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    Default Building Floor Plans

    At a mutual aid for structure fire awhile back, I was getting briefed on the interior attack plan on a structure fire, where my Chief was placed in charge of coordinating the interior attack, I had an idea about gathering floor plans for all inhabited structures/businesses for my fire district and using them at structure fires. I got the idea because while I was packing up, I was watching my chief gather details from the distraught homeowner about the interior of the structure. He was using a pen and legal pad borrowed from a sheriff deputy that responded for crowd control. The way I see if you had a copy of the floor plan, when roll up you can go over to the homeowner and show them the plan and work with them to construct a room to room layout of the house. I think it would be really useful, but I'm having trouble with coming up with ideas on how to implement the concept in a rural volunteer fire department, with a limited budget. I'd appreciate hearing about other departments that do something like this. May be include SOP's, is home/business owner participation voluntary or mandatory, who is responsible for drawing up plans, how often are plans updated/checked for accuracy, etc.

    Thanks for Help and Be Safe

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    I think having this for commercial buildings would be a plus for you. It is called Pre-Fire Planning. The department has to go to these building and do a walk through, taking notes, such as where the main electrical panels are located, sprinkler systems, standpipe systems to include Siamese intakes and outlets on various floor, elevators, lay out of the floors, occupancies on those floors.

    Not a lot of use in single family structures. Most are built similar on the block. Look at one and the other's pretty much mirrors the rest.

    Look at your house and use it as a example.
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    Like oldtimer said, you're talking about pre-fire planning and it can be very useful. There's a ton of information out there about pre-planning and even some standard formats for pre-plan documents.

    Keep in mind, pre-plans are far more intensive than just a floor plan. You'll gather contact information, any haz-mat they store on site, location of hydrants/water sources, high-risk areas, utilities information, and a lot of other stuff. Along with it you'll have some kind of floor or plot plan, or maybe even a combination of the two.

    Also, as he alluded to, there's not a lot of use in trying to do it for every single- or double-occupancy dwelling in your area. To be honest, if you pay attention to the building constrution and layout of homes in your area, you can tell where everything is on a walk-around.

    Front door usually goes into the living room, bedrooms are opposite the garage, bathrooms have a pipe out the roof above and a smaller window, back doors go into a utility room or dining room, kitchen is off the dining room, and so on. It's just paying attention when you arrive and doing a thorough size-up.

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    Not trying to be ungrateful for your help, but the majority of the structure fire responses are to private residences. I've only been an active member in my department for about 2 1/2 years now and we've never responded to a comercial or industrial property yet. My father is also on the same Department, and has been a member since the mid 70's and the department he can count on two hands the number of comercial/industrial structure fires he has responded to. The area where I would like to have a floorplan for is private residences. Most of the Residential structures in our coverage area are 70-150 years old, and outside of the 20 or so houses in a small housing development no two structures are the same. This is where I would like the help in trying to come up with a plan on implementation.

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    Like others have said, prefire plans are very through and very helpful. We update our every year or two. I think we've got almost 500 in each truck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KanFireman View Post
    The area where I would like to have a floorplan for is private residences.
    Wow.. this would be a tremendous undertaking. In my neighborhood no two homes have the same floorplan.

    It would have to be voluntary around here. I don't think we can mandate that homeowners submit a floorplan.

    Bottom line... tremendous amount of work, your work would be incomplete, how likely are you to check your files (god knows how you would store these, it would have to be on a laptop) if they aren't complete?

    Nice idea, but I don't know how practical it is.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    I've always been known to think outside the box. I wouldn't intend on mandating "pre-fire planning" as you guys are referring to it for private single-family residences. If I could find a way to prove that this is halfway feasible, as long as there is a sufficient amount of time devoted to this. I might present this idea to my Chief and the Board of Directors
    , but only if I can present a feasible plan for implementation along with it. Time is not a problem for me. I'm currently a college student, which equates to having too much time to know what to do with at times.
    Would any of you previous posters clarify on how you document these plans? Is there any particular software you use to draft up the plans? I know this last part is a bit of an oxymoron, but Is there any software that is low cost/no cost, that still does a good job?

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    KanFireman,

    It seems like the reason you want this information is for the Chief to do a report after the fact, maybe I'm confused by your post for why.

    Like others have said, pre-planning the commercial structures are important because they pose a greater risk to firefighters with large fire loads, hazmats, and special hazards to get firefighters lost or trapped. I say a greater risk because it's greater than a "normal" residential fire. Plus, we have to be in those places at least once a year, if not twice a year for fire inspections.

    To keep files on single family dwellings would be a huge undertaking to collect that information and then to keep it updated. I personally would not want that information. Not two houses are the same. There comes a point when you can over think things and over plan for things. And...where would we have room to store that information?? Yes, fires anywhere are a risk but I know a residential fire isn't as big a deal as a fire in a commercial building. Also, the fire department has no authority to enforce or collect information on a "non-inspectable" property, meaning we do not do a fire inspection on them so therefore we have no authority to force them to give us that information or keep it updated.
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Wow.. this would be a tremendous undertaking. In my neighborhood no two homes have the same floorplan.

    It would have to be voluntary around here. I don't think we can mandate that homeowners submit a floorplan.

    Bottom line... tremendous amount of work, your work would be incomplete, how likely are you to check your files (god knows how you would store these, it would have to be on a laptop) if they aren't complete?

    Nice idea, but I don't know how practical it is.
    That's because alot of the homes in your response area have been renovated and added onto (I think).

    While it is true that there is a wide deviation in floor plans for SFD, for the most part, there are only about 6 basic floor plans for residences that are used. Of course there are variations. But an experienced FF can take a look at the outside of the building and get a pretty good idea of the layout in about 30 seconds.

    Your idea, as has been stated, has merit for commercial and multiple family dwellings. But, while the Chief is drawing a floor plan on the front lawn with the distraught (or drunk, or injured, or stupid) homeowner, I will be taking my crew inside to put out the fire.

    One more thing...I thnik that the maintenance of these commercial floor plans would be an incredibly time consuming process. Remember, they need to be kept up to date. An obsolete floor plan is more dangerous than no floor plan.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KanFireman View Post
    Most of the Residential structures in our coverage area are 70-150 years old, and outside of the 20 or so houses in a small housing development no two structures are the same. This is where I would like the help in trying to come up with a plan on implementation.
    Well then they are more than likely center-hall colonial style. In a nutshell, they all have the same, very basic floor plan. I think your idea is noble, and your intent is in the right place, however very unlikely that you could ever pull it off due to the logistics as others have stated.

    Honestly, I think you have tunnelvision here. IMO, your time would be much better spent reviewing and practicing basic engine and truck company evolutions for single-family residential structures. Go over the basics of primary searches, advancing initial handlines, vertical and horizontal ventilation for first-due truck companies (or whoever may be doing the ventilation.) Once your people become proficient at these, they will overcome the "unknown" floor plans and know how to react, just like the rest of us out here who don't have floor plans of the private dwellings in our locals.
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    We teach our new guys about construction and take them through new additions that are in the process of being built. Our builders are very good about giving us free reign over construction sites and letting our new guys learn about building construction.

    You can learn alot about floorplans by learning about building constructions. Shape and location of windows can tell you if a room could be a kitchen/bathroom/bedroom. Location of vents on the roof let's you anticipate where different rooms in the house are. There is a lot you can learn about the interior of a house by simply looking at the exterior.
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    I agree with the others on this - it is a noble undertaking, but due to age of the majority of the buildings as stated, a very large and complex undertaking.

    I could see if you had a new development going in which consisted of 'cookie cutter' houses getting a basic floor plan layout.

    However, that doesn't preclude someone from ading a wall, using a 'study' as a bedroom, etc.....the variables are endless.

    That being said - if you do look at the buildings in your area, they probably do share some similarities - again, as stated above - center hall Colonials are pretty much laid out the same - etc....

    Maybe what would be a little bit easier is if someone were to do a major renovation, to let the FD come and take a look - BUT that means the FD has to get out and get a good working relationship with the community to even be invited.

    You are fortunate that you don't have many commercial fires. Even so - you should STILL have pre-plans for those buildings you do have - for the time there is a fire or alarm there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KanFireman View Post
    Not trying to be ungrateful for your help, but the majority of the structure fire responses are to private residences. I've only been an active member in my department for about 2 1/2 years now and we've never responded to a comercial or industrial property yet. My father is also on the same Department, and has been a member since the mid 70's and the department he can count on two hands the number of comercial/industrial structure fires he has responded to. The area where I would like to have a floorplan for is private residences. Most of the Residential structures in our coverage area are 70-150 years old, and outside of the 20 or so houses in a small housing development no two structures are the same. This is where I would like the help in trying to come up with a plan on implementation.
    I put together a drill a few years ago on size up of residential structures and talked a good deal about recognizing common features on houses to get an idea of the floorplan. I agree that it would be a very difficult task to obtain floor plans for all of the houses in your district. You may be better off putting together a training program like that for your department. In our part of the world (Western PA) there are a lot of common indications on houses that give you clues to how it is laid out based on a rapid assessment. These include:

    Bay windows typically are in living rooms
    Houses with attached garages typically have the kitchen on the same side as the garage
    Houses with integral garages typically have the kitchen on the opposite side of the house with living / bedroom areas above it
    Differences between split level and split entry types of houses
    Many other features that will give you clues

    I still have the powerpoint from the drill if you would like a copy of it.

    For commercial structures, there are software packages available for doing preplans, although I am not familiar with any of them. A well drawn hand sketch works fine. I would recommend using architectural plans with caution because they often contain a lot of information you don't care about and don't contain some that you are interested in. Building plans are normally put together in sets of information by trade (carpentry and floor plan, plumbing, electrical, fire protection, etc) so you might have to go through several very similar looking plans to find a piece of information you are looking for. Doing a hand sketch with important information on basic building layout, sprinkler or standpipe locations, exits, haz-mat info, and things like that would probably serve you better in an incident.

    Hope that helped.
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    Quote Originally Posted by PATF1engineer View Post
    I put together a drill a few years ago on size up of residential structures and talked a good deal about recognizing common features on houses to get an idea of the floorplan. I agree that it would be a very difficult task to obtain floor plans for all of the houses in your district. You may be better off putting together a training program like that for your department. In our part of the world (Western PA) there are a lot of common indications on houses that give you clues to how it is laid out based on a rapid assessment. These include:

    Bay windows typically are in living rooms
    Houses with attached garages typically have the kitchen on the same side as the garage
    Houses with integral garages typically have the kitchen on the opposite side of the house with living / bedroom areas above it
    Differences between split level and split entry types of houses
    Many other features that will give you clues

    I still have the powerpoint from the drill if you would like a copy of it.
    This is an EXCELLENT idea.

    How to "read" the building for layout.

    Nice idea. I wish this website had a place to share files like drills (do they?) ?
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    This is an EXCELLENT idea.

    How to "read" the building for layout.

    Nice idea. I wish this website had a place to share files like drills (do they?) ?
    Not sure but here is something I was given by a friend about this same idea.
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    Disregard, was having trouble opening the above file but it finally worked.

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    Won't open for me either.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by pasobuff View Post
    Won't open for me either.....
    I think firehouse was having a hiccup for a moment. I tried right after I posted and it opened fine.

    edited to add: Actually, I think it's still having hiccups and I got lucky. I have to hit refresh several times to get much of anything to display.
    Last edited by Catch22; 02-17-2010 at 01:32 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dickey View Post
    Not sure but here is something I was given by a friend about this same idea.
    Dickey, that looks good!
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    Ah HA!...had to save it first then open it....

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