AUTHOR: Sreenivasan Ranganathan

House on fire with firefighters on the scene

Research Foundation 40th anniversary webinar series recordings now available

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA®), conducted a two-day webinar series on August 24 and 25, 2022, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. The webinar series covered research topic areas and themes that are aligned with research priorities of FPRF and the fire and life safety industry. This webinar series consisted of presentations by subject matter experts addressing the following themes: Day 1 program: Webinar recording Reduce Residential Fire Losses Fire Safety in the US since 1980 Cooking fires Impact of Medications on Older Adult Fall and Fire Risk Strategies for Community Resilience Wildland & Wildland Urban Interface Fires CAREDEX: Disaster Resilience in Aging Communities via a Secure Data Exchange Global Community Resilience Data Collection and Data Analytics to Inform Policy Global Fire data standardization Insurance Data – openIDL CRAIG 1300TM National Firefighter Cancer Registry Day 2 program: Webinar recording Hazards of New Materials and Systems Fire Safety Challenges of Green Buildings Energy Storage Systems Hazards of Modern Vehicles in Parking Structures Increase Effectiveness and Reliability of Safety Systems Impact of Research on NFPA 13 Impact of Research on NFPA 72 Effectiveness of fluorine free firefighting foams Fire Fighting Safety & Effectiveness Fire Service Contamination control & PPE Cleaning validation Firefighting foams: fire service roadmap Firefighter immersive learning training  If you missed attending this webinar series, the presentation recordings are now available to view on demand at www.nfpa.org/webinars. To learn more about the Research Foundation and our work over the last four decades, please visit: www.nfpa.org/fprf40.
Building on fire

New Research Foundation research “Environmental Impact of Fires in the Built Environment: Emission Factors” provide updated emission factors for a range of fire conditions and building materials

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA®, recently published a research report on the “Environmental impact of fires in the built environment: Emission factors”. This study updated existing emission factors (EFs) for a range of fire conditions and developed new EFs for relevant building materials to produce a database that can be built upon with future research. The research report along with the database is available from the FPRF website. With the increase in human population and as new levels of contamination of scarce resources are revealed, the concern for the health of the natural environment is growing. Current efforts to improve the sustainability of buildings focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing embodied carbon. This strategy overlooks the fact that a fire event could reduce the overall sustainability of a building through the release of pollutants and the environmental impact of the subsequent rebuild. Most fires occurring in the built environment contribute to air contamination from the fire plume (whose deposition is likely to subsequently include land and water contamination), contamination from water runoff containing toxic products, and other environmental discharges or releases from burned materials. In 2020, the FPRF undertook a study that developed a research road map identifying research needs to be able to quantify the environmental impact of fire from the built environment and its economic consequences, where lack of relevant data concerning emissions was identified as one of several pressing needs. In the wake of the development of the research road map, the FPRF initiated a follow up research to develop a database of existing emission factors for a range of fire conditions and the development of some new EFs for building materials. Details of which material have been studied was determined through a combination of factors, including typical materials used to describe buildings in LCA models, materials identified in a separate French research project (funded by the French Ministry of the Environment in the context of the annual funding for INERIS), and a database of prior experiments characterizing a number of existing materials. Special focus was placed on scaling to investigate the predictive capabilities of small-scale test methods for development of EFs for large-scale conditions. This report provides details of large-scale and small-scale experiments conducted at INERIS (France) and small-scale experiments conducted at Lund University (Sweden), in 2019-2020 spanning a period of approximately 18 months. In addition to conducting experiments to confirm existing data and develop new data, a database of existing experimental data relevant for the development of EFs has been created containing some 90 products and materials. This database represents the first up-to-date published resource with a collation of emission factors for a broad variety of species to the best knowledge of the authors. The findings from this study were presented through FPRF 2022 webinar series on May 18, 2022. The webinar recording is available on-demand here. The Fire Protection Research Foundation is celebrating its 40th year in existence in 2022. Read more about this noteworthy milestone.

Fire Protection Research Foundation publishes “Firefighting Foams: Fire Service Roadmap” report

Fire incidents involving flammable liquids have historically resulted in dire consequences. Incidents can occur in aircraft hangars, shipboard spaces, flammable liquids fueling facilities, large fuel storage tanks, and other settings and can range from small, short spill fires to large tank farm fires which can burn for multiple days. A prominent example of the latter is the Intercontinental Terminals Company Deer Park petrochemical facility fire in Texas in March 2019. That fire started on March 17 and was finally brought under control on March 23. Class B firefighting foams are the primary agents used for the vapor suppression and extinguishment of flammable liquid fires in both manual and fixed system applications. Firefighting foams form a film and/or a blanket of bubbles on the surface of flammable liquids and prevent the fuel vapors and oxygen from interacting and creating a flammable mixture. For nearly five decades, Aqueous Film Forming Foams (AFFF) have been used as the dominant and effective Class B firefighting foam. Prior to the adoption of AFFF, the primary agent for flammable liquid firefighting was Protein Foams, which are derived from the hydrolysis of protein products and then delivered as aspirated foam to produce a smothering blanket of foam bubbles on the fuel surface. AFFF contains fluorosurfactants (per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances [PFAS]) that provide the essential characteristics of fuel repellency, heat stability, low surface tension, and positive spreading coefficient so that an aqueous film formation can be formed on the fuel surface. AFFF has traditionally been recognized for its effective fire control characteristics. However, today these foams are now of significant concern in light of potential adverse health and environmental impact. The potential environmental, safety and occupational health risks associated with the use of fluorosurfactants such as some PFAS present in AFFFs started to become evident to the scientific community in the early 2000s. The unique chemical nature of the carbon-fluorine bond in PFAS make some of these compounds persistent, bio accumulative, toxic and have emerged as “contaminants of concern” as considered by the EPA. As a result, the ability to use AFFF to extinguish Class B fires continues to be greatly restricted due to bans in numerous States in the United States and in countries across the world such as Australia. Recently, Federal and State authorities have implemented health and environmental regulatory actions for PFAS and PFAS-containing AFFF. These regulations will ultimately impact, if not eliminate the production, distribution, and use of legacy AFFF in upcoming years. As more regulations come into place to address this issue, fire departments and other industrial end users are seeking AFFF replacements. In the meantime, the capabilities and limitations of the replacement foams and agents are continuing to be investigated through various research and testing programs to better understand their characteristics and effectiveness for various applications. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA, facilitated a research testing program (2018-20) to evaluate the fire protection performance and effectiveness of multiple fluorine free Class B firefighting foams on fires involving hydrocarbon and alcohol fuels. This study provided guidance to inform the foam system application standard, i.e., NFPA 11, Standard for Low−, Medium−, and High− Expansion Foam based on the testing conducted at the time of this research, and identified knowledge gaps and research needs so that we can better understand the capabilities and limitations of fluorine free foams. Additionally, there are multiple other ongoing research efforts. There are research programs led by the US Department of Defense’s SERDP and ESTCP underway, including  testing on the development of PFAS-free firefighting formulations, studying the fire suppression performance and ecotoxicology of these formulations as well as the cleaning technologies for firefighting equipment. LASTFIRE (Large Atmospheric Storage Tank Fires), an international industrial end user consortium, has also been focusing on the selection and use of firefighting foams for large storage tank applications. Additionally, the Firefighter Cancer Cohort Study is developing a national framework to collect and integrate firefighter epidemiologic surveys, biomarkers, and exposure data focused on carcinogenic exposures and health effects. Part of the long-term cohort study will look at the health effects of firefighters that have been routinely exposed to firefighting foams during their activities and careers. Clearly, this is a complex problem, with concerns that include fire control/extinguishing performance, health exposure, and environmental contamination. And for the fire service, challenging Class B flammable liquid fires are not going away and must be addressed. The learning from these ongoing studies have been promising and demonstrate a step in the right direction to develop a full understanding of this complex problem so that we can transition to firefighting foams of the future without experiencing “substitution regret” (i.e., to avoid multiple repeated replacements over time). The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently published the report titled “Firefighting Foams: Fire Service Roadmap.” This project was initiated with the funding support from FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program, with an overall goal to provide guidance to the fire service community by developing a roadmap to transition from AFFFs to a suitable, environmentally friendly, non-toxic, and effective alternative. The roadmap document is based on the information available at the time of the program. The roadmap and associated documentation have been assembled in a systematic path that covers current regulations, considerations for transitioning to replacement foam, cleaning of equipment and disposal of effluents and legacy concentrates, foam selection and implementation considerations, minimizing firefighter exposures, and ways to handle foam discharged from a cleanup and documentation perspective. A key element of this project entailed a three-day virtual workshop hosted by the FPRF late last year, October 2021. Subject matter experts delivered 28 presentations on the state of knowledge and related issues. If you missed this FPRF workshop, please visit the project website for workshop presentations, and final proceedings. Did you know the Research Foundation is celebrating its 40th year in existence in 2022? Learn more about this noteworthy milestone at www.nfpa.org/fprf40.
Burning building

Register to attend the free Research Foundation webinar on environmental impact of fire: characterization of emission factors

The Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of NFPA, will be hosting its next webinar on Wednesday, May 18 on “Environmental impact of fire: Characterization of emission factors.” With the increase in human population and the as new levels of contamination of scarce resources are revealed, the concern for the health of the natural environment is growing. Current efforts to improve the sustainability of buildings focus on increasing energy efficiency and reducing embodied carbon. This strategy overlooks the fact that a fire event could reduce the overall sustainability of a building through the release of pollutants and the environmental impact of the subsequent rebuild. Most fires occurring in the built environment contribute to air contamination from the fire plume (whose deposition is likely to subsequently include land and water contamination), contamination from water runoff containing toxic products, and other environmental discharges or releases from burned materials. In 2020, the Fire Protection Research Foundation undertook a study that developed a research road map identifying research needs to be able to quantify the environmental impact of fire from the built environment and its economic consequences, where lack of relevant data concerning emissions was identified as one of several pressing needs. In the wake of the development of the research road map, the Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated a follow up research to develop a database of existing emission factors (EFs) for a range of fire conditions and the development of some new EFs for building materials. This webinar will discuss the research roadmap and the emission factors database, including an assessment of scaling between small-scale and large-scale data measurement. Prof. Margaret McNamee of Lund University, Sweden, and Dr. Benjamin Truchot of National Institute for Industrial Environment and Risks (Ineris), France, will lead this webinar discussion. Registration is free and required to attend; register by clicking the direct link or by visiting www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming FPRF webinars and watch on-demand archived research webinars. This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2022 Webinar Series Sponsors: American Wood Council, AXA XL Risk Consulting, FM Global, Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc., Telgian Engineering and Consulting, The Zurich Services Corporation. Did you know the Research Foundation is celebrating its 40th year in existence in 2022. Read this NFPA Journal article to learn more about this noteworthy milestone.

“The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Firefighter Health:” Access the webinar and provide experiential input via a quick research survey

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely changed the lives and well-being of everyone globally. As the pandemic has progressed, clinicians and scientists have become increasingly alarmed with what has been termed as “Long COVID” or “COVID-LONG” – continued symptoms of COVID-19 that last three weeks or more after the diagnosis. Firefighters and EMS personnel are at the frontline of emergency response, and they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, specifically when responding to emergency medical calls from infected public citizens as well as through various other exposure pathways. The NFPA "Firefighter Fatalities in the US in 2020" report indicates that in 2020, more firefighters died from COVID-19 in the U.S. than any other line-of-duty death cause. Firefighters are always in high-risk environments performing the most physically demanding job, but “Long COVID” is creating apprehension in the fire service these days. The good news is that a new FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) is currently supporting research looking into the long-term health effects of COVID-19 and how the fire service can comprehend and manage the risks from the pandemic and safeguard firefighter health and safety. The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), is a project partner for this research effort titled, “Continuing the Fight Against COVID Together (C-FACT). The research is being led by Dr. Denise Smith from Skidmore College and Dr. Sara Jahnke from the Center for Fire, Rescue & EMS Health Research in partnership with Dr. Steven Moffat, an occupational medicine physician from Indianapolis and multiple fire departments. During the recent FPRF “The Long-Term Effects of COVID-19 on Firefighter Health” webinar, Dr. Smith and Dr. Jahnke provided scientific information on the risks of COVID-LONG, Dr. Moffat spoke about the challenges faced by firefighters as they return to duty following COVID infection, and retired Fire Chief Haigh shared perspective on dealing with firefighters who may suffer long-term symptoms that could interfere with work or increased risk of health-related issues. The webinar recording is available on demand here. This two-year research study requires critical input from the fire service. The research entails the collection of information from members of the fire service about their experiences with COVID-LONG. All firefighters are invited to participate in this survey. Participation in the survey is voluntary; it is estimated that the web-based survey will take less than 10 minutes to complete. Thank you, in advance, for your valued participation. 
Firefighter PPE
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