Fire Standards Caveats

Important Statements for Important Standards

According to F2.2.1 of Form and Style for ASTM Standards, “Every fire standard shall state its purpose, specify the known limitations of the standard and specify the significance of the data that are gathered (including relevance to human life and property, where appropriate).” This column covers caveats used in fire standards.

The three primary types of ASTM International fire standards are fire-test-response standards, fire-hazard assessment standards and fire-risk assessment standards.

Fire-test-response standards provide a means for measuring the response of materials, products or assemblies to heat and flame under controlled conditions of test. The following two caveats need to be included. While the first caveat has been required for many years and is shown in F2.2.2.1, the second caveat, addressing operator safety, is relatively new and is shown in F2.2.2.6:

This standard is used to measure and describe the response of materials, products or assemblies to heat and flame under controlled conditions, but does not by itself incorporate all factors required for fire hazard or fire risk assessment of the materials, products or assemblies under actual fire conditions.

Fire testing is inherently hazardous. Adequate safeguards for personnel and property shall be employed in conducting these tests.

Fire-hazard assessment standards provide a method for assessing the potential for harm for materials, products or assemblies that could be anticipated under specified fire conditions. The wording for the caveat in these standards is:

This standard is used to predict or provide a quantitative measure of the fire hazard from a specified set of fire conditions involving specific materials, products or assemblies. This assessment does not necessarily predict the hazard of actual fires which involve conditions other than those assumed in the analysis.

Fire-risk assessment standards provide a method for assessing the probability of loss resulting from a given fire situation involving interaction between the material, product or assembly with its environment. The caveat to be included is:

This standard is used to establish a means of combining the potential for harm in fire scenarios with the probabilities of occurrence of those scenarios. Assessment of fire risk using this standard depends upon many factors, including the manner in which the user selects scenarios and uses them to represent all scenarios relevant to the application. This standard cannot be used to assess fire risk if any specifications are different from those contained in the standard.

Two additional caveats are included in F2.2. One of them is a generic caveat shown in F2.2.2.4, which needs to be used for fire standards that cannot be used to provide quantitative measures, such as guides or practices. It reads as follows:

This fire standard cannot be used to provide quantitative measures.

The other caveat, shown in F2.2.2.5, needs to be used for fire standards that do not describe a fire test but do produce quantitative results that are calculated measures of fire-test-response characteristics and not by themselves measures of fire hazard risk. It is intended for some specfic guides or practices:

This standard is used to determine certain fire-test responses of materials, products or assemblies to heat and flame under controlled conditions by using results obtained from fire-test-reponse standards. The results obtained from using this standard do not by themselves constitute measure of fire hazard or fire risk.

This article appears in the issue of Standardization News.