Imagine waking in the middle of the night and seeing smoke waft across the ceiling of your bedroom. In addition to the presence of sprinkler systems, the type of material from which your home is built can have a major impact on whether or not that fire will start to spread.
It doesn’t take much to lose a home to fire, especially if it’s constructed with combustible materials, such as wood framing. This poses a potential hazard to millions of U.S. houses, which, according to officials at the National Concrete Masonry Association, are frequently constructed with such materials.
“We here in the United States build homes differently than in most other nations where noncombustible materials like concrete masonry prevail for construction,” said Harry Junk, residential markets manager of the NCMA. “As a result, we have a far higher rate of residential fires in this country than any other country around the world, and our losses in property and lives due to these fires are significant.”
According to Junk, concrete masonry construction materials can reduce or eliminate the spread of fire as well as provide additional protection for occupants to exit or fire personnel to conduct rescue operations. Sprinkler systems provide possible suppression of fire, but due to the mechanical nature of these devices, there always exists the slim chance that they may fail. Because passive systems such as concrete masonry firewalls are not dependent on electricity or water supplies, they are less vulnerable to being compromised. Junk says that concrete masonry walls provide an essential element in fire safety: containment. “Today’s new model of building codes and fire codes has strayed significantly from the balanced design approach to fire safety,” said Junk. “NCMA encourages code officials across the nation to participate in making building codes more fire-safe and recognize the importance of using noncombustible fire containment construction such as concrete masonry as a strong foundation for a balanced design approach to fire-safe buildings.”
• For more information, visit www.ncma.org or call 703-713-1900.