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January 2020 Chapter Meeting

The first chapter meeting of 2020 kicked the year off in a great way! It was held at the FM Global offices in Bellevue on Tuesday 21 January from 4 to 5 pm. Parking was validated and snacks were provided.

Shelley Jin, a Fire Protection Consultant at Telgian Engineering & Consulting, provided this month’s excellent technical presentation: Comparing The Results of Full-Scale Fire Testing with Common Sprinkler Assumptions. Shelley discussed full scale fire testing that was performed at UL Laboratories per the request of Telgian with the intent of determining if existing sprinkler protection that does not conform to the current versions of applicable codes and standards (e.g., NFPA 13) would provide adequate fire protection for the unique and specific commodities and storage arrangements at their client’s locations.

This is an interesting aspect of fire protection engineering in which many consultants do not regularly engage. Prescriptively following a code or standard in new system design inherently involves the belief that the protection details provide adequate protection. But determining if an existing system which is not included in current design guidelines will provide adequate fire protection is a whole different ball game.

In determining “equivalence” to the standard’s protection requirements, what is “adequate” fire protection? Is it “adequate”, or “equivalent”, or “tolerable”, or…? Each of those designations can imply a different comparison between the performance of the existing system under examination with the performance of a new system per codes and standards.

Shelley provided an overview of current prescriptive regulations and requirements for creating sprinkler systems, which are largely based on full-scale fire testing. She then discussed the results of the full-scale fire testing which indicated that some of the objectives of protecting storage with large orifice sprinklers can be met with 5.6K and 8.0K sprinklers. Blocked flue spaces and aisle storage were included in the objectives of the testing, which indicated they can be mitigated with the right ceiling only sprinkler system.

The audience raised some good questions. Several technical aspects of the system installation such as storage height and commodity were considered. Also discussed was how the AHJs in different jurisdictions with different backgrounds and technical skills deal with the equivalence approach. Overall, an interesting presentation and conversation.

Networking continued for almost an hour after the event with several groups discussing what’s happening in the region with jobs, projects, and just getting acquainted. It’s nice to see this social aspect realized as an important positive benefit of coming to the meetings.

As always, give me a call if you want to talk about this meeting or any other subject regarding the SFPE Northwest chapter - or email the chapter leadership at

Thanks, and here’s looking forward to a great 2020.

Mark R. Mannex, PE, FPE

Chapter President

cell 425-922-6573

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