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Structural Collapse Research at NIST.

pdf icon Structural Collapse Research at NIST. (3237 K)
Stroup, D. W.; Bryner, N. P.

Volume 1;

Interflam 2007. (Interflam '07). International Interflam Conference, 11th Proceedings. Volume 1. September 3-5, 2007, London, England, 593-604 pp, 2007.


fire resistance; structural collapse; structures; building collapse; thermal exposure; building construction; fire fighters; wooden structures; warehouses; residential buildings; shopping centers; steel structures; commercial buildings; vibration; large scale fire tests


Approximately 20% of the fire fighters killed at structure fires over the past ten years (not counting the World Trade Center towers) have been as a result of structural collapse. Predicting a potential structural collapse is one of the most challenging tasks facing an incident commander at a fire scene. Usually, the lack of information on the building construction, fire size, fire location, fire burn time, building condition, fuel load, and other factors makes the task nearly impossible. Over the last several years, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) with funding from the United States Fire Administration (USFA) has been examining potential tools and techniques for predicting structural collapse. During the course of this research project, the effects of thermal exposure and weight loading on various building construction types and materials have been studied. In addition, data on firefighter fatalities due to structural collapse were analyzed. The use of thermal imaging equipment, already in the hands of the fire services, to gather temperature data from roof surfaces and use of that data to provide warning of impending localized structural collapse was an initial focus of the work. The research results showed that there were many ways in which normal fire and fire fighting activities, such as hot fire plumes and water spray, could change surface temperatures significantly and reduce the usefulness of that measurement as a means of determining the safety of structures. Other techniques that have been studied during the course of this project include laser range finding, motion sensing, and acoustic monitoring. Acceleration data obtained from buildings have shown the best potential for providing information concerning building stability and collapse. These data have lead to the development of a prototype for monitoring the health of buildings. Additional research is underway to continue development of the building monitoring system and examine specific construction types and scenarios of concern to fire fighters.