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Making the Nation Safe from Fire A Path Forward in Research Committee to Identify Innovative Research Needs to Foster Improved Fire Safety in the United States Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences NATIONAL RESEACH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Grant No. 0135915 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the organizations or agencies that provide support for this project. Copyright 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. International Standard Book Number: 0-309-08970-0 (paperback) International Standard Book Number: 0-309-52581-0 (PDF) Available from: Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment National Research Council Keck Center 500 5th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 in the Washington metropolitan area; Internet, <http://www.nap.edu>. Printed in the United States of America
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Wm. A. Wulf is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Bruce M. Alberts and Dr. Wm. A. Wulf are chairman and vice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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COMMITTEE TO IDENTIFY INNOVATIVE RESEARCH NEEDS TO FOSTER IMPROVED FIRE SAFETY IN THE UNITED STATES DAVID LUCHT, Chair, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts CRAIG BEYLER, Hughes Associates, Inc., Baltimore DAVID COLLINS, American Institute of Architects, Cincinnati FRED DRYER, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey KEN DUNGAN, Risk Technologies, LLC, Knoxville, Tennessee OFODIKE “DK” A. EZEKOYE, University of Texas at Austin WILLIAM FEINBERG, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati CHARLES KIME, Arizona State University East, Mesa JOHN LYONS, U.S. Army Research Lab (retired), Mt. Airy, Maryland FRED MOWRER, University of Maryland, College Park ELI PEARCE, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn JUDY RIFFLE, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg JAMES T’IEN, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland BETH TUBBS, International Conference of Building Officials, Northbridge, Massachusetts FORMAN WILLIAMS, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla TOM WOODFORD, Oklahoma State University, Stillwater Staff RICHARD G. LITTLE, Director, Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment JASON DREISBACH, Research Associate DANA CAINES, Financial Associate PAT WILLIAMS, Senior Project Assistant
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BOARD ON INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE CONSTRUCTED ENVIRONMENT PAUL GILBERT, Chair, Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade, and Douglas, Seattle MASSOUD AMIN, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis RACHEL DAVIDSON, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York REGINALD DESROCHES, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta DENNIS DUNNE, California Department of General Services, Sacramento PAUL FISETTE, University of Massachusetts, Amherst YACOV HAIMES, University of Virginia, Charlottesville HENRY HATCH, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (retired), Oakton, Virginia AMY HELLING, Georgia State University, Atlanta SUE McNEIL, University of Illinois, Chicago DEREK PARKER, Anshen+Allen, San Francisco DOUGLAS SARNO, The Perspectives Group, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia WILL SECRE, Masterbuilders, Inc., Cleveland DAVID SKIVEN, General Motors Corporation, Detroit MICHAEL STEGMAN, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill DEAN STEPHAN, Charles Pankow Builders (retired), Laguna Beach, California ZOFIA ZAGER, County of Fairfax, Virginia CRAIG ZIMRING, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta Staff RICHARD G. LITTLE, Director, Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment LYNDA L. STANLEY, Executive Director, Federal Facilities Council MICHAEL COHN, Project Officer DANA CAINES, Administrative Associate JASON DREISBACH, Research Associate PAT WILLIAMS, Senior Project Assistant
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Preface This study was commissioned by the National Science Foundation (NSF) prior to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001. That attack led to the fire-induced collapse of three major commercial buildings and the loss of thousands of lives. The report was being finalized when the nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island, on February 20, 2003, claimed 99 more lives. Both of these events underscore this nation’s continuing vulnerability to major fires. It is this committee’s view that an incomplete understanding of the phenomenon of fire, the strategies and technologies to control it, and human behavior in chaotic, life-threatening situations contributes to unnecessary human and economic losses. Of course fire is not a new problem in the United States. In 1871 the City of Chicago burned to the ground, destroying the world market center for grain, livestock, and lumber. Over 17,000 buildings were destroyed and 90,000 people were left homeless. While unprecedented, the World Trade Center collapse is yet another exclamation mark in the history of fire devastation in the United States. It does, however, present a new dimension heretofore not fully considered in the design of buildings and civil infrastructure projects—the potential use of fire as a weapon. Discussion of national fire research needs by distinguished panelists and committee members is also not new. In 1947 President Harry Truman established the President’s Commission on Fire Prevention, which featured a committee on fire research. In 1959 the National Research Council’s Committee on Fire Research found a dearth of basic research directed toward a fundamental understanding of the phenomena of ignition, fire growth, and fire spread. In 1973 the National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control recommended that federal funding of fire research be increased by $26 million per year ($113 million in today’s dollars). Unfortunately, such support for fire research was not forthcoming. In fact, since 1973, federal funding of university fire research has declined approximately 85 percent in real terms. While the United States continues to have one of the worst fire loss records in the industrialized world, new engineering tools are emerging that offer great hope for higher levels of safety at less cost. Most particularly, new performance-based codes and fire safety design methods are now becoming available. These new approaches not only stand to offer more cost- effective investment of the fire safety dollar but also will permit more reliable prediction of building fire performance and identification of potential catastrophic failure scenarios. Additionally, they will enable the more widespread use of innovative building systems, devices, and methods. The committee that prepared this report was charged with assessing the state of fire safety research and describing the potential role of the NSF in improving fire safety in the United States. This report highlights markers along a pathway to the future, discusses the nation’s fire research needs and the resources that will be required, and suggests a role for NSF and other key agencies and institutions. The committee urges national leaders in government and industry to aggressively support fire research needs, filling voids in the body of knowledge, sharpening engineering tools, and creating a database that will allow performance-based approaches to maximize their contribution to public safety in the United States. David A. Lucht, Chair Committee to Identify Innovative Research Needs to Foster Improved Fire Safety in the United States
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Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the National Research Council’s (NRC's) Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: Benigno E. Aguirre, University of Delaware, Howard Baum, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Doug Dierdorf, Air Force Research Laboratory, Brian Meacham, Arup, Jake Pauls, Consultant, B. Don Russell, Texas A&M University, and Richard N. Wright, National Institute of Standards and Technology (retired). Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Frank H. Stillinger, Princeton University. Appointed by the National Research Council, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.
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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 7 Background, 7 Involvement of the National Research Council, 8 Statement of Task, 8 Organization of the Workshop, 9 Organization of the Report, 10 References, 10 2 WORKSHOP SYNOPSIS 12 The Role of the University, 12 A Word About the World Trade Center Disaster, 14 The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program As a Model, 14 Areas With Knowledge Gaps, 16 Fire and Explosions, 16 Materials and Retardants, 17 Fire Protection Systems, 17 Fire Protection Engineering Tools, 19 Structural Fire Protection, 19 Human Behavior in Fires, 20 Public Policy, 21 Data, 22 Other Topics of Discussion, 22 Interdisciplinary Research, Coordination, and Cooperation, 23 References, 25 3 FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 26 Findings, 26 Recommendations, 27 APPENDIXES A Biographies of Committee Members, 31 B Workshop Agenda, 36 C Workshop Attendees, 40 D Workshop Background Papers (papers and presentations on CD-ROM), 47
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Acronyms ASCE American Society of Civil Engineers BRFL Building and Fire Research Laboratory (NIST) FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency FPE fire protection engineering HPM high-performance materials JFSP Joint Fire Science Program NBS National Bureau of Standards (now NIST) NCFPC National Commission on Fire Prevention and Control NEHRP National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program NFIRS National Fire Incident Reporting System NIST National Institute of Standards and Technology NRC National Research Council NSF National Science Foundation PBSD performance-based seismic design RANN Research Applied to National Needs SFPE Society of Fire Protection Engineers USFA United States Fire Administration USGS United States Geological Survey