Fire marshals hope to learn lessons from 9/11

ALBANY, N.Y. The National Association of State Fire Marshals announced Aug. 26 that it has formed The Partnership for Safer Buildings to study the U.S. building codes and propose changes that will help protect the lives of people escaping burning buildings and the firefighters working inside them. The partnership will bring together experts from fire service, industry, standards organizations and

ALBANY, N.Y. – The National Association of State Fire Marshals announced Aug. 26 that it has formed The Partnership for Safer Buildings to study the U.S. building codes and propose changes that will help protect the lives of people escaping burning buildings and the firefighters working inside them.

The partnership will bring together experts from fire service, industry, standards organizations and fire engineering schools to apply the lessons of the World Trade Center collapse to the everyday business of fire protection. The goal is to ensure that the codes address reasonably foreseeable and potentially catastrophic fire hazards and require the highest levels of building performance in the interest of public safety and property protection.

“One of the lessons of the tragedy of Sept. 11 is that we need to take a closer look at construction standards, maintenance standards and fire protection systems,” said Donald Bliss, president of NASFM and a member of the partnership. “We also need to pay attention to the contents of buildings. Jet fuel started the fires in the Twin Towers, but it was the contents – the furniture, drapes, wall coverings, cleaning supplies, computer equipment and paper — that kept the buildings burning.”

Buildings across America are built in accordance with a confusing array of requirements and are filled with flammable contents. As a result, the partnership will focus its efforts on the codes that govern the construction and maintenance of commercial, mercantile and institutional structures.

The partnership also will work on applying fire safety standards to those buildings that are currently exempt from code requirements.

A recent study by the National Fire Protection Association raises additional concerns that support the need for a comprehensive review of building codes. The study found that the rate of on-duty firefighter deaths in structure fires has remained steady since 1977. This has occurred in spite of the decline in the number of structure fires and in spite of improvements in personal protective gear, equipment, training and incident management procedures.

“The NFPA study raises many questions,” Bliss said. “The one we are asking is how can modern building construction and maintenance be improved so that we can better protect the lives of the public and fire service alike.”

The Partnership for Safer Buildings is authorized by the National Association of State Fire Marshals and is managed by the Catastrophic Fire Prevention Task Force, a joint initiative of NASFM and the International Consortium for Fire Safety, Health and Environment.

Visit the Web site at www.firemarshals.org for more information.