The Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco that resulted in the tragic deaths of two Chinese students and injured scores of other passengers has raised many questions. But one thing is clear: The number of survivors is astounding.
Several factors played a role, including flame retardant materials, used to meet FAA standards, which helped to provide adequate escape time for the passengers and crew aboard the plane.
Stronger seats that stay bolted down against extreme forces coupled with flame retardant materials help passengers survive the initial impact in many crash landings and gives them time to evacuate before fire engulfs cabins. In several accidents, such as an Air France A340 that ran off the end of a runway in Toronto and burned in 2009 and a Lion Air Boeing 737 that crashed into water short of a runway in Bali earlier this year, hundreds of people escaped from perilous conditions because they had time and mobility to evacuate. That appears to be the case again Saturday at San Francisco International Airport.
The research is clear that flame retardant materials can help provide critical escape time during fires and protect people not only in planes, but in cars, homes and offices.
For example, after California implemented progressive flammability standards for upholstered furniture in the 1970s, which involved using flame retardant materials to meet those standards, the percentage of fires and fire-related deaths related to upholstered furniture dropped dramatically.
Flame retardant materials have been equally as beneficial in the building and construction sector as they have been in home furnishings.
For instance, flame retardants used in foam insulation, an innovative building and construction material that can significantly reduce a building’s energy use and help control indoor temperature, can help to protect occupants and workers from fire-related death and injury. The Energy Efficient Foam Coalition’s website provides information about the use of flame retardants in foam insulation.
From planes to homes to offices, flame retardant materials play an important role in fire safety, showing how chemistry makes our lives better and safer. We realize the survivors of the San Francisco crash have a long way to go to overcome the many physical and emotional scars left from this crash, and our thoughts and prayers are with them.