Firestop as an Anti-Terrorism Technology?

Posted on 4/9/2018 7:00:00 AM By Sharron Halpert

Globally, terror attacks are on the rise.  The implications for the owners of the buildings where attacks take place are overwhelming. Let’s look at a few examples.  The 2005 bombing on World Trade Center killed six people and injured 1000.  It also resulted in hundreds of millions in third party claims that needed to be paid to the victims.

The attacks of September 11th brought a new level of horrific tragedies and amazing stories of survival from the lucky ones. It also saw more than $35 billion in insured losses, unquantifiable uninsured losses with $40 billion in litigation and billions more still pending.  Various entities approached the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) asking for some means of protection from anticipated lawsuits that follow any terrorist attack. In response, as a part of the Homeland Security Act, DHS developed the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act otherwise known as the SAFETY Act. The SAFETY Act can approve Qualified Anti Terrorism Technologies that, when deployed, can cap the maximum terrorism liability dollar exposure for a project team.  This can include the building owner, designer, as well as contractors and other down stream participants. It also bars punitive damages, non-compensatory damages, pre-judgment interest as well as non-economic damages and it prevents the buckshot approach to lawsuits, where everyone in dragged into the suit.  

SAFETY Act protection changes the way a suit is managed. First, it must move directly to Federal court. Second, SAFETY Act protection means that the only individual who can be sued is the SAFETY Act applicant once approved, now called the Seller of the QATT.  This protects the purchaser of the QATT, any downstream or upstream sub-contractors, manufacturers, etc. Third, it caps the liability for the Seller of the QATT.  This is a dramatic change for the industry and is major Tort Reform that you can capitalize on to protect your company.

QATT’s in the Construction Industry.

SAFETY Act protections are awarded to security related companies.  It could be the companies who make the luggage or body scanners or for security companies based on how they vet, hire and train their employees, and how they perform their duties. Others could be technology for cyber security, bomb detection, facial recognition and all sorts of other products and services that are not relevant to the construction industry.  In the fall of 2017 this changed as two QATT’s were approved that have direct implications to the construction industry. 

In September a QATT was approved that works based off the existing building codes, but mandates a few elements in specifications section that help reduce the opportunity for human error in the passive fire protection elements of the project.  It is followed up with a small team that oversees the construction and special inspections process and then continues with an annual questioner that helps evaluate any risk to the life safety since the building was turned over.  When this protocol is followed, the entire construction/design/owners team can benefit from the added SAFETY Act Protection.  Not only is the building safer in the event of a terrorist attack, but deploying this SAFETY Act protection will mean the building is safer, even if there is a fire caused by any other means.  Because of the additional support, the building, when completed, can be expected to perform better than most. 

Shortly after the approval of this QATT, Owens Corning also received approval for their mineral wool.  This approval means that end users are immune from suit under the SAFETY Act, be they the designers who specify the materials or the builders who install it. 

More information can be found at the Safety Act website.

The SAFETY Act consultant’s website is another excellent resource to help explain the benefits of the SAFETY Act Protection and answer an array of questions one might have if they were considering applying for similar protection for their company.

If you have a new construction project that can benefit from deploying this new QATT, please contact Sharron Halpert for more information.