Fire companies throughout the U.S., Canada and beyond should be aware of the existence of a new product being exported from China that may present significant risk and health exposure issues for firefighters. A cheap form of drywall that has been recently installed in new homes has been found to...
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For the fire service, the question now must be raised as to what effects these gases being given off in this defective wallboard have on first responders in carrying out their duty of protecting the public. Fire departments must be keenly aware of the threat regarding the reports of "scorched wiring" and "failing machinery and electronics." The issue must be tabled as to how many possible fires over the course of time may break out due to the corrosive gases attacking electrical wiring. Also, the concern must also be raised as to what effects this corrosive action might have on metal-based structural components, such as lightweight metal construction, including metal wall studs and ceiling and roof joists. The joint welds must be an area to be concerned with, since if the welds corrode and fail, these critical connection points may cause premature localized or catastrophic structural failure. What effect will this rapid degradation have on metal gusset plates holding wood roof and floor trusses together?
Stepping away from the structural issues, an equally unsettling concern would be what does this gas do to piping, including both sprinkler piping and gas lines? The latter potentially lends itself to mass-casualty events if the elbows and connections of this thick piping were to be compromised and natural gas or propane be released — especially in void spaces where volatile pockets of highly flammable gas can accumulate unbeknownst to building occupants. What about the metal containment chambers of ionization smoke detectors containing radioactive isotopes?
Given the serious nature this newfound threat poses to the fire service (and the public), a forum must be initiated now rather than later — after this sub-grade building product begins taking lives and further increases the ever-present risk exposure to first responders.
(Sources: AP Impact — "Chinese drywall poses potential risks"; Tampa Bay Business Journal; InjuryBoard.com)
CURTIS S.D. MASSEY is president of Massey Enterprises Inc., the world's leading disaster-planning firm. Massey Disaster/Pre-Fire Plans protect the vast majority of the tallest and highest-profile buildings in North America. He also teaches an advanced course on High-Rise Fire Department Emergency Operations to major city fire departments throughout the U.S. and Canada. Massey also regularly writes articles regarding "new-age" technology that impacts firefighter safety.