We hear the term “life safety” often in the architectural and engineering world, but what does it mean to everyday people?
Life safety is all about protecting yourself and others through common sense and engineering design. That may seem like a broad subject to discuss, but think of it in terms of survival. Ask yourself this: if you and your family were at the beach and it said “shark infested waters”, would you go in the water? The same approach should be considered for buildings. The common sense part tells you if there is only one way out of a large building, don’t go in it.
Life safety codes and standards are the result of years of tragedy and disaster. Some may call them lessons learned, but historically, changes to how we design, build, and function in a building are the results of major events that have taken many lives. Even today, these types of tragedies occur simply because people aren’t aware of the hazards that exist in their surroundings.
Life safety impacts every type of structure including homes, office buildings, and industrial facilities. There are many aspects to life safety which most people do not understand, and that is the main reason we have codes and standards to provide us with the best and safest design.
Code evaluations are used in the design process to build or refurbish a building. The evaluation determines what the hazards are, what the fire severity risk is, and how to provide a safe environment should a fire occur. Factors that come in to play include:
• Heat and how fast it rises in temperature
• Smoke and how it travels
• Hazards of how fast they react to fire
Below are examples demonstrating how evaluations are applied:
1. A business with 200 employees requires a lot of space. First, the code looks at the classification of occupancy. From there, the size and shape of the building is considered. If the building is a single floor, exits must be provided so people have the choice of at least two directions to travel. The travel distance to an exit is also regulated, and is impacted by the fire severity factor. The higher that factor is, the faster the fire and smoke are assumed to travel. A business with a low severity factor can have travel distance up to 300 feet. In some cases with a high fire severity risk, the required maximum travel distance of 100 feet may require that more exits be installed in the building.
2. An industrial facility may have hazards which restrict the number of occupants and the travel distance. For example, a facility processing flammable liquids may be restricted to a travel distance of 50 feet, and require fire detection and suppression systems to be installed.
Life safety assessments are performed to ensure that the original design features still provide the level of protection designed for that building. Many times, a commercial building will change ownership and with the change, new hazards will be introduced. How will these changes impact life safety? Have new walls gone up that block an exit or extend the travel distance past the allowable limit? Anyone that owns a business should make it a point to assess their property every year. Sometimes the simplest things can have a major impact on life safety.
To make you think more about life safety in your home, here are some questions to consider:
1. How hot can the ceiling temperature in a living room get when a fire occurs?
A. 100° F
B. 600° F
C. 1500° F
2. How much time do you have to escape a house fire?
A. 17 minutes
B. 3 to 4 minutes
C. 30 minutes
3. Where can you safely store a can of gasoline?
A. In your basement
B. In your garage
C. In your he or she shed
4. How do you put of a kitchen stove top pan fire?
A. Throw water on it
B. Put a lid on the pan
C. Carry the pan outside
If you have any questions about life safety or require a life safety code evaluation or assessment, please contact Encorus Group’s Fire Protection Engineer John Allan at (716) 592-3980, ext. 127, or email@example.com.
The answers to the above questions are: 1. C, 2. B, 3. C, 4. B
A pressure vessel is a specially designed container which holds liquids, vapors, or gases at substantially high pressures. These vessels are often used in the petroleum refining and chemical processing industries, but can also be used in the private sector. The term pressure vessel applies to anything subjected to a notable amount of pressure, and includes everything from massive industrial chemical storage tanks, to home hot water tanks, and individual diving cylinders such as scuba tanks, among other things. Some pressure vessels are exposed to external heat sources, either directly or indirectly, and are known as fired pressure vessels. Those not exposed to external heat are known as unfired pressure vessels. However, no matter the size, type, or use, safety regulation is a critical feature in the production and maintenance of a pressure vessel.
Pressure vessels are usually subjected to pressures of at least 15 psig, and often significantly higher, with many vessels exceeding 1000 psig.
Because of this, the vessels must be designed to withstand intense internal pressure without failure, as failure could result in fatal or otherwise costly accidents, including poison gas leaks, fires, suffocations, and even shrapnel-generating explosions. Additionally, failure can cause massive loss of product and affect profits and a company’s ability to operate. In order to better withstand high pressure, coded pressure vessels are often spherical or cylindrical in nature with rounded edges to avoid focusing pressure at any one point. Many vessels are made of steel, and depending on the conditions in the area the vessel will be operating, some are made of composite materials or polymers.
Most pressure vessels are designed to include safety features. Smaller vessels are often created with a “yield before break” design, which allows them to bend or flex before any crack forms or grows in size. Larger vessels are often created with a “leak before burst” which allows for a crack in the vessel to grow and allow the contained substance to escape slowly rather than in one violent, explosive failure. While ideally neither of these situations would occur, having a plan in place to mitigate damages in cases when they cannot be completely prevented is an invaluable safety tool.
Pressure vessels must be constructed and inspected in accordance with any applicable regulatory codes and standards. For the industrial sector, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, ASME, publishes and maintains an International Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code that establishes acceptable margins of safety for this equipment. The ASME Section VIII documents explain in detail the guidelines recommended for ensuring safety. Another important code for ensuring the safety of pressure vessels is API 510, which is a code for the inspection, rating, repair, and alteration of in-service pressure vessels.
Encorus Group offers both design and inspection of pressure vessels. Contact Dana Pezzimenti, PE, for matters pertaining to pressure design at 716.592.3980, ext. 128 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have inspection needs for a pressure vessel, contact Keith Taylor, Encorus’s Director of Mechanical Integrity, at 716.592.3980, ext. 143 or email@example.com.
A special thank you goes out to our summer intern, Mara Gilmartin, for contributing this article.
Encorus is proud to offer guaranteed reliability through our established American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Nuclear Quality Assurance Program (NQA-1).
Lindse Runge, one of Encorus’s Quality Assurance Technicians, gives some insight regarding what the NQA-1 Program is, what she does, and what type of clients would benefit from the program. NQA-1 is a nuclear quality assurance standard for nuclear facilities in the U.S. It relates to the design, construction and operation of such sites, and is a highly-regarded industry standard. ASME NQA-1 was created and is maintained by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). This standard provides requirements and guidelines for the establishment and execution of quality assurance programs during siting, design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear facilities. This standard reflects industry experience and current understanding of the quality assurance requirements necessary to achieve safe, reliable, and efficient utilization of nuclear energy, and management and processing of radioactive materials. The standard focuses on the achievement of results, emphasizes the role of the individual and line management in the achievement of quality, and fosters the application of these requirements in a manner consistent with the relative importance of the item or activity.
Lindse’s responsibilities include enforcing and implementing the requirements of Encorus’s QA program, developing / revising documents as required to comply with customer QA requirements and ASME NQA-1 requirements, reviewing customer purchase orders for QA requirements in order to develop plans to implement requirements throughout the project, reviewing Encorus purchase orders for QA requirements to ensure flow-down of customer requirements, participating in audits and surveys, and maintaining project files and documentation to ensure legibility, revision control, and traceability of records.
Encorus has a Quality Assurance Program that conforms to NQA-1 requirements to allow us to supply items and services to nuclear facilities. Clients that would benefit from an NQA-1 Program include the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, nuclear constructors, nuclear fabricators, and nuclear power plants.
If you think you would benefit from Encorus Group’s NQA-1 Program, please contact Quality Assurance Technician Lindse Runge at (716) 592-3980 ext 137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please join us in welcoming Sindy Tang to Encorus’s Design Group! Sindy recently graduated with her Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from University at Buffalo, and will be joining Encorus Group as an Electrical Engineer. Welcome, Sindy!
Encorus is in Leeds! Massachusetts, that is.
Employees traveled to the Northampton VA Medical Center in Leeds, MA to assess the condition of masonry, exterior walls, and roofs. The objective of this project is to design for the correction of deficiencies in order to prevent safety issues or service interruptions, and to stop any structural deficiencies from becoming more severe. Vince Roberts and Dan Sullivan are pictured here performing inspections.
Vince Roberts gives a thumbs up as he and Dan Sullivan perform inspections of the roof, masonry, and exterior walls at the Northampton VA Medical Center in Leeds, MA.
Encorus Group’s John Allan has had an article published in American City & County magazine. The article talks about the importance of automatic fire detection and suppression systems for the protection of municipal assets such as trucks, snowplows, emergency vehicles, and other equipment.
You can read the article by clicking here.