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Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator: Flashover & Residential Fire Sprinklers

In an article from Fire Engineering magazine, “Time Out — Out of Time: Flashover and Residential Sprinklers,” Deputy U.S. Fire Administrator Glenn A. Gaines asks the fire service to reconsider the assumption that residents have about five minutes until flashover during house fires.

Here’s a brief excerpt:

Recently there has been much discussion in regard to response times of fire and EMS field assets, and rightly so. Rapid intervention is something fire and EMS do that is unique in government service. As a response enterprise we look to professional standards, Federal Regulations and current and planned growth patterns to determine what type of response resources are needed and how they will be deployed. Up to this point in time, when calculating a acceptable response time for EMS intervention we have used the period of time when the lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage (six minutes) and the time to flashover and its relationship with the temperature curve (five minutes to flashover).

But time out. Do these assumptions still hold true? My sources tell me that when humans are deprived of oxygen for six minutes or more we can expect brain damage to occur. This standard and condition remains valid. However, science and actual field experience clearly demonstrate that the five minute to flashover in residential buildings, where nearly eighty-five  percent of Americans die from fires, is no longer valid. In fact, if we are asleep upstairs in our bedroom and have working smoke alarms on all levels of our home (and that clearly is not the case in all residences), when a fire starts on the main level of the residence we have about three minutes to escape if we are to have a chance of survival.  Folks, this was just not the case ten years ago. But most of the legacy furnishings are long gone and have been replaced by synthetic laden materials that are tantamount to solidified gasoline.

See the full article on Fire Engineering‘s website.

 

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