Topic: Research

Firefighter Hood

Research Foundation webinar on “Traditional and Particulate-Blocking Firefighter Hoods: Pros, Cons, and Trade-Offs”

The next Fire Protection Research Foundation webinar, as part of its 2021 webinar series, will feature the findings from a DHS FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant funded research study, led by North Carolina State University’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center (TPACC). The webinar will focus on developing a system-level methodology for evaluating protective hood materials and designs for trade-offs between protection (particulate and flashfire), comfort, durability, and situational awareness. Heads, faces, and necks are among the most vulnerable body areas for firefighter chemical exposure. Prior to 2016, protective hood variations were mainly based on different designs, bib lengths, fiber types, and blends, and were traditionally two-layer knit hoods or three-layer options designed for instructors. Particulate-blocking hoods were first introduced as a direct response to the heightened awareness of carcinogenic soot deposition on the head, face, and neck of firefighters when wearing on a traditional knit hood. This research project was conducted to further the understanding of this vulnerability and the performance trade-offs between traditional hoods and the new particulate-blocking alternatives. This webinar will present the findings from this study.  Register for this free webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA & FPRF webinars and archives.  When: Wednesday, August 4, 2021, 12:30 – 2:00 P.M. Eastern Time.  Presenter: Bryan Ormond, Ph.D., North Carolina State University.   
Fire truck responding to a call

Research shows progress and problems since "America Burning"

"The striking aspect of the Nation’s fire problem is the indifference with which Americans confront the subject. Destructive fire takes a huge toll in lives, injuries, and property losses, yet there is no need to accept those losses with resignation. There are many measures--often very simple precautions-that can be taken to reduce those losses significantly.” Nearly 50 years ago, these salient words were reflected in the opening pages of America Burning, the historic report written in 1973 and revisited in 1980. Over the decades since the landmark account was published, I have heard countless people cite America Burning findings, point to the recommendations within, and talk about what the findings did for fire protection, fire prevention, and responder safety. I whole-heartedly agree that America Burning was a groundbreaking tool in our arsenal and yet, today, in arguably the most advanced nation in the world – nearly 3,000 people still succumb to house fires, not to mention in other occupancies. On the same page of that report, the authors wrote, “These statistics are impressive in their size, though perhaps not scary enough to jar the average American from his confidence that “It will never happen to me.” And therein lies the problem. Complacency. It’s a killer of people, of property, of perspective, and of progress. But as has often been said, knowledge is power. NFPA has spent the last 125 years, believing this tenet to be true and furthering understanding in the interest of safety. Our vision of eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards is not merely a cliché, it is at the core of everything we do, everything that the America Burning report touched on back in the 70s and 80s, and served as the impetus for a new seminal report from NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation, our research affiliate. The Fire in the United States Since 1980, Through the Lens of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem Report shows the progress we have achieved in reducing loss in certain structures; the strides we’ve made with fire protection technologies such as smoke alarms and sprinklers; the success that we have achieved through public education; and the positive effect that mandated codes and standards have played in altering the fire experience in our country. Today, we rarely see people perish in healthcare settings or hotels. Children are less likely to die from playing with fire. Fires in apartment buildings and hi-rise buildings have decreased. Our schools and the children, educators, and staff that occupy them are significantly safer. These are all positives that, in many ways, point to the components of the Ecosystem that we have been talking about for three years now. Yes, at NFPA, we look at safety through the lens of the Ecosystem – not because we developed this framework a few years back but - because after more than a century of championing safety, two America Burning studies and this new research from NFPA – it is abundantly clear that fire safety requires a holistic, purposeful approach, and unwavering accountability. That holistic, purposeful approach and unwavering accountability is what it’s going to take for us to move the needle on the most pressing fire safety issues of today. The new research reminds us: We need all the elements of the Ecosystem working together on Community Risk Reduction (CRR) strategies so that we can decrease the number of elderly dying in home fires. With roughly one of every three fatal home fire victims being 65 or older, more research and resources are needed to protect our most vulnerable citizens. That’s why our Data, Analytics and Research team and the Research Foundation work to inform our Remembering When program which educates communities on older adult fire and fall prevention. States with higher fire death rates have larger percentages of people who have a disability; have incomes below the poverty line; live in rural areas; or are populated by African Americans, Blacks, Native Americans, or Alaskan Natives. There is more work to do to reach those at greatest risk. We must stem the trend of wildfire-caused human and property losses. Wildfire is becoming the dominant type of fire that causes catastrophic multiple deaths and property destruction in our country. In fact, 7 of the 10 costliest fires in the US were fires in the wildland/urban interface. We launched our new Outthink Wildfire™ policy campaign to advocate change around where and how we build and to bring together policy-makers, the fire service, and the public to work with all elements of the Ecosystem, so that we can redraft history and change the narrative. “Each one of us must become aware – not for a single time, but for all the year – of what he or she can do to prevent fires,” President Richard Nixon said in 1972. (The quote can be heard in the latest NFPA Learn Something New video about the new research.)   I urge you to use the knowledge in this new report to power your fire prevention and protection steps so, together, we can rewrite history.
Firefighter at a scene with a lot of smoke

Fire Protection Research Foundation publishes a literature review report on firefighter exposure to fireground carcinogens

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the research affiliate of NFPA, recently published a comprehensive literature review research report on the “Fireground Exposure of Firefighters.” The objective of the project was to assimilate the existing peer reviewed literature into a framework to understand the matrix of carcinogen exposure risks that firefighters face while performing their job tasks on the fireground. This examination focused specifically on carcinogenic exposure on the fireground, and the final report from this study can be found on the FPRF website. Research on the epidemiologic relationship between cancer and firefighting has been a focus of several recent cohorts and meta-analytic studies in the last decade. While the overall cancer risk among firefighters is estimated to be around 9-14% higher, as compared to the general population, the increased risk for individual cancers is often much higher and firefighters have been found to develop cancer at a younger age than the general population. Ongoing long-term efforts such as the prospective multicenter Fire Fighter Cancer Cohort Study (www.ffccs.org/) and the National Firefighter Registry (NIOSH, 2020) dive deeper into the  relationships between exposure and risk with more detail. Beyond cancer, exposure on the fireground has also spurred other health implications including cardiovascular, respiratory, and reproductive challenges for both female and male firefighters. A wide variety of exposure studies have been published in the last decade with many examining known and suspected carcinogens present on the fireground. Studies vary significantly in terms of data collection methods (e.g., biological sampling, active or passive air sampling, personal sampling devices such as a silicone dosimeter), type of incident (e.g., wildland fire, room and contents fire, training, vehicle fire, hazmat incident), and locations. Some look at regional differences as building materials vary both by locale and time of construction (e.g., legacy vs. modern construction). Understanding the nuances of exposures and risk in the literature will help to inform prevention and intervention efforts for firefighters. Given the significant growth in research on this topic, FPRF contractedthe Centre for Fire, Rescue, & EMS Health Research, NDRI Ventures, led by Dr. Sara Jahnke and her team, to conduct a systematic review of existing literature. The objective was to outline the current state of the science, summarize the findings, and identify gaps in the literature. A total of 75 articles (with about 68% being conducted in the last decade) were finally identified in the analysis. This number was arrived at after screening a larger number of articles using the inclusion criteria established for this project scope. Eligible articles included: any peer-reviewed published journal article that reported specific chemicals (or groups of chemicals) in body fluids (blood, urine, semen, and breastmilk) or monitored in the air attributed to fire smoke exposure. Only carcinogenic chemical exposures specific to the fireground were included. Each study reviewed had one set of study level variables that were applied and tabulated to both biomonitoring and environmental monitoring. Within each category, tables are grouped by International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) chemical classification. Group 1 chemicals are defined by IARC as “carcinogenic to humans.” Group 2A are “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Group 2B are “possibly carcinogenic to humans” and Group 3 are “not classifiable as to their carcinogenicity to humans.” For biomonitoring studies, significant gaps were identified for fire instructors, fire investigators, aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) firefighters, industrial firefighters, and recruits. It was also noted that future research should focus on examining the impact of the changing fire environment as the products of combustion in fires have evolved over the years. The gap analysis identified several areas of needed research within environmental monitoring including studies of carcinogens through wildland fires, exposures through electrical/transformer fires, ARFF exposures, and training fires. Additional research by type of data collection such as through gear samples and passive sampling devices was also identified as a need. Finally, it was determined that additional research on major events is needed through real-time environmental monitoring. This project report provides a strong foundation for the ongoing work that is being done to understand what firefighters are exposed to on the fireground.  It will serve as a valuable resource as IARC reevaluates the risks of firefighting, for groups fighting for cancer presumption, and for researchers identifying gaps in the literature. Clearly, the fireground, by its very nature, is a high-risk environment with a number of carcinogenic exposures for any responder on the scene. Understanding these risks is an important foundation for understanding health and environmental impacts and for identifying and promoting mitigation and prevention efforts.
Chairs on the beach with seagulls around them

Take fire & burn safety with you on vacation this summer

As the song says, “summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the streets.” It’s also the time many people plan and take vacations, with options ranging from hotel/motel stays, to peer to peer rentals, to motorhome style accommodations. Whatever form your vacation takes, make sure to “pack” fire & burn safety along with that sunscreen.  A recent NFPA Journal article and podcast highlights a Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) report on the fire hazards associated with RV’s.  According to the FPRF report, “Most fatal [RV] fires occur in older models of RVs, as they have fewer and less advanced fire safety measures,” the report reads. “They also have older engines and equipment that are more likely to fail, which is a common cause of fires." In addition, assuring working smoke alarms in these vehicles can positively impact the outcome of RV fires, with the majority of the 24 average annual RV fire deaths occurring in RVs lacking smoke alarms. On average, 20 deaths a year occurred between 2008 and 2017 in RV fires when no smoke alarm was present, while only one death occurred in fires in RVs with working smoke alarms.  From assuring smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms are present, to making sure everyone knows how to escape in case of emergency, NFPA tip sheets on hotels and motels, peer to peer rentals, and motor home, camper and RV travel provide critical tips to incorporate into anyone’s vacation planning.  Promote fire & burn safety this summer to make your community members have only fun memories of their vacations.   Follow me on Twitter @AndreaVastis and NFPA’s Public Education Division on Twitter,  Facebook, and Instagram.
Testing and maintenance

Research Foundation webinar on “ITM Data Exchange: New Frontier of Standardization to Support Reliability Analyses”

Fire protection systems are an essential part of a building’s safety ecosystem. The installation of such systems is just the beginning of a more dynamic safety process that requires diligent inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) efforts. ITM plays a significant, fundamental role in managing facility risks, and ensures that systems will activate as intended, when needed, and ultimately minimize downtime — because down time equates to accumulated risk. There are nearly 70 NFPA codes and standards requiring some form of ITM. In recent years, there has been interest in using ITM activity data to inform decisions related to system reliability, risk acceptability, and ITM frequencies. These data are being captured in thousands of different formats, through hundreds of different approaches, and by thousands of different groups, but one key element has been lacking to date - standardization. This void has restricted the ability to determine sound performance-based inspection frequencies and prevents stakeholders from exchanging and analyzing data that can influence safety and efficiencies. To address this need, a novel approach to standardizing ITM data using concepts of linked data and graph-modeling is being pilot tested through this ongoing Fire Protection Research Foundation project. This webinar will present a proof-of-concept comprehensive, scalable, and extensible ITM data exchange model that can facilitate data sharing from diverse data sources to support reliability analyses and predictive analytics. Guided by the concepts of fair data principles, this case study will demonstrate how graph-modeling and other cutting-edge techniques are being leveraged to collect and consolidate data to enable further analysis, reporting, and sharing of ITM data for the needs of various stakeholder groups. Register for this webinar today. When: Tuesday, June 29, 2021, 12:30 P.M. Eastern Time. Presenter: Bart van Leeuwen, Netage BV This webinar is supported by the Research Foundation 2021 Webinar Series Sponsors: APA – The Engineered Wood Association AXA XL Risk Consulting Johnson Controls Reliable Automatic Sprinkler Co., Inc. Telgian Engineering and Consulting The Zurich Services Corporation Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA & FPRF webinars and archives.
Parking garage

RFP now open for FPRF Project: Electric Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures – Full-Scale Testing

Vehicles have changed significantly over the years. They now incorporate larger quantities of combustible materials (e.g. fuels, plastics, synthetic materials, etc.) into their designs, but there has also been significant advancement in the use and development of alternative fuels for the drive engine. Globally, battery electric vehicles (EV) are seeing significant growth because of their minimal impact on the environment, advancement in the vehicle technology, and government incentive programs. EV sales are expected to increase from 2.5 million in 2020 to 11.2 million in 2025, then reaching 31.1 million by 2030. The Fire Protection Research Foundation recently completed a Phase I project with Combustion Science and Engineering, Inc. (CSE) on “Modern Vehicle Hazards in Parking Structures and Vehicle Carriers” to document the current understanding of the fire hazard modern vehicles present to parking structures and marine vessels. The findings of the study indicated that the spread of fire between cars in a garage, especially from the initial to the second and third vehicles, is critical in determining the extent of the fire and the ability of the fire department to successfully control and extinguish it. Full-scale testing with a range of configurations was identified as a necessary next step to evaluate the spread dynamics and critical parameters that influence electric vehicle fires. Our next step is to continue working with CSE and a testing contractor (to be selected via this open RFP process) on a follow-up project to fill some of the identified knowledge gaps – namely quantifying the fire spread hazards of electric vehicles in parking garages settings and the impact of fire sprinklers. The full scope of this FPRF project is provided here. The intent of this RFP is to solicit proposals from organizations with large-scale fire testing capabilities who can accommodate the proposed vehicle fire tests specified in this RFP. The open RFP seeking a testing contractor is available here, and on the Foundation’s website. Note the full scope of work, including both the testing and the engineering and analysis portions to be carried out by Combustion Science and Engineering, is available here, for reference. Please submit your proposals to Victoria Hutchison by July 2, 2021, at 5 p.m. EST.
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