May 14th, 2019
Some Teachable Moments Are Tough to Swallow
Big fires are big news … and an opportunity to later show how doors and windows can help reduce potential losses.
One of the pieces of good news to come out of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was that the majestic rose windows, which date from the 13th century, all survived—intact. So did the enormous wooden doors on the west facade. The attention generated by that fire reminded the world of how massive tragedy can come from just a single spark. Unfortunately, it won’t be the only reminder we’ll get this year.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), more than 1.3 million fires were reported by America’s fire departments in 2017. Roughly 379,000 of those fires involved residences. In total, there were 3,400 civilian deaths and $23 billion worth of property losses.
Conditions used to be much worse. There were 1.1 million structure fires in 1977 versus 499,000 in 2017, NFPA reports. Nevertheless, we’re still at a pace in which a home fire ignites in this country every 83 seconds and more than six people die in a home fire every day.
Given all those headlines, door and window manufacturers can help their communities by pointing out ways in which homeowners can use their products to make their homes safer. For instance, in an essay on designing homes to resist wildfires, UCLA Architecture Professor Murray Milne notes that single-glazed windows are particularly vulnerable to being shattered by radiant heat. “A better choice is double glazing with tempered glass on the exterior,” Milne says. The reason why, This Old House explains on its website, is because the presence of an outer layer of glass means the inner pane “heats up more evenly and slowly than the outer one, helping the inner layer resist cracking.” Naturally, a triple-pane window is even more effective.
Milne also suggests that residents in wildfire areas consider fold-down panels, or shutters, that can close and latch automatically, as well as the use of wire glass or fire safety glass on non-operable windows. And stay away from plastic bubble skylights in areas where burning embers could fly about, he adds.
As for doors, steel has its advantages but there are options involving wood doors with a fire-resistant core. Solid-core wood doors typically provide 20 minutes of protection, Milne notes. The architect says garage doors can be a bigger challenge. He advocates metal panel doors with an automatic fusible link closure. “Be sure it is especially tight fitting,” Milne writes. “If the wind can slide a burning brand under the door all is lost.”
Door and window manufacturers have always been scrupulous in avoiding the use of tragedies as sales opportunities. At the same time, once those fires are put out, it’s natural for people to ask how they can help avoid having history repeat itself. That’s the moment when you can mention the good things your products can do for these unfortunate situations.
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