construction. Glaze can performs an important role in achieving the requirements for fire protection. It is limitations on the amount of unprotected area. This is why glaze can still attracted much attention and be one of the building materials. Glaze can increase the fire resistance performance in both integrity and insulation. Integrity is talk about the resistance to fire penetration and the insulation is about the resistance of excessive heat. Glazing is tends to used in building construction on window part. It is considered a boundary of a building no matter it is fixed window or opening windows. This is because the fire resistance of glaze is not less than the required of the same wall that placed. Besides, glazing is also complies with the requirement for materials used in construction which glaze not a combustible materials. Roof light have a requirement to resist the penetration from an external source. Then the required performance of the glazing will depend on the distance of the building from the boundary. Glazing will achieve the highest standards of performance if the distance with the roof is closest. It can get from the external fire exposure roof test by complies with BS 476: Part 3: 1958 and is fully permitted to use as one of the building construction materials.
For escape purposes, an emergency window must be installed in the upper storey of every floor up to a height of 4.5m, unless it is served by more than one escape stair. Institutional buildings, other than hospitals, which have only one escape route in an upper storey, must have an emergency access window in every bedroom up to a height of 11m. All of these windows must be at least 850mm high by at least 500mm wide.
Escape routes are defined as a way that can let people leave safely and reach a place of safety. It is an essential thing that all building occupants know how to escape quickly and that they are not restricted from doing so when building fire is happening. This could happen with locked doors, obstacles in their path of travel, or smoke-filled escape routes. All occupants need to diligently monitor those aspects of their building from day to day. More importantly, smoke-stop doors must not be wedged open. This is a major factor contributing to loss of life in many building fires.
The fire service plays a major role in educating people and influencing safe use of buildings. As part of its role in working with building owners to develop evacuation plans, it is in a position to act against those who, for instance, store rubbish in egress routes, or leave smoke-stop doors open. It must, however, carry out its role from an education point of view, so that occupants can be encouraged to deal with fire safety housekeeping themselves and understand the importance of doing so.
Escape routes should be designed and constructed, and installed with adequate and suitable fire doors, so they will not be a death trap to building occupants. The main problem encountered in evacuation processes is when smoke enters into the door and door frame. Another problem is traffic congestion during evacuation processes. The more security for commercial building is provision with the fire safety aspects as much as it can. Those fire safety like active fire protection, passive fire protection, etc are at very minimum compared with other types of building yet the fire risk to commercial building is the highest among the other type of buildings.
Escape routes for commercial building need to be more sophisticated because commercial building is large size and more complicated on construct methods compare to others.
The essential point is that staircase for use as escape routes should be at least 1 metre wide to allow more than 1 person to escape from the building at the same time. The second point is escape routes should be always kept clear of all obstructions. It is to precaution that the escape routes can be use on safe when accident or fire happens suddenly. Third, the escape routes should lead or guide those people who fled to a safety place. Normally the safety place will locate at outside and away from the building. Besides, doors for escape routes must always be available access at any time without lock by a key. Provide an escape plan that clearly identifies the action that workers and others should take in the event of a fire. This may include duties for to check areas are clear, close doors and assist others.
Controlling spread of Fire
Other than installing a sprinkler system, one more method of controlling the spread of fire is to separate different parts of a building into fire cells. The outer walls of each fire cell have fire-rated materials to inhibit the spread of fire from one cell to another. Doors leading from those fire cells are usually smoke-stop doors which must remain closed at all times. They should be labeled as such to assist the occupants, and have automatic self-closing mechanisms to ensure they are always kept closed. The most common breach of these requirements and – one which poses an extreme threat to the occupants – is when these doors are wedged open. It is a vital requirement that all smoke-stop doors from separate fire cells leading into the sole escape routes are kept closed at all times.
It is self-evident too, that items stored in escape routes are potential fuel for a fire, as well as potentially obstructing escape. It takes only one negligent action along these lines to put at risk the lives of all the occupants of a building.
4.0 What can be done when fire happening
Some important issues in evacuation processes
The difficulty in escaping from building fire is largely due to several issue such as unnecessary fitted ‘safety precautions equipment’ which can create barrier, the design and construction of escape stairs which do not comply with the rules and regulations, hard to find the exact location of escape stairs due to unclear or less or no exit signage, smoke entering the escape stair, poor illumination system, etc. Other factors of same importance are lack of facilities for disabled people to evacuate from the building, no alternative exit and no firefighting lift being provided. Those factors have a potential to increase the risks that people will be injured or be killed in building fire.
The reason of fire happen cannot be completely eliminated. “Despite efforts to restrict the use of combustible material in buildings and to prevent ignition, fire will continue to start. Whether the fire grows and how quickly, depends to a large extent on the basic flammability of building materials and contents, as well as on the building design. The more quickly a fire develops, the less time occupants of the building have to escape,” stated by Mehaffey (1987).Even through the potential for being killed or injured in a building fire cannot be completely eliminated, but the harm of fire threat could be minimized by optimizing the resources available if the design of the building from the initial stage was seriously considered. However, fire safety in a commercial building can be achieved through proven building design features intended to minimize the risk of harm to people from fire to the greatest extent possible (CWC, 2000). If sufficient data is available and analysis has been made to identify the top most risks associated with people in commercial buildings during evacuation processes, probably the casualties and death of people to evacuation from the building in case of fire. Time is becoming the determining factors in life safety during building fires. The faster occupants are evacuation from the building the greater chances of saving their lives.
Therefore, there are some points that need to be emphasized in order to enhance the safety of the commercial buildings:
Occupants need to be informed about the building fire as soon as fire started.
Escape stairs should be located within the limits of travel distance
An alternative exit route should be provided even though the regulation may not say so in certain circumstances
Most of the commercial buildings have not been provided with the facilities to facilitate the evacuation of disabled people, these facilities should be provided
People do not seem to react accordingly even if they have heard the sounder until they saw, smelt to feel existence of fire. Therefore education concerning fire safety is very important.
Fire safety attribute in commercial building
The safety of the commercial building is not only the responsibility of the developers who build the buildings, but it also involve with many parties to ensure that the building is safe for occupy. From the regulations passed in parliament, enforcement by the local authority and the shop tenants themselves have the play the role to ensure that fire safety aspects are always maintained at the highest possible standard. In this regard, there are nine points of fire attributes in commercial buildings that need to be evaluated further to the greater extent that the best protection and fire safety objectives can be achieved. The nine points of fire safety attributes are:
Providing safe egress and protected zone for evacuation process.
Escape stairs design within the maximum travel distance permitted by authority.
An alternative exit route provided in the building for evacuation purposes.
All fire doors and fire barriers constructed are able to stand fire for a reasonable time.
A place of safety or assembly area is designated and able to cater for a number of evacuees
Illuminated exit signage sufficiently provided.
Portable fire extinguishers and other types of fire suppression are provided and well maintained.
Smoke control systems in an enclosed escape route and escape stairs are sufficiently designed and installed to ensure the safe egress route is free from smoke.
Illumination system provided in escape route.
Component of risks in evacuating processes
The component of risks in evacuation processes can be divided into five main categories; People (Knowledge & Experience), Legislation, Building Elements, Active Fire Protection, and Fire Plan and Evacuation Procedure.
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