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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Dave Lavallee, 874-5862

Engineering firm: Ryan Center meets or
exceeds national fire safety standards

KINGSTON, R.I. --January 5, 2004 -- The University of Rhode Island’s Ryan Center meets or exceeds national fire safety and protection standards, according to Fire Protection and Code Consultants Inc.

The Kansas City engineering firm, which specializes in fire code compliance around the world, played a key role in developing the Ryan’s Center comprehensive fire safety features. The company’s findings are part of a full URI response to questions raised by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.

In addition, J. Kevin Culley, the University’s director of safety and risk management, said the building, which opened in the summer of 2002, has design, fire protection and communication features unmatched in any public arena in Rhode Island.

Culley addressed the center’s fire safety features during and following two reports last week by Channel 10 about the building. "This is probably one of the safest arenas of this type in the northeast," Culley said on camera.

The building is designed, constructed and operated to high safety standards, and the certificate of occupancy under which it is presently operated was executed by the State Building Commissioner’s Office and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, demonstrating its safety for occupancy.

Even before a shovel went into the ground, URI hired HOK Sport, the world’s leader in architectural design for major sports and event venues, to design the Ryan Center. One of the HOK principals is an expert on national fire protection issues. HOK has designed more than 150 indoor arenas around the world in the last two years. Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and the Olympic Ice Arena in Salt Lake City are just two examples of its work along with arenas at colleges, universities and municipalities very similar in scale and capacity to the Ryan Center.

The Ryan Center has advanced fire protection systems extensively employed in large assembly facilities in the country, including:

o A smoke evacuation system, which is backed up by an emergency generator system. The generator, which is tested weekly, also backs up all other electronic components of the fire protection system. Engineering studies commissioned by the University in the planning and construction process state that the longest it would take someone to get out of the building is 7.6 minutes. The smoke evacuation system maintains fresh air to a level 8.5 feet above the building concourse for a period of 20 minutes, more than double the amount of time audiences would need to exit the building safely.

o Smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors
oThe latest in communications systems used by the 60 event staff, five
firefighters and two emergency medical technicians on hand for sold-out
o A supervised alarm system that would pinpoint the location of a fire
o A sprinkler system.
o Finish materials in the building have the highest fire safety rating

The University has responded completely and publicly, issuing a comprehensive report that cites findings of the firm Fire Protection Code Consultants. It says that the Ryan Center exceeds national standards for safe evacuation. As part of the public process under way at this time, the University and the State Fire Marshal’s office have approved the engagement of Howe Engineering Fire Protection and Life Safety Code Consultants of West Falmouth, Mass.

The third-party engineering firm will conduct a peer review of the University commissioned engineering study of egress in relation to the fire protection systems and features of the building. Those results will be submitted to the fire marshal’ s office.

"This is not a question of building safety; it is a question of completing the process initiated by the Fire Marshal’s Office," Culley said.

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Page last revised Monday, January 5, 2004 .