FACT CHECK: Does The Fire Suppression System In Yale’s Beinecke Library Cut Off Oxygen If There Is A Fire, Killing Those Inside?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims the fire suppression system at Yale University’s Beinecke Library cuts off all oxygen during a fire, killing “all who are inside in order to protect the rare books.”

Verdict: False

Beinecke Library uses a fire suppression system that is safe for humans, according to the communications director for the library.

Fact Check:

The image shows a screen grab of a viral 2018 tweet that features pictures of Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The library houses “one of the largest and most dynamic collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world,” including an original Gutenberg Bible, according to its website.

The tweet claims that “if a fire starts in the library, all the oxygen leaves the building killing all who are inside in order to protect the rare books.” That claim, however, is incorrect, according to the communications director for the library.

“It is false information,” said Michael Morand, the communications for Beinecke Library, in an email to Check Your Fact. “Like scores of cultural heritage institutions, this library uses a clean agent fire suppression system that is safe for humans.”

The Fire Suppression Systems Association (FSSA) describes clean agents as “gaseous fire suppressing agents” that have undergone “extensive toxicity testing to prove they are compatible with people and safe to use in occupied areas.” Morand told Check Your Fact that the library “upgraded the clean agent first suppression system to Ecaro” five years ago, when the library underwent renovations, and that it is a “widely-used, safe, and greener fire protection system.”

The FSSA states on its website that clean agents such as Ecaro are “safe for humans.” Ecaro “extinguishes a fire by a combination of chemical and physical mechanisms” and is “safe for use in occupied spaces without fear of oxygen deprivation,” according to information on the website of ORR Protection Systems, a company that specializes in fire protection equipment.

Prior to the renovations in 2016, the library also utilized a human-safe fire suppression system. Stephen Jones, the former head of access services at Beinecke Library, told Yale Daily News in 2010 that the library had a fire-extinguishing system that used a “combination of halon and Inergen gases” to combat any potential fire. Inergen is a “breathable gaseous extinguishing agent” that reduces the oxygen concentration and increases the carbon dioxide concentration in the air to prevent fire while “allowing persons to breathe as they egress the hazard area,” according to a document from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“They do lower the percentage of oxygen, but not enough to kill any librarians,” Jones told Yale Daily News in 2010. (RELATED: Is The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library In Danger Of Closing Permanently Due To Coronavirus?)

The Beinecke Library has been the subject of various myths for decades, according to Yale Daily News.

Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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