International Fire Code (2012) Appendix J - Building Information Sign, provides excellent guidance in communicating high-hazard occupancies to fire crews responding to combustible dust related fires and explosions. Many fire departments are not aware of the inherent special risk of a HazMat nature when responding to these types of incidents. The situation is especially critical with lack of resources for many jurisdictions in conducting pre-site visits as outlined in NFPA 1620 Standard for Pre-Incident Planning.
“Truss signage,” is an excellent example currently implemented in numerous jurisdictions throughout the nation in preventing injures and fatalities of fire-fighters due to truss system failures. Similar signage as referenced in the International Fire Code (2012) and NFPA 704 will effectively communicate hazards to fire departments responding to facility combustible dust related incidents.
“Fire Chief did not receive an MSDS sheet from facility until the next day. Fire Chief added that if he had the MSDS sheet at the time of the incident his tactical decisions would have been different.” –excerpt accident report. This example illustrates if High-Hazard H-2 occupancy signage was affixed to the outside of buildings, fire crews would know upon arriving at the fireground that deflagration hazards are present. NFPA 704 signage produces similar results. A flammable vapor cloud explosion (VCE) is not much different than the severity of a wood dust deflagration as both involve damaging pressures waves followed by slower moving flame fronts of destructive flammable gases.