March 5, 2015

Evacuating High-Rise Fires | SkySaver Rescue Backpacks

Evacuating High-Rise Fires

A recent skyscraper fire in Dubai has again brought the issue of fire-safety in skyscrapers to the forefront of people's attention. The fire, which started on the 52nd floor, was quickly spread by strong winds, and affected over a dozen floors. Amazingly, despite the raging fire, heavy smoke, and falling debris, there were no reported injuries or fatalities and the fire was quickly brought under control by local firefighters.Dubai Fire: In pictures However, putting out this fire was no easy task for responders. Skyscraper fires have unique challenges, some of which are obvious. The average fire hose can spray up to 50 feet which would mean only the 5th floor in most buildings. A high-rise is defined as anything 75ft and up, and in the case of Dubai the building was over 1000ft tall. Thus, firefighters must physically enter the building to combat the flames, and before doing so, they use precious time to asses all points of entry, exits, stairwells, and elevators. However, in our post 9/11 world, skyscraper construction has evolved so that the fire will eventually extinguish on its own. Skyscrapers are now constructed like metal boxes within metal boxes each with advanced sprinkler systems, so that a fire will burn itself out without spreading too much. This strategy means that residents below or above the flames may be better off by staying in place and not trying to evacuate potentially smoke filled stairs.


Burj Khalifa This is the same strategy that was put in place in another Dubai skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, which stands as the world's tallest building. In the event of a fire, occupants are instructed to go to one of the buildings 'refuge areas' and are not expected to walk down 160 floors. These refuge areas are built specially with think fire resistant walls and are pressurized to minimize smoke from entering.  In the event a full evacuation is needed, each refuge area can be exited using advanced elevators (nicknamed lifeboats) that are designed to be safely used even in a fire.Dubai has again brought the issue of fire-safety in skyscrapers to the forefront of people's attention. The fire, which started on the 52nd floor, was quickly spread by strong winds, and affected over a dozen floors. Amazingly, despite the raging fire, heavy smoke, and falling debris, there were no reported injuries or fatalities and the fire was quickly brought under control by local firefighters. width=

 

When Evacuating is Dangerous Sometimes evacuating a high-rise during a fire can not only be dangerous but fatal as well. Unfortunately, such was the case in a New York City high-rise in January of 2014. The Strand, a Manhattan building, suffered a fire on the 20th floor and had smoke spread upwards within the Dubai has again brought the issue of fire-safety in skyscrapers to the forefront of people's attention. The fire, which started on the 52nd floor, was quickly spread by strong winds, and affected over a dozen floors. Amazingly, despite the raging fire, heavy smoke, and falling debris, there were no reported injuries or fatalities and the fire was quickly brought under control by local firefighters.The 20th-floor fire was likely caused by ‘low-grade’ and overloaded extension cords, according to the FDNY.building. A resident and his husband heard the alarms and ran from their 38th floor apartment to escape the building in the stairwell. However, they never made it past the 31st floor as both suffered serious smoke inhalation and were discovered by firefighters. Both were in serious condition and one resident, Daniel McClung passed away from his injuries. According to FDNY chief of operations James Esposito, McClung and his husband would have likely remained uninjured had they sheltered in place. "In fireproof residential buildings, 99.9% of the time you’re safer in your fireproof apartment,” said Esposito.


Advanced Communication can Save Lives One crucial new feature of high-rises that can effectively save lives is the installation of advanced communication systems. In the Burj Khalifa, there is an automation system which consists of LCD panels that display detailed emergency information. In emergency situations, the system can immediately inform occupants what the best coarse of action is and where the fire is concentrated. A key lesson learnt from 9/11 was the scarcity of information that the emergency crews had access to. Despite the building being fitted with smoke alarms, security cameras and air condition systems none of these were set up to deliver information to the firefighters.


NFPA guidelines  Similarly, the National Fire Protection Association advises that not all high-rise fires are cause for evacuation especially if it means descending a large number of stairs. They advise that occupants of the fire floor and floors immediately above and below should immediately use the exit stairs to descend to a floor level that is at least a few floors below the fire floor. The occupants should then reenter on a safe floor to await further instructions. For more on what the NFPA says about high-rise fires.


Conclusion  In the event of a high-rise fire, the most important thing is to know the plan. If your building has a communication system, make sure to follow instructions that will lead you to safety. If you know the strategy and are prepared you will have a much greater chance of surviving high-rise fires.


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