Life at the End of the Tunnel

by Art Bendelius, P.E., Sr. Vice Pres., Prin., Prof. Assoc., and Div. Dir., Tech. Dir.; Parsons Brincckerhoff, New York City, NY,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 2001, Vol. 71, Issue 5, Pg. 56-59

Document Type: Feature article


Deadly tunnel fires in Europe have raised new concerns about tunnel fire safety around the world. Modifications to structures, mechanical systems, and operating procedures can make new and existing tunnels safer should fires start. While specifics make every tunnel and every tunnel fire different, broad engineering guidelines can be applied now to save lives in the future. Suggested mechanical changes include improved longitudinal airflow, consideration of single-point extraction for smoke removal, and updated emergency ventilation controls. Structural engineers should also design for safe egress paths, temperature, and unidirectional traffic flow. Equally important, tunnel-operating authorities should also provide continuous and consistent training for operating personnel and conduct timely integrated exercises involving all emergency resopnders.

Subject Headings: Tunnels | Structural safety | Fire resistance | Traffic safety | Traffic flow | Fires | Emergency management

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