Emerging trends in tunnel fire suppression

28 October 2009  •  Author(s): Dr. Fathi Tarada, Director of Fire Safety Engineering, Halcrow Group Ltd, Co-Chairman of the PIARC Working Group on Air Quality, Fire and Ventilation, and member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the International Symposium on Aerodynamics and Ventilation of Vehicle Tunnels

Fire suppression is emerging as a key risk reduction measure for consideration in tunnels under construction or undergoing refurbishment. However, understanding the possible benefits, limitations and costs of fire suppression, and reflecting that understanding in the project decision-making process, is still a nascent science. This article describes some of the latest technical guidance available, and how it was applied to two tunnels in order to reduce societal costs related to fires, and to minimise construction costs and programmes.

Until relatively recently, the issue of tunnel fire suppression was considered very differently in various parts of the world. In Japan, fixed fire suppression systems are installed in tunnels with a length of 3,000m or longer, and which have a traffic volume of 4,000 vehicles per day or greater. The Australasian Fire Authorities Council’s fire safety guidelines for road tunnels require installation of fire suppression systems in long road tunnels in Australia. However, European tunnel designs generally followed World Road Association (PIARC) guidelines, which did not support the principle of tunnel fire suppression prior to 2008. The same reticence with respect to tunnel fire suppression was evident prior to 2008 in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s standard 502, which is widely used in North America and elsewhere.

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