FIREMEN TRAINED in structural engineering should be required to help design the UK's tall buildings of the future after last week's terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, a senior disaster management academic said this week.
Involvement of emergency services in building design would improve the search and rescue of high rise buildings after a similar disaster in the UK, said head of disaster management at Coventry University Les Moseley.
'There is no requirement for emergency planners and fire officers to be involved in the design of high rise buildings and this must change, ' he told NCE this week.
Three hundred and fifty New York firemen and 100 policemen are thought to have died inside and beneath the twin towers as they collapsed last Tuesday.
Collapse came about through progressive failure of the towers after buring aviation fuel weakened structural elements at the point where the hijacked airliners collided with the twin towers.
'Legislation only covers fire inspections after the building has been built, leaving disaster response issues up to the engineers and architects, ' said Moseley, who was a fire officer for 20 years.
'We need a system whereby fire officers can advise the building's engineers.
'To do that fire officers need extra training in structural engineering. They need more information about how high rise structures behave, such as how debris falls from the building, and when not to enter buildings, ' he added Training to create specialists in the structural aspects of buildings was backed this week by the fire service academy the Fire Service College. It confirmed it would consider adding structural engineering to fire officer training courses.
Moseley's comments are also expected to feed into a review of UK emergency planning being carried out by the Cabinet Office.
The review is also expected to consider whether structural engineers should be brought immediately to the scene of a building disaster. Engineers could calculate the risk of collapse and advise emergency services on whether they can enter a building.
This practice is used in Oklahoma and meant engineers were among the first at the scene of the bombing of the government building there in 1995.
The UK government review will also look at whether fire officers should spend longer gathering information immediately before entering a high rise building after a major fire breaks out. It should also consider whether firefighters should assemble further away from burning buildings to prevent personnel and equipment from being crushed, said Moseley.
Risk assessments by the emergency services of all major high rise buildings in the UK will be needed to assess all these issues in the light of a plane hitting a UK tall building, he said. They could result in requirements for wider cordons surrounding tall buildings and different methods of evacuation to get people out more quickly.