Evaluating Emergency Shelters in a Facility Siting Study

Gary A Fitzgerald†, Mark G Whitney
ABSG Consulting, Inc.
140 Heimer Rd, Suite 300
San Antonio, Texas 78232
Presenter† E-mail: gfitzgerald@absconsutling.com

Keywords: Risk Assessment, Quantitative Risk Assessment, Semi-quantitative Risk
Assessment, Consequence Techniques, Dispersion, Modeling, Effects, Consequences,
Emission, Vaporization, Source Term, Gas Dispersion, Plumes, Jets, Fires, Explosions,
Shelter, Shelter in Place, Emergency Shelter, Facility Siting, API RP 752, PHA, Process
Safety Information and Knowledge, Facility, Facility Siting Data, Plant Layout, Site and
Plant Layout, Permanent Buildings, Placement, Safety Distance, Risk, Construction


The American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 752 (API RP 752) [1] requires
designation of every occupied building as either to be evacuated or to be used as an Emergency
Shelter* in the event of a fire or toxic release. In general, industry has been addressing
consequences for buildings that are evacuated during a fire or toxic release for many years but
addressing hazards for buildings used as an Emergency Shelter is a unique problem, different
than that for buildings which are evacuated. Unfortunately, it is also an issue without a
universally accepted approach. This paper lists available published guidance documents
including those intended for other audiences and presents a best practices approach to address the
API RP 752 Emergency Shelter requirements.

Published Guidance

Many documents for specific industries and applications have information that can be used to
develop guidance for Emergency Shelters. Some of these are listed below:

1. NFPA 496 “Standard for Purged and Pressurized Enclosures for Electrical Equipment”
Guidance for positive pressure HVAC performance.
2. NFPA 101 “Life Safety Code”
Guidance for building fire ratings
3. API RP 751 – Safe Operation of Hydrofluoric Acid Alkylation Units
Guidance for positive pressure HVAC performance and short-term vs long-term use.
4. FEMA 453 “Safe Rooms and Shelters”
Guidance for long duration shelters such as maximum occupancy and fresh airflow.
5. Florida Division of Emergency Management “Statewide Emergency Shelter Plan
Appendix G”
Considerations for long-duration public sheltering such as water and sanitation.

* API RP 752 uses the term “Shelter-in-Place” to identify the emergency response action that is a personnel
protection concept in the event of an emergency regardless of whether the person leaves their current building to
take shelter in another building. The term “Emergency Shelter” is a building that is designated as the location for
personnel to shelter-in-place.

8. CCPS "Guideline for Engineering Design for Process Safety" Discusses designating only a part of a building as an Emergency Shelter 7. 6. with the first five from US Army Corps of Engineer work [2] and a sixth added representing complete building collapse. including:  Exposure to structural debris. National Institute for Chemical Studies. The three highest BDLs (BDLs 4. website for Questions and Answers: EPA Shelter-in-Place Research Discusses public shelter effectiveness and approaches Preceding Explosion Damage API RP 752 provides a process by which buildings exposed to potential explosions are assessed as part of a Building Siting Evaluation for Explosions (see Figure 2 of API 752). and 6) expose personnel to significant debris hazards and are typically considered unacceptable. or mechanical services Most buildings assessments utilize evaluation criteria that allow structural damage but prevent significant exposure of occupants to debris. public protection and effectiveness of sheltering in place for the public. Table 1 is an example of six Building Damage Levels (BDLs). while the lowest three are generally considered to meet evaluation criteria to minimize injuries from building damage following an explosion. 5. US EPA. 9. the steps in general terms are:  Select a building siting evaluation criteria  Determine blast loads on building  Complete a building damage level assessment or a detailed structural analysis  Carryout more detailed analysis as needed  Compare with building siting evaluation criteria and include in mitigation plan if needed Assessment of buildings exposed to blast typically only addresses the potential for harm to occupants by the explosion. . such as from wall component failure. website for Shelter in Place Information Discusses use of portable air cleaners. or total building collapse. roof component failures. For existing buildings.  Exposure to non-structural hazards such as: o Throw of windows fragments o Detachment and throw of doors o Detachment and fall of non-structural items such as overhead ceilings. CCPS "Guidelines for Technical Planning for On-Site Emergencies" Discusses designating only a part of a building as an Emergency Shelter and guidance for short-term vs long-term use. light fixtures.

which may compromise their performance as a shelter-in-place for toxic material release. a pre-engineered metal building at BDL-2 (see Figure 1) is an acceptable level of damage from an explosion to prevent injuries due to building explosion damage. The building siting evaluation should consider potential explosion damage. Other walls and roof have 4 permanent damage requiring replacement. other walls and roof 3 have visible damage that is generally repairable. compromising the ability of the building to serve as an Emergency Shelter and resist toxic vapors. Space in and around damaged area is unusable.e. API RP 752 states the following: Some materials are both toxic and flammable. Reflected wall components are collapsed or very severely damaged. As damage is typically heavier on the side facing the unit. but may exhibit significant pathways for vapor ingress. Space in and around damaged area is unusable. BDL 1 in Table 1) while high-mass building construction may have a higher level of acceptable damage (i. Other walls and roof have substantial plastic deformation that may 5 be approaching incipient collapse.e. The building is immediately usable. In addition. A toxic exposure could precede or follow a fire or explosion. Additionally. Building Damage Levels Building Description Damage Level 1 No permanent deformations or visible structural damage. . low-mass. Note that BDLs 2 and 3 include structural damage that could degrade the protective envelope of the building. Progressive collapse will not occur. 6 Complete failure of the building roof and substantial area of walls. Reflected wall has collapsed. the function of the building should be considered. BDLs 2 or 3 depending on construction details). Reflected wall components sustain permanent damage requiring replacement. This highlights the issue that selection of evaluation criteria needs to consider building construction. Table 1. Generally speaking. Shops and warehouses likely include roll up doors and other features that may make that building a poor candidate for an Emergency Shelter even without considering preceding explosion damage. Progressive collapse possible. For example. this would also be where the greatest toxic exposure would be expected. flexible construction methods will have a lower level of acceptable building structural damage (i. Onset of visible structural damage to reflected wall of building. This is a function of severity of the damage and the type of construction. Space in and around damaged area 2 can be used and is fully functional after cleanup and repairs.

These tests are often performed using fans to pressurize a . flammable gas or smoke infiltration into a building. Figure 1. Pre-Engineered Metal Building Example BDL-2 There may be cases where the toxic hazards are outside of the main process areas and the potential for a toxic release may not be affected by the explosion scenarios. If the actual exposure may be less than an hour. window mounted air conditioners will produce a significant amount of passive leakage.1% change of fatality. While this relationship does not always hold true. Thus. ERPG-3 exposures generally produce occupant vulnerabilities of about 0. Additionally. In these cases. so elevated intakes are not usually a practical solution to prevent toxic gas ingestion. the vulnerability criteria may be beneficial. Thus. Gas Infiltration Calculations The use of positive pressure ventilation systems. building with these attributes would be poor choices for use as an Emergency Shelter. It is important to note the inability to isolate the HVAC system (or place in recirculation mode) will produce wind-induced airflow. The ERPG concentrations are established assuming one-hour exposure. one could use predicted pressure contours to determine if the postulated toxic release scenario could follow the explosion using published explosion pressure to equipment damage relationships. It would be expected for some toxic gas clouds to have heights above a hundred feet. is not a guarantee against toxic. while encouraged in general. one will likely have to assume the HVAC system has been shut down and isolated (or recirculation mode) in the event of a toxic release. Acceptable indoor toxic exposure criteria may be in the form of ERPG concentrations or vulnerability.1% chance of fatality where desired. which then places the building into a passive mode of air leakage dependent on the wind speed. Thus. Pressurized HVAC systems in buildings are designed to prevent flammable gas ingestion and do not have intakes elevated above most toxic gas clouds. one could use a vulnerability criteria of 0. direction and air-tightness. Building leakage tests are performed by HVAC contractors as a service offered to consumers to make buildings more energy efficient.

ABS Consulting has seen test data greater than 3.0*Cv*A*V Where: Q = airflow rate. Be alert to cases where dispersion modeling was performed at lower wind speeds to generate a worst-case toxic cloud in terms of distance to the endpoint but higher wind speeds may actually .5-1.building and place the building in a vacuum. Some tests will provide a leakage area under pressurization and another under vacuum.5 mph.000 ft3/60min) is straightforward and equals 2.5 to 0. but can be used to provide a range of expectations. The American Society of Heating. the leakage area is going to be calculated and will be needed to determine the leak rate at other wind speeds. ft2 V = wind speed. cfm 88. When a leakage test is performed for a building. averages of the pressure and vacuum results are used since the half of the building will have positive pressure (windward side) and the other half will have negative pressure (leeward side).25 to 0.5 ach can be expected for leaky buildings. The leakage rate data reported by ASHRAE is not specific to commercial applications. conversion of the test data to that for wind speeds of interest will likely need to be performed.0 = unit conversion factor Cv = effectiveness of openings (Cv is assumed to be 0. mph Example: A 40. In general.5 ach result from tests for clients.25 ft2.0 air change per hour (ach) can be considered average and up to 3. What is the air change rate and what wind speed does it represent? What would be the leakage rate at a wind speed of 5 mph. Note that the differential pressures often used represent a specific wind speed that may be different from the wind speed of interest.6 for perpendicular winds and 0. In these cases. However. The relationship ASHRAE provides between leak rate. Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) publishes a Fundamentals handbook [3] with summaries of expected leakage rates.  Conservatively assuming Cv = 0. 0. Thus. Even test data performed using the actual wind conditions may need to be altered to provide leakage rates at the wind speed(s) of interest. leak area and wind speed is shown in the equation below:  Q = 88.35 for diagonal winds) A = free area of inlet openings. so assuming this in a screening study may not always be conservative.9 ACH.6 in the equation above and solving for leak rate using a 5 mph wind speed results in a leak rate of 594 cfm or 0. methods that can be used to determine leakage rates and methods to use leakage test data performed at one set of conditions and convert it to data representing other conditions.6 in the equation above and solving for wind speed results in 12.000 ft3 building had a “blower door” test performed with an average calculated leakage rate of 1781 cfm and an average leak area of 2.2 ACH (air changes per hour).  Converting 1781 ft3/min to ACH (1 ACH = 40.  Conservatively assuming Cv = 0.

be the worst case when gas infiltration is the concern.1% vulnerability.1% vulnerability in less than 30 seconds while the lower wind speed with higher gas concentration takes about three times as long to reach 0.1% vulnerability inside the building?  12. .670 ppm H2S. The toxic cloud footprint shown in Figure 2 is a good example. the low wind speed takes the toxic gases much further than the higher wind speed and would be typical for results in a consequence-based facility siting study.5 mph wind produces leakage of 2. Figure 2.2 ach while 3 mph produces leakage of 0. that lower wind speed may not be worst-case for toxic gas infiltration when close to the release. In this case. However.5 ach.820 ppm H2S at a building 100 feet from the leak while a wind speed of 12. Example Toxic Dispersion Footprint for Two Wind Speeds Example: Dispersion modeling of a H2S leak with a wind speed of 3 mph results in 19. Which case is worse in terms of how long the occupants of the building have before exceeding 0. This shows the higher wind speed with lower gas concentration exceeds 0.  Calculating indoor toxic gas concentration assuming a uniformly mixed building and published probit values for H2S results in potential exposures shown in Figure 3.5 mph produces a 18.

Once toxic gas is inside the building. Example Plot #1 of Indoor H2S Gas Concentration for Two Wind Speeds It is important to note that indoor toxic exposure does not stop when the toxic cloud no longer exists outside the building. Figure 3. Flammable gas dispersion modeling may show the flammable gas cloud would be beneath the intake stack for a pressurized HVAC system. In general. buildings are more resistant to flammable gas ingestion due to greater gas concentration required to be flammable (typically 10. it can be assumed no flammable vapors can enter the building. Whenever possible. Similar calculations to those described for toxic gas infiltration can then be performed. Some words of caution regarding infiltration calculations: . If it is shown that flammable vapors could reach the intake stack (or intake stack integrity is not maintained). When the toxic cloud is of finite duration. In that case.000+ ppm) versus that for most toxic gases (typically 10-500 ppm). this may be an important issue to consider. Leakage testing on that part of the building should be improved from that over the entire building. If the Emergency Shelter is a room completely enclosed by the building. it is a good practice to identify only a part of the building for use as an Emergency Shelter. then it must be assumed the HVAC system is shut down and isolated. it will take time for fresh air leakage or ventilation system operation to disperse the gas. then leakage will be minimized and provide additional safety for the occupants.

However. Industry fires can reach significant heights with view angles to the building roof. concrete masonry construction techniques can be very fire resistant and further study may show it to be acceptable for the expected occupancy duration. if the acceptable long duration radiant heat flux inside the building is 1. It has been reported that up to 33% of exterior radiant heat may be transmitted inside the building through a single pane window [4]. materials used in construction should be examined to identify the presence of any combustible components. One example of this would be a tilt-up concrete building with exposed metal tab connections or having joints sealed with a non-fire rated sealant. If windows are plentiful. It may be necessary to establish lower criteria to account for this such as ½ LFL indoor concentration. Additionally. Another example is a masonry or concrete building with a conventional built-up roof. Significant variation can be found with different construction techniques. While the masonry or concrete wall may have significant fire resistance. Resistance to Fire Hazards Any flame impingement on a building is typically assumed to prevent its use as an Emergency Shelter for many types of building construction. . Where combustible components are found.8 kW/m2 if there are many single pane windows.6 kW/m2. However. Criterion of 23 kW/m2 or similar could easily be justified for metal building components. they will be the limiting factor in determining the ability to use the building as an Emergency Shelter during a fire. Further wind. but do lose their strength at high temperatures. Here. Numerical modeling of the fire and interior environment is sometimes performed when evaluating a building for use as an Emergency Shelter for fires given the wide variety of construction techniques and insulation options. a detailed survey of the building is important because external appearances of a building may not be a true indicator of its fire resistance.  Uniform mixing is typically assumed but there may be indoor areas with greater concentration. then is may be the limiting consideration.6 kW/m2. concrete and masonry have the greatest fire resistance and are a common material of choice for control rooms. The lower bounds for radiant heat flux on combustible materials is typically taken to be 12. then the maximum external radiant heat flux may be 4. expect personnel to be using doors and introducing toxic or flammable gas during the door operation. but 35 kW/m2 is a reasonable lower bounds. If window locations are sparse. As mentioned earlier. jet momentum also needs to be addressed as the jet fire could degrade the building integrity and impair its ability to protect the occupants. the built up roof can present the hazard to occupants. Advanced numerical modeling is typically performed in situations where jet fire impingement needs to be addressed. the connections and joints may result in vulnerability to sustained heat exposure. this may be a minor consideration. can tilt the flame source toward the building. it is often not necessary as there may be other limiting factors to consider such as windows. that for wood ignition with a flame. Whenever flame impingement is addressed. Steel materials are not at risk of burning.  Unless doors are locked. Once flame impingement issues have been resolved. For example. It may be necessary to add leakage to account for door operation.

 Building penetrations should be sealed with fire-rated compounds.g.  Cases may exist where dispersion modeling was performed at lower wind speeds to generate a longer reaching toxic cloud but higher wind speeds may actually be the worst case when gas infiltration is the concern. Penetrations should be sealed using appropriate fire- rated materials according to the manufacturer’s directions. if tempered glass windows with metal frames are the only windows installed. If no information about the window is known. it should be replaced before that date. If so. it would be advisable to replace the sealant and document the project applied. With such low values.  Toxic exposure to building occupants does not automatically end when the toxic cloud outside the building is stopped. HVAC. electrical.The following radiant heat limits for window damage are published [4. Summary This paper highlights several issues to consider when evaluating a building for use as an Emergency Shelter for fires or toxic releases. An additional consideration that should not be forgotten is with building penetrations (e.5]:  < 4 kW/m2 for 1 pane annealed glass  < 8 kW/m2 for vinyl frames  < 9. Otherwise. it should be assumed the HVAC system is shut down and positive pressure is lost. Key points made in this paper include:  Lower acceptable explosion building damage may be needed to consider the potential for an explosion to precede a toxic release and buildings not ingest excessive toxic gas. providing judicious placement of windows (not facing the unit) and providing the appropriate type of glass for an Emergency Shelter. plant instrumentation).3 kW/m2 for 2 pane annealed glass  < 16 kW/m2 for wood frames  < 26 kW/m2 for polycarbonate glazing  < 29.2 kW/m2 for tempered glass (1 or 2 pane) Thus. Consideration should be given to limiting window . It is also important to note that a sealant may have a shelf life once applied.  It cannot be assumed that indoor toxic exposure is prevented by a positive pressure ventilation system without a study of toxic cloud sizes relative to the ventilation intake location.  Understand that windows are a vulnerable component of the Emergency Shelter building envelope for both explosions and fires. then a low radiant heat criterion of 4 kW/m2 should be used.  Selection of evaluation criteria needs to consider building methods when evaluating either fires or toxic releases. Failure to do so will allow a path for radiant heat to enter the building and degrade the interior environment. consideration should be given to limiting window sizes. If documentation on the sealant used for a penetration cannot be found.  Use of doors during a toxic release may increase the ingestion of a toxic gas.2 kW/m2). a relatively high radiant heat criterion may be established (29.

Feb-Mar 1998.  If it were believed a building is relatively energy efficient. judicious placement of windows (not facing the unit) and providing the appropriate type of glass for an Emergency Shelter. June.  If no windows exist on the building. (2013).  If windows exist on the building. The Fire Place. December 2009. GA: American Society of Heating. A BDL 1 as described would be conservative without knowing more information about the building. Evaluating a building for use as an Emergency Shelter can be a complex problem but there may be cases where simple screening methods can indicate some hazards do not need to be evaluated in detail. .5 ACH to calculate indoor toxic exposure would likely be conservative. National Institute of Standards and Technology report NIST-GCR-98-7S1. 5 Glass Breakage in Fires. 3 American Society of Heating. 2013 ASHRAE handbook: Fundamentals. the acceptable building damage may be very low so it does not alter the integrity of the building envelope to resist toxic gas infiltration. F. 4 Window Breakage Induced by Exterior Fires. Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. Dr.W. sizes. Vytenis Babrauskas. References 1 Management of Hazards Associated with Location of Process Plant Permanent Buildings. a criterion of 4 kW/m2 would be conservative without knowing more information about the windows.  An indoor toxic concentration ≤ ERPG-3 or calculated toxic vulnerability ≤ 0. Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 1998. 20 October 2006. American Petroleum Institute Recommended Practice 752 (API RP 752) Third Edition.. a criterion of 12. This assumption would not be conservative if roll-up doors exist or HVAC systems cannot be isolated. the following criteria will typically ensure unconservative results are not produced and highlight only those hazards needing more investigation:  If an explosion could produce a toxic release. Mower. Atlanta. a leakage rate of 3. 2 USACE PDC technical report PDC-TR 06-08.5 kW/m2 would be conservative without knowing more about the building construction materials.1% will keep potential injuries within the range of what is typically accepted in industry. When performing a screening study. p 15-17. Single Degree of Freedom Response limits for Antiterrorism Design.