AUTHOR: Amanda Kimball

Activated sprinkler

Seeking input on ignition sources in warehouses for Fire Protection Research Foundation project

Oxygen reduction (or hypoxic) systems (ORS) are being used in warehouse facilities as an alternative to sprinkler protection. The basic principle of operation is to displace the ambient oxygen in an enclosed environment with one or more nitrogen generators.  Recently, the Fire Protection Research Foundation completed a project to review literature on the topic and identify research needs.  The research revealed that the test methods may not be sufficient for real-scale scenarios and may result in oxygen concentrations too high to prevent ignition. More research is needed on ORS test methods with a specific focus on: Data on real-world scenarios with the systems including information on reliability and maintenance issues Full- or real-scale validation of test methods that considers multiple types of ignition sources such as radiative and electrical high energy arc Data on ignition potential based on material type and storage arrangement for different O2 concentrations. Further research on the required oxygen concentration for specific fuels and applications. Therefore, the Foundation is conducting a second phase of "Review of Oxygen Reduction Systems for Warehouse Storage Applications" to develop both a prescriptive and performance-based design approach to select design oxygen concentrations for oxygen reduction system installations in warehouse applications. To do so, the project team is investigating ignition sources present in warehouses in order to evaluate and propose test methods for determining required oxygen levels for fire prevention purposes. As part of that effort, we have a questionnaire about ignition sources in warehouses to gather input from experts and stakeholders in the field. If you have any incident insights that you can share, please fill in the survey here. Information is collected anonymously unless you opt to provide contact information. Thank you in advance for your participation! 
A green building

Fire Safety Challenges and Attributes of ‘Green’ Buildings

In recent years, there have been several major fire events, which have involved ‘green’ materials, systems, and features in buildings, including the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in London involving combustible insulation; the Dietz & Watson cold storage warehouse in Delanco, New Jersey involving photovoltaic panels and combustible insulation; and the 2019 energy storage system (ESS) explosion and fire in Surprise, Arizona. While each of these incidents can be categorized in many ways, they (and many others) include materials, systems, and features that are considered ‘green’ or sustainable. These events have prompted major advances (related to fire challenges) in ‘green’ and/or sustainable building materials, systems, and features in areas such as: research, regulatory requirements, engineering approaches, risk mitigation strategies, and firefighting tactics. Given the increased interest, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, conducted a fundamental review of the aforementioned considerations to better understand the extent to which the unintended fire hazards and risks associated with ‘green’ attributes of buildings have been addressed, considered, or are being monitored as new incidents emerge. The study found that while fire hazards and risks have been addressed in many regards, fire safety is still considered relatively late in the design process and when considered, efforts don’t always carry through to the operational phase of a building.  Further, the design of ‘green’ buildings is fundamentally rooted in sustainability -  environmental, economic, and social – not necessarily focused on fire resiliency. The Foundation’s review suggests there is a need to broaden our understanding of societal objectives and include resiliency into the context of ‘Sustainable and Fire Resilient’ (SAFR) buildings and communities.  The idea is to include risk and performance considerations into overall assessments of whether structures meet design criteria across all societal dimensions so that ‘safer’ solutions for buildings, fire service personnel, and the community are ultimately achieved. The study developed a set of recommendations for future work to address gaps and to advance the concept of SAFR buildings and communities. They include: Integrating ‘green’/sustainable attributes of buildings into fire incident reporting systems Developing more robust and appropriate test methods, which yield engineering data, for assessment of material, component, and systems performance Incorporating fire performance considerations into sustainable materials, technologies, research, and development features Creating robust risk and performance assessment methods and tools, which are founded on broad expert stakeholder knowledge and experience, available data, and expert judgment where data are lacking Designing better tools for holistic design and performance assessment, taking advantage of building informational modelling (BIM) and other technologies that are defining the future of the construction market Transitioning to more holistic, socio-technical systems approaches for building regulatory systems, which consider the diversity of societal and market objectives for building design, construction, and lifetime operation Furthering SAFR building concept development and articulation, as well as its societal and economic benefits You can read more about this topic in two reports from the Foundation, the original 2012 report and the 2020 update.  As noted above, there is certainly a lot of work to be done to advance fire safety considerations in ‘green’ buildings, so be sure to attend the Global Trends and Research one-day conference on November 2, 2021 to hear more about this study, its findings, and the SAFR concept.  The session on green buildings is just one of eight forward-thinking discussions being offered that day as part of the NFPA 125th Anniversary Conference Series (sessions are available for one year after the live date, via on-demand).

Research Underway to Study Pulmonary and Cardiovascular Systems in Wildland Firefighters

As of Thursday, more than 26,000 firefighters across 12 states are fighting 102 large fires over 4.4 million acres. If you find yourself gasping for air just viewing footage, can you imagine what firefighters on the front lines are feeling? It is known that wildland fire smoke poses a hazard to first responders in extreme wildland fire events; however, we do not know the long-term impact of this exposure to provide adequate guidance to better protect Wildland Firefighters (WLFF).    There is evidence that suggests occupational wildland fire smoke exposure may have a cumulative effect, specifically because studies focused on chronic exposure to wood smoke have linked it to the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) and stiffening of central arteries in otherwise healthy people.     However, while epidemiological studies can provide evidence of trends and associated risks, they cannot pinpoint which burn scenarios are the most dangerous to long-term health or recommend feasible protective equipment to reduce the risks to WLFF.  To help formulate recommendations and guidance on shift duration, cost/benefit of aggressive firefighting tactics, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for WLFF, studies under well-characterized and reproducible experimental conditions are needed.   To provide the knowledge needed to develop recommendations to reduce WLFF exposure, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is collaborating with Northeastern University and the University of California Berkeley on a research project to conduct these types of experiments to quantify the effects of exposure on the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems in firefighters to develop a better understanding of the health consequences and offer guidance on ways to mitigate these impacts.  The funding for this project is through a DHS/FEMA AFG Fire Grant and it is a 3-year effort targeted to wrap up in September 2021.  Look for more updates here and on the Foundation website as this project progresses.

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