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close this bookMain principles of Fire Protection in Libraries and Archives: A RAMP study (UNESCO)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreface
View the documentForeword
View the documentBasic principles of fire protection in libraries and archives
View the document1. Combustibility characteristics of information media in Libraries and Archives
View the document2. Interrelation between environmental conditions for document storage and fire safety
View the document3. Fire prevention measures
View the document4. Requirements for fire detection and fire fighting equipment
View the documentReferences

(introduction...)

Prepared by Irina G. Shepilova
Edited by Adrienne G. Thomas

General Information Programme and UNISIST
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

Original : English

PGI-92/WS/14
Paris, November 1992

Recommended catalogue entry :
Shepilova, Irina G.
Main principles of fire protection in libraries and archives : a RAMP study / prepared by Irina G. Shepilova ; edited by Adrienne G. Thomas [for the] General Information Programme and UNISIST. Paris, UNESCO, 1992. - V, 25 p. ; 30 cm. (PGI-92/WS/14)

I - Thomas, Adrienne G.
II - Title
III - UNESCO. General Information Programme and UNISIST
IV - Records and Archives Management Programme (RAMP)

© - UNESCO, 1992

Preface


In order to better meet the needs of Member States, developing countries in particular, in the specialized areas of archives administration and records management, the Division of the General Information Programme (PGI) has developed a long-term Records and Archives Management Programme (RAMP).

The basic themes of RAMP reflect and contribute to the overall objectives of the General Information Programme. RAMP therefore includes projects, studies and other activities intended to:

- to create awareness and promote understanding, among and within governments of Member States, of the value and usefulness of records and archives as basic information resources;

- to assist countries, upon request, in the organization and development of records and archives management systems and services necessary for the full and effective utilization of these basic information resources;

- to promote and assist in the advancement and dissemination of knowledge through the training of professionals in the field of archives and records management as the basis for solid archival policies and development.

RAMP activities concentrate on: infrastructure development; training and education; protection of the archival heritage; promotion of the development and application of modern information technologies and research in archival theory and practice.

This study, prepared by Irina Shepilova under contract with the International Council on Archives, (ICA) is intended to present an analysis of fire hazards in libraries and archives, highlighting the most effective methods of extinguishing fires whilst ensuring that a minimum amount of damage is caused by these methods.

This study is a survey of fire protection measures for archives and libraries. It is not a technical study of specialized fire prevention problems and does not claim to be a complete study of the subject, but it does intend to draw attention to the problem of protecting invaluable collections of archives and library holdings from destruction by fire.

Comments and suggestions regarding the study are welcome and should be addressed to the Division of the General Information Programme, UNESCO, 7, Place de Fontenoy, 75700 Paris, France.

Other studies prepared under the RAMP programme may be obtained at the same address.

Foreword

This study is an analysis of fire hazards affecting safety in libraries and archives. Its purpose is to highlight the most effective methods of putting out fires while ensuring that the method selected does as little damage as possible to the varied media found among library and archives holdings.

We hope that officials who are responsible for protecting valuable archival and library collections will find the information compiled in this study useful in carrying out their very important task. It should not, however, be restricted to those whose jobs are directly responsible for fire protection within these institutions. The archivists, librarians, and technical support personnel who work in archives and libraries should be aware of the actions that should be taken in their everyday work to ensure that these materials are protected from fire hazards. This study can also be used by those archival and library personnel who are involved in designing a new building, rehabilitating an existing one, or evaluating the suitability of a building proposed to house library materials or archives.

Many countries have regulations or standards that define construction requirements aimed at reducing the threat of fire damage in buildings which are to be used as libraries and archives. Coupled with the construction standards are operational procedures spelling out fire prevention rules to be followed within these institutions. These building requirements and fire prevention procedures vary from country to country reflecting local practices and technological capabilities.

This study summarizes the experience of developed countries in protecting libraries and archives from fire damage. It attempts to highlight the main trends in fire protection and summarize operational differences which may influence the selection of specific fire prevention and fire fighting techniques.

Basic principles of fire protection in libraries and archives

Introduction

Fires may result from natural phenomena such as lightning or earthquakes, or from such unnatural events as wars, terrorist activities, or arson. However, the primary threat of fire in libraries and archives is caused when fire safety rules are ignored or not adopted in the first place.

The most common causes of fires in libraries and archives are due to violations of fire safety rules as they relate to the maintenance of the structure itself or personnel operations within the buildings. Older buildings which have been adapted for use as libraries or archives are particularly susceptible to structural problems which leave them at risk to fire. The structural integrity of the building can easily be breached at roofs, windows, basements, walls, and doors. They are also more likely to have electrical wiring in which the insulation has deteriorated and become a fire hazard. The outbreak of a sudden fire in a building which appears to have a good fire prevention plan in operation is most often traceable to deficient electrical wiring. It is, therefore, extremely important that defective wiring be replaced quickly and that precautions be taken to ensure that wiring is not damaged when maintenance work is underway close to the wiring.

The use of open fire near the library or archives collections is also highly dangerous. The risk of fire is greatly increased when maintenance work requires the use of welding or soldering torches. But, less obvious dangers such as portable space heaters, lights on extension cords, hot plates, and coffee makers are also fire hazards. Allowing staff to smoke in the records storerooms or at their workstations where they are working with archival records is one of the most obvious preventable fire risks.

General housekeeping practices are also important to a good fire prevention programme. While paper and other trash littered around a records storeroom may not be the initial cause of a fire, the debris can help the fire spread extremely fast within the area. The collection of dust in heating and ventilation ducts can also contribute to the rapid spread of fire throughout a building even though the fire has been quickly brought under control at its place of origin.

Although storerooms contain a high volume of combustible material, laboratories (both restoration and duplication), building support areas (such as electrical, carpentry, and paint shops), and boiler rooms present the highest risk of fire because of the nature of the work performed in these areas and the types of materials used.

Fires in libraries and archives cause two types of damage: material loss of the collections and perhaps the building; and, social damage. Fires which start in records storerooms usually result in far more damage to the contents than those started in other areas because of the high concentration of combustible material per unit of floorspace. Additionally, for the most part the contents of most buildings are replaceable by equally serviceable and attractive furnishings.

Archives, on the other hand, cannot be replaced. Once they have been destroyed, they are lost forever. With libraries, some of the collection may be replaceable or at least available to the public at another library. But even in libraries, some portion of their collection of materials will not be replaceable and duplicates will not be found elsewhere. This part of society's history will be lost forever to succeeding generations. Society has suffered some extraordinary losses from ancient times to the present, from the fire at the Alexandria Library to the fire at the Library of the Academy of Sciences in the former Soviet Union.

The cost of restoring documents and books damaged in fire is a substantially greater than what would be spent to store the materials under the best fire protection conditions. For the loss of irreplaceable information, there is no remedy, only the untold damage to society caused by its loss. While it is not possible to assure total fire protection of records and books in archives and libraries, it is possible to provide a very high level of fire protection that would normally limit the potential loss of records in such facilities to a small amount. It is, therefore, important that the archivist or librarian knows the degree of protection available or, conversely, the degree of potential damage from the fire protection systems available for archives and libraries.

1. Combustibility characteristics of information media in Libraries and Archives

1.1 Paper

Paper based documents and books make up the bulk of the holdings of libraries and archives. The paper used in documents and books in libraries and archives has been produced at very different times and has therefore, been manufactured using a variety of techniques and ingredients. Paper composed of cotton was used for writing and book printing until the end of the 19th century. Low-grade cellulose paper, such as newsprint, which has a high woodpulp content, was used extensively in more recent years.

Since paper-based documents can ignite from open flames (e.g. from sparks caused by defective electrical wiring, or a carelessly thrown match or cigarette), the chances that the documents will ignite depend on the intensity and duration of the heat released from the source of the flame.

The rate of combustion during a fire depends on the ratio between the combustion-surface area of the books and documents, the volume of the combustibles, how tightly they are shelved, their position in relation to the heat source, etc. Archives use various shelf filing equipment normally with the records either contained simply in file folders or in various styles of open or closed cartons. Typically, rows of records face each other across long service aisles about 762 mm in width. The exposed faces present a wall of paper. Paper has an ignition temperature of approximately 232 degrees Celsius. With open containers or exposed files, the loose ends of the papers or the edge of the file folders can be ignited almost instantly by any source. Because of their mass, closed cartons resist ignition slightly longer.

1.2 Cine Film

The highest fire risk is posed by motion picture film recorded on cellulose nitrate. The most dangerous aspects of cellulose nitrate motion picture film are its ease of ignition, its very high rate of combustion, and its extremely poisonous combustion gases. As a practical matter, therefore, cellulose nitrate film should not be stored in an archives or library. If it is not possible to copy the film on to a safety base film immediately, the cellulose nitrate film should be stored in a separate building in a vault especially constructed to store the nitrate film as safely as possible.

Cellulose nitrate film decomposes readily when heated to temperatures above ambient, but below its ignition temperature. The quantity of heat produced by decomposition is such that, if not dissipated, it rapidly raises the temperature of the film to the ignition point. Even local heating can raise the temperature of the film to a dangerous level, initiating decomposition in the entire mass. Cellulose nitrate also contains enough oxygen within its molecule so that decomposition or combustion proceeds rapidly, even in a limited air supply. A fire in cellulose nitrate film, therefore, cannot be extinguished by smothering.

Cellulose nitrate film is not itself explosive. Its ignition temperature is generally given as about 149 degrees Celsius, but the exact value depends on the duration of exposure, size and purity of film, and other factors. Improperly cared for nitrate film has caused fires after several hours storage at temperatures as low as 49 degrees Celsius. Also, spontaneous ignition is believed to have been responsible for a number of nitrate film fires that have occurred in storage vaults in the summer, following periods of 46 degrees Celsius weather. The rate of combustion of nitrate film is about 15 times that of wood in any form, so that the heat evolved per minute is initially much greater. This results is a rapid temperature increase and a very intense fire. A nitrate film fire burns so fiercely and spreads so quickly that it is virtually impossible to control or extinguish it except by automatic sprinklers.

If cellulose nitrate is ignited and allowed to burn freely in excess air, the gases given off are colourless and are chiefly nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and water vapour, none of which is poisonous or explosive. If, however, the air supply is restricted, as is always the case where the nitrate film is in rolls, the film burns with or without flame, producing copious quantities of thick, yellow smoke. These gases are extremely poisonous and may form explosive mixtures with air. The gases given off by burning nitrate film include nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and tetroxide, carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and methane. Traces of hydrogen cyanide have also been detected, but not in significant amounts.

New nitrate film is as stable as it is possible to make it and some nitrate films 30 or 40 years old still appear to be in reasonably good condition. However, all nitrate film deteriorates with age and the deterioration is increased by chemical contamination and improper storage conditions. Nitrate film in an advanced stage of deterioration is less stable, ignites at lower temperatures, and is more likely to ignite spontaneously than new film.

As was stated previously, all nitrate film should be copied on to a safety base film and the original film should be disposed. However, if cellulose nitrate films must be kept for some period of time until they can be copied, they should be carefully examined throughout their length prior to being stored in a vault. Further, they should be re-examined periodically. For moderate storage temperatures and where both temperature and humidity are controlled, inspections should be made at least once annually. Where conditions are not controlled, examinations should be made every six months. In tropical climates, inspections should occur every two to three months.

Motion pictures recorded on triacetate film, on diacetate film or on polyethylene terephtalate film provide a more stable and safe film base. Each of these film bases meet the requirements of international standards on the safety of cine film. The requirements provide that a film is considered safe if it ignites with difficulty (i.e. after being kept for more that 10 minutes at t degrees = 300 ± 3 degrees Celsius), if it burns slowly (a specimen 300 mm long and 0.08 mm thick burning for 45 seconds), and if the nitrogen content of the film case does not exceed 0.36 by weight.

The following table provides information, obtained in the course of tests performed in accordance with standardized international methodology, which may help compare the combustibility properties of different cine films.

Table 1. Combustibility properties of various cine films

Film specimen

t degrees of test

Ignition time

Duration of burn, see. base film

Nitrogen content percent

Cellulose nitrate

302

7 see.

5

14

11.4

black & white






positive film






Triacetate black

300

12 min.

25

does

0.0

& white positive


40 sec.


not


film


chars


burn


Triacetate

299

12 min.

52

67

0.15

colour


50 sec.




positive film


chars




Triacetate

300

12 min.

--

does

0.14

colour


30 see.


not


positive film


chars


bum



1.3 Magnetic Tapes

Magnetic tape is practically noncombustible. To ignite the polymer materials of which magnetic tape is composed, the tape has to be exposed to a much higher percentage of oxygen than is found in atmospheric air.

Studies of the effects of fire and high temperature on magnetic tape based on polyethylene terephtalate support has shown the results presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Effect of high temperature on magnetic films

Test temperature Celsius (base)

Change of properties of the film support

Defects of a document recorded on magnetic tape

120

Scorching of the base recording

Distorted

150

Softening of support and binder

Neighboring reel coils stick together

290

Support becomes darker and more brittle


540

Tape chars


1.4 Magnetic Discs

Magnetic and optical discs used to store computer information are manufactured on various support materials (e.g. polymers, aluminum, etc.) which have different inherent properties. When assessing magnetic and optical discs from the standpoint of fire safety, it should be noted that disc manufacturers have certified the upper temperature limit for discs at +65 degrees Celsius. At higher temperatures the physical properties of the medium change, just as the properties of the magnetic layer and the casing change.

As with magnetic tapes which use a polymer support base, magnetic and optical discs do not catch fire at temperatures in excess of 500 degrees Celsius, therefore, they are not dangerous as a fire transfer medium. However, a 100 per cent loss of information takes place in case of fire in a magnetic disc storeroom because of the heat damage to the discs. Therefore, the properties of the information storage media which make them more or less subject to damage from a fire must guide archivists and librarians when determining the level of fire protection required. Magnetic and optical discs should be stored in separate vaults used to store only that specific type of record, and the highest level of fire protection techniques should be used to protect the discs.

2. Interrelation between environmental conditions for document storage and fire safety

2.1 Norms for environmental storage conditions for documents produced on different media

The physical environment in records and book storerooms must be evaluated by a variety of factors, the most important of which are the characteristics of the microclimate, i.e., the air temperature (t degrees Celsius) in the room and the relative air humidity (H. per cent). Considered together with the dustiness of the room air, these factors have a significant impact on fire safety in each storeroom, as well as in the library or archives building as a whole.

The standards for temperature, humidity, and other physical environmental conditions in the storeroom should be established by determining the optimum long-range storage conditions for the records being stored there. The requirements will vary according to the media upon which the information is recorded.

An optimum storage regime is assigned to each kind of information medium, based on its physical and chemical properties. Consequently, the norms for physical environmental conditions in storerooms are very similar in one country or another.

Commonly accepted norms for storage of information recorded on different media are displayed in Table 3.

Table 3. Basic norms for storage conditions for documents produced on different media

Storage media

Conditioned Environment


temperature/Celsius

% relative humidity

1. Paper base1

20 ± 1

45 ± 5

2. Magnetic tape

18 ± 1

40 ± 5

3. Glass plate photos

15 ± 1

35 ± 5

4. Black & white film1 2

15 ± 1

30 + 5³

5. Colour film1 2

-1 ± 1

30 ± 5³

NOTES

(1) Phonograph prints are classified as: paper base. Cine film and microfilm are classified under black and white or colour film.

(2) Storage requirements for cellulose nitrate and acetate film are the same. However, nitrate film should be copied as quickly as possible and disposed of. It should not be stored in an archives or library.

(3) Some conservators believe that the relative humidity should be set al 35 ± 5

2.2 The significance of climatic characteristics on fire safety

The climatic characteristics of a region have primary effect on the preservation of records in archives and libraries. There is a relationship between a region's climate and some specific fire hazards for archives or libraries.

The ignition and spread of fire through a building can occur anywhere, but hot climates can contribute to these fire hazards. Since chemical processes run at faster rates in hotter environments, these climates present a bigger danger for those archives and libraries which still have cellulose nitrate film in their collections, particularly if they are kept in non-conditioned storage areas. The same film in non-conditioned storage conditions in a more moderate climate could remain stable for a longer period of time.

Hot climates tend to have larger and more diverse populations of rodents and insects which can infest libraries and archives. Rodents can be particularly destructive to electrical wiring, damaging the insulation thus causing an electrical fire hazard. Termites or other insects which undermine the structural elements of a building may so weaken the interior supports that if a fire were to start it could spread quickly causing parts of the building to collapse thereby allowing the fire to spread throughout the structure.

2.3 Ways of maintaining the environment (climatic) conditions in library and archives buildings. Evaluating their effect on fire safety.

The heating and ventilation systems used in library and archives buildings provide storage conditions which can be categorized in one of the following three groups:

(a) completely conditioned storage environment; this can be provided by air-conditioning systems and air filtration (cleaning) systems;

(b) partially conditioned storage environment; this can be provided by warm-air heating, so that the storage environment conditions can be adjusted only by heating the air supplied to the storerooms. The air can also be cleaned by means of special filters. Both the completely conditioned and partially conditioned environmental systems can operate using greater or smaller amounts of outside air, thus limiting the volume of air that must be filtered to remove dust and harmful gases.

(c) non-conditioned storage environment; this is the case when central heating is used in the building and exhaust ventilation is used in the storerooms.

The level of environmental conditions established for libraries and archives may depend on the importance of the collections, the quantity, and the climatic conditions of the area. The former Soviet Union established norms for the construction of libraries and archives using an evaluation of the significance of the materials to be stored in a specific library or archive to determine the level of storage to be provided. The location of a new building in a moderate or hot climate will also be a factor in the decision process.

Fire safety in buildings has much to do with the choice of systems used to condition storage areas and their ability to maintain proper storage conditions in those buildings. Failure to provide proper storage conditions is potentially more dangerous in terms of fire hazards in hot climates than in cold or moderate climates. Therefore, when evaluating the extent of fire hazard in libraries and archives as they are influenced by climate, one must consider the effect of the external environment and whether or not the internal storage environment has been conditioned to mitigate the potential effect of the external environment on the holdings of archives and libraries.

3. Fire prevention measures

3.1 Stabilizing the environmental conditions in all rooms of libraries and archives

From the standpoint of fire safety, building systems which maintain the environmental conditions in the building should meet the following standards:

(a) Climate influences the selection of building environmental systems. for example, in hot climates it is much more important to provide fully conditioned storage areas in order to mitigate the impact of the external environment.

(b) Restoration, preservation, and duplication laboratories must have their own, separate ventilation system; so should technical service areas of a building, such as boiler rooms, repair shops, workshops, etc.

(c) the air conditioning system should operate with a minimum amount of outside air to reduce the amount of particulate matter (dust) introduced into a storage area.

(d) the emergency smoke-evacuation ducts should have a cross -sectional area which is not less than 0.2 per cent of the floorspace of the room affected.

3.2 Design approaches to ensure the fire safety of library and archives buildings. General requirements.

Buildings housing libraries and archives are either initially designed and constructed as a library or archive or are buildings which were originally used for another purpose and later adapted for use as a library or archive. It is obviously more difficult to introduce the proper fire protection measures into a building not designed as a library or archives. The building which has been adapted to its new use may not even meet the requirements for a fire-resistive building in which the structural elements, including walls, partitions, columns, floors, and roofs are of noncombustible or limited combustible materials.

The interior layout of the rooms in buildings, both specialized library and archives facilities and those adapted to those purposes, include enfilade layouts, corridor-type arrangements, hall arrangements, sectional arrangements, and compound layouts. A hall arrangement is seldom used except where former churches or theaters have been adapted as archives and library buildings. An enfilade arrangement is also usually limited to adapted buildings, e.g., former palaces of the 16th or 17th centuries. A corridor-type layout was typically used in the design of early Soviet archives buildings. This functionally unsuccessful design was later discarded. A sectional layout provides for designing modules that are repeated throughout the building design. Designs which mix elements of several of these types of designs are most commonly used in modern designs for libraries and archives. The type of interior layout used in the design, determine the placing of firewalls within the building which divide the building into fire rated sections and compartments.

Library and archives buildings which are specifically designed to serve those purposes are best able to blend functional operational requirements and fire protection requirements. These designs often use the principle of dividing the building into functional zones which attempt to reduce the distance that must be traveled by the archivist or librarian to bring requested materials to researchers while at the same time restricting visitors to limited areas of the building.

Compartmentalization into functional zones also aids architects and engineers to design into the building various fire protection measures. The architectural design will separate the records storage units from other areas of the building. The walls and floors will be of noncombustible, fire-resistant construction. The design will provide the necessary minimum resistance to fire and fire hose streams for structural consideration and variations in quality of materials and workmanship. Walls must have sufficient lateral strength to withstand impact due to collapsing structural elements, toppling machinery or building equipment.

Most modern designs will also separate restoration, preservation and duplication laboratories from storerooms and from areas where visitors are normally located. The risk of fire is greater in laboratories by the nature of the work going on there. Therefore, they are not only physically separated, they also have separate ventilation systems and may have special explosion proof storage containers for the various chemicals being used in the laboratory. All of the countries surveyed had developed standards limiting the amount of explosive and flammable chemicals that could be stored in one place and specified how the chemicals were to be stored. The laboratory areas will have fire walls aimed at containing any fire that might start there and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the building. From a practical standpoint, it would seem sensible to break laboratory areas up into a series of rooms rather than one or two very large rooms where all of the laboratory processes are carried out. The increased number of laboratory rooms offers greater opportunity for confining a fire to one room and thus limiting the damage.

Designers must also be aware of the requirements to provide fire exits for visitors and staff from the various areas of the building. Fire code requirements vary from country to country and from locality to locality within a country. Architects will be required to design a building with the number and type of exits as specified by the local fire code. These requirements, which are usually based on the size of a space to be evacuated, the usual number of people occupying the space, the type of fire suppression systems incorporated into the building, type of building materials used, etc., will provide sufficient evacuation routes to allow safe egress from the building.

In some countries evacuation requirements provided that any zone within a building where significant numbers of the public congregate must be equipped with two exits where the distance from the remotest point within the space to the exit does not exceed the rated value of E= 1.5P, where E is a distance between the remotest two exits, and P is the perimeter of the hall. The placing of the exits should assure that the evacuation paths do not cross each other. Halls and corridors should be sufficiently wide and straight to enable personnel evacuation to occur easily and for fire fighting personnel and their equipment to reach the site of the fire. The requirement for exits having independent evacuation paths help the architect define the size and positioning of the reading rooms and halls for a library or archives. Since attendance can vary greatly depending on the time of year, exhibits, and other special events, serious consideration should be given to the maximum number of people who might expect to be in the building at any given time when planning the capacity of exits. In every country, fire code requirements guide architects as they design library and archives buildings.

When designing the records storage areas of libraries and archives, architects must also incorporate fire protection requirements. In the former Soviet Union, for example, each storeroom must be separated by fire walls into fire zones which do not exceed 600m² and which have at least two exits. If only one exit is available then the size of the storeroom should be limited to 70 m². Assuming there are no windows in the storerooms, legal requirements also call for exhaust ducts for smoke removal which should be provided with remotely controlled valves. The distance between the valve and the farthest point in the room should not exceed 15 m. The ducts and surrounding structures should be designed to be fire-resistive for at least one hour.

Some library and archives building designs incorporate the use of toboggans in the storerooms to be used to evacuate books or documents during a fire. If toboggans are to be used, the end of the toboggan must terminate within the building to avoid an influx of fresh air which would provide oxygen for the fire. A hatch can be provided on each floor to allow for evacuating materials from that floor. The termination point of the toboggan must be easily accessible to personnel and trucks so the materials can be assembled and taken away to safety. If evacuation of documents is part of a facilities fire protection plan, then toboggans become an essential design element since elevators are switched off in case of fire and stairwells are to be used for the evacuation of staff and visitors and for the fire fighting personnel.

Computer rooms, even those located in buildings other than libraries and archives, have many of the same design and construction requirements as libraries and archives. Most businesses view their computers in the same protective way archivists and librarians view their holdings. Floors and walls should be of noncombustible materials, and they should be constructed using fire-resistant techniques. Traditionally recognized constructions meeting these requirements use reinforced concrete with steel rods at least 13 mm in diameter spaced 152 mm on center and running at right angles in both directions. Rods should be securely wired at intersections not over 305 mm apart in both directions and installed centrally in the wall or panel. Alternatively, construction could consist of a structural steel frame protected with at least 102 mm of concrete, brickwork, or its equivalent tied with steel ties or wire mesh. Firewalls used to isolate the computer centre. Computer centres were usually constructed using techniques which sought to ensure the area was water tight to prevent damage to computers from water used to fight fires in other parts of the building.

The air conditioning ducts used in computer centres should be fabricated of noncombustible materials. If the underfloor space is used as a plenum ventilation chamber for direct air supply into the computer centre, then the underfloor space must be divided into separate fire zones by using firewalls. Without this prevention technique, fire could easily spread from one area to another under the floor.

Multistoried libraries and archives add other fire protection requirements. Smoke evacuation becomes a very important problem to be dealt with. Smoke evacuation systems must keep smoke out of stairwells being used to evacuate personnel from the building and remove smoke from corridors. Properly enclosed stairways equipped with fire doors will prevent the spread of fire, smoke, and heat from one level to another. Elevator shafts, dumb-waiters, and all other vertical openings through the structure should also be safeguarded. Air-handling systems (ventilation, heating, and cooling) should be constructed and equipped to prevent the passage of smoke, heat, and fire from one area to another or from one level to another.

3.2.1 Fire-resistance requirements for structural elements of archives and library buildings

Each country has developed standards for fire-resistant structural elements in buildings and many have developed special requirements for archives and libraries. To apply the standards, it is essential, in addition to any special fire risks posed by laboratories or other technical support areas, to know the fire loading of the archival materials or books. The extension of the fire and the extent of damage would be directly related to the total quantity of combustibles involved. The severity of a fire is approximately 1 hour for 49 kg/m² of gross weight of combustibles involved. The weight of paper in a typical records storage area is equivalent to approximately 49 kg/m² for each shelf height of storage. A records storage area with records stored seven (7) shelves high contains approximately 342 kg/m² of floor area. The Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA STD. No. 466-77) also provides procedures for determining the fire loading of various buildings. Unless fire development is stopped by either manual or automatic fire extinguishment, the entire records storage in one room or floor could quickly become engulfed in fire. There are no traditional types of fire-resistant construction capable of withstanding the total impact of burnout.

Fire walls are used in construction to keep fires confined to particular areas of a building for specified periods of time. For example, in the former Soviet Union the fire resistance time limit for firewalls and fireproof ceiling/floor panels installed in storerooms containing paper-based documents is two (2) hours, while doors are rated for 0.6 hour. In the United Kingdom the time limit for the same structures is set at four (4) hours. Fire resistance for storerooms containing magnetic storage media are rated anywhere from 0.75 to six (6) hours in different countries.

In addition, consideration should be given to the proper selection of interior finishes and furnishings. Highly flammable wall and ceiling finishes should be avoided. Local fire code requirements usually specify minimum requirements for interior finish materials.

3.2.2 Buildings and Accommodations Adapted for Libraries and Archives

Adapting an existing building for use as a library or archives is usually a last resort for archivists and librarians. If adaptation is being considered, a great deal of study will be involved to determine whether it is possible to adapt the building to the new use. Obviously, such non-fire related issues such as quantity and type of floor space and its functionality must be evaluated.

Historical buildings or architectural memorials are the most difficult facilities to adapt for archives or library use. It is usually impossible to alter the interior layout or to change doors, finishes, etc., in such buildings. Use of very old buildings, or even those classified as ancient, while often proposed for archives or library use, present very great difficulties. It is sometimes extremely difficult if not impossible to determine floor load capacity, what materials were used in constructing the building, and the fire resistance of partitions, etc.

If a building has been determined to be functionally appropriate as an archives or library, the basic elements of fire safety must also be determined. Analysis must include the wall material and thickness, ceiling/floor panel materials and thickness, window casements, doors, and structural elements used in the building. Wooden structural elements were often used in ancient buildings. Historical edifices often used elaborately carved and painted interior finishes made of wood. These elements should be treated with a fire retardant substance which will not produce gases harmful to the collections. More importantly, however, is treatment of the wooden beams which were often used to support older buildings.

Basements create problems for fire extinguishment and safety of life in event of fire. These problems are greatly magnified if loss of power impairs ventilating systems. Alternative means for permitting the escape of heat and smoke should be provided. Provisions should be made for the safe emergency evacuation of people as well as for access by the fire department to the fire area.

Standards in the former Soviet Union specify that basement rooms which adjoin exterior walls should not exceed 3000 m² with a width not over 30 m. Exterior walls should have windows or specially installed "knockout" panels to allow personnel to escape the area and fire fighting personnel to enter. The window should be 0.75 x 1.2 m, with the total area of the window openings equal to 0.2 per cent of the total floor area.

The ceiling/floor panel above the basement should be made fireproof. Two self-contained external stairways which provide access for fire fighting personnel to the basement should be located at opposite ends of the building. If it is impossible to exit the building directly from the basement, and exiting is possible only by way of the general purpose internal stairways, the door leading from the basement should be provided with an airlock vestibule having an positive pressure of 20 Pa (i.e. 2 kgf/m²). The airlock vestibules and the staircases must be enclosed by firewalls.

While adapted buildings may be fitted with a variety of fire protection measures, the best protection for archival and library collections in the long run is to transfer them as soon as possible to a building specially designed for their protection.

3.3 Fire prevention requirements for building support systems and equipment in libraries and archives

Requirements for fire safety of building systems are normally specified by standards promulgated in all developed countries. These systems, which include ventilation, heating, and cooling, are integrated into the overall building structure. Their fire-resistance requirements must be determined as part of the overall fire resistance requirements for the construction of the building.

In some cases the support equipment may be an element of the building structure. For example, in some archives and libraries the part of the building used to house the records or books is only a shell. The metal stacks are self-supporting and extend through several floors of the building. The storeroom floors are merely platforms that provide a walkway through the storerooms. This results in slot-like openings between the storerooms and the walkways, permitting a rapid, uninterrupted upward flow of air, heat, smoke, and flames. This system was used in an archives building constructed in 1886 in Moscow. More recently, some larger archives and libraries have installed horizontal or vertical conveyer systems to move materials from one part of the building to another. In some instances these systems may penetrate firewalls and fireproof ceiling/floor panels.

3.3.1 Forced ventilation and air heating systems

Buildings equipped with air conditioning and ventilation systems have ducts that must pass through firewalls within the building. Any break in a firewall increases the chance of fire spreading through that break. In some instances the duct itself has been weakened sufficiently by fire that it has broken allowing the fire to spread to adjacent areas.

Air ducts should be made of non-combustible materials which provide low heat conduction properties. This is especially important at the point where the duct intersects with firewalls and fireproof ceiling/floor panels. Where the duct is carried through the wall, the holes should be made as small as practicable, the duct provided with a close fitting noncombustible sleeve, and the space around the inside of the sleeve completely filled with approved, fire-resistant material. Ducts should be equipped with automatic fire dampers and fan shutoffs. The ducts should also be kept clean to prevent the buildup of dust which could help spread fire. The building should also have a separate smoke evacuation duct system that is independent from the main building ventilation system.

3.3.2 Requirements for electrical equipment

The electric wiring running through a library or archives building must be airtight. Flush wiring is preferable in new buildings; in old or adapted buildings, the electrical wire should be in conduit. Wiring should be grounded and protected from short-circuits by means of fuses.

Lighting is always a possible fire hazard, more so in some areas or locations than in others. Lighting protection can be more effectively and economically incorporated in the course of new construction than as an afterthought.

Fixed lighting should provide sufficient illumination within a storeroom so that temporary lighting fixtures are unnecessary. Lighting should be limited to vapour-proof or explosion-proof lamps controlled by a 2-pole switch equipped with a pilot light outside the storeroom. Light fixtures should be placed at least 0.5 m from the documents or books. Emergency lighting should be provided with its own independent power source.

Special electrical standards exist for wiring located in wet rooms such as restoration laboratories, fume hoods, duplication laboratories where film developing occurs, and in various other specialized laboratories.

Electrical equipment should be maintained regularly. All equipment should be checked routinely for malfunctions and extension cords should never be used.

3.3.3 Requirements for installation of transportation equipment in archives and libraries

Horizontal and vertical transportation systems should have their own fire protection system. Vertical transportation systems, which include elevators/lifts, hoists, cargo paternosters, etc., are erected within a specially constructed shaft in the building. The fire protection goal is to ensure that the products of combustion created during a fire are not allowed to enter the shaft. This is achieved by creating a positive pressure in the elevator shaft, and by installing diaphragms made of non-combustive materials at each floor level in the shaft service-line. If no diaphragms are installed, a positive pressure must be created there also. In the lower part of the shaft the positive pressure should be 20 Pa. Pressure in the upper shaft must be determined by engineering calculations influenced by local physical conditions. Obviously the walls of the elevator and service-line shafts should be constructed of noncombustible materials, and they should be airtight.

Horizontal conveyers should be provided with protective devices at the intersections with firewalls. These devices come in several versions. It may be a fire-operated valve which is normally kept open by a steel cable fitted with a fusible lock. Another version has a guillotine-type shutter closing the opening the conveyer passes through. It is kept in the open position with a fusible lock. One of these devices must be installed at each opening through which the conveyer passes throughout the building.

3.3.4 Requirements for laboratories and technical service rooms

The most dangerous pieces of equipment in terms of potential fire hazards are located in laboratories or technical service areas such as electrical and plumbing repair shops and the areas where the boilers and furnaces of central heating systems are located. These areas are subject to all of the fire protection procedures and standards previously listed, but specialized requirements may apply to certain pieces of equipment.

3.3.5 Fire prevention requirements for archives and library equipment

3.3.5.1 Storeroom equipment

The primary equipment located in storerooms is stationary or mobile shelving. All archives and library standards specify that only metal shelves shall be used, but in practice wood shelving also is used in some countries. The wood shelving obviously creates a constant fire hazard for those facilities that still use them. In some instances archivists and librarians have used fire retardant compositions on the wood shelving as an intermediate measure until they can replace them with metal shelving.

The practice of mounting records storage shelves on tracks is now appearing in new archives and libraries construction and renovations as an application of modern warehousing technology (compact storage). One aisle is provided for a series of shelving units, and, to gain access to a particular shelf, units are moved manually or by a motor until the aisle appears at the desired shelf unit. The use of compact shelving results in high fire load density that can lead to a fire that will threaten even the strongest code-prescribed fire barriers and construction, e.g., cause structural collapse. Without sprinkler protection for compact storage, fire endurance may exceed the resistance of fire compartment walls and the ability of the fire service to control it. Automatic sprinklers should be mandatory wherever compact shelving is used for libraries and archives.

However, it should also be pointed out that the potential for a total burnout of a records facility is exactly the same as for a similar amount of records on open shelving, except that for a fire to spread beyond control of a municipal fire department will take considerably longer with mobile shelving. Also, like records stored on open shelving, records stored on mobile shelving have the inherent capability to self-destruct and destroy the facility itself. However, slow spread of fire within the shelves, as occurs in mobile shelving, improves the chance of outside aid being effective.

Any additional equipment used in storerooms, such as bookcases, card catalog cabinets, etc. should also be made of metal. The introduction of any wood or other combustible material increases the fire hazards in a storeroom.

3.3.5.2 Office and reading room equipment

Public reading rooms are usually compartmentalized in a manner that separates them from the storerooms, laboratories, building technical support areas, and other areas. They are zoned through the use of fire walls and fire doors. Additionally, fire exits have been established and evacuation routes developed.

In addition to these precautions, archivists and librarians should deliberately lay out the research room furniture in a manner that enhances rather than impedes evacuation from the rooms. Just as the maximum number of people expected influenced the architect's design of corridors and passageways, officials should ensure that they have allowed sufficiently sized walkways through the furniture in the research rooms to permit speedy evacuation.

The furniture selected for the public research rooms should take fire safety into consideration. While metal furniture may not be considered appropriate for these rooms, drapes should be made of fire retardant material and materials used on chairs should meet established fire code standards.

3.3.5.3 Storage equipment in laboratories

The layout of laboratories must consider evacuation routes. It must also ensure that there is sufficient space provided around the area where staff works with potentially flammable materials to avoid any careless accidents.

Proper storage containers are essential in laboratories. Many chemicals used in the laboratories are flammable and some are explosive. These chemicals must be stored in special explosion-proof storage cabinets. In some instances chemicals must be refrigerated; in others, quantities of chemicals stored together in one storage cabinet should not exceed certain levels. Chemicals come with specific storage instructions which should be followed explicitly. As in other parts of the archives or library building, individual fire extinguishers should be placed conveniently throughout the laboratory. Laboratory application may require a different kind of extinguisher than is in general use throughout the building.

4. Requirements for fire detection and fire fighting equipment

4.1 Consequences of using water to extinguish fires in storerooms

Water is always used by fire fighting personnel to extinguish fires. Archivists and Librarians have often held the strong conviction that water was as destructive to archives and books as fire.

This view is still held by many records custodians in Europe. However, archivists and librarians in North America accept and, in most cases, enthusiastically endorse the use of automatic sprinkler systems as an integral part of their fire protection system. North American archivists tend to accept the thesis that wet records can be recovered, but burned records cannot. While virtually any wet paper records can be recovered, provided prompt and proper action is taken, effective salvage requires special techniques, facilities, and expert advice. Preplanning for records recovery is essential.

It is important for archivists and librarians to understand that unless there is a specialized fire extinguishing system to control the development and growth of a fire, responding fire fighting forces would have no choice but to attack the fire with fire hoses. In many facilities the quantity of paper fuel involved is such that the fire department would have to fight the fire from a distance under very adverse conditions. This would normally force them to use heavy hose streams having the characteristics of a hydraulic ram. Wide and forceful disruption of the records storage arrangement would be a normal effect of efforts to prevent total destruction. The fire fighters may also take actions that disrupt and damage records that are not burning in order to reach the actual seat of the fire. While properly constructed fire walls would assist a fire department in limiting the size of a fire, all of the records within the fire area would probably be seriously affected by either fire or water from the high pressure streams or both.

When an automatic extinguishing system of proper design is provided, the role of the fire department changes to one of assisting and supplementing the automatic extinguishing system, rather than direct fire attack. The most effective fire protection element and the most economical automatic fire control system for protection of archives is the automatic wet-pipe sprinkler system. Such systems are also the most frequently opposed by archivists and librarians because of their concern with water damage. Three facts ought to dispel much of this concern:

(1) Sprinklers actually constitute a method of fire control involving a minimum rather than a maximum of water.

(2) Each sprinkler operates individually and the operation of any one does not cause the operation of any other sprinkler; therefore, only those sprinklers in the heat of the fire operate and discharge water.

(3) Wet records are recoverable, burned records are not.

(4) The probability of sprinkler operation at a time when no fire exists is insignificant.

Where an archive or library is protected by an automatic sprinkler system, provision of a waterflow alarm that transmits a signal to the fire department on the fusing (opening) of one or more sprinklers eliminates the possibility of a sprinkler operating -undetected and discharging water for a long period of time, excessively wetting the records underneath, even though it had already successfully extinguished the fire. The waterflow alarm feature, in addition to signaling the existence of a fire, will also detect the flow of water in the rare instance of accidental or malicious damage to the system.

The sprinkler system operates only when the fire has reached the point of rapid heat rise and has passed the phase of development where manual fire extinguishing could be expected to be undertaken successfully. Both tests and fire experience have shown that sprinklers can be expected to confine the fire to a relatively small portion of the row of shelving where the fire started. Should action by the fire department still be required by the time they arrive, they could approach the seat of the fire and use small hose streams to quench the remaining fire.

Under normal conditions in a sprinkler protected facility, it is probable that fire would be confined to an area of between 9.3 and 46.4 m². Water damage would consist primarily of superficial wetting of cartons in those areas where cartons were involved or edge and bottom wetting of open file records. The areas of water damage to the degree described above would probably extend about 3.0 to 6.1 m to each side of the area of fire damage. The records on top of the top shelves would be the wettest; those on lower shelves would be shielded from direct impact of water and would be considerably drier. It is expected that total extinguishment and shutdown should take place normally before failure of the corrugated or pressboard cartons. Fire department operations in a sprinklered facility will probably cause only minimum physical disruption. Solid fiberboard (archival) boxes resist water damage to a much greater degree than corrugated cartons.

There are four other types of sprinklers that lend themselves to records and library protection.

(1) The pre-action system is a system in which the sprinkler piping normally is dry, and the control valve opens only when the heat detection devices detect the development of fret It is more expensive and less reliable than a wet-pipe system.

(2) The recycling system is an adaptation of the pre-action sprinkler system with a recycling feature. When the sprinkler or sprinklers have extinguished the fire and the heat drops below a preset temperature (such as 60 degrees Celsius), the detectors cause a timing cycle to start that automatically discontinues the water flow by closing a special valve in about 5 minutes.
The system remains in readiness, and, should the fire redevelop it would cycle and start again. It is somewhat more expensive than the pre-action system.

(3) On-off sprinkler heads. Sprinkler heads are available that have a recycling feature. Installed on wet-pipe sprinkler systems, each head operates individually at a predetermined temperature, but when the temperature drops below the predetermined temperature, the head shuts off. Each head works independently, on and off, depending upon the fire situation in its immediate area. No separate detection system is required. The technology of the on-off heads is relatively new, and long term reliability data are not available.

(4) Dry-pipe sprinkler systems. The sprinkler piping is filled with compressed air. The release of air pressure, as through a fused sprinkler head, allows the water valve to open and supply water to the sprinkler piping. Each head operates independently. Releasing air pressure through a fused sprinkler head takes appreciable time, during which the fire may grow and open additional sprinkler heads. Dry-pipe sprinkler systems are primarily used for protection of unheated areas where freezing may occur.

4.2 Fire fighting agents that do not adversely affect documents

Extinguishing fires by flooding record storage compartments with gas is favored by many archivists and librarians, on the basis that, if no water is applied to a fire, no water damage occurs, and salvage problems are simplified. Two principal gases for this application are Halon 1301 and carbon dioxide.

While water-based agents depend on cooling and quenching, and carbon dioxide depends primarily on oxygen-exclusion, Halon 1301 inhibits burning by chemically interacting with the flame radical. Halon 1301 (bromotrifluoromethane) is a liquified gas under pressure, which is an effective flame inhibitor while at the same time exhibiting low toxic and corrosive properties.

Halon 1301, being a flame inhibitor, is not effective at normal concentrations against smoldering fire. In a records storage facility, it is important that application be undertaken as early as possible in the fire, before it becomes deep-seated. To be effective, it is also important that the system be automatic, total flooding, and employ a properly responsive detection system. It is essential that means be provided to contain the gas without significant leakage for an extended period of time. Halon 1301 systems are relatively expensive, and most installations have been limited to protection of high value collections in modest-sized places (less than 1416 m³). Total extinguishment by Halon 1301 of a fire in a paper storage area is not likely because of the likelihood of smoldering occurring. Prevention of flaming fire pending arrival of the municipal fire department may be adequate. Rapid fire growth would be inhibited in the interim.

Halon 1301 will soon be unavailable. It is one of the family of chlorofluorocarbons that has been banned from sale by 1996 because of their destructive impact on the earth's ozone layer. Chemical companies can be expected to try to develop a replacement for Halon 1301.

Fire extinguishment can also be accomplished by a total flooding carbon dioxide system with a soaking period. Systems for records protection are designed to provide a concentration of 65 per cent in the protected space, to control stratification, and to maintain soaking for 30 minutes. Openings not required for pressure venting must be closed at the time of discharge to avoid loss of carbon dioxide during the soaking period.

Since atmospheres containing fire extinguishing concentrations of carbon dioxide will not sustain life, it could be fatal to be trapped in the flooded space. Ample warning and time delay must be given prior to discharge to allow occupants to escape--from the area to be flooded. A person could not safely leave the area after the discharge starts. For effective fire control, the activation of the carbon dioxide system should be automatic in response to fire, triggered by a properly designed and installed heat detection system.

High expansion foam is another total flooding medium, meaning that it inundates the protected space with the extinguishing agent. The foam surrounds all the materials within the protected area with an aggregate of bubbles, each of which carries a small amount of water. High expansion foam extinguishes fires quickly and easily by filling the entire volume of the storage space. The degree of wetting is low: generally it does not penetrate normal corrugated fiberboard cartons. However, after exposure to foam it is necessary to take corrective drying action on all the materials within the area contacted by the foam.

Total flooding systems require maintaining sufficient foam to submerge the hazard, length of time of coverage of the hazard, and minimum rate of discharge to compensate for breakdown of foam by sprinkler discharge, shrinkage, fire, and other factors. High expansion foam systems require venting, closure of openings through which foam would escape, and maintenance of foam to cover the hazard to ensure control and extinguishment of fires. The rate of application of high expansion foam is high, and a large vent area is needed for the displaced air. Automatic activation of the system is by a heat detection system.

There are a number of factors involved in comparing extinguishing systems. Original cost, reliability, cost of agent, susceptibility to false operation, area of application, damage to records by fire and by extinguishing agent, and consequences of failure are all important factors for consideration. Automatic sprinklers are the most reliable and economic means of controlling fires in records storage areas. Wet-pipe sprinklers with hydraulically designed piping, adequate water supply, and supervised valves are reliable and trouble-free. Cyclic systems, pre-action systems, and dry-pipe systems, provide for assurance against water damage, introduce failure potentials in the system and can slow system functioning in a fire and result in a larger fire to extinguish. In a fire, only sprinklers in the immediate vicinity of the fire are activated.

Gaseous extinguishment has the potential for least damage if all elements perform as designed. Automatic operation of the system and automatic closure of leakage openings is essential to the success of these systems. Neither halon nor carbon dioxide can be expected to extinguish a deep-seated fire condition that would occur if an archives fire were allowed to become well developed before application of the extinguishing gas. Gas leakage through a blocked-open door, a temporary opening, or a fire caused breach could also result in a failure. All materials in the enclosure are equally treated by the gas, whether near the fire or away from the fire. Final extinguishment is usually performed by the fire department using hose streams.

Automatic high expansion foam has the capacity to overcome a well-established fire and in this factor is much superior to gaseous extinguishment and better than sprinklers. Like gaseous extinguishment, high expansion foam will escape through unclosed openings. Also, like gas, all materials in the enclosure are equally exposed to the extinguishing agent. As the foam will dampen cartons, all materials in the enclosure are damaged slightly and must be dried. Final extinguishment by fire department hose streams will probably be -required.

4.3 Fire detection systems

Early warning detectors, known generically as smoke detectors, respond to either the visible (smoke) or invisible (molecular size) products of combustion, or both, produced from the moment of ignition. In a properly engineered installation, these devices can detect a smoldering fire in its low energy stage. Where ignition from a smoldering fire is likely, they can give warning very early in the fire development.

Listed or approved smoke detectors include ionization type, photoelectric beam or spot type, infrared type, etc. It is possible, if the need warrants, that these early warning systems may activate associated fire extinguishing systems. These may be considered as part of the overall system in any important record collection where a smoldering fire is possible.

Total dependence on the combination of smoke detection and hand-held fire extinguisher attack still leaves the facility subject to a major disaster. Dependence solely on an early warning detection system exposes the facility to full fire development before effective efforts can be undertaken.

It is important that smoke detection systems be individually engineered by competent personnel. Where the devices are used, they are installed because of the desire to obtain the earliest possible knowledge of the existence of a fire. The various types of air movements, including stratification caused by heating or other air-handling systems, as well as that provided by the records storage arrangement, are important considerations. It is the best practice that the system be capable of detecting and locating the presence of fire in any portion of the records storage area within the briefest period of time. While the time element specified will directly affect the cost of the system, it will also affect the extent of the damage. Generally, the shorter the time for detection, the higher the cost of the system.

Heat and smoke detectors require a signal transmission system to report the fire to the fire department, sound the local alarm, and/or activate fire suppression systems, ventilation controls, etc., as appropriate.

4.4 Fire extinguishers

Regardless of other types of fire extinguisher systems provided, it is essential that every records storage facility be provided with an adequate supply of well-distributed portable fire extinguishers suitable for extinguishing fires in paper and plastic records. It is desirable that the type of extinguisher provided be the trigger action type in which the flow can be started and stopped by the operator. Gaseous extinguishers are not effective for extinguishing deep-seated fires in paper materials. The presence of the proper extinguishers would enable the working or guard force, on discovering a fire or responding to an alarm from an early warning detection system, to attack and extinguish the fire while it is small, with minimum damage to the records. It is important that staff are properly instructed in the use of small fire extinguishers.

4.5 Managerial responsibilities for fire prevention and protection

Plans developed by the management of archives and libraries to protect the collections, the facility, and personnel from fire should include the following goals:

(a) remove potential causes of fires;
(b) create conditions that impede the spread of fire;
(c) ensure the safety of staff and visitors;
(d) create a fire evacuation plan for particularly valuable record/books;
(e) install fire extinguishing devices that cause the minimum damage to the records while ensuring that the fire is extinguished with the minimum loss.

Every archives and library should have a fire protection plan for their facility. Many of the measures that can be used to protect against fire have been mentioned in this paper.

Management officials also must assume responsibility for developing evacuation plans for staff and visitors. It is not enough to ensure that sufficient exits exist; or that fire doors are kept unlocked and unblocked; or that furniture has not been rearranged to block exits. Evacuation plans should be developed with specific responsibilities assigned to various staff members to ensure that the building is cleared when an alarm is sounded. Evacuation plans should be tested by having unannounced fire drills.

It is also important to work with the local fire department to ensure their cooperation should a fire occur. Providing periodic walk-throughs for fire fighting personnel who would be expected to be called to fight a fire should an alarm go off, can improve their response time. This is particularly important in buildings which have rather complicated internal layouts. The quicker the fire fighter can get to the fire, the less damage there will be to the collections. Fire departments will often agree to provide periodic instruction to staff on the proper techniques for using portable fire extinguishers.

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