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Structural Fire Prevention
Fire protection systems, including fire sprinklers, when properly installed and maintained, save lives and conserve natural and historic objects.
The National Park Service is the nation's steward for thousands of structures, many of them historic, many national icons, such as the Statue of Liberty. These structures include hotels, motels, cabins, visitor centers, interpretive centers, and historical buildings, such as Independence Hall and many former presidents' homes. In addition, these structures house millions of artifacts which need structural fire protection as well.
The Structural Fire Prevention Program encompasses three main elements in the preservation of life and the protection of buildings and their contents. These elements are:
- Hazard identification and abatement—usually accomplished through building fire inspections whereby a trained individual inspects buildings for fire hazards and recommends abatement strategies.
- Fixed fire protection systems—that both alert occupants of a fire so they can quickly escape and can suppress the fire, holding it in check, until competent firefighting forces arrive.
- Public education—key to informing people about fire hazards, how to avoid them and what to do when a fire does occur.
The NPS Structural Fire Prevention Program faces significant challenges in each of these core elements and is developing strategic plans and revising policy documents to ensure the appropriate emphasis and priorities are placed on these aspects of a comprehensive structural fire program for the NPS.
The NPS is one of the largest property owners in the US Government. The NPS has only a handful of professional structural fire personnel and most of these are at the regional and national level. The vast majority of parks do not have trained fire prevention or structural fire response personnel. Typically a LE Ranger or other park personnel take these tasks on as collateral duty. The structural fire program has developed and begun teaching classes to NPS personnel on how to conduct a proper fire inspection.
Another way in which we accomplish fire inspections is through a Fire Protection Condition Assessment, a comprehensive engineering level fire and life safety building inspection. These inspections establish a baseline of fire and life safety deficiencies within the NPS and are conducted under contract by licensed fire protection engineers. Parks benefit from this program as they learn what fire codes they are not complying with and how much it is going to cost to get the problems fixed. The National Office uses this data to help write policy and justify budgetary requests for the program.