By Danilo Macedo
As part of our Continued Professional Development (CPD) we are encouraged to take part in the hands on course - "Fire Fighting Operations for Fire Engineers". This course is prepared by the Institute of Fire Engineers (IFE) in Conjunction with Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) and conducted at the FENZ National Training Centre in Rotorua. I had this opportunity last April and can confirm it will affect the way I write my fire reports moving forward.
At this one-day course Fire Engineers, are exposed to the difficulties faced by FENZ in their daily operations. And I can tell you, it's not easy! Like me, you probably think, "Yes, I know it's a tough job." But we don't fully understand until we do it. So, I decided to relate my experience as a motivation for you to also take this training.
The day starts with an Introduction and safety briefing followed by a short walk around the National Training Centre. The complex is impressive. They actually built a neighbourhood block, with actual buildings, shops and cars parked in the street, etc...
We were split into pairs and then learned how to unroll and roll the hoses to prepare for getting in the building, followed by entering the building (3 floors up) carrying these hoses. The original intent was for 4 of us to carry the hose, simulating a real attendance. We did it with 8 people and struggled a lot and even today, I don't fully understand how Firefighters can do it in a team of 2! We also got to experience the weight that the hose has when it is full of water and especially the force required to hold it when at full pressure. Now I understand why we cannot design a building that requires more than 75m of hoses!
The next activity involved dressing in the self-contained breathing apparatus or SCBA and doing a body search within a building full of smoke. We got an appreciation of the real weight of the apparatus and the conditions firefighters have to face when in full vests, with safety helmets, SCBA, and still having to carry, maneuver and use a fully loaded hose in an extremely hot environment where you can't see anything and still have to do your job knowing that other people are counting on you. They are real heroes!
After a lunch break, we watched a Live Burn with Flashover and Backdraft Simulation, initially on a small scale and then in a full-scale experiment.
To finalise, after all the exposure to heat, we got a fresh demonstration of sprinkler activation and how the correct specification of the sprinkler type can affect the performance of the system.
To finish, we got together in the classroom to discuss everything we can do to prepare a better design for FENZ and anticipate their needs for when they need to peer review it.
It was definitely an amazing day and experience. We recommend it to everyone that has to design and specify or deal with Fire Safety Systems.
You can check for more information and some additional photos in IFE website:
And if you want to do more and help FENZ, they have a real need for volunteers:
Remember: Provisions for firefighting operations are legal Requirements for Fire Designs!
From New Zealand Building Act 2004, s4 :
(2) In achieving the purpose of this Act, a person to whom this section applies must take into account the following principles that are relevant to the performance of functions or duties imposed, or the exercise of powers conferred, on that person by this Act:
(h) the reasonable expectations of a person who is authorised by law to enter a building to undertake rescue operations or firefighting to be protected from injury or illness when doing so:
From New Zealand Build code:
Clause C1: The objectives of clauses C2 to C6 are to:
(c) facilitate firefighting and rescue operations.
Also, from NZBC:
Clause C5 - Access and safety for firefighting operations:
C5.1 Buildings must be designed and constructed so that there is a low probability of firefighters or other emergency services personnel being delayed in or impeded from assisting in rescue operations and performing firefighting operations.
C5.2 Buildings must be designed and constructed so that there is a low probability of illness or injury to firefighters or other emergency services personnel during rescue and firefighting operations.
C5.3 Buildings must be provided with access for fire service vehicles to a hard-standing from which there is an unobstructed path to the building within 20 m of:
(a)the firefighter access into the building, and
(b)the inlets to automatic fire sprinkler systems or fire hydrant systems, where these are installed.
C5.4 Access for fire service vehicles in accordance with clause C5.3 must be provided to more than 1 side of firecells greater than 5,000 m2 in floor area that are not protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system.
C5.5 Buildings must be provided with the means to deliver water for firefighting to all parts of the building.
C5.6 Buildings must be designed and constructed in a manner that will allow firefighters, taking into account the firefighters’ personal protective equipment and standard training, to:
(a) reach the floor of fire origin,
(b) search the general area of fire origin, and
(c) protect their means of egress.
Buildings must be provided with means of giving clear information to enable firefighters to:
(a) establish the general location of the fire,
(b) identify the fire safety systems available in the building, and
(c) establish the presence of hazardous substances or process in the building.
Means to provide access for and safety of firefighters in buildings must be designed and constructed with regard to the likelihood and consequence of failure of any fire safety systems.