Passenger Train Fire Safety [Research Results]
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      Heat release rate (HRR) has been recently identified as a key indicator of real-scale fire performance of a material or construction, as well as ignition, flammability, and smoke emission. In 1994, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) began a multi-phase research study to investigate the use of fire hazard assessment using HRR data to provide a more credible and cost-effective means to predict the actual fire behavior of passenger train materials. HRR-based fire performance data for 30 materials used in typical Amtrak intercity rail cars were obtained from the conduct of Cone Calorimeter tests. The Cone Calorimeter test data and data from current FRA-cited test methods were compared. For the majority of materials, the relative ranking from “best” to “worst” was similar in both test methods. Selected seat, wall panel, carpet and other assemblies from Amtrak trains were tested in the Furniture Calorimeter to provide further HRR data for fire hazard analysis. Hazard analyses of three different passenger car designs were then performed. Data from the Cone Calorimeter and Furniture Calorimeter were used as input to a computer fire model to predict the time to untenable conditions within a passenger rail car resulting from specified design fires and rail car fire scenarios. Each of the analyses confirmed that, in addition to material controls, design features, (e.g., geometry of the car) passive and active fire protection measures, and emergency evacuation equipment and procedures can have an impact on the resulting fire safety of the overall design. Full-scale tests using a donated Amtrak coach rail car were conducted to verify the fire hazard analysis predicted by the computer fire model. Based on the results of this research program, the material fire performance table, as originally issued by FRA in the form of guidelines in 1984 and 1989 was revised and issued on May 12, 1999, as part of the Passenger Rail Equipment Safety Standards (49 CFR, Part 238). A clarification of the fire performance requirements was issued and published on June 25, 2002.
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