Canadian Consulting Engineer

What’s New… (May 01, 2007)

May 1, 2007   Canadian Consulting Engineer

POWER

New standards affect emergency generator fuel supply

Important new changes to the CSA 282-05 standard for providing emergency power in buildings were on the agenda at the annual Canadian Fire Safety Association education forum. The forum was scheduled for April 25 in Richmond Hill, Toronto.

Speaker Brad Buckler, CET of Asco Power Technologies Canada, explains that one key provision of the new CSA 282 standard affects the supply of fuel for emergency generators in high rise buildings such as offices and residences. In the past, he says, the standard required that a four-hour supply of fuel be stored on site for their emergency generators. Because of other code and safety requirements, that requirement usually meant that the only fuel allowable was diesel.

With the new standard, the emergency fuel can be supplied off-site from utilities such as natural gas suppliers. However, Buckler points out that the authority having jurisdiction (the building inspector) has to approve a utility supply and must deem that it would be reliable during an emergency. One question, for example, is: ‘During an earthquake, would the supply lines remain intact?’

Another key change in the CSA 282 standard, Buckler explains, is that emergency generators now must have an annual full-load test based on their nameplate rating. Previously, emergency generators only had to be tested for the building load. Tests were often done in off-peak times, such as at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning, to avoid inconveniencing tenants, which meant the building might only be using 10% of its power load at the time. The new testing regime is much more thorough, Buckley suggests, but it is a complicated process. And because generators are often oversized by 25-30%, to do a full capacity test, owners will have to bring in loadbank equipment — at significant cost.

EMERGENCIES

Alberta to streamline emergency management

Legislation to establish a new centralized agency to deal with emergencies and disasters has been introduced in Alberta. MLA Ray Prins brought Bill 30, “The Disaster Services Amendment Act,” before the legislature in April. The new agency would create a one-window approach to coordinate the efforts of municipalities, industry and organizations like firefighters. As well as coordinating response efforts, the agency would be charged with preparing for disasters, such as ensuring vital services and infrastructure are maintained.

If passed, the Act would change the “Disaster Services Act” to the “Emergency Management Act.” It also defines summer villages as local authorities and gives them the authority to declare a state of local emergency.

PROFESSION

Specialist credentials get a boost

The National Fire Protection Association’s specialist program has received accreditation from the American National Standards Institute. The NFPA has administered the Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS) program since 1998. Around 2,000 professionals have completed the examination.

Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the specialist program meets requirements for openness, balance, consensus and due process. According to NFPA: “The accreditation [by ANSI] enhances the integrity of the [CFPS] certification process, and improves consumer and public confidence in the personnel who hold the credential.”

BUILDINGS

Elevator machine rooms — a caution

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) has alerted building designers to be careful in the design of elevator machine rooms.

In a technical bulletin published in APEGBC’s Innovations last year, the association noted that whereas elevator machine rooms used to be generally located at the tops of buildings, in recent years technology has enabled them to be moved into basement levels — often adjacent to a parking garage. This location means there can be a potential for smoke or carbon monoxide migrating into the machine room, and from there through openings into the elevator shaft and so into the building.

The potential problem arises where the elevator machine rooms are ventilated from the parking lot. While the ventilation openings will have fire dampers, these are heat activated, rather than activated by smoke or carbon monoxide. As a result, the dampers may not put up an adequate defence against the toxins.

The technical bulletin suggests two possible solutions, including providing a supply duct of 100% exterior air to the elevator machine room, and an exhaust duct that discharges directly outside.

The technical bulletin makes a number of other cautionary observations, such as reminding designers that they need to consider whether negative pressures are created in the elevator shaft and what the effects might be. For full details, visit www.apeg.bc.ca, innovations/bulletins.

SECURITY

Is airport security in Canada a myth?

Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence issued a scathing report in March on what it saw as lax practices in Canada’s airports. The committee found that the government had failed to act on its 2003 recommendations for tightening up security holes. That earlier report was entitled, “The Myth of Security at Canada’s Airports.”

Chaired by Senator Colin Kenny, the senate committee says in its latest report that Canadian airports and seaports are “riddled with organized crime.” It says problems persist with insufficient policing, inadequate background checks on airport staff, and inadequate control of access to restricted areas.

The committee recommended that the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada should take over airport security from Transport Canada.

In the report section on “Inadequate Control of Access to Restricted Areas,” the Senate committee bewailed the fact that airport staff searches are random: “Random is a code world for ‘seldom.’ ‘Random’ also allows searchers to pick and choose who they search, and when.” The committee found that only about one per cent of workers entering a restricted zone were being checked.

The committee also found that identification passes were inadequate without biometrics and “geo-fencing.” Geofencing is where unusual movement patterns by a staff passholder are picked up by the computerized system and trigger silent alarms. The report cited a story by Sun Media of September 2006. One of its reporters obtained a uniform and permanent pass to Montreal’s Trudeau Airport from a former Canadian Air Transport Security Authority employee who hadn’t worked at the airport for two years. The reporter inserted a picture and false name on the card and moved around the tarmac with no problem.

What the Senate committee found most annoying was what it saw as deliberate delay and prevarication by government departments in responding to its 2003 recommendations. “More than five years has passed since 9/11,” the committee writes. “Why does the whole process keep shuffling along at such a snail’s pace?”

CALENDAR

Conference in Toronto

Toronto will host the 17th World Conference on Disaster Management in July. The conference is being presented by the Canadian Centre for Emergency Preparedness at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, July 8-11. Visit www.wcdm.org, or call 1-866-912-9236. Topics will include new technology, lack of resources, compliance issues, terrorism and global warming.

B.C. building code goes objective

British Columbia has a new objective-based building code. The 2006 B.C. Building Code and Fire Code became available late last year. It is based on the 2005 National Building Code and Fire Code of Canada.

Flexible sprinkler lawsuit

A
ccording to FlexHead Industries of Massachusetts, the 2007 NFPA 13 guideline has clarified its position on flexible sprinkler hose fittings to say that fittings supported by a suspended ceiling do not have to be independently supported.

In February, FlexHead Industries filed a patent infringement lawsuit against several manufacturers over its flexible sprinkler support systems.

Cancer and toxic fumes

B.C. has passed legislation to force the Workers’ Compensation Board to recognize seven kinds of cancer as work related injuries for longtime professional firefighters. Cancers covered are brain, bladder, kidney, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, ureter, leukemia and colorectal. Firefighters are twice as likely to get cancer than the rest of the public. The cancers are believed to be caused by the firefighters’ exposure to smoke and fumes.

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