"Welcome to the land of Oz," says William Fries as a photo of the Pentagon, the world's largest office space, flashes on a massive screen behind him. Fries, the Pentagon's fire marshal, intrigued attendees at this morning's Featured Presentation with an array of other eye-catching images and anecdotes of harrowing rescues and building upgrades following the terrorist attacks on September 11.
The building, which serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Department of Defense, was undergoing a series of upgrades when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the west side of the structure, killing 184 people. Some renovations needed rethinking after the attacks, prompting officials to bring Fries, a former consultant with Hughes Associates, on board.
As fire marshal, Fries oversees a mixed-use occupancy housing 28,000 civillian and military tenants that enjoy nearly 35 eateries, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, big-box stores like Best Buy, and a mall. His perma-smile faded when his presentation veered toward the topic of 9/11. "When you do our jobs as fire protection professionals, we sometimes don't understand what it's like to be in one of these infernos."
Exemplifying his point, co-presenter Ariam Kloehn, the Pentagon's deputy fire marshal, read an action report from a woman inside the building during the attacks: "This force hit the room, instantly turning this office into an inferno hell. The swiftness and force has no comparison. My body was useless. I was slam dunked backward into my coworkers cubicle. I felt the heat and heard the sizzling of me.”
The lessons learned from the incident led to the implementation of "code-plus" features to the building, including increased sprinkler densities and fire barrier upgrades. A handful of NFPA codes and standards, including NFPA 101, Life Safety Code®, and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, were used during this project, says Fries.
For more information on these upgrades, read the recent NFPA Journal interview with Fries.To get a different perspective on the aftermath of 9/11, read about last year's conference presenter Jay Jonas, deputy chief with the New York City Fire Department, who escaped the North Tower on 9/11.