I once nearly fell asleep when taking an ACT Exam. It was an Saturday morning and the Reading portion of the exam was by far my weakest.
Trying to digest short stories on the "sleeping tendencies of bats in river caves" in the early morning after a (17-year old's) Friday night could put just almost anyone to sleep. Needless to say, I bottomed out on that test and I'm still not sure my mother has forgiven me for it.
Now? I love reading. I try to consume anything I can, especially on fire protection. That and I write in the wee early morning.
The irony of my 180-degree turnaround is not lost on me. I've written before about how knowledge is not just gleaned from education, and also about how we have to be adamant consumers of technical content if we want to lean and grow as fast as we can.
Despite my beginnings as an awful reader, I am now always looking for sources that can help deepen my understanding for fire protection. Here's three you may not know about that I'm excited to be following in 2018:
1. The Code Coach
If you haven't come across Aaron Johnson's writing and website, check out TheCodeCoach.com. Aaron is an author and freelance consultant who has written over four-hundred articles, white papers, and various pieces centering around fire service, fire protection practices, and life safety considerations.
Aaron has written several works, including his latest Fire Prevention Blueprint: Seven Disciplines for Building Effective Fire Prevention Organizations, a free guide The Consultative Approach to Fire Prevention Problems, Risk Assessment Guide for Aviation Facilities, and Sun Tzu and the Art of Fireground Leadership.
Aaron is a published author and speaker who posts regularly at TheCodeCoach.com
Aaron also is a regular speaker at industry conferences, is a member of the International Code Council, National Fire Protection Association, ARFF Working Group, and the Florida Fire Chiefs Association. See more about his work at Aaron's contributions to the industry at TheCodeCoach.com.
2. NFSA's TechNotes
There are so many gray areas to code, and even more people in fire protection that can read the same verbiage and interpret it different ways.
The National Fire Sprinkler Association offers an "Expert of the Day" service to members, where industry veterans provide informal interpretations on fire sprinkler codes and standards. This is a tremendous value for designers and AHJs both as an impartial party of experts that can help weigh in on issues.
While this service is worth the value of the membership alone, these Expert of the Day questions and answers are summarized monthly and distributed to members as TechNote email updates. I can't begin to state how much I've learned about fire sprinkler systems through these informal explanations.
3. NFPA 25 Inspector's Forum
Want to see what's happening in the field? If you're interested in a rowdy, photo-rich view of field installations and inspections, then this public Facebook group is for you.
The NFPA 25 Inspector's Forum has it all; the "here's today's repair" to "what were they thinking?," often with the vulgarity to go with it. I very much enjoy seeing the variety of opinions and issues that this group surfaces.
Daily posts from a group of over 2,000 field experts serves a range of questions, head-scratchers and funny posts.
These are the information outlets I'm currently excited about. What do you follow that you find helpful? Comment here.
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Occasionally I've been asked to look into storage quantities of flammable or combustible liquids.
This typically comes up in research and development facilities and laboratories, where the quantity of different liquid classifications becomes important.
Liquid fires present a different challenge than pyrolysis of solids as the shape of the fire can change quickly and the speed of ignition can be significantly faster than fire growth of solids.
Cabinets and sprinkler protection can contribute to increasing allowable storage quantities, but in order to do so, an evaluation must first be made to the different classifications for the liquids.
Many code and standard requirements depend on the classification of a Flammable or Combustible Liquid, such as storage locations, limits in quantity, limits in storage height, grouping, arrangement, whether control areas are necessary, and auxiliary requirements such as secondary containment and sprinkler densities.
Where projects are subject to the International Fire Code, Chapter 34 (2003-2009 Editions) or Chapter 57 (2012-2018 Editions) begin to address these limitations and impacts. Where NFPA 30 (Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code) is applied, the entire standard sets precedents for these limitations and impact.
This basic tool below is what I use to begin to assess and compile the classes and quantities for flammable and combustible liquids. Entering in only the Flash Point, Boiling Point, and quantity will identify and sum the totals that I can then use to assess against code and standard requirements.
(If you don't see this tool above, click here to view)
As I mentioned last week, I'm working towards a downloadable, printable software package where you can use all these tools on your own computer. It should help simplify and dramatically speed up using these tools. I hope to have this available by late May.
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A few weeks ago I received a call from a sprinkler contractor who needed to provide a water supply graph for a flow test he conducted.
I had a canned sheet I had developed for my own flow tests, but it was a basic graph that showed a curve and didn't match the traditional N^1.85 hydraulic graphs common for water supply curves. Since then I've tinkered and come up with an accurate chart that takes flow test input values, calculates total flow and draws the curve along the N^1.85 chart.
The N^1.85 chart is particularly useful for fire suppression systems because the Hazen-Williams formula is based on the relationship that pressure relates to flow to the 1.85th power.
Take a look at the N1.85 Water Supply Curve tool here and let me know what you think in the comment section below.
When the x-axis, or the hydraulic flow is then scaled to the 1.85th power, hydraulic curves become straight lines which becomes easier to graph and compare. Prior to everyone carrying a computer in their pocket, these graphs were likely much easier to use for summaries and comparisons.
The water supply information is what is provided as part of a two-hydrant flow test. The design input information would be the system demand side and can be used for quick comparisons.
Personally, I only use this setup for flow test reports and water supply comparisons. Fire sprinkler hydraulic calculation software takes care of the graphs and outputs I need after I've completed the hydraulic calculations.
On a side note, I've had several people ask about getting access to all of the tools I've created to use on their own computer with the ability to produce printable output for record keeping. Thanks again to those who asked - that concept is in the works and I'm hoping to bring about some version of all-inclusive software in the next couple months.
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Please don't take me to be an elitist.
I know what you’re thinking – yeah, right – this chump is from St. Louis and he’s not full of himself!?
It’s true I was raised in and have since circled back to St. Louis, Missouri. If you've heard of St. Louis it's probably because we're the most dangerous city in Missouri, or the Midwest, or the world or something. It's really not that bad if you don't have kids or go outside after sunset.
The other knock on St. Louis is that we're secretly wishing we were Chicago and, in terms of self-inflated ego, consider ourselves the last city on the East Coast.
Yeah that's also true.
While I am proud of our baseball team and beer production, please don't take me to be an elitist.
For instance, if you and I are talking fire protection and you use any of the following common wrong terms, I won't correct you. I don't even see a need to correct any of these terms, but I do find it interesting that several slightly incorrect phrases have been so pervasive in the fire protection industry.
Here’s my top list of misnomers in fire protection:
6. "Semi-Recessed" Sprinklers
I mentioned that I don't try and correct terms. The "semi-recessed" sprinkler is the reason I don't.
I had some very knowledgeable and technical counterparts in a prior role that were driven a little crazy with the term "semi-recessed".
A sprinkler can be concealed (only coverplate showing), can be fully-exposed pendent, or it can be recessed (deflector located closer to the ceiling as to show less).
If you consider a concealed sprinkler to be "fully-recessed," then I understand the logic that gets us to the "semi-recessed" designation.
However, some read "semi-recessed" a redundant term along the lines of "we want this partially exposed, but only partially." Putting the semi- is asking for partial of the partial.
5. Goose Necks
“Fire sprinkler return bend” is not as much fun as saying "goose neck," yet the two terms are synonymous for fire sprinkler systems. Of any of the odd or misappropriated terms in fire protection this one is the least offensive and is technically not even a misnomer.
That being said, three sticks of pipe and a couple elbows off a pipe outlet just doesn't scream goose to me...
The Goose Neck, also known as a fire sprinkler return bend.
4. Everything Is Awesome... and apparently is a Fire Wall
I enjoy working with architects. I do, and I'm not just saying that because my mortgage depends upon their continued blessing.
One requirement I'm convinced is part of the architect licensing is to call any rated separation a “Fire Wall.”
Fire Barrier, Fire Partitions, Smoke Barrier? Nope.
If it's not a rated wall that extends through the entire building and allows structural collapse on either side, it's probably not a Fire Wall and is more than likely a Fire Barrier. If it’s a separation wall in I-1 or some residential occupancies, tenant space separation, corridor walls, elevator lobbies, or egress balconies it may even only be a Fire Partition.
3. Spelling the "E" word
I never won a spelling bee as a child, but I'm confident enough I don't often run spellcheck.
My run as an ever-confident fire protection engineer ended when a peer review from another firm pointed out my incorrect spelling of "escutcheon". I'd like to pretend it was a one-off instance, but the misspelling was in a standard detail I had created and had been using for a couple years. Swing and a miss.
Es-cutch-eon: a flat piece of metal for protection or covering around a hole or void. And a tough one to spell.
2. Fully-Sprinkled Building
Your preschooler's dream: a fully-sprinkled building.
This one can be a little hard to spot, but did you notice there’s an “er” missing in this term?
When it happens I just imagine raining sprinkles through a building. Sounds tasty, but have you ever tried sprinkles plain? Not good.
1. Sprinkler Head
Lastly, this is the big one.
In the origins of fire sprinkler systems, a "sprinkler head" was a designation to the device that forced water distribution at the tip of the system.
Over 100 years later the fire sprinkler is still around, but the sprinkler has since adapted to the name "sprinkler" in lieu of "sprinkler head".
A sprinkler head.
Need evidence? It takes NFPA 13, the leading authority on fire sprinkler systems, 22 chapters before even mentioning the term "sprinkler head", and even then uses the term in talking about cabinet installation for nitrate film protection. Hardly a reining endorsement or common usage of the term.
In fact, Chapter 22 is the only chapter that even uses the term "sprinkler head". All other references are to the "sprinkler" or "fire sprinkler" throughout the entire standard.
What's the beef with using the term "sprinkler head"? Well, sprinklers don't have heads. They have frames and deflectors, but no heads. Besides, a whole lot of peeping “heads” throughout a building would just be creepy.
Hollywood already does our industry enough disservice, we don't need people thinking there's heads in the sprinklers, right?
Have you come across any of these? What are your pet peeves? Comment here.
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Joseph Meyer, PE, owns/operates his own Fire Protection Engineering practice in St. Louis, Missouri. See bio on About page.