Ioka Theatre;Recently while in Exeter, I noticed that the historical Ioka theatre was closed due to lack of fire suppression equipment. Louis B. Mayer, production head of Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios started his career in Haverhill, Massachusetts where he owned six theatres on River St. Edward Mayer; Louis’ nephew was a Rockingham county judge and resided in Exeter. When Edward saw the crowds of people that were lined up at his famous uncle’s theatres in Haverhill he knew what to do. It took Edward two years to secure financial backing and another year to find a suitable spot to put his new theatre. Construction started in March of 1915 and in November the theatre opened its doors at 55 Water Street
Being a layman in construction I was thinking what’s the big deal bring in some plumbers, twist up some black iron pipe, sheetrock a soffit here and there brush on some paint and start taking money for the April vacation shows. Well that mindset does not even scratch the surface as to what would have to be done.
Life Safety Systems: If you have ever been in a building and wondered what will happen in case of an emergency or fire you are not alone and you do not have to worry, that has already been taken care of for you. Before you build, remodel, rehab or renovate any building in any state the engineers that are involved in the planning process have or will incorporate all practices and procedures set forth by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA). The NFPA 3 Life Safety Code (LSS) helps architects and engineers incorporate state of the art tactics that help building constructors achieve fire and life safety in the built environment. The LSS is designed, inspected and enforced by fire fighting personnel nationwide and no occupancy permit is issued without the local inspector’s seal of approval.
After looking into the nuts and bolts of a LSS I was blown away how much work and effort goes into a system and can see that my mindset before doing the research for this article was pretty bad. Luckily after this you and I now have a much better understanding how cool these systems are and a little about how they work.
Step 1) Alarm activation: This happens in one of many ways, smoke or heat detectors are set of. Manual pull station is activated or by human observation or notification. At which time audible alarms and emergency lighting is activated.
This part of new or remodeled construction usually is responsibility of electrical contractor and many of today’s premier electrical contractors have specialized crews that cater to such systems. New buildings today are usually designed with a totally separate LSS control room housing all of the brains behind the system.
Step 2) Confirmation of alarm: Through the use of mechanical devices such as fuseable links, infrared eyes or sprinkler heads letting go, will relay message to local fire station that there is actually an emergency (not just some punks pulling a fire alarm-nobody out there knew anybody like that when we were kids right?)
Step 3 A) Evacuation mode: This stage is as exactly as it sounds. Elevators return to ground level and doors remain open, only to be used by fire fighting personnel (FFP). Huge stair pressurization fans are activated in stairwells to pressurize these areas to inhibit infiltration of smoke into evacuation routes.
Step 3 B) Fire Suppression and FF assistance: This mode actually happening simultaneously with evacuation, it includes sprinkler heads letting go duct work that would normally return air to heating cooling unit is now put into overdrive and is acting as huge exhaust fans dumping the air of alarmed areas directly outside of the building. Also the duct work that normally supplies the area is shut off as to not feed the fire with more oxygen.
This step is obviously heavily influenced by the H.V.A.C. contractor and balancing the air rate and coordination to accomplish these actions is in my opinion very cool.
On top of the fact that it helps save lives.
Step 4) Fighting of Fire and Rescue: in many cases after the evacuation of personnel the LSS is still hard at work to assist FFP. The elevator now at ground level can be used by FFP to gain access to alarmed area. The exhaust fan in the elevator shaft has been working overtime as to clear way for them and when arriving to that area near the elevator or stairwell there is a designated vestibule that act as a “safe zone” for FFP in this area the H.V.A.C system is exchanging the air 60 times per minute (to put that in perspective the air in your office or shop is designed to be exchanged 3-4 times per hour or once every 15-20 minutes) and the exhaust is 1.5 times that.
So when you are out and about weather you are in the new (4 years old) office building on Tsiennetto rd. in Derry or the state house in Concord, you don’t have to worry about what would happen. The NFPA, FFP, Architects and Engineers, and General Construction people have put plenty of time and effort into that to try to ensure your safety.