A Building Marking System

The building is the enemy in the fire service. So says ?The Old Professor?, Frank Brannigan. This statement suggests that firefighters and officers should know as much about a building as possible before entering it or operating within it.


Also See: More Images Of Marked Buildings

The building is the enemy in the fire service. So says "The Old Professor", Frank Brannigan. This statement suggests that firefighters and officers should know as much about a building as possible before entering it or operating within it.

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Photo By Mike Dugan
The NFPA 704 diamond on a building with the number 4 in the flammability box indicates an extremely flammable and dangerous material stored within that building.
See: More Images Of Marked Buildings

How might this be accomplished? Why aren't the buildings marked so responding firefighters are made aware of what is confronting them before they enter a structure?

How might this be done?

The fire service already has a marking system in place, the NFPA 704 marking system. This is used to mark the building on the exterior indicating the hazard of the interior contents.

If the building is hazardous why not mark the building also? The building itself could be marked to indicate the hazards that are inherent to that specific building or the type of construction used to construct that building. This way, in addition to available response information, there is another way to alert firefights to the dangers this building holds within its walls; an exterior sign visible to responding firefighters and officers.

New York City has a building marking system used to mark vacant buildings. There are three different marks used to indicate the hazards contained within the structure at the time of marking. This helps determine possible hazards and how to conduct operations at this building. Because the marking system is only an indicator, a complete size-up is still required. The number one factor determining how to operate would be the structural stability of the building. If in doubt, always operate in the safest possible manner.

The system has three different marks indicating the degree of hazard from normal condition and stability, to questionable stability and possible interior hazardous, and finally to almost certainly perilous stability and numerous interior hazards.

They are a tentative indicator and the building will have most likely deteriorated since last marking (see sidebar). They should be dated to indicate the elapsed time from marking to the response. This will allow the incident commander and responding firefighters and officer to determine how long the building might have been vacant and to get a tentative indication of its structural stability.

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Photo By Mike Dugan
Build of normal stability when marked, but when was that?
See: More Images Of Marked Buildings

They should be used by the incident commander and responding officer as a clue to what they will encounter within the building. The building will only get worse with age and time until either renovated or demolished.

The primary hazard marking is placed on a substantial part of the structure and at about ten feet high near the main entrance. This is done so that if the building is entered or vandalized the hazard marking is will remain visible. At the ten-foot level a ladder will be needed to paint the marking on the building and this help eliminate the problems of graffiti covering or hiding the mark. Additional marks may be placed anywhere such as the roof bulkhead or side and rear walls.

In addition to using the building hazard marking system, units are advised to insure that the roof is properly ventilated after a fire in a vacant building. The unit will then mark R.O. (roof open) indicating the roof is fully ventilated. This mark is placed over the primary hazard marking to let other companies or different firefighters from the same unit know that the roof is open and there is no need to send a firefighter to the roof to vent above the fire. This will help prevent a firefighter from being injured on a roof with many hazards such a previous holes cut in the roof. The R.O. should also be placed near the roof bulkhead and anywhere else it might be needed alert firefighters the roof is open and dangerous.

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