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©2016 This excerpt taken from the article of the same name which appeared in ASHRAE Journal, vol. 58, no. 6, June 2016

Scott McMillan, P.E., Member ASHRAE

About the Author
Scott McMillan, P.E., is a professional associate and senior mechanical engineer for HDR, Inc., in Dallas. He is a member of ASHRAE Technical Committee TC 9.4 Justice Facilities.

A smoke management system provides a tenable environment for occupant evacuation and relocation, but some environments, particularly those in a jail or prison, are designed not to allow free exit and movement. Codes, guidelines, and standards, as well as expertise of fire protection engineers and firms that specialize in smoke control are always resources to an engineer working in this type of facility. However, jails and prisons are not necessarily addressed clearly in today’s published works and few experts have experience in this building type, often making it an anomaly in design and construction circles.

This article expands the topic of applying traditional smoke control practices in a secure/correctional environment, nuances of this building type, and how to navigate contradictions in published codes and standards, and avoid interpretation pitfalls.

Terminology is critical in our world, but it is especially important in engineering and design. Today’s published works commonly use the following terms: “smoke management,” “smoke control,” “engineered smoke control,” etc. Although commonly interchangeable when they are used, do they all really mean the same thing? The answer depends on who you are asking, the context of the discussion, and the type of facility you are designing. For starters, let us briefly review the more universally known and adopted codes, published guidelines, and standards below regarding smoke management.


International Building Code

The International Building Code (IBC) is the most common and familiar adopted code in our industry today. Jails and prisons are typically classified as Institutional Group I-3 occupancy because they are “inhabited…by persons who are generally incapable of self-preservation due to security measures not under the occupants’ control.” Section 408 of the 2015 IBC requires windowless I-3 compartments to have an “engineered smoke control” system. Windowless in this context means “one with non-openable windows, windows not readily breakable, or without windows.” The IBC continues: “windowless buildings shall be provided with an engineered smoke control system…for each windowless compartment.” Section 909, Smoke Control Systems, details all of the requirements of an engineered smoke control system, automatic detection, operation, manual override, etc.


National Fire Protection Association

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is widely known in industry through a plethora of codes and standards, particularly life safety, electric, fuel gas, and, of course, fire. NFPA initiatives are to educate through codes, standards, training, and research. NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, is the applicable code for some jurisdictions and NFPA 92 (2012), Smoke Control Systems, is the standard for smoke control—neither standard specifically addresses jails or prisons. NFPA 101 is certainly the most widely known, recognized, and used of the 380 codes and standards published by NFPA. NFPA 101 does have supplemental explanatory material (Annex A) that is specific to calculating the expected level of smoke in a jail cell block based on experimental full-scale burnouts and testing and other basic calculations and recommendations.


ASHRAE Resources

The ASHRAE Handbook of Smoke Control Engineering is considered by many to be the most comprehensive and current publication available regarding smoke control, research, and current engineering methodologies.


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