When fire escapes fail, the results can be catastrophic. Stanley Forman’s infamous fire escape collapse photo showcases just how deadly fire escape failure can be. So what causes fire escapes to fail?
The main cause of fire escape failure is water and temperature. As we’ve discussed previously, all fire escapes are made from noncombustible materials and most are made with steel. Steel is subject to rusting. The rust will cause the steel to deteriorate and in many cases delaminate.
Delamination occurs when the layers of steel separate from each other. This separation greatly weakens the steel. Over time if the delamination is left untreated, the fire escape will corrode. The corrosion will affect the stability of your fire escape system, leading to potentially disastrous situations
Fire escapes can also fail at connection points. When a fire escape is improperly sealed small amounts of water will enter where parts of the fire escape system meet. When temperatures reach freezing these tiny amounts of water expand. This expansion will slightly loosen connections which allows more water in. The next time the temperature drops the larger amount of water will freeze, loosening the connections further. This cycle will continue until your fire escape system breaks.
Water can cause many issues in your fire escape system. In addition to what we’ve already covered, water can also leak through siding or cracks in brick structures. This is especially damaging in wood frame buildings as it can lead the wood rotting and destruction on insulation and sheathing.
The best way to prevent fire escape failure is to regularly have your fire escape inspected and serviced. International Fire Code states that fire escapes must be inspected, repaired, and repainted every five years. This requirement helps to prevent the catastrophic damage that water and temperature can cause.