National Academies Press: OpenBook

Fires in Mass Transit Vehicles: Guide for the Evaluation of Toxic Hazards (1991)

Chapter:Appendix C: Transit Vehicle Fire Experience

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Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: Transit Vehicle Fire Experience." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 1991. Fires in Mass Transit Vehicles: Guide for the Evaluation of Toxic Hazards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1869.
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Page69
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: Transit Vehicle Fire Experience." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 1991. Fires in Mass Transit Vehicles: Guide for the Evaluation of Toxic Hazards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1869.
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Page70
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: Transit Vehicle Fire Experience." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 1991. Fires in Mass Transit Vehicles: Guide for the Evaluation of Toxic Hazards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1869.
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Page71
Suggested Citation:"Appendix C: Transit Vehicle Fire Experience." Transportation Research Board and National Research Council. 1991. Fires in Mass Transit Vehicles: Guide for the Evaluation of Toxic Hazards. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/1869.
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Page72

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To Appendix C TRANSIT VEHICLE FIRE EXPERIENCE In 1988 the 13 operating heavy rail transit systems in the United States carried 1,773,818,138 passengers. To date, the safety record of these systems has been very good. There are, however, concerns about the safety threats present in transit systems. The threat of fire is a major concern because of the magnitude of the number of passengers that may be exposed. Fire, especially in an enclosed environment such as a subway, in which exciting from a tunnel may be complicated, is a life-threatening situation. Several studies have addressed the magnitude of the fire threat in rail transit systems. An Urban Mass Transit Administration study conducted by the Transportation System Center revealed that fire and smoke incidents represent approximately 5 percent of all transit incidents. Of this, approximately 60 percent of all rail transit vehicle fire and smoke incidents originate under the vehicle floor (Table C- 1~. (Comparable statistics for buses are shown in Table C-2.) This statistic is of major concern in that such fires may go undetected and thus have an opportunity to intensify and spread to other parts of the vehicle and to other cars. More recent data contained in the 1988 Safety Information Reporting and An~ys~s System Heavy Rail Annual Report revealed that a total of 4,815 transit system fires occurred in 1988. Of this total, 1,259 occurred in vehicles. Of the large majority of fires that have occurred to date there have been many small fire incidents and few major fires. A major concern is that many of the small fires, if not detected and adequately dealt with in a timely manner, could have resulted in major fires and life-threatening situations. 69

70 TABLE C- 1. Rapid Rail Fire Statistics ~ Ignition Source Incidents/106 Miles % of All Incidents Undercar Fires Traction motor 1.3 24.5 Resistor grid 0.54 10.2 Defective brake control, handbrake not fully released 0.44 S.3 Switch failure 0.32 6.0 Battery cable short; metallic object lodged under car 1 0.29 | 5.5 Compressor | 0.15 | 2.8 Controller | 0.14 | 2.6 Journal 0.06 1.1 Fuse 0.05 0.9 1 OCCUDant comDartmeot Fires Arson cigarette arson | 0.02 | 0.4 HVAC 0.06 1.1 Defective lighting unit I __ I Wayside Ignition Fires I Steel Dust 0.12 4.3 .. ndetermined ~ miscellaneous. | | 32.3 .. . , . TOTAL I 1 100.00 Source: UMTA. 1980. Identification of the Fin Threat in Urban Transit Vehicl - , Report No. UMTA-MA-06-0051-80-1. Urban Maul Transportation Administration, Washington, D.C. a Vandals drop objects on traclt, equipment corer on track.

71 TABLE C-2 Bus Fire Statistics . Ignition Source Incidents/106 Miles % of All Incidents Wheel Well Fires Locked brake, underinflated tire, . wheel bearing ~ 0.87 1 29.1 Electrical Wiring Fires l l instrument panel, lighting, side pane! 0.69 22.9 , _ Leaking Fuel and Oll Fires l l Fuel line leak, of! leak, ~ ~ ~{ oily residues 0.31 10.3 Engine Fires l l Engine 0.29 9.7 . Occupant Compartment Fires Arson, cigarette, etc. | 0.21 1 7.0 Exhaust Fires l l Exhaust system 0.06 2.1 . .. Undeeermined and miscellaneous. ~ ~ ~ ~ 9 TOTAL l 1 100.00 11 Source: UMTA, 1980. Id~tiBeation of the Fire Threat in Urban Transit Vehicles, Report No. UMTA-MA-06-0061-80-1. Urban Msu Transportation Administration, Washington, D.C. a Vandals drop objects on tritely, equipment cover on traclc.

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Noteworthy progress has been made recently toward understanding and quantifying the smoke toxicity factors involved in fire hazard assessment. Such progress has led to increased attention to the significance of fire growth parameters for toxic hazard. Methodology has been proposed to use fire test data, including information on the toxic potency of smoke in engineering calculations for the assessment of overall fire hazard. Confidence in the methodology may evolve from comparison with full-scale fire tests as well as from human fire fatality experience.

This report addresses fire modeling, fire testing, smoke toxicity testing, fire hazard assessment, and fire risk assessment. In the assessment of potential toxic hazards in the event of fires in mass transit vehicles, the report concludes that selection of candidate materials should be based on analyses using both toxicological and engineering considerations.

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