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RE: Article from the Chicago Sun-Times

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While I agree with you on principle (the story is somewhat potentially
"slanted"), calling it bogus information is a little strong from my

I would hesitate to say that anything in the story is false, but rather it
could be considered misleading due to omissions.

The article does use the term "failure" (or "fail") somewhat carelessly
(which may be intentional or may not).  First, for the record, Corley does
seems to accurately quote the NFPA study as pointing out that sprinkers
" not operate approximately 16 percent of the time."  It is then on
other occasions due the article that "do not operate" is equated to
"failure".  This does raise the issue that "do not operate" is not give a
context.  Was this due to fire being in other areas where there are not
sprinklers, as you point out?  Was this due to inadequate maintance that
resulted in sprinkler that were not working properly when needed?  Was
this due to improper installation that resulting in sprinklers not working
when needed?  Was this due to other outside factors that caused lack of
water pressure needed to operate the sprinkler system (i.e. like maybe a
power blackout like the recent one or ruptured local water supply lines
dues to construction or other things)?  This is a "sin" of
omission of what "do not operate" is meant to mean.

In this regard, this would be much like is Corley had done an analysis of
a beam that is likely to recieve more load due to a renovation and saying
the beam "fails" (i.e. exceeds allowable stress or strength limits), but
some reporter gets a hold of the report and says that the beam will fail,
which a lay person would interpret as collapsing.

Having said all that, many of the claims in the story are true, even if
they are only part of the story.  For example, he says:

"While many view fire barriers as costly excess, firefighters and other
emergency responders see them as life savers. In essence, the more fire-
and smoke-resistant construction products that are designed into a
sprinklered structure, the less likely it is that it will collapse during
a fire."

I have no doubt that the above is true.  The more fire seperation walls,
firewalls, fire protection (spray-on, gyp coating, or concrete), etc the
more likely that a building will not collapse.  And he does point out that
a potential reason for such "lack" is "costly excess" concerns.  But, then
I would be curious to know if he thinks that buildings codes should have
all seismic structural systems be designed for an R of 1.0 (which in
theory would mean that the building would stay completely elastic for a
design level event and in theory suffer no damage).  The point is that he
fails to point out that code level requirements a basically meant (as I
understand them) to provide time to evacuate buildings...or life safety.

He points out WTC 5 and 7.  He states that the buildings both collapsed
due to fire burnout.  He kind of implies that this was because the
sprinklers were overwhelmed.  He also states that "built-in fire
protection delayed their collapse, allowing occupants and emergency
responders to evacuate both building."  The implication was the things
like fire-proofing and fire seperation walls were the built-in fire
protection that he is talking about.  But, then are not the sprinklers
part of the "built-in fire protection" system.  Thus, did they not play a
role helping people escape.  With a few twists, I am sure with the same
set of facts I could twist the conclusion that the presence of
fire-proofing and fire seperation walls were "overwhelmed" by the fire and
did not prevent the collapse and it was the fire sprinklers that allowed
people to escape.

In otherwords, it is "spin".  We should be used to it.  Virtually _ALL_
politicians do it, as do many others.  You have Kerry trying to spin the
fact that he voted to allow the invasion of Iraq, but he was really
against it.  You have Bush trying to spin that we really invaded Iraq to
get rid of Saddam and bring democracy, yet the only real rationale you
heard prior to the war was the imminent threat from WMDs.  The art of
spinning the truth is a national past-time for many.

Now, the interesting thing that I find about the article is the dilema
that it seems to potentially place NFPA in.  On the one hand, it seems to
twist some of NFPA's information.  On the otherhand, it makes many of the
same arguements that I have heard proponents of the NFPA 5000 make with
regards to the IBC code (i.e. that it has watered down fire protection
provisions from what has traditionally been in the NFPA fire codes that
most model building codes used in the past).  What is poor NFPA to do?


Ypsilanti, MI

On Wed, 10 Sep 2003, Carter, Charlie wrote:

> Oh my.
> In my opinion, the article forwarded below to this list server is bogus
> information that is being promulgated by those with a commercial interest in
> selling more concrete and fire protection. Unfortunately, the statistics
> quoted from NFPA are misused. Even NFPA -- the organization's statistics
> quoted in it -- disagrees with the conclusion that is stated. See below for
> how.
> The author, Dr. W. Gene Corley, is a paid consultant to two industries that
> stand to gain from the opinions offered. First, his company, Construction
> Technology Laboratories (CTL) is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Portland
> Cement Association (PCA). He is also a paid consultant to the Alliance for
> Fire and Smoke Containment and Control (AFSCC), which is a group composed of
> sellers of concrete and fire protection materials. It is particularly
> unfortunate that nowhere in writing his hired opinions does Dr. Corley
> acknowledge these conflicts of interest.
> AFSCC and it's Alliance for Fire Safety (AFS) are dirty and shameful. One
> need only read the May 16, 2003 issue of the AFSCC newsletter to see right
> through them. Unbelievably, AFSCC President John Valiulis comments on a
> recently commissioned study state: "Either the results will show what we
> expect, .... or it will indicate to us that [we are incorrect], in which
> case we will have to think of a new approach." Apparently they know the
> answer they want and are just hunting for the means to push it. Shame!
> Dr. Corley has repeatedly claimed that sprinklers fail 16 percent of the
> time. The use of the word "fail" is not correct. The NFPA statistics quoted
> state that sprinklers fail to operate 16 percent of the time. The
> distinction here is important. "Failed to operate" includes an extensive
> array of cases that are not failures in the strict definition of the word as
> implied by Dr. Corley. One example is the common case of a partially
> sprinklered buildings where the fire included in NFPA statistics occurred in
> an unsprinklered area. NFPA includes those cases as cases of failure to
> operate -- meaning the system was not activated. NFPA is actively countering
> the claims made regarding its data by AFSCC.
> You will hear arguments that a "more balanced approach" needs to be taken
> than that in the International Building Code. By "more balanced" they
> apparently mean you should specify more of the stuff they sell. In fact, the
> IBC (and NFPA 5000 for that matter) *DO* take a balanced approach: they
> properly and safely vary the amount of passive fire protective materials
> required when active fire suppression systems like automatic sprinklers are
> provided. No system in a building has a more beneficial effect on life
> safety than a sprinkler system. The proper use of NFPA statistics proves
> this, as is indicated in much greater detail here:
> <
> anagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=21208>
> &template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=21208
> If that link breaks in the transmission, go to
> <>  and click into the December 2002 issue for the
> article: "Structural Fire Protection: Common Questions Answered", which was
> written by Farid Alfawakhiri of AISC, Chris Hewitt of AISC, and Robert
> Solomon of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
> I recognize that I have a vested interest in the opinions I have just given.
> However, I believe my opinions would be the same if I did not work in the
> steel industry. I also believe they are shared by others who do not have an
> interest either way.
> Charlie
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Rbengrguy(--nospam--at) [mailto:Rbengrguy(--nospam--at)]
> Sent: Wednesday, September 10, 2003 7:43 AM
> To: seaint(--nospam--at)
> Subject: Article from the Chicago Sun-Times
> The following article from the Chicago Sun-Times has been forwarded to you
> by Rbengrguy(--nospam--at) If you wish to stop receiving these articles, please
> contact the sender.
>   _____
> Comments from the sender: for your files
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> ----
> ----
> To read the full story, click here:
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