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Fire-Rated Glass and Framing Blog from TGP

Looking for a candid resource on all things fire-rated? Interact, discuss and gain new insights on trends, codes and design solutions for the fire-rated glass and framing industry.

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Haven’t we Dodged Enough Fire Safety Bullets?

A professor of fire science said firefighters “really dodged a bullet” during the recent 1 World Trade Center work materials fire.  When the fire started, there was no water flowing through the building’s standpipe.  This forced firefighters to use a special pumper truck to supply water to fight the fire – a process that takes extra time in a situation where every minute counts. 

Others debate whether there was even a bullet to dodge in the 1 World Trade Center fire.  Dry standpipes are common for under-construction buildings and, according to the Fire Department’s chief spokesperson, firefighters knew water wasn’t flowing through the system.  The on-duty team was able to follow protocol and successfully put out the fire, with only one firefighter sustaining minor injuries. 

Do you hear echoes of the automatic sprinkler system versus passive materials argument in this debate? I do. 

Automatic sprinkler systems, like standpipes, are effective at delivering water to a fire.  According to NFPA data, sprinklers have a performance rate of approximately 90 percent.  

Now an A- in performance may sound appealing, but the flip side is that sprinklers do not perform one out of every ten times.  Since sprinkler failure largely results from human error, a good way to earn an A in fire and life safety protection is to include automatic sprinkler systems and fire-resistant materials.  Fire-resistant materials like gypsum, concrete and fire-rated glass act as a ready backup when sprinklers fail to perform or reach a fire’s area of origin.  

Although it’s impossible to prevent fires from occurring, we in the building industry can do our part to implement the best fire protection plans possible.  So whether it’s effectively supplying water for high-rise construction projects, or using sprinklers in conjunction with fire-resistant materials, it’s crucial not to settle for almost good enough.  Haven’t we dodged enough fire and life safety bullets? 

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