Brannigan, Francis L. Building Construction for the Fire Service, third edition. Batterymarch Park, Quincy, Massachusetts: National Fire Protection Association, 1992.
The arrival of any anxiously awaited book is always a pleasure for its readers as well as its reviewer. There is no exception in the ease of the third edition of Francis L. Brannigan’s most noteworthy research project, Building Construction for the Fire Service.
To label a work of this magnitude a sourcebook is to unfairly characterize its scope and proportions and risk losing potential readers. Yet, the author states in his preface that the book may not necessarily be read from beginning to end but rather may be used as a sourcebook. I disagree with Brannigan’s assessment of his own work; to assign this prominent endeavor for simple consultation purposes is to deny the book its true stature.
Brannigan divides Building Construction into three parts, all of which are interrelated: types of buildings, special problem areas, and topics of special consideration. Types of buildings include wood, ordinary, steel, and concrete construction. Special problem areas covered are rack storage, garden apartments, and high-rise construction, among others. Some issues for special consideration include trusses, automatic sprinklers, and smoke and fire containment.
Building Construction is logical and easy to follow. From the opening chapters on principles of construction to the concluding chapters on trusses, automatic sprinklers, and rack storage, Brannigan plays the role of tour guide in a journey through virtually all types of construction found in the United States. His knowledge on the subject is extensive. The book is well-written and is easy to understand for the layman as well as those in the fire service. Photographs generally are clear and useful, although I suggest a more careful selection in forthcoming editions—some photographs are not needed to illustrate a point made in the text or fail to clearly convey the author’s intention.
One noteworthy addition to Brannigan’s work is the “Tactical Considerations” sections, which appear throughout Building Construction. This series of paragraphs of varying lengths highlights the author’s “personal insights, opinions, and suggested fire tactics” (Brannigan’s own words) about a particular aspect of building construction, which, as he says, is to remain separate from the information gathered for the main text.
For firefighters, any book in this discipline must have a practical purpose. How does this relate to me on the fireground. you might ask? The answer appears in “Tactical Considerations.”
At times Brannigan’s hints may appear somewhat elementary. For example, concerning fighting a metal deck roof fire, he says: “A ladder pipe or ladder tower stream directed downward onto the roof is useless. The roof is designed to keep the rain out …” (307). Or, concerning protection from exposures, he notes that, “Firefighters operating lines in a narrow alley are in serious danger” (197). Other times, his suggestions are a bit more difficult to achieve. One example concerns fighting fires in a balloon-frame structure: “Fire moving up or down through exterior stud channels can often best be stopped by removing siding from the outside at the second floor line, and cave and foundation lines” (100).
In general, however, Brannigan’s “Tactical Considerations” certainly is a necessary and worthwhile addition to the book. In short, “Considerations” is what every fire servicerelated book needs: an exemplified relationship between the material presented and the fire department’s standard operating procedures or. at least, food for thought. Here, the author scores with great success.
Brannigan conveys to his readers that sometime during the early part of the next century, the National Fire Protection Association probably will request a fourth edition of Building Construction. Assuming this to be so, we can only wait with breathless anticipation for his next work and wish its author good health.