149
13
Fire Protection Systems
William D. Hicks and Greg Gorbett
Monday, December 1, 1958, was like any other day at Our Lady of Angels School
in Chicago, Illinois. The building, built prior to the 1949 Chicago Building Code,
lacked sprinklers, re doors, and other features of re protection granted by
buildings designed after the code. A local alarm, consisting of an on-site bell,
and some pressurized re extinguishers were all that was present to protect
the occupants. Around 2:30 p.m., the janitor noticed smoke, and before the re
department could be notied, the re quickly cut off the egress of the occupants
by traveling up an unprotected stairway, trapping them on the second oor. An
all out effort by the Chicago Fire Department, one of the best equipped and
prepared of the time, could not catch up with the spread of the raging re. By
the dawn of December 2, Chicago’s worst fears were realized as eighty-seven
children and three nuns had perished, and ninety other children and three more
nuns were injured (Cowan, 1996).
In the built environment, several systems and approaches to re prevention
and protection are employed. There are two basic categories of systems that are
employed: passive systems and active systems. Many of these systems are invisible
to the untrained eye and remain unrecognized for their contribution. Others make
their presence very evident once they have functioned, and either alerts occu-
pants to an emergency or functions to suppress a re. Also of great importance is
re prevention, which incorporates a combination of education of the occupants,
as well as conscientious choices about how we interact with fuel, heat, and oxygen.
It is important that any person responsible for the re and life safety of a school
obtain a copy of the Fire Protection Handbook from the National Fire Protection
Association (NFPA). This is a primary resource for re and life safety in the built
environment and has chapters on almost every topic related to re prevention and
suppression.
CONTENTS
Protecting the Built Environment ..........................................................................150
Fire Detection ......................................................................................................... 151
Fire Extinguishers .................................................................................................. 152
Water-Based Suppression Systems ........................................................................ 155
Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 158
Case Study ............................................................................................................. 158
Exercises ................................................................................................................ 158
References ..............................................................................................................159

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