Any time a building's use, occupancy or layout changes as a result of a building modification (e.g., renovations and additions), it is essential to ensure that the facility's fire protection system is not compromised and the most efficient fire protection is still being provided. Something as simple as applying the wrong type of wall finish can have significant life safety consequences. For example, one of the contributing factors to the 100 deaths that occurred in a 2003 fire at the Station nightclub in Rhode Island was the highly flammable polyurethane foam that was used for sound insulation on the nightclub walls.
To ensure that the most efficient level of fire protection is provided for a building modification, a fire protection engineer can assist with the planning, design and construction of all building modifications that may have life safety implications. They also can analyze how buildings are used, how fires start, how fires grow, and how fire and smoke affects people, buildings and property.
Fire protection engineers can also be a valuable resource when developing an emergency plan for a facility or when implementing a testing, inspection, and maintenance plan for a building's active and passive fire protection systems.
Chris Jelenewicz, PE, is engineering program manager for the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.
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