The Professor

BY GLENN P. CORBETT

Photo 1: Rooftop turbines are becoming increasingly common on structures, including this gasoline station pump island roof. Not only do the blades spin, but the entire turbine itself turns to catch the wind. Give them plenty of clearance when operating on a roof during a fire.


(1)Photos courtesy of author.

Photo 2: Hotels need a quick way to get dirty towels and bedsheets from the upper floors down to the laundry room; they use soiled linen chutes. These chutes and the laundry room they terminate in are usually provided with a code-required sprinkler system, sometimes the only sprinkler protection in the building. The sprinkler head on this level is behind the angled hood at the left. When preplanning, note the location of the riser control valve, which may be hidden from view.


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Photo 3: This parking garage is obviously in distress, given the closely spaced shores and steel beams supporting the exit ramp. Note the exposed rebar in the top level. When confronted with these warning signs, find out what is going on and whether your local building inspection department is aware of the situation. You may find out building inspectors know nothing about it.


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Photo 4: This month’s “History on Fire” photo is actually a memorable collapse. Pictured are the remains of the Knickerbocker Theater in Washington, D.C., in which the roof fell after a 28-inch snowstorm on January 28, 1922, killing 98 people, including a congressman. The bearing surface of the roof beams on the exterior wall was reportedly only two inches. The snow-laden sagging roof pulled out of the walls, and the roof fell onto the balcony and floor patrons below while the organist played the final tune for the silent movie that was playing. This disaster, along with the “great molasses flood” tank failure in Boston’s north end three years earlier, led to regulations calling for licensing of engineers and their involvement in structural building design.


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GLENN P. CORBETT, PE, is an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, is a technical editor for Fire Engineering, and was an assistant chief of the Waldwick (NJ) Fire Department. He previously held the position of administrator of engineering services with the San Antonio (TX) Fire Department. Corbett has a master of engineering degree in fire protection engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and is pursuing a Ph.D. in public administration from Rutgers University. He authored two chapters on fire prevention/protection in The Fire Chief`s Handbook, Fifth Edition (Fire Engineering Books, 1995) and is the coauthor of the late Francis L. Brannigan’s book Building Construction for the Fire Service, 4th Edition. He is editor of Fire Engineering’s Handbook for Firefighter I and II (Fire Engineering, 2009). Corbett is an FDIC Executive Advisory Board member. He has been in the fire service since 1978.

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