New research on performance criteria for Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Systems; Register for upcoming webinar to learn more

Last month, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, published a report, titled: “Performance Criteria for Aircraft Hangar Fire Protection Systems” in response to a need to establish an evaluation method that can be used to assess the performance of alternative fire protection systems, other than foam systems, for aircraft hangar facilities.

This project involved a literature review of the current fire suppression systems used in aircraft hangar applications. The code revisions were reviewed and summarized in this report, which at the time of review were primarily on foam-based fire protection.

Statistics on aircraft hangar incidents, including the prevalence of fuel spills and incidences of foam discharge, in response to fire and accidental discharges were gathered through various sources and surveys. To summarize the data collected as part of this study, it was found that there were very few fuel spills in aircraft hangars (only 25 in the last 5 years per the US Coast Guard), which has historically been viewed as the most likely fire scenario. Additionally, in the last 17 years, there were 44 foam system discharges in response to fire (2.6 per year) and 357 foam system discharges where a fire is not present (21 foam discharges per year creating $7 million in damages per year), which are considered to be accidental foam discharges.

In light of these statistics and recent changes to the 2022 edition of NFPA 409, Standard on Aircraft Hangars, alternative fire protection solutions were evaluated. These include, alternate firefighting foam formulations, such as fluorine free foams, compressed air foams, water sprinklers, water mist, ignitable liquid drainage (ILD) floor assembly, clean agents and wetting and encapsulating agents. The report also outlines a risk-based approach for hangar fire protection. A sample risk assessment with discussion on various scenarios and consequences is provided therein.

More research is still needed to explore the limitations of the solutions and identify design optimizations. Additionally, more fire incident data needs to be collected to better understand the cause, inform appropriate fire scenarios, and evaluate the performance of various fire protection solutions.

The final report and summary can be downloaded from FPRF website. To learn more about this research, register for the upcoming FPRF webinar scheduled on March 24, 2022, where the principal investigators of this research, Dr. Jim Milke, University of Maryland and Jack Poole, Poole Fire Protection, will be presenting on the research findings. Registration is free and required to attend; register by clicking the direct link here or by visiting www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA and FPRF webinars and archives.

This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2022 Webinar Series Sponsors: American Wood Council, AXA XL Risk Consulting, FM Global, Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc., Telgian Engineering and Consulting, The Zurich Services Corporation.

As the Research Foundation celebrates 40 years of research in support of the NFPA mission, read this NFPA Journal column to learn more about this noteworthy milestone, or visit www.nfpa.org/fprf40.

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Victoria Hutchison
Research Project Manager, passionate about the advancement of fire protection, life safety and emerging technologies through the development of research at FPRF.

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