During the Research Foundation’s Fire Safety Design and Sustainable Buildings Symposium in Chicago, Sean DeCrane, of the Cleveland Fire Department, gave his perspective on the hazards of sustainable buildings. He discussed the importance of training for the fire service because of the new developments in the construction industry. Traditional stick built houses with heavy upholstered furniture is a thing of the past.
Today, fire fighters are faced with engineered, lightweight lumber, expanded foam materials, and photovoltaic panels on roofs. Many of these sustainable materials contribute to faster burning fires and buildings that fail much quicker. Not only are fire fighters facing new hazards inside of buildings, but they are facing challenges getting to the building itself. Green rating systems give credits for reducing paved surfaces, increasing landscaping and reducing traffic. This makes for beautiful cities that save energy, however, it creates literal road blocks for fire fighter vehicles. Every extra minute it takes the fire service to navigate around narrow roadways and traffic calming devices is another minute the fire has to grow and another minute someone might be waiting for rescue inside that building.
Mr. DeCrane argued that sprinklers and training are two of the best things we can do for our fire service. Check out this video that Mr.DeCrane shared from UL. It compares a fire in a legacy room (think grandma’s upholstered furniture and heavy fabric curtains) to a modern room (one that was purchased right off the shelf at one of today’s furniture stores).