EXAMPLE OF A FRAME -calculation: The Gothenburg Dance Hall Fire Sixty-three persons died and more than 180 were injured in a incendiary fire that occurred in a discotheque in Gothenburg, Sweden on the evening of October 28,1998.   This fire case has been documented in an NFPA case study report, that can be found on www.nfpa.org and was thoroughly studied by the Swedish authorities. Several tests were made to find out what happened and a computer simulation of the fire was made, using the SOFIE CFD-model. The results of these findings were reported in BRANDPOSTEN, the magazine of the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute, which can be downloaded from www.sp.se.   FRAME and arson. Should / Could FRAME have been used in such a case? Maybe yes, probably no. One reason is that FRAME does not count for arson. In case of a incendiary fire, the real property damage would be much larger than the normally loss expectancy predicted by the method. The main reason however for not using FRAME in this case is that for such « simple » situations, most fire safety engineers would just look for code compliance, and it is reported that the place complied with the applicable code for its normal use.   But such catastrophes do not occur in normal situations. It is always proven (afterwards) that disasters occur by a coincidence of unusual circumstances. In this case, the room was emptied of its furniture to make more space for people, far beyond the capacity of its emergency exits. The chairs were stored in the emergency staircase which further reduced the escape possibilities, and on top of it was this « illegal » storage that was set to fire by the arsonists. This a an interesting case where human behaviour should be taken into consideration to improve fire safety and illustrates well the issue addressed in the Fall 2002 issue of the SFPE magazine « Fire Protection engineering ». Those who are familiar with the consumer product safety analysis, will know that one particular point of attention is « foreseeable misuse ». If you wonder why you cannot repair anymore a modern electrical appliance without breaking it open, it is not to increase sales. In order to avoid that a consumer would be electrocuted when repairing his soup mixer and blame the manufacturer afterwards, the thing has been made in such a way that only an authorised technician can open it eventually. On the TV-set , you will find a warning on the case and you will need at least some special screwdriver to get in it, as the manufacturer has taken care to reduce as much as possible the foreseeable misuse by unauthorised persons. A similar approach is less common in fire safety: preventionists are inclined to believe that people will stick to the good intentions of the rules, even if they do not understand the reasoning behind them. It is easy to blame the people that organised the social event for such lack of safety awareness, but is this the only occasion that such things happen?  Some timeag, my wife attended a very interesting conference, where a well known bishop changed views with a well known humanist on the issue of faith and human motivation.  The venue was a real success, the conference room with 600 seats was too small, people were sitting down on the stairs, in the corridors, on the stage, in front of the emergency exits. Just imagine that a fire would start in the sound installation during that conference...   Let us be honest and modest : if there is a possibility to increase the capacity of a space, people will do it now and then for own very good reasons. When checking the fire safety of a place of assembly, we should be aware of that, and consider such abnormal circumstances, just to find out how large is the safety margin. It is not an adequate prevention measure to have the maximum allowable occupancy load indicated in large characters on the entrance! For such an exercise, the FRAME method can be a handsome tool. From the publicised reports on the Gothenburg fire, it is not clear if the windows were single glass or double glass, but it is more likely that in Sweden double glass was used. This means that the room had no smoke venting capacity, and we are supposed to know that smoke kills... In other countries, building codes will require fire resistance for the ceiling and/or roof , which is a requirement that keeps heat and smoke inside, which will probably worsen the situation.   The compartment had two doors of 0.8 m wide, for which the FRAME program allows a maximum input for people of 240 persons. This gives already unacceptable (negative!) values for the acceptable risk level, but the maximum occupancy load could be as much as 450 persons if the room was considered as a place of assembly with concentrated use. Even with the admitted occupancy it is sad to find out that the FRAME calculation gives as result that peoples' safety was not guaranteed (R1= 2.46). Apparently, two rather cheap measures could have reduced the risk potential of this location: a local fire alarm system to warn the occupants would be expected to be available, but might have been of little use in the circumstances of the drama, but it would be also possible to provide a dome type, fusible link operated smoke vent on top of each staircase, which in this case could have prevented that the fire vented inside the assembly room with the same force.   Some years ago, I had to study the fire safety of a new « multifunctional » community hall, and had the opportunity to verify the unusual occupancy situation. This hall had adequate exits for the standard occupancy load, but the builder indicated that once or twice a year it could be used for a meeting with much more people. In that case, the standard exits were inadequate. But the hall had some large sliding doors which opened to a garden. According to the local code, a sliding door is not to be considered as an emergency exit. However, I made the recommendation to provide a link between the opening mechanism of the sliding doors and the fire/smoke alarm system, so that in case of an emergency, there is in reality extra egress capacity. I also recommended to provide a large smoke vent for the main assembly room, linked to the smoke detection system.    The builder was wise enough to look beyond legal requirements and accepted these recommendations, which did not increase significantly the building cost.  Erik De Smet. PRINT  THIS PAGE  (pdf)