Just curious, as to how many of you take your company or department members out to view renovation or construction projects? I know alot of times firefighters grumble when we say we are loading up to head down to "so and so's" place to complete a familiarization tour. Never once have I ever in my career, been to one of these tours and not learned something new. Everytime I have increased my personal education or experience which greatly helped my career. This is exactly why I force the grumblers to load up and get on the road.


During a recent "field trip" we toured a commercial / residential mixed occupancy that temporary holds alot of people who are passing through our region. On this particular renovation project, we uncovered some very interesting contractor work. Some of which is very old and others not so much. We were told by the GC that this occupancy had been renovated twice before to upfit, different tenants in this large building. The day we stopped to tour the facility, they were still in mid-demo mode. Walls and ceilings were opened up. Perfect time to see how the actual structure was built.



When we think heat tape for plumbing, we usually think mobile homes or trailers in the colder climate of the US. Well here we have heat tape and a "special outlet" which was hidden behind a sheetrock ceiling with power protecting a 6" pipe.



As we continued on throughout the remainder of the structure, we came upon some interesting plumbing fixtures that had an overzealous plumber who made holes for his work in pre-stressed concrete panels. This was hidden by a sheetrocked ceiling as well.



You will note the steel cable which actually creates the PRE-STRESSED feature for providing the strength in between the plumbing trap. This was in the first floor ceiling. The concrete is the actual floor of the second floor.



This last shot is actually a breach in a different section of the same pre-stressed contrete panel and the hole was 12"x 24" in size. The hole was made so a cold air return plenium could bring the room air back to the heating system. This was hidden by an air grate in a drop ceiling grid system.


Did you note that there is only one steel cable? The second appears to have been cut to make the hole unobstructed. Many have seen this type of work with the new lightweight TGI beams, but this goes to show that even though it's concrete, contractors who need to get their work done in the quickest or shortest route will breach the hardest of construction materials.


Make sure you and your crew go out and tour renovation projects, meet the GC and ask if you can have a tour of the construction site. This is the only way you can obtain valuable information about the construction type in the older pre-existing occupancies.


Take care and stay safe.






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I edited and corrected my terms - cause you are right. I used inspect when I should not have - I should have used familiarize.
So true Heather, there is a big difference in a firefighter's confidence when they have first hand knowledge of an occupancy as compared to never been inside the structure when it is on fire. As with others, preparation is key in success and being safe. The familiarization tour is definately not a glamourous or exciting but very important part of the profession.
I agree with getting out and checking structures and this is something we routinely do. We also do do building inspections which also helps to get familiar with layout, features etc.

Besides checking on potential hazards, I would say another thing about getting out is also learning fire suppression sytems etc that are not seen everyday, such a s a clean agent (halon) flooding system, etc.
John, couldn't agree more my friend. The fact is familiarization or inspection is valuable knowledge in the brain's internal roll-a-dex...
After I joined and had enough experience I bird dogged our fire prevention officer on tours . It was then that I realized what we faced out there and the time for all to see wasn't available. When I became a training officer I often grabbed our preplans and spent some training nights highliting some of these hazards. I continue to follow our fire prevention officer as often as possible.
On our shift, we try to get out and look around. I've always done this on my own and it has paid huge dividends. We've had several seriuos fires in buildings we've looked at and that advanced knowledge really helps!
FETC was correct in stating that a lot of this "workmanship" happens because proper permits were never obtained from the building department, the FD or any other agency involved in the permitting and inspection process.

It isn't just commercial/industrial buildings... we have found examples of this "craftsmanship" in residential occupancies as well. Some people think that because they saw it being done on "This Old House", the Home and Garden network or the DIY network, they are capable of doing the work themselves and never pull permits.

This is why it is important to get out, do district familiarization and check out new construction.
I can say that i have seen worse and have had to do jobs similar to the one shown with the trap through the concrete. These days we cut holes through the concrete on a regular basis. Cutting through the occasional re'enforcing bar is more common than you may think. I know that over here most things a over engineered.

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