Last Weeks at CAHA

Dan Mizrach NO Comments

During the last few weeks of my internship, I’ve been working on a couple of projects.  Last week, I finished up my performance based analysis of the Cape Hatteras Double Keepers’ Quarters.  Some of the issues I addressed were the design of the sprinkler system, a headroom obstruction over both stairwells, and door swing direction.  After doing both the prescriptive and performance based analyses of the same building, it is interesting to see how the code addresses certain issues in comparison to how I see them.  I don’t have a lot of experience in performance based review and design, but I was able to use what I’ve learned in other areas to influence my recommendations for the DKQ.

For the most part, the areas I identified as issues mirrored the issues as defined by NFPA.  A few were different, in that I discussed another aspect of a certain element than what NFPA 101 considered to be the main life safety hazard.  For example, NFPA prescribes a certain headroom height over stairs so that occupants don’t have to uncomfortably descend a staircase, slowing evacuation time.  The obstructions in this case are a 90° corner over each stair, and I am worried about an occupant sharply striking his head in a hurried attempt to exit the building from the second floor.

The most interesting and intellectually challenging aspect of this report was trying to find a balance between life safety/property protection and preserving the historical integrity of the building while correcting the hazards.  I identified 9 areas or features of the building that were the backbone of its historical significance, such as the exterior and interior siding, floors, porch, and staircases.  As much as possible, my goal was to avoid altering these 9 features.  However, for a few of the issues that I identified as “Major Hazards” or “Moderate Hazards,” I did recommend some slight alterations to these features.  Whenever this occurred, I tried to tailor my recommendation to preserve at least some of these features’ character to give visitors and staff a feeling of what the original was like.

This week, I went back down to Hatteras to do a demonstration on hydrant flow testing.  The park purchased a Hose Monster Flow Test Kit that we used to prevent water damage to the surrounding area.  During the test, a few employees noted that in the many years they have been employed by CAHA, they have never seen a hydrant being flow tested.  Though this is somewhat alarming, the newfound interest in hydrant testing echoes the park-wide effort to make major improvements to fire and life safety systems.  The segment of piping that we did flow test had a very low flow rate, roughly 270 gpm, but did not spit out any large debris and the water cleared of any rust and dirt in only a few seconds.

As I finish out my last few days in the Outer Banks, I’m uploading all the fire protection systems information that I got from my inventory into a spreadsheet for upload into FMSS.  The most notable trend that I noticed through all of my “inventorying” was the overly complicated sprinkler systems protecting park buildings.  Both the Outer Banks Group HQ (where I work) and the Fort Raleigh Visitor Center have pre-action sprinkler systems installed.  Neither has any exposure to the elements and both are fully heated.  As a result, the Visitor Center has been having some issues with the alarm system falsely activating and the sprinkler system charging.  Both buildings, in my opinion, are perfect candidates for a common wet-pipe sprinkler system, so I’m curious as to the reasoning behind the pre-action systems.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time here at CAHA, and I’m proud to have helped jump start what will hopefully be a nationwide increase in Park Service fire protection professionals.   I’ve both learned a lot about practical fire protection and been able to educate staff on how to improve the protection of visitors and resources.  I want to thank Brian Johnson at NIFC for giving me this opportunity, Jon Anglin at the Outer Banks Group for being a great supervisor, Jim King and Andy Wilson for teaching me a lot about protecting important structures and their occupants, and all of the welcoming CAHA staff who helped me out along the way.  I look forward to the continuing partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Park Service giving FPE students a chance to contribute what they know at the Park and Regional level, increasing fire safety nationwide.

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