Magazine article Corrections Forum

Correctional Fire Safety: Starving a Fire

Magazine article Corrections Forum

Correctional Fire Safety: Starving a Fire

Article excerpt

Fire has to have fuel to burn, so one of the ways for correctional facilities to protect against fire damage and to help contain any fires that do break out is to restrict the amount of combustibles, i.e. fuel, stored in the prison. The safety code is very specific about what can and cannot be stored in cell blocks and standard storage, and it's vital that correctional facilities follow these regulations. Corrections Forum caught up with Wayne "Chip" Carson, consulting fire protection engineer, Carson Associates, Inc. to talk about combustibles and fire safety.

Storage

It's important to limit the amount of fuel that is available to burn. "Lockers under the bed are a common way to do it or a locker bolted on the wall," Carson explains. "Combustibles in the cells have to be stored in a metal box or some other approved container (clothes, books, etc.). This limits the amount of stuff inmates can keep in their cells. You give them a box or a locker in which their stuff has to be stored, and if something doesn't fit into the box, they can't keep it. The inmate will probably keep their valuables in the box or locker anyway, to keep them safe, so this naturally limits the amount of combustibles in the cell.

"If the inmate wants to set his cell on fire, he can still set his stuff on fire, but this way, you've limited the size of the fire possible, and you've limited the spread of the fire to other cells," Carson continues. "If a fire breaks out, it limits it to the fuel available in that cell.

The code says that facility storage should generally not be located in the housing units, and if it is it has to be separated by one hour fire rated construction. Fire rated construction means that the doors on these storage units must be fire rated and must be self-closing and self-latching, because fires build up pressures inside rooms and these systems prevent the doors from being pushed open.

Curtains and Cardboard

Correctional facilities can be drafty, so many inmates will use cardboard or sheets to reduce the drafts, This is a big program, according to Carson. "The Light Safety Code says that anything that functions as a curtain must be flame retardant (NFPA 701 is the standard for the test for flame resistance)," he says. …

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