AUTHOR: Jacqueline R. Wilmot, P.E.

New RFP Open for Project to Review Emergency Egress and Rescue Challenges in Rail Tunnels

Next week will mark the three-year anniversary of one of the most significant subway fires in New York City history. At about 3 a.m. on March 27, 2020, a subway train heading north out of Manhattan caught fire as it rolled into the Central Park North–110th Street Station. The blaze killed one train operator and injured 16 other people, while dozens of others had to evacuate the subway. NFPA 130, Standard for Fixed Guideway Transit and Passenger Rail Systems, specifies fire protection and life safety requirements for underground, surface, and elevated fixed guideway transit and passenger rail systems. It also specifies maximum distances for how far passengers would have to travel to egress in the event of an evacuation. But the current language in the standard lacks technical substantiation for distances to point of safety for both 800-ft (244-m) spacing between cross passages and 2500-ft (762-m) spacing between exits and the surface. Additionally, the minimum emergency walkway widths specified in NFPA 130 are based on outdated research that does not accurately reflect current anthropometric data and limits evacuation to single file. To help the standard reflect the most recent technical data, the Fire Protection Research Foundation is now seeking proposals from project contractors to carry out a new project to establish a comprehensive understanding of the impact of changing criteria for both exit distances and walkway width on the probability of successful egress in rail tunnels, as well as the impact of such changes on emergency response capabilities. Researchers will review emergency egress and rescue challenges in rail tunnels through a literature review, case study analysis, evacuation modeling, comparative analysis, and the development of a research plan. More information about the open request for proposals (RFP) seeking a contractor for “Review of Emergency Egress and Rescue Challenges in Rail Tunnels” is available here or on the Foundation’s website. Instructions on how to respond are included in the RFP. Please submit your proposal to Jacqueline Wilmot by April 7 at 5 p.m. ET.

Fire Protection Research Foundation Announces 2022 SUPDET Best Paper Awards

Each year, the Fire Protection Research Foundation hosts the SUPDET® (short for Suppression and Detection) Conference to bring together industry experts to collaborate in panel discussions and participate in engaging education sessions on the latest research techniques and applications used for fire suppression, detection, signaling, and other emerging technologies. At the conclusion of the conference, attendees vote on the “Best Paper” (presentation) for each category of suppression and detection. The Fire Protection Research Foundation is proud to announce the 2022 SUPDET winners of the William M. Carey Award (suppression) and the Ronald K. Mengel Award (detection). The William M. Carey Award for the best presentation in the suppression category goes to Jeremy Souza of Code Red Consultants for his presentation “Going Fluorine Free – Converting a Legacy AFFF System to Fluorine-Free Foam.” The Ronald K. Mengel Award for the best presentation in the detection category is being awarded to two individuals, as there was a tie in votes: Arjen Kraaijeveld of HVL for his presentation “Reliable Fire Detection Systems for Residents with Drug and Psychiatric Disorders” and Travis Montembeault of Peerless Pump Company for his presentation “Smart fire protection systems improve overall reliability and decision making.” These winners will be presented with the awards at the 2023 SUPDET Conference, which will be September 12–14 in Northbrook, Illinois. Save the date! The awards’ namesakes It is with grateful appreciation of William Carey and Ronald Mengel that the Fire Protection Research Foundation presents these two awards each year. William Carey was a leading authority on fire safety. He spent 34 years as a professional engineer at Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. Throughout his career, Carey was a project engineer, giving presentations on fire safety products and investigating products to determine if they met UL standards. He also volunteered at several industry-related associations, including the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and served on many NFPA technical committees. Later in his career, Carey was a senior staff engineer involved in working at UL’s large-scale fire testing facility, where he specialized in testing fire safety products, including sprinkler systems and portable fire extinguishers. He died unexpectedly at the early age of 56. He had an extraordinary knowledge and experience in his area of expertise and contributed to a better understanding of fire for engineers. Ronald Mengel had a long-distinguished career in the fire detection and alarm industry. He served in the US Navy and worked for General Electric and later Honeywell’s System Sensor Division. Mengel was a valued member of the fire protection community and volunteered for several industry-related associations including the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), Automatic Fire Alarm Association (AFAA), National Electrical Manufacturing Association (NEMA) and the Foundation’s Fire Detection and Alarm Research Council. Congratulations Jeremy, Arjen, and Travis on your well-deserved awards. We look forward to seeing you in the fall! Please save the date, and check out our call for papers for 2023!

How Long Does It Take for your 911 Call to Be Answered?

This was the question the NFPA technical committee responsible for writing NFPA 1225, Standard for Emergency services Communications, asked in the last revision cycle, while reviewing the existing language on this subject. A public safety answering/access point (PSAP) refers to the call center where emergency calls for the police, fire department or EMS are received from mobile or landline callers/subscribers. The 2022 edition of NFPA 1225 calls out two time-standards for dispatch: Answer requests for emergency assistance within 10 seconds 90% of the time Process the request for emergency assistance within 60 seconds 90% of the time. The standard defines “Call Answering” as the time from when the call is initiated by the caller to when it is answered by a PSAP. “Call Processing” is defined by the standard as the time from when the call is answered to when the first Emergency Response Unit (ERU) is dispatched. The NFPA Technical Committee knew these old provisions were based on the experience of the technical committee members and there was no research to suggest that these times fit the physical limitations of a communication center. Further, Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) would often question the validity of these provisions. Enter: The Fire Protection Research Foundation. This research request came from the NFPA 1225 Technical Committee and the NFPA Research Fund was able to provide the required funding to dig into these questions further. The goal of this project is to collect, analyze and summarize the call answer and processing time interval data in response to the fire and EMS events (excluding law enforcement event data) from a wide range of PSAP dispatch centers (i.e. large, small, urban, rural etc.) in the United States. The research contractor, Public Consulting Group, performed a literature review to identify common concerns for PSAPs including staffing limitations, insufficient funding, and technological issues.  PCG developed a survey questionnaire to circulate to PSAPs throughout the US, conducted a statistical analysis on the data collected and compiled all the findings and summary observations into a final report titled: “An Analysis of Public Safety Call Answering and event Processing Times”. The one-page summary provides key takeaways from the research report. There are over 6,000 active PSAPs in the US. 52 organizations submitted the requested data and 47 of those datasets are in the format consistent with the needs of this study. While this data represents less than one percent of PSAPs, in analyzing the data that was collected, PSAPs were only able to achieve the minimum time standards set by NFPA 1225, 40-50 percent of the time. It was noted that PSAPs who stated that they follow a written standard were compliant significantly more often than those who did not. Specifically, agencies that stated they follow the times described in NFPA 1225 (previously NFPA 1221, Standard for the Installation, Maintenance, and Use of Emergency Services Communications Systems, had 65% of their calls found to be compliant, versus only 27% compliance in the calls processed by agencies not following an NFPA standard. Analyzing these records, the 90th percentile for call processing times is more than twice the recommended time specified in NFPA 1225. However, records from agencies that follow written standards are compliant more than twice as often as the records from agencies without a standard. Agencies following NFPA Standards are identified to be most successful in this study. Interested in reading the report, download it here. Only have a minute? Check out this one-page project summary sheet you can share with others. Do you have a research need? Please submit it to us using the project idea submission tool. We look forward to hearing from you!  

Do You Travel with a Portable CO Alarm? If not, you should, and here’s why

Being raised by a volunteer firefighter, I was taught at a young age to always look for my 2nd exit, and when traveling to never to stay above the 4th floor because fire department ladders rarely reach above the fourth floor. It was also pretty “normal” for us to travel with a portable Carbon Monoxide (CO) alarm. Why? Because CO poisoning incidents in hotels are not uncommon and regulations on CO detection differ significantly from state to state. While there are multiple sources which provide CO incident data, each organization contains its own methodology for collecting information and providing statistics; However, it is not clear what specific information is being collected, disseminated, and represented for each incident type. The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently published a report titled: “Carbon Monoxide Incidents: A Review of the Data Landscape” which reviews and presents the CO incident data landscape to clarify the sources of information, how the data is compiled and what the data represents. Additionally, the report identifies, summarized, and analyzes case studies of non-fire carbon monoxide incidents specific to commercial-type occupancies to provide a greater understanding to the NFPA technical committees responsible for NFPA 101, Life Safety Code ® and NFPA 5000, Building Construction and Safety Code ®.  Be on the lookout for the Second Draft Reports from these committees in February of 2023 to see what changes have been made. A one-page summary of the Foundation report provides key takeaways. PS: If your CO alarm is your in carry-on bag, be sure you can access it quickly while going through TSA security, as mine is always “inspected”!  

Fire Protection Research Foundation Hosts Annual Suppression & Detection Conference Highlighting Research in Energy Storage Systems, Special Suppression Applications, Storage Applications, & Foam

Think about where you are. Close your eyes and take a minute to count all the devices which have batteries in the room you are currently occupying. Three instantly pop up in my mind: my laptop, my phone, and our robot vacuum I can hear, making its way down the hall. These are all devices that store energy in one way or another. How many devices did you count? If you are in your office while reading this, chances are, you thought of the same devices I did. What about our basements or garages? Do you have an electric vehicle? If the room you are occupying caught fire, how would these devices impact that fire? If you are in a commercial office, would the fire protection system be designed to protect against such hazards? These issues are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the questions researchers are asking in the fire protection and life safety world. To collaborate with researchers and other industry stakeholders, The Fire Protection Research Foundation hosts a technical conference held annually called “SupDet”, which focuses on specific research applications in the Suppression (hence “Sup”), and Detection (“Det”) industries. The Fire Protection Research Foundation hosted the 18th SupDet conference this week in Atlanta, GA. Mr. Garner Palenske of WJE, kicked off the suppression portion of the conference by providing the keynote, which focused on the impact suppression research has made in the fire protection industry. Afterall, there is a reason that the first edition of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, published in 1896 was only 25 pages, and the most recent 2022 edition of NFPA 13 has over 500 pages. As our environment changes, so do the hazards and how standards address these emerging technologies. While Mr. Palenske reviewed several examples of “game changers” in the industry from the studies of obstructions to the protection energy storage systems, he also emphasized the research needed as we look forward into the future, highlighting topics of forensic and wildfire as well as flue spaces and lithium-ion work in areas beyond automotive. The suppression education sessions focused on 5 key areas: energy storage systems, special suppression applications, storage applications, foam, and other emerging issues. Dr. Noah Ryder of Fire & Risk Alliance, LLC, spoke on a few topics, but the presentation on the challenges, solutions and best practices in energy storage was exceptionally intriguing as he asked the audience the same questions, I asked each of you at the beginning of this blog. Dr. Ryder took a deeper look into the challenges being faced by the industry including the evolving application of storing energy in a multitude of devices and therefore locations that never hosted such potential hazards and how to best protect these spaces. More specifically he reviewed computational fluid dynamics (CFD), thermal runaway, cooling, separation, and thermal barriers as well as testing and suppression approaches. Dr. Ryder explained the reactive and lagging codes as well as the inconsistent adoption of such codes as well as how further research is needed to recognize the role batteries play in our environment to close these gaps. If you missed SupDet, be on the lookout for the proceedings as they will be posted shortly on the 2022 SupDet website!

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