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Frank Brannigan, 87; Innovator in Firefighting Safety

January 23, 2006|From the Washington Post

Frank Brannigan, a teacher and author credited with developing influential firefighting practices that are followed by departments the world over, has died. He was 87.

He died Jan. 10 of cardiac arrest at an assisted-living center in Silver Spring, Md.

Brannigan, known for saying "the building is the enemy; know the enemy," never served as a firefighter or fire chief except for a stint in the Navy.

He developed the concept of "preplanning," or learning how to fight a fire before it occurs, and encouraged the study of building construction to minimize damage and loss of life.

His book, "Building Construction for the Fire Service," first published in 1971, is a standard text used in firefighting academies around the world.

"There was nobody who had more influence in the fire service than Frank Brannigan," said Vincent Dunn, former deputy chief of the New York Fire Department.

As an official with the Atomic Energy Commission from 1949 to 1971, Brannigan was instrumental in devising early plans for radiation emergencies and disasters involving hazardous materials.

"He was the first person to address firefighter safety," said Wayne Powell, a fire and life-safety specialist with Marriott Corp. and a former official with the U.S. Fire Administration. "He saved more firefighters' lives than any other single person."

Francis L. Brannigan was born in New York City on Oct. 13, 1918. His mother once caught him skipping school in the second grade to follow a firetruck.

Brannigan graduated from Manhattan College at 19 with a degree in accounting. In 1939, he and several friends formed the Fire Bell Club of New York, a group of buffs who raced to fires throughout the city.

After joining the Navy in 1942, Brannigan volunteered to organize a Navy firefighting school in Panama and developed the idea of preplanning by examining ships and other structures in which fires were likely to occur.

In 1966, he founded a fire science program at Montgomery College in Maryland and continued to teach fire safety throughout his life.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Maurine; six children; a brother; 14 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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