Parking garages are ubiquitous in virtually every city on the planet, but they may not provide an adequate level of safety for the vehicles stored in them—or for the people driving and parking those vehicles.
The issue also includes features on the trend of modular construction, fire safety in cold storage facilities, an interview with the new head of the US Forest Service, and much more.
Our cover story leads with a recap of a harrowing fire that destroyed a parking garage and more than 1,200 vehicles on New Year’s Eve 2017 in Liverpool, England. The fire did more than raise eyebrows; for safety experts around the world, the King’s Dock car park blaze was a game-changing event that has prompted an in-depth review of parking garage safety and sparked discussions of the need for additional research.
“It was dramatic to the point that everyone began asking, ‘What happened here?’” said Casey Grant, executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation. “People began asking all sorts of critical questions.”
Many of those questions focus on the growing hazard posed by cars, trucks, and SUVs. Today’s vehicles use significantly more plastic and other combustible non-metal materials than vehicles of even a generation ago, and the increased fire hazard has safety experts concerned that the detection and suppression features of many parking facilities may not be a match for the threat. As one source in our story puts it, “Advances in automotive technology are very real and rapidly evolving. There are gaps in our understanding of how changes in automotive design and construction impact fire characteristics and fire growth.”
Also in this issue, our focus on industrial and storage occupancies includes an article on fire safety issues related to cold storage facilities, an aspect of the storage industry that is undergoing significant expansion driven by grocery-delivery services and pharmaceutical distribution.
There’s also a story on the growing popularity of modular building and the associated concerns among some AHJs over the decentralized nature of the process. Typically, modules are constructed off-site, often in another state or even another country, and shipped to a construction site, where they are connected, systems are added and tested, and exterior cladding is added to unify the look of the structure. Regulating this process has become an issue for some jurisdictions, and our story looks at different ways those jurisdictions are ensuring elements of building safety throughout the construction process.
Our departments include an in-depth “Perspectives” interview with Vicki Christiansen, who spent decades fighting wildfires and brings that on-the-ground point-of-view to her new post as head of the US Forest Service. Our wildfire coverage continues in “Dispatches,” with a lead story on how the recent government shutdown could have an adverse effect on the upcoming wildfire season, as well as a story on a new report on the Camp Fire that obliterated the town of Paradise, California, in November.
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