Let's Play 20 Questions!
Last month, Captain Mike Gagliano of Seattle Fire led a webinar through Fire Engineering that covered many topics related to smoke, air management and high-rise firefighting, including the use of FARS. After the webinar, Mike got numerous questions on FARS. We thought we would share his top 20 Qs&As.
1. What states have FARS?
We know of FARS installations in the following states: California,
Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Florida and Maryland.
FARS are installed in Fire Department Training Towers in Phoenix, AZ;
Tempe, AZ; the Glendale (AZ) Regional Public Safety Training Center;
San Francisco, CA; Sunnyvale, CA; and the University of Maryland - Maryland Fire Rescue Institute (MFRI) Headquarters in College Park, MD.
2. What about the fire floor affecting these lines? Are there shut offs on each level?
There are independent shut-offs to isolate the floors should areas above get damaged. Even if a leak is caused by something that happens during the emergency, the system will still be able to operate due the size of the piping. Unlike a standpipe system, pressure would still be maintained, though in a lesser amount.
3. If FARS were installed in a building, would this give a firefighter the ability or discretion to commit to the fire longer before going to rehab if he or she felt OK?
That would be a matter of local policy and should be referred to in your operating guidelines. FARS would allow you to refill your air much more rapidly, without additional wasted energy, and to do so from the outset of the fire. The need for rehab is still a necessary component of fireground operations. FARS allows a conversation on options available in a large structure fire that otherwise is not possible.
4. Is there any way that you can quantify your increased efficiency associated with a FARS system versus traditional air transfer protocol?
The simplest answer is you’ll have air immediately, won’t need to waste precious resources to haul it up to fire/staging and can quickly get crews rotated. This is especially important in the early stages of the fire, and that is when we have the least amount of personnel on scene. The efficiency of FARS versus any other method of getting air to crews cannot be overstated.
5. Is FARS a better option than twin cylinder SCBA?
Yes, for a couple of reasons. The twin cylinder SCBA is a technology that has not progressed beyond concept stage. FARS is in place, working and has a proven record of success. In addition, any SCBA model is still limited by capacity and needs refill. FARS takes care of that.
6. Is there a power backup for the cascade system?
Fortunately, there is no power requirement to get air to firefighters at large structures fires when a FARS system is installed. The system utilizes air driven boosters to refill SCBA bottles.
7. What kinds of pressures do the system operate on? You have 2216 psi, 4500 psi and 5500 psi cylinders out there.
FARS incorporates pressure regulators enabling operations at all SCBA pressures up to 5500 psi.
8. What do you say to fire service leaders who say, “We’ll bring our own air?"
You should bring your own air, just like you bring your own water. Bringing your own water doesn’t keep you from using standpipes or fire pumps in buildings that have expanded challenges due to their height or size. Why waste significant time, effort and resources hauling air up the stairs when the same quality of air can be provided immediately near the floors where you are attacking the fire? Bringing your own air up is the fallback plan when all else fails. FARS is just the next common sense technology, much like standpipes and fire pumps.
9. How reliable is the air quality?
The air in FARS is as reliable as the air in your current SCBA tank. They are tested, monitored and delivered in the same way. Please reference the following for a more detailed answer: http://rescueair.com//newsletter_archive/FAQS%20on%20FARS%20Air%20Quality.html
10. How long does it take to transfill a bottle?
Filling a bottle using the rupture containment method will take approximately 2 minutes. Using the emergency air fill panel (transfill method) can take 45 seconds to 1 minute depending on the control setting. As with all cascade systems, the longer fill time allows for less of a “hot fill” to occur and allows for a fuller bottle. But when speed is required, your bottle can get filled rapidly via the transfill method.
11. Can an air rig do the job just as well as FARS?
They are different systems meant for different applications. The mobile air unit (MAU) has little impact on getting air quickly to upper floors unless it can be connected to a FARS system. If FARS is not in place, firefighters are left with manually delivering bottles to staging areas. MAUs are ground delivery systems. They are not a legitimate substitute for FARS when air is needed at upper floors or at great distances inside large structures.
12. How much air does a system have prior to arrival of the mobile air unit?
That depends on how the Fire Department designs criteria requirements which specify the fill time and total amount of SCBA to be refilled. A typical on-site air storage system will deliver on demand 100-200 SCBA 45 cubic foot 4500 psig of air for firefighting operations before any supplemental air is delivered from mobile air units.
13. How hard is it to get Appendix L adopted?
It is as simple as the Fire Department including FARS Appendix L with the department’s adoption of the 2015 International Fire Code. In those jurisdictions not adopting the IFC, a local amendment to the fire code can accomplish the goal.
14. What is involved in doing that?
The local Fire Department’s Operations, Training & Safety members must determine that FARS is a valuable safety tool. Fire Prevention decides to include FARS Appendix L with the department’s adoption of the 2015 International Fire Code. In those jurisdictions not adopting the IFC, a local amendment to the fire code can accomplish the goal.
15. Who actually makes the decision to get FARS into a city or state?
Ultimately, the Fire Chief, although Prevention, Operations, Training & Safety play a critical role.
16. You mentioned other gases in fire smoke. What are some of the others besides carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide?
Too many to fully list, but here are a few: hydrogen chloride, hydrogen sulfide, phosgene, formaldehyde, acid gases, phenol, benzene and the list goes on. Check in with the folks at firesmoke.org for more resources.
17. Has anyone every used the FARS system at a fire and had it work?
FARS has been used extensively and successfully at the Phoenix FD burn tower and at the Glendale Regional Public Safety Training Center, as well as in live high-rise drills for years. Thus far, there have been no recorded events where FARS has been used at a live fire event.
18. If we got the code approved for our city, would it be retroactive to all these buildings that are already standing?
The 2015 IFC FARS Appendix L does not specify new or existing construction or the type of structure. Those decisions are left to the local Fire Department. There is nothing precluding the local Fire Department from requiring FARS in new and existing buildings.
19. Do you recommend that firefighters haul equipment up multiple floors without SCBA protection?
This strategy can be employed if good air monitoring is being conducted in the stairwell. The idea is to have members of the “stairwell group” designated to just haul equipment/air to the staging floors. If the stairwell is clear, the lack of SCBA/gear greatly reduces the workload and allows members to bring more and do so for longer periods of time. As with all variations from normal procedures, caution would need to be used and strict boundaries in place. It is an accommodation made to the difficult nature of fighting these fires.
20. In a typical FARS system, how many “transfill” stations are in place?
The 2015 IFC FARS Appendix L specifies air fill stations or panels be located every three floors. However, the local Fire Department can base their decision on operational needs specific to the department and place air fill stations or panels at intervals less than this. Typical installations have them every 2-3 floors.
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