top of page
Search

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has left most of us quarantined to our homes. With schools closed throughout the U.S., many of us are still working our normal jobs while navigating our newly-appointed roles as home-school educators. In some cases, this may leave our little people with more time to freelance in the home. If your children are like mine, they are curious, uninhibited, tornadoes; safety is not at the forefront of their minds when they make choices. So, it is important that we create safe boundaries, as we transition our homes into schools. Its unlikely that your child's school had a stove sitting in the classroom or candles or lighters. Have you talked to your children about the hazards of these devices. Have you secured matches and lighters, so they are not readily accessible to little hands? When was the last time you tested your fire safety devices? Now is an optimum time to ensure that our homes are safe and that our kids understand the basics of fire safety. Online retailers are still delivering products, so if you need smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, or fire extinguishers- order them, install them, and know how to use them. For the kids, there are numerous resources online to educate them about fire safety. The USFA has activities including downloadable Sesame Street materials for preschool age children. The NFPA has multiple lesson plans including Sparky School House. Practice your home evacuation plan with your kids and make this time a fun and safe learning experience for your family.

© 2020 FireTox, LLC

Updated: Sep 10, 2020


A recent publication by Doyle (2019) found that more than 50% of people dying in fires in the Republic of Ireland had alcohol in their blood, and approximately 64% of these individuals had a blood alcohol level of 0.160% or more. These findings are consistent with those of Ball and Bruck (2004), who determined that a person’s ability to awaken to audible alarms was significantly reduced when the subject consumed alcohol. Regardless of the type of audible tone (T-3, voice, etc.), Ball and Bruck found that 36% of subjects with a blood alcohol level of only 0.05% slept through tones less than 95 decibels (dB) or did not respond at any sound level. The percentage of subjects who slept through the alarms increased to 41% when the blood alcohol level was increased to 0.08%. The conclusion of the study was that one third of people with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% and half of people with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% will not respond to a smoke alarm at the standard code mandated sound levels (75 dB at the pillow location).


The susceptibility of alcohol intoxicated individuals is further corroborated by Ahren's (2019) most recent report, Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires, which showed that smoke alarms were present and operated in 42% of fire deaths. A smoke alarm cannot pick someone up and remove them from a fire; an individual must be capable of self-preservation. However, given that smoke alarms are the only widely-available, code-required technology designed to provide occupants with early warning of a fire in their residence, the Ahren's data suggests that the fire protection engineering community needs to consider other ways to protect susceptible populations. This issue raises interesting ethical questions when considering human behavior in fire protection engineering design: Do we view those whose susceptibility is self-induced in the same way as those whose susceptibility is inherent? Do we view susceptibility from alcohol and drug impairment in the same way as we view susceptibility from age or disability? These are complex societal questions, but perhaps the first step is education through community risk reduction programs as we work to find a solution to reduce the risk to all susceptible populations.


© 2020 FireTox, LLC



Updated: Sep 10, 2020

Ferreira and Klote published this hyperlinked article in 2011. It provides an excellent narrative on stairwell pressurization in high-rise buildings. Having investigated numerous fires where compromised stairwells led to multiple fatalities, I believe that smokeproof enclosure design is one of the most important issues that faces the fire protection engineer in both new and existing high-rise buildings. During a fire, the stairwell is the only way out, and as such, is a single point of failure (SPOF) in the life safety strategy. In new construction, this SPOF risk is reduced through the use of smokeproof enclosures in combination with layered fire protection to include early notification, fire suppression, and compartmentation. In existing building construction, this same layered approach is often not present, which can significantly increase the risk to occupants. Engineers performing due diligence assessments should consider whether the stairwell design includes a SPOF risk and identify the methods by which a building owner could mitigate these risks. After all, shouldn't occupants in existing high-rise buildings be afforded the same level of safety as those in new high-rise buildings?


© 2020 FireTox, LLC



bottom of page