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Manual of Evaluation Procedures for Passive Fire Prevention Following Earthquakes.

pdf icon Manual of Evaluation Procedures for Passive Fire Prevention Following Earthquakes. (2445 K)
Williamson, R. B.

NIST GCR 99-768; 25 p. June 1999.


National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD

Available from:

National Technical Information Service (NTIS), Technology Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Springfield, VA 22161.
Telephone: 1-800-553-6847 or 703-605-6000;
Fax: 703-605-6900.
Order number: PB99-150492


earthquakes; manuals; fire prevention; evaluation; fire protection; inspection; safety


When an earthquake occurs, a well defined approach now exists for the rapid inspection of structural damage. Some of the best sources of information are contained in the Applied Technology Council's series of publications: 1. ATC-20 - Procedures for Postearthquake Safety Evaluation of Buildings -- This provides guidelines for the assessment of structural safety of building types commonly found in the United States. 2. ATC-20-1 - Field Manual: Postearthquake Safefy Evaluation of Buildings -- This field manual was developed within the ATC-20 framework. It is intended to be taken into damaged areas and used by "structural engineers and building inspectors" who are "required to make on-the-spot evaluations and decisions regarding continued use and occupancy of damaged buildings." 3. ATC-20-2 -- Addendum to the ATC-20 Postearthquake Building Safety Evaluation Procedures -- The first topic listed as a concern is the "training and qualifications of the volunteers". This is consistent with the idea that some of the thinking behind ATC-20 had changed. The original concept that non-specialists would undertake the initial inspections was now thought to maybe not be the best approach. Another feature of ATC-20-2 is the introduction of a new set of inspection forms with changes to the red and yellow categories. The last of these documents was published after the January 17, 1994 Northridge, California earthquake, but all the lessons learned from that earthquake were not incorporated into ATC-20-2. In this report extensive use is made of the ideas and approach of all the ATC-20 series of publications, but when there are differences among these documents, the ATC-20-2 report is being used. This report originated with a research project that has focused on the postearthquake safety evaluation of the passive fire prevention features of buildings. Coordination with the structural inspection process is an important component of how the results of this research will be put into practice. In large buildings such as hospitals, jails, nursing homes, and apartment buildings, (with, or without automatic sprinklers) the accepted means of controlling fire damage is by the application of water by the fire department. In general, sufficient fire resistance is built into these structures to give one or two hours of fire containment to allow the fire fighters enough time to stop the fire. In many instances in the initial postearthquake time period, however, there is little or no water obtainable, and few fire fighters are available to extinguish the fires in such large structures. Passive fire protection needs to be evaluated for its ability to contain a fire with limited fire fighting capability. Consideration should also be given to the concept that certain occupancies may not be safe in some structures while these same structures could be safely used for other occupancies. For instance, a hospital may be a safe housing shelter for able-bodied people, whereas it might not be safe for its intended occupants. As time passes and the fire fighting capabilities of the local fire service are reinforced and strengthened, these buildings may then once again become safe for their original occupants. Another important area of study is the exterior passive fire protection. The envelope of a structure can be more vulnerable to a fire if the building has been "pounded" by impact with adjacent structures. In hilly areas, the pounding of buildings often means that the floor level of one structure can impact the mid-height of another and thus cause more damage than would be the case if the structures were on level ground. In urban areas, the lack of exterior fire resistance of adjacent structures may require that the occupancy of some buildings be restricted until the damaged buildings are torn down since if they were to burn, the fire could spread to the adjoining buildings. It may not be possible to check the effects of "pounding" between structures to determine if the passive fire protection features of the exterior walls has been compromised during the earthquake.