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US drops plans to cut fire escape capacity

News :

THE US HAS scrapped plans to cut minimum fire escape capacities for tall buildings following September's World Trade Center (WTC) disaster, a leading fire expert revealed on Sunday.

United States National Fire Protection Association chief building fire protection engineer Robert Solomon confirmed that the plans had been dropped because of increased pressure to evacuate burning skyscrapers.

Speaking at the Building for the 21st Century conference in London, he said: 'Analysis of how occupants behaved in real fires had made it possible for us to predict human response to typical fires more accurately.

'And the spread of automatic sprinklers has reduced the need for major evacuations considerably.'

However, Solomon said since 11 September, building occupants were thought likely to respond in a much less predictable manner to emergencies.

He cited the case of a post-WTC fire in a tall US building in which, despite the limited nature of the blaze, the building managers decided to order total evacuation.

'Proposals to reduce escape provision are now dead, ' Solomon concluded. But he pointed out that more than 25,000 people had escaped from the World Trade Center towers before they collapsed - a much better performance than after the 1993 bomb attack on the buildings.

Then, some occupants took several hours to reach safety. New evacuation procedures had been introduced in response, and Solomon said it was important to analyse how these had improved evacuation times even when the escape stair wells had taken significant damage.

'We will be interviewing those individuals who survived both incidents to find out what they experienced and how the two evacuations differed, ' he said.

INFOPLUS www. nfpa. org

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