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Firefighter Safety Report: Truss System Failures

NIOSH | John Howard M.D.

Recommendations and Discussion

NIOSH recommends that fire departments, fire fighters, building owners, and managers take steps to minimize the risk of injury and death to fire fighters during fire fighting operations involving structures with truss roof and floor systems: Fire Departments

Ensure that fire fighters are trained to identify different types of roof and floor truss systems and the hazards associated with each.

• Conduct pre-incident planning and inspections to identify structures that contain truss construction.

• Inspect buildings within your jurisdiction and note the type of construction, materials used, presence of trusses in the roof and floor, occupancy, fuel load, exit routes, and other distinguishing characteristics [Brannigan 1999, Klaene and Sanders 2000].

• Check the structural integrity of walls, roofs, and floors.

• Record data regarding roof and floor construction ( e.g., wooden joist, wood truss, steel joist, steel truss, beam and girder, etc.) [NFPA 2003a].

• Share this information with other departments who provide mutual aid response in the same area.

• Whenever possible, inspect buildings during the construction phase to help assess the different types of construction, materials, etc.

• Enter preplan information into the dispatcher’s computer so that when a fire is reported at preplanned locations, the dispatcher can notify by radio all first responders with critical information [Dunn 2001].

• Develop and implement standard operating procedures (SOPs) to combat fires safely in buildings with truss construction.

• Modify existing work practices when necessary to ensure safety during operations around truss construction.

• Provide SOPs to all fire fighters for combating fires in buildings with all types of construction, including the different truss types. Also offer training on identifying buildings constructed with trusses.

• Use defensive strategies whenever trusses have been exposed to fire or structural integrity cannot be verified. Unless life-saving operations are under way, evacuate fire fighters and use an exterior attack [Brannigan 1999; Dunn 2001].

• Ensure that the incident commander conducts an initial size-up and risk assessment of the incident scene before beginning interior fire-fighting operations.

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