Back in 1976, if I remember correctly, the Ministry of the Interior formed a committee to develop a fire prevention legislation that was in keeping with the times. They were members of the Administration, Industry, trade associations etc.
To frame the historical period, in the early 1970s, a fire in broken out in a nightclub in Grenoble had caused the death of about 120 guys. Then occurred, but already in the course of our work, the fire of Todi and others in France, Germany etc. up to that of the Statute of Turin, with other 60 victims, that is all the spectators of the gallery, killed by the gases that had instead spared all the spectators of the audience. In the meantime work had been done, and also well: in 1979 a Ministerial Circular was issued with all the test methods to organize a realistic and well articulated classification system, with assessments, for that time, based on a logic still valid today .
The series of methods CSEA 1/2/3 and ISO 1182 obtained information on ignition, propagation and other measures relating to parameters such as drip, post-combustion, damaged zone with propagation speed; together with an evaluation of the importance of each parameter, based on the logic of the experience of the Fire Department, expressed in points, produced an acceptable classification, for those times.
It must be admitted that, following the work of ISO TC92 and attending colleagues from all over the world, we have treasured the great work done in the international arena in those years. However, unlike the rest of the world, in Italy we have always taken into account the actual conditions of use of the products and we have always evaluated several parameters with the same test. We had not considered the fire behaviour of the products responsible for the misfortune of Turin: the upholstered furniture, at that time already widespread in all public spaces in place of wooden seats (those still present in speakers, for example). Ing. Tiezzi, legendary VVF Chief Inspector at the time, allowed no more than 6 months to develop an evaluation system that would stand from a logical and technical point of view, without having to return to the wooden seats. We were lucky: thank God, in England, the problem was in an advanced phase of study, with the use of a relatively small flame – 40 mm high. We started with a 20 second attack on the bare polyurethane, as a preliminary screening, then with 3 attacks at increasing time, 20, 80, 140 seconds on the complete model of foam with final coating to get three classes; the method is still used today with good success since we have not had more fires with deaths in cinemas and clubs because of the upholstered furniture since then.
In other areas of fire prevention (from the point of view of reaction to fire) we have also continued to make progress, always following the work of ISO TC92 and then of CEN, under mandate from the Brussels Commission. In the 80’s Vyto Babrauskas developed at the NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology), the calorimetric cone for the measurement of the trend of the release of heat (in other words for the monitoring of the evolution of the power of combustion) later also applied to half-scale and full-scale methods. The use of calorimetry, combined with other measures such as propagation speed and the production of smokes and toxic gases, already allows good modelling work, on condition of using actual data relating to the products used and not literature data, that are unfortunately not reliable and appropriate.
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