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FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets

7-0
January 2012 Page 1 of 19

CAUSES AND EFFECTS OF FIRES AND EXPLOSIONS

Table of Contents
Page 1.0 SCOPE ................................................................................................................................................... 3 1.1 Changes ............................................................................................................................................ 3 2.0 GENERAL ............................................................................................................................................... 3 3.0 BASIC DEFINITIONS AND PRINCIPLES—FIRE ................................................................................. 3 3.1 Combustion ...................................................................................................................................... 3 3.2 Ignition Temperature ........................................................................................................................ 3 4.0 IGNITION SOURCES ............................................................................................................................. 3 4.1 Electrical .......................................................................................................................................... 3 4.2 Static Electricity ............................................................................................................................... 4 4.3 Hot Surfaces—Nonelectrical ........................................................................................................... 5 4.4 Sparks and Open Flames—Hot Work ............................................................................................. 5 4.5 Smoking ........................................................................................................................................... 5 4.6 lncendiarism ..................................................................................................................................... 6 4.7 Spontaneous Ignition ....................................................................................................................... 6 5.0 INDICATORS OF SLOW OR FAST—BURNING FIRES ..................................................................... 12 6.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON STEEL ........................................................................................................... 13 6.1 Thermal Expansion ........................................................................................................................ 13 6.2 Loss of Strength ............................................................................................................................ 13 6.3 Thermal Conductivity ..................................................................................................................... 13 6.4 Evaluating Structural Damage ....................................................................................................... 13 7.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON CONCRETE AND MASONRY ...................................................................... 13 7.1 Evaluating Structural Damage ....................................................................................................... 14 8.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON WOOD ........................................................................................................... 14 8.1 Evaluating Structural Damage ....................................................................................................... 14 9.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON SPRINKLER SYSTEM .................................................................................. 14 10.0 BASIC DEFINITIONS AND PRINCIPLES—EXPLOSIONS .............................................................. 15 10.1 Explosion ..................................................................................................................................... 15 10.2 Physical Explosion ....................................................................................................................... 15 10.3 Chemical Explosion ..................................................................................................................... 15 10.4 Thermal Explosion ....................................................................................................................... 15 10.5 BLEVE ......................................................................................................................................... 15 10.6 Deflagration ................................................................................................................................. 16 10.7 Detonation ................................................................................................................................... 16 10.8 The Mechanism of Explosion ...................................................................................................... 16 10.9 The Buildup Period ...................................................................................................................... 16 10.10 The Triggering Agent ................................................................................................................. 16 10.11 Explosion Prevention ................................................................................................................. 17 11.0 EFFECTS OF EXPLOSIONS ............................................................................................................. 17 11.1 Detonations .................................................................................................................................. 17 11.2 Deflagrations ................................................................................................................................ 17 11.3 Vessel Ruptures and BLEVES .................................................................................................... 17 11.4 Vapor Cloud Explosions (VCE) .................................................................................................... 17 11.5 Energy Release—TNT Equivalents ............................................................................................. 18 11.6 Shock Waves and Overpressures ............................................................................................... 19 11.7 Craters ......................................................................................................................................... 19 APPENDIX A GLOSSARY OF TERMS ....................................................................................................... 19

©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of Factory Mutual Insurance Company.

............. Materials Subject to Spontaneous Heating1 .......................................................... 19 List of Tables Table 1 ...............7-0 Page 2 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets APPENDIX B DOCUMENT REVISION HISTORY .................................... 6 Table 2.................. All rights reserved............................................. 7 ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. ................................................................................................................................................

and combustible fiberboards is 400° to 500°F (200° to 260°C). for specific details on outdoor vapor cloud explosions and methods to convert vapor blast energy into TNT equivalency and overpressure profiles. It does not include recommended safeguards. Ignition can occur at lower temperatures if the material is contaminated with oils or if charcoal is formed followed by ensuing self-heating. cotton. Determination should be made as to how fire could start and how it could develop. and possible catalytic or inhibiting effect of other materials present. 2. the rate of air flow. or (3) impaired cooling or removal of normal heat. the ignition temperature is greatly dependent on the time necessary to volatilize the fuel to form an ignitable mix at the surface. Guidelines For Evaluating the Effects of Vapor Cloud Explosions Using a TNT Equivalency Method.1 Electrical Electrical energy produces heat when electric current flows through a conductor or jumps an air gap. It is important to determine how the potential energy can be accumulated or prepared for sudden transformation and how this transformation can be triggered. or paper. Ignition sources are classified based on the origin of the heat involved. Artificial heating can also initiate self-heating. The normally accepted minimum self-ignition temperature of wood. High current can be the result of: ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. and extinguished. The effects of an explosion may be explored to evaluate its magnitude.1 Combustion Combustion is an exothermic chemical reaction usually involving oxidation of a fuel by atmospheric oxygen. an ignition source usually involves some unusual circumstance not otherwise present. These are the cause or ignition source and the development of the fire. For less volatile solids. In an explosion. 1. can be generated by: (1) a high current. To start the chemical reaction between fuel molecules and oxygen molecules.0 IGNITION SOURCES An ignition source is normally energy in the form of heat which brings fuel up to its ignition temperature. which may bring the fuel up to its ignition temperature. Terminology related to ignitable liquids has been revised to provide increased clarity and consistency with regard to FM Global’s loss prevention recommendations for ignitable liquid hazards. The ignition temperature can vary. 3. Excessive heat. wool.0 SCOPE This data sheet is designed to provide information useful to those evaluating fires and explosions. paper. Refer to Data Sheet 7-42. (2) a high resistance. An explosion is a rapid transformation of potential physical or chemical energy into mechanical energy. 1. the size and shape of the solid or space involved.1 Changes January 2012. The heat produced is proportional to the resistance and to the square of the current. rate of heating. such as charcoal or magnesium. All rights reserved. Since fires are unusual in most occupancies. Flaming combustion involves a gas phase or volatile matter driven off by heat. . such as wood.2 Ignition Temperature Ignition temperature is the minimum temperature to which a substance must be heated to initiate selfsustained combustion in whatever atmosphere is present. sufficient to start a fire. two factors are of major importance. spread. 4.0 BASIC DEFINITIONS AND PRINCIPLES—FIRE 3. Glowing combustion involves direct oxidation of a solid or liquid fuel. the temperature of the ignition source. depending on the fuel or oxygen concentration. 4. 3. be controlled. If the fuel is a solid or liquid. events prior to explosion are important. sufficient energy must be imparted into the mix.0 GENERAL With fire.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 3 1. some of it usually is turned into a gas (unless the oxidizer is also a solid or liquid) so that there is intimate mixing of molecules.

Lightning. d. All rights reserved. are usually not directly involved in the sparks which initiate fires and explosions. Continuous overload causing a short before the fire will exhibit beads of metal and fusing of the copper wire conductors. as in grain handling. A free charge on an ungrounded conductive body is mobile. Static is normally generated by movement of dissimilar substances involving the making and breaking of contact of surfaces. Failure of fans in transformers or enclosed equipment. On the other hand. If a fire or explosion is caused by static electricity. High resistance can be the result of loose or oxidized electrical connections. b. There must be an effective means of static generation. Combustibles too close to light bulbs or heating elements. sticking or fusing of the contact points would signify overheating of the device. 3. However. Plugging of air passageways. . (See Data Sheet 5-11. There must be a means of accumulating the charges and maintaining a suitable electrical potential difference. 3. the bodies most directly involved in charge generation. e. nonconductors. Single phasing in three-phase motors. In any electrical appliance having a thermal control. A poor conductor of electricity must be involved. Strong currents arcing across air gaps can melt metal. Thus. a spark will jump at that point. There will also be decomposition and carbonization of insulation on both sides where the short occurred. b. 2. bus bars. minute currents can ignite flammable vapors or gases. 4. In the case of static sparks. c. Examples are a rapidly moving rubber belt. Short circuits caused by breakdowns in insulation or accident. static electricity will be generated by the nonconductor. the wire coating at the interior would probably not burn away unless the wiring was heated electrically.) 2. the rug. lighting fixtures.) c.) d. it is important to understand and explain the specific mechanism so that repetition can be prevented. Protection of Electrical Equipment.2 Static Electricity Fires and explosions are often attributed to static electricity after other possible causes have been eliminated. paper or cloth unwinding or passing over rollers. decomposition and carbonization of insulation will be found only on the side exposed to the fire. if a person walks across a fur rug. For example. Synchronous Motors. Loss of field in synchronous motors. the resistance is so high that even a small current produces significant energy. (See Data Sheet 5-13. There must be a spark discharge of adequate energy.7-0 Page 4 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets a. Impaired cooling can be the result of: a. When the person touches a grounded object. When electric current jumps an air gap. Lightning Surge Protection. Shorts caused during the heat of the fire may show beading. If electric motors are found in the area of origin. and the entire charge can be drawn off by a single spark. and accumulated in the body of the person. (See Data Sheet 5-18. four conditions must be fulfilled: 1. which in turn can start fires. Dropping of oil or other coolant levels away from heating elements. nonconducting fluids flowing through pipes or being agitated in tanks. the charge on a nonconductive body is relatively immobile so that a spark from its surface can release the charge from only a limited area and will usually not involve enough energy to produce ignition. or the movement of dust or stock. Coatings on bare wires. The spark must occur in an ignitable mixture. For static electricity to be a source of ignition. and heating elements. 4. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. a nongrounded conductor. check the interior of the motor windings to see if the fire was deep seated.

fabric. as with a rubber conveyor belt slipping on a pulley. Friction can be caused by improperly lubricated bearings. such as portable burners or welding torches. and 752°F (400°C) for 0. A liquid involved normally must be above its flash point. possibly because the heat applied is absorbed as heat of fusion during the melting stage. such as rubber. as a fire cause. textile fibers. a hot flue or duct. and (3) molten substances. For instance. a solid must be capable of supporting flameless combustion. water heaters.7 minutes. Temperatures in a glowing cigarette range from 550° to 1400°F (290° to 760°C). or other easily ignitable material. 392°F (200°C) for 11. 572°F (300°C) for 2.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 5 A static spark is a relatively weak ignition source. Test conclusions were: 1. furnaces. Static sparks do not normally have sufficient energy to ignite dusts. This conclusion is often determined by a process of elimination. Conditions favoring ignition include a good supply of finely divided. Frictional heating may cause noncombustible parts to become hot and ignite nearby combustibles. Therefore.3 minutes. Cigars and cigarettes start fires in solid fuels (except explosives. and boilers.0 minutes. dust. such as in ovens. 4. 3.5 Smoking Smoking is a leading cause of fires. Materials which melt when heated. The top or bottom of a furnace or heater. 437°F (225°C) for 8. cigar. Friction. Heating equipment located too close to combustible construction or storage can result in ignition.4 Sparks and Open Flames—Hot Work Open flames may be fixed or portable. Combustible dust mixtures may possibly be ignited by static electricity. Fixed open flames. and most synthetic fibers. A typical example is a hot paper machine bearing igniting oil or paper lint.3 minutes. or an exposed steam pipe may ignite combustibles in contact with the heated surface or where nearby clearances. All rights reserved. 4. but it requires a very high energy spark. Studies have been made of the mechanisms by which cigars and cigarettes start fires.4 minutes. The most common ignitable mixture is a mixture of a flammable vapor or gas with air. and poor adjustment of conveyors or machine drives. long leaf pine will ignite when subjected to: 356°F (180°C) for 14. can ignite any combustible material in the vicinity. These hot surfaces are most often produced by: (1) friction. (2) heating equipment. . Hot sparks or molten globules from cutting or welding or from mechanical grinding operations are common ignition sources. can ignite combustible material any place in a building.8 minutes. broken or misaligned machine parts. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. 662°F (350°C) for 1. In fires from outside sources. Heat will greatly reduce the time required for ignition. 2. or air circulation is adequate. 482°F (250°C) for 6. but when wood is exposed to prolonged heat. such as metal or glass escaping from a furnace or container. such as flammable vapors or gases. Such materials are virtually all of cellulosic origin and include paper. Direct evidence is seldom found which proves that a cigarette. The ordinary ignition temperature of wood is 400° to 500°F (200° to 260°C). the combustible material may be heated directly. but not impossible. and dry vegetation. Metal introduced into textile or grain processing machinery can generate hot sparks that can ignite lint. choking or jamming of materials. Portable flames. may ignite moving combustibles. plastic. will be indicated if the point of damage to the motor belts is worse where it passes over pulleys. 4. and other highly flammable chemicals) by first initiating glowing combustion. matches. 2. or match was specifically the ignition source. it undergoes a chemical change and becomes pyrophoric carbon with an ignition temperature as low as 300°F (150°C).3 Hot Surfaces—Nonelectrical Combustible or flammable material may be ignited by contact with or by radiant heat from surfaces heated by means other than electrical energy.5 minutes. Molten substances. fairly compact fuel and a good air supply or draft to promote flaming combustion. in order to be ignitable by a cigarette. 3. In some instances. Flammable vapors and gases are surprisingly difficult to ignite with a cigar or cigarette. 1. belts are damaged most between pulleys. cannot sustain glowing combustion. insulation.

More than one fire is often started at once. . rags. bacteria can promote oxidation and heat generation. foam rubber. the available surface area and insulation from the surrounding environment. In agricultural crops. coal. Erratic flames indicate the presence of gases. the type of smoke or flame initially observed is often of interest. Materials that spontaneously heat will increase in temperature without taking heat from the surrounding environment. Heat generations is generally due to one or a combination of the following exothermic reactions (reactions that liberate heat): oxidation (chemical combination of a material with oxygen). In accidental fires. decomposition (material breaks down into its elements). or biological action (bacterial caused decomposition). or a fire spreads in ways other than its usual upward direction. polymerization (combination of low molecular weight molecules into a single high molecular weight compound). Strong ignition sources are used. 4. chance is minimized. Ignitable liquids or ‘‘trailer’’ devices are often used to help spread the fire. but their widespread use and careless handling make them significant as a fire cause. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. Witnesses to the fire in its early stages can often give helpful information concerning the material initially involved in the fire. These reactions often occur normally (at a slow rate) without heat build-up. Table 1 Combustible Hay/Vegetable compounds Cooking oils Phosphorus Nitrocellulose Sulfur Sulfuric.6 lncendiarism An incendiary fire is often characterized by a conscious attempt to insure that the fire is severe. An increase in material temperature occurs when heat loss to the surroundings is reduced. nitric. Of course. Color of smoke is often the first clue to the combustibles involved in the fire (Table 1). More flames than smoke indicate well-ventilated burning of dry substances. fiberboard. heating beyond that point is normally due to oxidation accompanied by chemical decomposition. This can be promoted by a high moisture content. Various arrangements of the above reactions and other conditions will permit spontaneous heating to occur and lead to the ignition of the material producing either flaming or smoldering combustion. The bacteria tends to die at temperatures above 160° to 175°F (71° to 80°C). chance plays an important part. 4. and metal powders) and liquids (animal and vegetable oils). In intentional fires. usually with a timing mechanism such as a candle or clock.7 Spontaneous Ignition Spontaneous heating can occur in many types of materials including solids (wood chips. If incendiarism is suspected. The conditions that will affect spontaneous heating include: the geometry of the material.7-0 Page 6 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets Cigarettes are an unreliable source of ignition. flames from matches or lighters are much stronger and more reliable ignition sources. A trailer (a line of paper rags or ignitable liquid designed to cause a fire to spread) often leaves residue. or hydrochloric acid Gunpowder Chlorine gas Petroleum products Wood Most plastics Paper Cloth Color of Smoke White Brown White Yellow-Brownish-Yellow Yellow-Brownish-Yellow Yellow-Brownish-Yellow Yellow-Brownish-Yellow Greenish-Yellow Black Gray-Brown Black Gray-Brown Gray-Brown The absence of flames or comparatively small flames indicate a lack of air. while sparks in large quantities indicate that powdery substances are burning. All rights reserved. Fire protection systems may be shut off.

Table 2. lists additional materials that should be evaluated. Animal and Vegetable Oils. cotton. If oily would be dangerous. 6. bulk Tight cars for transportation are essential Name Alfalfa Meal Burlap Bags “Used” Castor Oil Possible Very slight Bales Metal Barrels. These products are most hazardous when heated and stored before cooling. All rights reserved. Bags Keep cool and dry. Wood Chips. Coal and Charcoal Storage.. High gloss paint designed to dry at room temperature contains drying agents. etc. Hardwood charcoal must be carefully prepared and aged. Agricultural and Animal Products. See Data Sheet 7-27. . High volatile coals are particularly liable to heat. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. Avoid wetting and subsequent drying. See Data Sheet 8-10.) Tendency to Spontaneous Heating High Usual Shipping Container or Precautions Against Storage Method Spontaneous Heating Avoid moisture extremes. These may contain animal or vegetable oils. Metal Cans in Wooden boxes Bulk. 3. Precaution should be observed to maintain dry storage. Spray Application of Ignitable and Combustible Materials. or when impregnated or contaminated with animal or vegetable oils. Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Tendency to heat depends upon origin and nature of coals. If heated. The greatest danger occurs if they impregnate rags or other absorbent. Materials Subject to Spontaneous Heating1 (Originally prepared by the NFPA Committee on Spontaneous Heating and Ignition which has been discontinued. Wood Processing and Woodworking Facilities. This material is very hygroscopic and is liable to heating if moisture content is excessive. or particles of hot metal picked up by the meal during processing. burning embers. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. etc. Test fires caused in this manner have smoldered for 72 hours before becoming noticeable. Materials Subject to Spontaneous Heating. Only dangerous if fabrics. Possible heating of saturated fabrics in badly ventilated piles. These oils contain unsaturated bonds. Omission of any material does not necessarily indicate that it is not subject to spontaneous heating. having greater tendency for oxidation at lower temperatures. Keep dry. Bags. Charcoal High Coal. Bituminous Moderate Bulk Cocoa Bean Shell Tankage Moderate Burlap Bags. Glass Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Avoid high temperatures. or other fibrous combustible materials. Coal and Charcoal. Table 2. Supply ventilation. Fiber Products. See Data Sheet 8-27. Tendency to heat dependent on previous use of bags. Store in small piles. The most hazardous are paints which are not fully dry and contain linseed oil or drying agents. 4. Cans. are impregnated. insulating organic materials.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 7 The following materials are most subject to spontaneous heating: 1. Bulk Coconut Oil Very slight Drums. or if already charred. 2. Remarks Many fires attributed to spontaneous heating probably caused by sparks. Paint and Paint Scrapings. the oxidation tendency is increased. 5. Storage of Wood Chips and Data Sheet 7-10. These oxidizing catalysts strongly promote spontaneous heating when arranged so that heat cannot readily dissipate as in stored scrapings. or may be subject to bacterial oxidation. Extreme caution must be observed to maintain safe moisture limits.

Avoid Bags. Tank contact of leakage from Cars containers with rags. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. combination of both matter (Ditto)Mixed. Bags Avoid extremely low or high moisture content. Bulk Burlap Keep cool and dry. Bulk Maintain moisture 7 percent to 10 percent.. Heating possible if piled wet and hot. Dangerous heating of meals. Keep Cool and Dry. Bags. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Paper Materials should be Bags. Barrels. Very dangerous if moisture content is 5 percent or lower. Synthetic containing nitrates and organic Fish meal Fish Oil Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Usual Shipping Container or Precautions Against Storage Method Spontaneous Heating Drums. Dangerous if over dried or packaged over 100°F (38°C). May be very dangerous if fabrics. cotton. Bulk Barrels. Tank Avoid contact of leakage Cars from containers with rags. Avoid free acid in preparation. provide ventilation space between bags. Cool below 100 °F (38°C) before storage. cotton. All rights reserved. inorganic. or other fibrous combustible materials. Very dangerous if moisture content is 5 percent or lower. Organic fertilizers containing nitrates must be carefully prepared to avoid combinations that might initiate heating. or other fibrous combustible materials. Bags Avoid moisture extremes. Remarks Impregnated organic materials are extremely dangerous. Bulk. Moderate Bulk. Cool below 100°F (38°C) before storage. Impregnated porous or fibrous materials are extremely dangerous. unlikely unless stored in large piles while hot. Bulk Maintain moisture 7 percent to 10 percent. Avoid contact of leakage Tank Cars from containers with rags. Drums. Bulk processed carefully to maintain safe moisture content and to cure before storage. Avoid contact of leakage Glass from containers with rags. Scrap loaded or stored before cooling is extremely liable to heat. Bags. cotton. or other fibrous combustible materials. Bulk. Tendency of various fish oils to heat varies with origin. various Fertilizers Organic. etc. are impregnated. Cans. Barrels. May cause heating of saturated material in badly ventilated piles. Ground feeds must be carefully processed. Avoid exposure to heat. Bulk Fish Scrap High ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. Insure ventilation in curing process by small piles or artificial drafts. Avoid loading or storing unless cooled. If stored or loaded in bags. . Bags High High Keep moisture 6 percent to 12 percent. Heating possible if wet and hot. Bulk. Drums. Cans. Bags Avoid extremely low or high moisture content..7-0 Page 8 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets Name Cod Liver Oil Tendency to Spontaneous Heating High Colors in Oil High Copra Corn-Meal Feeds Slight High Corn Oil Moderate Cottonseed Cottonseed Oil Low Moderate Distillers’ Dried Grains with oil content (Brewers’ grains) (Ditto) No oil content Feeds. Avoid contact of leakage Glass from containers with rags. Usually contains an appreciable quantity of oil which has rather severe tendency to heat. etc.

Avoid hot Wooden loading. Barrels. Bags Where possible remove foam rubber pads. Moisture accelerates oxidation of finely divided pyrites. Dangerous on fibrous combustible substances. Dangerous on fibrous product. Glass. Heating possible on contaminated fibrous matter. Partially burned or charred material is dangerous. or put away. Drums. Barrels. Moisture accelerates oxidation of most metal powders. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. etc. Bulk. and after contact with heating pads and other heat sources. Bags Avoid moisture extremes Bulk. Drums. Keep dry. Jute Lamp Black Very slight Very slight Bulk Keep cool and dry. Wetted lime may heat sufficiently to ignite wood containers. Natural drying does not cause spontaneous heating. Very slight High Manure Menhaden Oil Moderate Moderate to high Moderate Metal Powders* Avoid extremes of low or high moisture contents. Drums. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. Bales Keep dry and cool. Bacteria in untreated hides may initiate heating. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Baled hay seldom heats dangerously. Barrels Ground grains may heat if wet and warm. etc. Paper Bags. Rags or fabrics impregnated with this oil are extremely dangerous. Lanolin Negligible Lard Oil Slight Lime. Cans. etc. Cars. Fires most likely to result from sparks or included embers. rather than spontaneous heating. Unlikely under ordinary conditions. Tendency to heat dependent on moisture and oil content. Bales Keep dry and cool Remarks Foam rubber may continue to heat spontaneously after being subjected to forced drying as in home or commercial dryers. Wooden Cases Keep cool and dry. hair dryers. etc. Store in closed containers. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Ventilate the piles. other heat sources from contact with foam rubber pillows. or other fibrous combustible materials. Keep heating pads. Metal Drums. they should be thoroughly cooled before being piled. Keep cool and dry. Pebble Lime. Avoid piles. from garments to be dried in dryers or over heaters. etc. etc. cotton. bundled.. Avoid contact of leakage Tank Cars from containers with rags. Avoid storing or loading in hot wet piles.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 9 Name Foam Rubber in Consumer Products Tendency to Spontaneous Heating Moderate Grain (various kinds) Hay Very slight Moderate Usual Shipping Container or Precautions Against Storage Method Spontaneous Heating Bulk. unslaked (Calcium Oxide. All rights reserved. If garments containing foam rubber parts have been artificially dried. Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Avoid large piles. Wet or improperly cured hay is almost certain to heat in hot weather. Wooden Barrels Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Heating possible in wet materials. Keep in closed containers. Avoid storing or loading uncooled manures. Quicklime) Linseed Linseed Oil Moderate Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Cans. . Hides Iron Pyrites Istle Very slight Moderate Very slight Bales Bulk Bulk. preferably metal. Keep dry and cool. Bulk Bulk Tank. Glass Bulk Keep cool and dry. Partially burned or charred fiber is dangerous.

Fiber etc. If loaded Boxes. “Red Skin” Peanuts. Cans.. . may heat unless ventilated. Burlap Bags Tin Cans. Tight rolls are comparatively safe. Avoid contact of leakage Glass from containers with rags. Fiber storage. may heat unless ventilated. Rolls relatively safe. Impregnated fibrous materials Tank Cars. impregnated Drums. Supply sufficient Improperly dried material is Rolls ventilation. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Avoid contact of leakage Impregnated fibrous materials Barrels from containers with rags. with oil. may heat unless ventilated. Dry Improperly dried fabrics thoroughly before packing. Drums Avoid large unventilated Tendency to heat depends on piles. May heat on impregnated Wooden Barrels Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Low Barrels Avoid contact of leakage with rags. Avoid badly ventilate This is the part of peanut Cans. Tendency varies with origin of cotton or other fibrous oil. containers. Avoid contamination of rags. Barrels. may heat unless ventilated. Black Oiled Clothing Oiled Fabrics Oiled Rags Oiled Silk Oleic Acid Tendency to Usual Shipping Spontaneous Container or Precautions Against Heating Storage Method Spontaneous Heating Practically none Bulk Not likely to heat spontaneously. may heat unless ventilated. Tendency varies with origin of Glass cotton. Impregnated fibrous materials Glass Bottles. oil. Avoid contact of leakage Drums. Paper Bags. fibrous combustible matter. Paper Bags. Provide well ventilated Burlap Bags storage. Paper hot may ignite containers Bags and other combustible surroundings. High High High Very slight Remarks Avoid exposure to sparks. or other fibrous oil. Cans. This material is mentioned in this table only because of general impression that it heats spontaneously.7-0 Page 10 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets Name Metal Turnings* Mineral Wool Mustard Oil. cotton or other fibrous Tendency varies with origin of combustible materials. Board Boxes. Keep cool and dry. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. preferably metal. state of dryness of the scrapings. Tin form containers with rags. between outer shell and peanut Board Boxes itself. Bales Avoid storing in bulk in Dangerous if we with drying oil. combustible materials Impregnated fibrous materials Wooden Avoid contact of leakage Barrels. Avoid contact of leakage Wooden Barrels from containers with rags. rags. All rights reserved. Store in closed combustible materials. with paints that contain drying oils and driers are extremely cotton or other fibrous dangerous. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Rolls Keep ventilated. Impregnated fibrous materials Wooden Barrels Avoid contact of leakage form containers with rags. from containers with rags. Avoid contamination of fibrous combustible materials. open. High Fiber Boxes Dry thoroughly before packaging. combustible materials. Cans. dangerous in form of piece goods. Tendency varies with origin of Cans cotton or other fibrous oil. shelled High Very slight or Negligible Moderate to High Perilla Oil Dangerous if we material is stored in piles without ventilation. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Oleo Oil Very slight Olive Oil Moderate to Low Moderate Paint containing drying oil Paint Scrapings Palm Oil Moderate Low Peanut Oil Low Peanuts. etc. combustible materials. Fiber Boxes. extremely dangerous. None Pasteboard Noncombustible. Fabrics.

Barrels. Process carefully. Keep cool. Partially burned or charred rags are dangerous. Wooden Barrels Avoid conditions that promote bacterial growth. Film must be properly stabilized against decomposition. Supply ventilation. Tendency more pronounced if loaded or stored before cooling. Avoid contact of leakage Wooden Barrels from containers with rags. Barrels. etc. Bulk Tin Cans. External ignition more likely than spontaneous heating. Avoid contamination with Oil-treated leather scraps may drying oils. Keep cool. Partially burned or charred material is particularly liable to ignite spontaneously. Has some tendency to heat but less so than the drying oils. Bales Avoid contamination with drying oils. Avoid loading or storing while hot. Glass. Keep cool and ventilated. Partially burned or charred sawdust may be dangerous. slabs. All rights reserved. Avoid over-drying the Crates material. Bales. Remarks Impregnated fibrous materials may heat unless ventilated. Material also susceptible to heating if over-dried. or other fibrous combustible materials. Buffings of high rubber Sheets. Bulk Drums and Lined Boxes Avoid contact with drying oils. Avoid charring. Chemically active with chlorine compounds and may cause fire. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. Tendency varies with origin of oil. Tendency depends on previous use of rags. Keep cool and dry. Tendency varies with origin of oil. Drums Very slight Moderate Bulk. thoroughly. Barrels Boxes Tung Oil Moderate Turpentine Low Varnished Fabrics High Avoid extremes of moisture contents. Tendency varies with origin of oil. Possible heating of decaying powder in storage. Inhibit against decay. Very dry or moist tankages often heat. Bales Tin Cans. are content should be shipped comparatively safe unless and stored in tight loaded or stored before cooling containers. or fibrous may heat unless well ventilated. or other fibrous combustible materials. Avoid contact with rags. cotton. Impregnated fibrous materials may heat unless ventilated. Avoid hot. or other fibrous combustible materials. etc. Bulk Bulk. Tank Cars Tin. Drums Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. Material must be very carefully processed and cooled thoroughly before storage. materials. Wooden and Avoid conditions that Fiber Boxes. cotton. Thoroughly dried varnished fabrics are comparatively safe. promote bacterial growth. Glass Bottles. humid storage. Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags.. Avoid exposure to sparks. Impregnated porous or fibrous materials are extremely dangerous. Felts. Keep cool and dry. heat. . Variable Bulk Tung Nut Meals High Paper Bags. Impregnated fibrous materials cotton. should have controlled moisture content. Rolls. etc. Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Metal Cans Inhibit against decay. Tank Cars Nitrocellulose film ignites at low temperature. These meals contain residual oil which has high tendency to heat. cotton.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 11 Name Pine Oil Tendency to Spontaneous Heating Moderate Powdered Eggs Very slight Powdered Milk Very slight Rags Red Oil Variable Moderate Roofing Felts and Papers Sawdust Scrap Film (Nitrate) Moderate Usual Shipping Container or Precautions Against Storage Method Spontaneous Heating Glass. Possible heating by decay or fermentation. Packaging or rolling uncooled felts is dangerous. Possible Very slight Scrap Leather Scrap Rubber or Buffings Sisal Soybean Oil Sperm Oil -See Whale Oil Tankage Very slight Moderate Bales.

The plant had recently switched from a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) based solvent to a terpene based solvent. Terpene solvents are used as a CFC solvent replacement because they are considered environmentally safe (used for circuit board cleaning). ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. strong oxidizing materials. Avoid contact of leakage from containers with rags. Recognition of a material that may spontaneously heat. The terpene solvent resolved several environmental concerns. terpenes can have unsaturated bonds which would suggest spontaneous heating tendencies (confirmed by the example loss). while irregularly shaped cracks and slight smoke film generally indicate rapid burning. Most wool wastes contain oil. and organic matter. The ignition source for a recent large loss was directly attributed to the spontaneous ignition of used rags. rapid buildup beginning below this spot. large cracks and a heavy smoke film generally indicate slow burning. Proper disposal (normally closed metal containers) and prompt removal (empty drums at end of shift) of the terpene soaked rags would have eliminated the ignition source and prevented this loss. intense fire. 5. and other common metals. etc. A narrow angle ‘‘V’’ indicates a fast-burning fire. Spontaneous ignition can also take place by other exothermic chemical action. Quincy. whereas extensive damage in one place on the ceiling indicates an intense. zirconium. Cool thoroughly before storage. Wool Wastes Moderate * Refers to iron. The material safety data sheet for the solvent involved indicated the liquid could polymerize. a distinct line between charred and uncharred portions of the wood indicates a fast. A fast. In a cross-section of a piece of wood found near the point of origin. etc. Bales. sodium. Examples are water and sodium. Copyright ©1997. Wet wool wastes are very liable to spontaneous heating and possible ignition. slow fire. 18th edition. for information on magnesium. The potential for spontaneous heating needs to be considered as a possible ignition source in many occupancies. All rights reserved. Changes in manufacturing materials to comply with new codes and laws must be fully reviewed to assure a clear understanding of any new hazards that are introduced by the changes. while a long. A wide angle ‘‘V’’ pattern indicates a slow-burning fire. Used clean-up rags containing terpene solvent were discarded into open top plastic trash barrels where the fire started. . National Fire protection Association. Etc. it also introduced a combustible liquid into a process that previously had none. from the weaving and spinning and are liable to heat in storage. Wet paper occasionally heats in storage in warm locations.0 INDICATORS OF SLOW OR FAST—BURNING FIRES Uniform overhead damage usually indicates a slow and smoldering fire. Remarks This material is entirely safe from spontaneous heating if properly processed. NFPA 491M. Impregnated fibrous materials may heat unless ventilated. Keep cool and ventilated or store in closed containers. however. In glass. Keep dry and ventilated. A gradation in charring and an overall baked appearance usually indicate a long. cotton or other fibrous combustible materials. sometimes sudden and violent if highly reactive materials are mixed. Manual of Hazardous Chemical Reactions. steel. Pasteboard Boxes Bales Barrels and Tank Cars Bulk. 1 Reprinted with permission from Fire Protection Handbook. Avoid high moisture. MA 02269. smooth blisters on exposed wood surfaces. Chemically. gives many specific examples. Precautions Against Spontaneous Heating Maintain safe moisture content. allows the initiation of preventative measures designed to eliminate or control the potential ignition source. low heat source will produce flat alligatoring. intense fire will cause heavy alligatoring and shiny. aluminum. Tendency varies with origin of oil. brass.7-0 Page 12 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets Name Wallboard Tendency to Spontaneous Heating Slight Waste Paper Whale Oil Moderate Moderate Usual Shipping Container or Storage Method Wrapped Bundles. Sources of terpenes are turpentine and other basic oils.

Steel transmits heat readily. such as steel deck roof insulation and contents of tanks and bins. Steel with a higher carbon content than mild structural steel often has special characteristics determined by heat treating. Many instances have been reported where straightening of distorted structural steel members has been both feasible and economical. it tends to expand. and the steel member fails. 3.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON CONCRETE AND MASONRY Fire alone seldom causes failure of concrete or masonry structural components. Uniform heating of long horizontal beams can push over masonry walls or cause shear failure in connections for structural steel members. If the ends are fixed. For example. As a result. 7. The metal starts to rip circumferentially at that point. Bar joists and steel trusses are particularly subject to failure due to rapid overheating of thin steel members. Beyond that temperature. 6. 6. (200 mm). although other colors may be present. Steel so modified is commonly called ‘‘burnt’’ steel. Steel which has been exposed to temperatures of 1600°F (870°C) or higher may have a roughened appearance due to excessive scaling and grain coarsening.000 psi for each 100°F temperature change (240 MPa [2400 bars] for each 100°C). Its suitability for further use is a matter for careful evaluation and judgment. Steel expands substantially when heated. 6. . As the unwetted portion is heated. Fire exposure may significantly change its physical properties and affect its suitability for continued use.2 Loss of Strength The strength of mild steel actually increases up to about 600°F (315°C). All rights reserved. The consequences in the case of bar joists may not be serious because large supporting beams that are protected can maintain the overall structural integrity of the building. Connections between members should be checked for cracks around holes.4 Evaluating Structural Damage Mild structural steel building members often show no change in physical properties as a result of fire exposure. Analysis of fire-induced stresses in horizontal cylindrical tanks containing liquefied gas indicates that failure of such tanks under fire conditions is not due to overpressurization nor to weakening of the unwetted shell. the applied stress will change by about 19. while the immediately adjacent wetted portion of the shell remains cool and restrains the expanding portion.3 Thermal Conductivity Heat can be transmitted through steel to combustible material that is otherwise unexposed to fire. 6. Steel loses strength substantially when heated to temperatures in excess of 900° to 1000°F (480° to 540°C).1 Thermal Expansion If the ends of a steel member are free to move.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON STEEL Steel has three characteristics that are of concern under fire conditions: 1.125 percent for each 100°C rise in temperature). 2. The steel will usually have a dark gray color.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 13 6. the increase in length is approximately 0. a 100 ft (30 m) long steel beam heated uniformly to 1000°F (556°C) above ambient will increase in length by almost 8 in. However. a decrease in strength occurs until about 1100°F (600°C) when the strength of steel is reduced to a point where it is not sufficient to carry the dead load. Loss of strength is often the result of localized heating due to shielding or obstruction of the water spray from a few sprinklers or due to missing sprinklers. localized overheating of a small section of a large steel truss system can cause major building collapse. Failure is more often due to loss of support or stresses indirectly resulting from the fire. The tank separates into (usually two) sections which rocket parallel to the axis of the tank. but to stresses produced by the axial expansion of the unwetted portion of the shell.065 percent for each 100°F rise in temperature (0. tensile stress in excess of the ultimate strength of the metal is produced just below the liquid level. For example: ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company.

it does not expand significantly when heated. cracks.7-0 Page 14 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets Masonry walls can be pushed over by expanding concrete or steel members. Thin members. This can indicate the presence of either a combustible surface just above the floor such as a skid radiating heat downward or a thin ignitable liquid layer burning on the floor with some soaking-in to increase the volatility of the wood. and the damage done to the sprinkler system by the fire. a careful study of structural damage is needed. The natural gray color changes to pink or brown indicating exposure to temperatures in excess of 450°F (232°C). 9. or discoloration. All rights reserved. The average rate of penetration of char when flame is impinged upon a wood member is about 11⁄2 in. Spalling can occur due either to expansion of moisture or to thermal expansion of the outer surface in concrete under compression as in columns. such as boards and joists. If no holes. . The operation of an unusually high number of sprinklers can be due to a variety of causes: 1. It can also indicate a fire near the floor where water cannot penetrate to the floor because of shielding above or absorption by material above such as tissue or plastic foam. This involves two factors: the number of sprinklers that operate.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON SPRINKLER SYSTEM The effect of the fire on the automatic sprinkler system can furnish useful information. burn through or lose strength much more rapidly than planks or plain or laminated timbers. Exposed steel-supporting trusses. 7. (40 mm) per hour. 8. Charring of the top surface of a wood floor is usually not evident because flames tend to rise away from the surface. Core samples of concrete and samples of reinforcing steel for load tests give more accurate quantitative measurements of structural strength. or columns can fail if not protected by water spray or insulation. Ordinary reinforcing steel should be restored to its depth of cover where spalling has occurred to preserve its protection against future fire exposure and corrosion. Loss of tension in prestressed concrete-reinforcing tendons should be investigated where these members have been heated above 300°F (150°C). the strength of a wood structural member is affected very little by fire exposure. or explosion pressures. This is often useful in tracing the origin of a fire in an area of wood construction or occupancy. Fire tends to sweep upward until its progress in this direction is blocked by some obstacle. If exposure is more severe. walls. it has some positive properties from a fire exposure standpoint. and it is much less conductive than steel or concrete. layering. calcination. This also may be useful in tracing the origin of a fire. or outlets are present. Fire does not spread nearly so rapidly in a horizontal direction unless there are favorable ventilation conditions or some fast-burning material present. A waiting period of several weeks will allow damage to concrete to be more discernible from cracking.0 EFFECTS OF FIRE ON WOOD Although wood is combustible. burning material. Fire should not spread downward significantly except in the case of falling.1 Evaluating Structural Damage Damage to concrete is usually superficial in fires with automatic sprinkler protection or in fires lasting less than two hours without sprinklers. metal-connecting members such as bolts and screws may lose strength or lose their connecting ability due to the burning away of wood. Unsound concrete will be more or less soft and friable when chipped with a pick or hammer. A water supply too weak for the hazard. 8. Floors can be overloaded by water-soaked storage. However. However. or prestressed structural members. toppling or expanding storage. the remaining strength can be determined through structural analysis. After the charred volume has been deducted. the flames mushroom out horizontally until they bend around the obstruction and continue upward.1 Evaluating Structural Damage Except for the volume of wood lost to charring. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. beams. and water from fire fighting readily protects the surface. For example. Such tests and examination should be performed under the supervision of a registered structural engineer. it does not lose strength except as it is burned away. localized charring is often evident.

3. 10. Flash vaporization. b. or detonation of an explosive or blasting agent. This may be due to: a. is an example of a physical explosion. the reaction rate and heat generation accelerate until the container falls due to overpressure.3 Chemical Explosion A chemical explosion originates from a chemical reaction such as a flammable vapor air explosion. b. a dust explosion.1 Explosion An explosion is a rapid transformation of potential physical or chemical energy into mechanical energy and involves the violent expansion of gases. or valves indicates that the equipment damaged did not receive water at some time during the fire. a dry pipe or deluge valve that failed to open or which was delayed. sprinklers located too far below the ceiling. an explosion or ‘‘puff’’ of vapor or dust. The water supply to the sprinklers shut off. Emergency Venting of Vessels. The extent of the damage should correspond to the extent of the impairment.5 BLEVE A BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion) results from the rupture of a vessel containing a liquid substantially above its atmospheric boiling point. a fireball ensues. 10. Damage to sprinklers. Fire that spread ahead of the sprinkler operation due to: a.4 Thermal Explosion A thermal explosion is the result of an exothermic reaction occurring under conditions of confinement with inadequate cooling. 10. A BLEVE can occur with a nonflammable liquid as with a rupturing hot water heater. d. usually near the ceiling. impairment of a water supply. . If the vapor is flammable and is ignited.0 BASIC DEFINITIONS AND PRINCIPLES—EXPLOSIONS 10. All rights reserved. or lint deposits.2 Physical Explosion A physical explosion originates from purely physical phenomena. See Data Sheet 7-49. oil. Energy is produced by the expanding vapor and boiling liquid. c. a closed valve. fast-burning construction such as plastic foam. This phenomena often occurs when water is trapped under hot oil. broken pipe. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. e. See Data Sheet 7-49. usually at the ceiling. Emergency Venting of Vessels. A damaged dry-pipe valve may mean an entire system was shut off and drained. As the temperature rises. obstructed pipe. Since the vapor is not premixed with air. either at the start of the fire or during the fire. 10. dust. such as rupture of a boiler or pressurized container. or from interaction between water and molten metal or black liquor smelt. It may be a physical explosion or a thermal explosion. the main effect of the combustion is fire and radiant heat rather than explosive force (overpressure effects). d.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 15 2. c. 10. piping. the rapid vaporization of a superheated liquid when the pressure has been suddenly released. Shielded sprinklers 4. A few damaged sprinklers may mean a plugged branch line. if ignition is immediate.

©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. and on rare occasions. and a detonation may result. 3. 10. At the instant of the explosion. A cloud of dust mixes with air. 1.8 The Mechanism of Explosion Since an explosion is the rapid transformation of potential physical or chemical energy into mechanical energy. 5. Detonations usually take place in solid or liquid materials such as explosives or blasting agents. During the buildup period. or the buildup period may spread or travel to encompass the triggering agent. the triggering agent must be absent. 10. leading to a dust explosion.9 The Buildup Period The buildup period may be anything from a fraction of a second to hours or days. During this time. 5. A cloud of flammable gas or vapor mixes with air. ‘‘the stage is being set’’ for the explosion. 2. Failure of a vessel wall converts the thermal chemical energy into a BLEVE or vessel-rupture explosion. as in a pipeline. 1. 4. The walls of a vessel rupture. and the reaction rate may increase as a result. Examples are: 1. leading to a blasting explosion. 10. 2. A detonator or other shock-producing device detonates an explosive material. Water contacts a hot molten material converting the heat energy into expanding vapor. a common sequence of events takes place in all explosion processes. All rights reserved. leading to a thermal explosion. leading to a vessel rupture. If this continues for a sustained time.6 Deflagration A deflagration is an exothermic reaction that propagates from the burning gases to the unreacted material by conduction. A charge of explosive material is placed. 4. convection.7 Detonation A detonation is an exothermic reaction propagating at greater than sonic velocity in the unreacted material. 10. 6. transforming the potential physical energy into the expanding mechanical energy of the gas. An ignition source. A chemical reaction in a vessel ‘‘runs away’’. Molten metal or black liquor smelt accumulates. explosions in gases can reach detonation velocity if confined for considerable distances as in pipelines. leading to a molten substance/water explosion. 2.7-0 Page 16 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 10.10 The Triggering Agent The triggering agent may be introduced into the system. A shock wave is established and maintains the reaction. Pressure builds up in a tank. a triggering agent is introduced into the system which initiates the energy transformation. 3. Preceding the explosion. The combustion zone progresses at a rate that is less than the velocity of sound in the unreacted material. leading to a gas or vapor/air explosion. The unreacted material may be compressed by the force exerted by the deflagration. such as a spark or flame. may be introduced into an enclosure after a cloud of flammable vapor or gas is mixed with air. the reaction rate may increase to sonic velocity. or the vapor/air cloud expands or moves to encompass the ignition source. there is a buildup period during which the potential physical or chemical energy accumulates in a manner in which it may be suddenly transformed. 3. The thermal explosion process itself may have been initiated by sudden mixing of two chemicals. 6. and radiation. A dust/air cloud contacts a spark or flame sufficient for ignition. .

.0 EFFECTS OF EXPLOSIONS 11. As a result. All rights reserved.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 17 10. especially if the area is well vented. by keeping ignition sources away from dust/air clouds.3 Vessel Ruptures and BLEVES When a vessel containing a gas under pressure ruptures. 11. A blasting explosion may be prevented by keeping explosives out of the area. There is usually no cratering.11 Explosion Prevention The explosion may be prevented or transformed into a controlled release of energy by preventing the buildup period or the triggering agent. by insuring that the vessel walls do not fall below the maximum allowable pressure. 4. 5. as in the dissolving tank of a black liquor boiler. or by (in the case of a pulverized fuel burner) insuring that an ignition source is present when pulverized fuel is dispersed. as at the burner of a furnace. 11. by adequate cooling or other reaction suppression devices and by the gradual release of energy by venting devices. assuming that is the only energy available. by preventing any chance of ignition. there is usually shattering or pulverizing of steel or concrete.4 Vapor Cloud Explosions (VCE) In most deflagrations. If the expanding vapors are flammable and ignited. Damage is more likely to involve tearing of materials into relatively large pieces. a fireball BLEVE ensues. as by a manhole cover coming off. 2. 6. Craters are usually produced by detonations occurring at or near the surface of the ground. 3. The pressures developed are less. or by insuring that the triggering agent is present during the buildup period: 1. the energy released is proportional to the volume of gas times the pressure. or by insuring that an ignition source is present when air and fuel are first introduced. a shock wave may be produced. the rate of energy release is slower and occupies a larger volume. A dust explosion can be averted by preventing the formation of dust/air clouds. the over-pressures produced in the explosion are confined inside a vessel or a building. If the vessel remains largely intact. The resulting VCE can produce severe damaging overpressures over a wide plant area. a portion of the liquid instantly vaporizes when the pressure is released. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. A thermal explosion can be prevented by controlling the exothermic reaction. or by introducing the molten material in very small quantities to absorb the energy gradually. Damage may be limited to that done by the flying cover or rocketing tank. Refer to Data Sheet 7-42 for details on vapor cloud explosions. A vapor/air explosion can be prevented by excluding the flammable vapor from the system. Extremely high pressures are produced in the immediate vicinity of the detonating material. If the vessel contains liquid well above its atmospheric boiling point. and by releasing the energy by opening the vessel (through a relief valve or rupture disk) before excessive pressure buildup takes place. The unvaporized liquid is carried with the expanding vapors to form a BLEVE. If the vessel comes apart completely so that all the energy is released at once. the energy is released over a longer period. A water/molten material explosion can be prevented by excluding molten material. by keeping air out of the system. A vessel rupture explosion can be averted by preventing a pressure buildup beyond safe limits. 11. by keeping water from contacting molten material.1 Detonations Detonations release a very large amount of energy within a relatively small volume. or by keeping detonating agents away from the explosives.2 Deflagrations ln deflagrations. 11. In unusual cases at petrochemical plants or refineries a large cloud of flammable vapor can be released outdoors into a partially confined or highly congested open process structure.

Example 1. 1 x 44. The mechanical energy from this release can be expressed as follows: 2673 x 214.002 kg TNT (Metric) Example 2. If the material is flammable. the failure pressure can be assumed to be four times the design pressure of the vessel. In the case of typical hydrocarbons such as propane. All rights reserved.7 ( ) Where E = Energy equivalent in lb TNT V = Vessel/enclosure volume in cu ft P = Pressure at which vessel or enclosure fails (psia) Ln = Natural logarithm VP P (Metric) E= Ln 4300 101. A detailed discussion of TNT equivalency methods and appropriate equations to compare flammable materials to TNT is found in Data Sheet 7-42. this relationship is expressed as a comparison of heat of combustion of flammable material and the heat of decomposition of TNT. the effects of the overpressure will be a shock wave proportional to the TNT energy released plus possible fragmentation missiles from the vessel. In the case of flammable vapors released outdoors that can cause a deflagration. which measures the portion of the flammable material participating in the explosion. or 200 psig (214. not due to overpressurization caused by overfilling with air.028 x 308 Ln 10. the potential energy available if 100% of the material contributed to an explosion would be 10 times the equivalent TNT energy.7 x 1475 Ln 4300 ( 1475 ) = 101. An explosive yield (explosion efficiency). A common efficiency for propane would be 5% in which case the 1 lb (kg) of propane would produce only 1⁄2 lb (kg) of TNT energy. A detailed discussion of TNT equivalency methods and appropriate equations to compare flammable materials to TNT is found in Data Sheet 7-42.7 cu m) vessel contains a pressurized material. . is assigned. The vessel is designed for 50 psig (64.7 ( ) E= 75.7 44.7 = 0. a number of ″addon″ events could occur such as a fire ball with radiant heat effects or a vapor cloud explosion with radiant heat and overpressure effects.000 308 ( 101.5 Energy Release—TNT Equivalents The use of a TNT equivalent energy equation to express released energy from a vessel or an exploding mass of flammable vapor has been widely used.028 cu m) of air is pressurized to 30 psig (44.3 70 kg TNT (Metric) If the material is noncombustible.7 214.7 psia) (1475 kPa).005 lb TNT (English) E= Ln 10. Because ordinary flammable materials cannot produce 100% efficiency. the tire fails suddenly due to external effects.3 ) = 0. If the material is contained in a vessel or other enclosure (such as a building) the TNT equivalent energy due to the mechanical force caused by a sudden pressurized release can be estimated as follows if the volume and the strength of the enclosure are known: VP P (English) E= Ln 10.7 = 154 lb TNT (English) E= Ln 10.000 14.3 ( ) Where E = Energy equivalent in kg TNT V = Vessel/enclosure volume in cu m P = Pressure at which vessel or enclosure fails (kPa) In many cases for pressure vessels. much lower values are generally chosen. 1 lb (or kg) of propane at 100% efficiency would produce 10 lbs (or kg) of TNT energy. An automobile tire containing 1 cu ft (0.000 14.7 psia) (446 kPa) but is assumed to fail at four times its design pressure. That is.7-0 Page 18 Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 11.000 14. what is the TNT energy? In this case. A 2673 cu ft (75.7 ( ) E= 0. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company.7 psia) (308 kPa). Assuming the tire fails due to a sudden blowout.

a crater may be produced.6 W1/3 where D is the crater diameter in meters. ©2006 Factory Mutual Insurance Company. The depth of the crater is normally about one-quarter of the diameter. Terminology related to ignitable liquids has been revised to provide increased clarity and consistency with regard to FM Global’s loss prevention recommendations for ignitable liquid hazards.7 Craters If a detonation takes place near the surface of the ground. combustible liquids.6 Shock Waves and Overpressures A cube root scaling law Methods for calculating overpressure profiles and damage to structures are covered in detail in Data Sheet 7-42. or any other reference to a liquid that will burn. and W is the charge weight in kilograms of TNT. but an approximation can be made for dry soil by the formula D = 1. There is no NFPA standard on this subject. An ignitable liquid must have a fire point. The size of the crater can vary widely. inflammable liquids.Causes and Effects of Fires and Explosions FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheets 7-0 Page 19 11. APPENDIX A GLOSSARY OF TERMS Ignitable Liquid: Any liquid or liquid mixture that is capable of fueling a fire. . In metric units D = 0. 11. APPENDIX B DOCUMENT REVISION HISTORY January 2012. All rights reserved. and W is the charge weight in pounds of TNT.5 W1/3 where D is the crater diameter in feet. including flammable liquids.