Topic: Research

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 Additionally, the minimum emergency walkway widths specified in NFPA 130 are based on outdated research that does not accurately reflect current anthropometric data and limits evacuation to single file.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!

Conspiracy Theory Brewing Over Chicken Farm Fires Is False, Experts Say

First it was fires in food processing facilities. Now, a seemingly growing number of people are claiming there’s something suspicious about fires occurring at chicken farms across the United States.   “Good morning to everyone except the evil demons purposely screwing with the food supply,” an influential Twitter user who goes by the name Catturd tweeted on January 31. The tweet received more than 22,000 likes and more than 2,000 retweets.   Good morning to everyone except the evil demons purposely screwing with the food supply. — Catturd ™ (@catturd2) January 31, 2023   In an attempt to provide proof that something nefarious is afoot, people like Catturd—who has 1.3 million followers on the popular social media website—have pointed to incidents like a fire that killed 100,000 chickens at a farm in Connecticut on January 28 and a fire in December that killed 250,000 chickens at a farm in Pennsylvania. The fires, these people allege, are most likely a government attempt at disrupting the food supply, leading to situations like the soaring egg prices that have gouged consumers’ wallets in recent months.   Similar claims were made last spring, as many people, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, purported that a string of fires that had occurred in food processing facilities was suspicious. That conspiracy theory was debunked by NFPA® and others.   Experts say the high egg prices American consumers are seeing today are in reality a result of many factors, such as widespread avian flu and inflation. In other words, they have nothing to do with fires at chicken farms. Furthermore, experts say that, in general, these types of fires should not be seen as anything out of the ordinary. Fires at livestock and poultry production and storage properties are quite common and have been for years. NFPA also offers solutions to the problem.   The numbers don’t lie   According to data included in a recent Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) report on fires in animal housing facilities, an estimated average of 930 fires occurred annually in livestock or poultry storage properties—which include spaces like barns, stockyards, and animal pens—in the US from 2014 to 2018. An additional average of 750 fires occurred annually in livestock production properties. Combined, that’s more than four fires on average each day.   And these blazes can be exceptionally deadly for the animals housed there. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), an American nonprofit that supports animal rights, tracks barn fires in particular, and from 2013 to 2017, the AWI reports that more than 325 barn fires occurred in the US, killing nearly 2.8 million animals. Ninety-five percent of the animals killed were chickens.   “When we see fires occurring at poultry storage facilities or at barns, we’re not really seeing anything out of the ordinary,” said Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of the NFPA Research division. “It’s just the opposite, actually. It’s simply the continuation of what we in the world of fire safety and fire statistics have been seeing play out for years.”   “A lot of hazards can exist at livestock and poultry storage and production facilities, so it’s not unusual to see fires occur in these properties,” added Jacqueline Wilmot, a project manager with the FPRF, the research affiliate of NFPA.   Risks & resources     According to the FPRF report, heating equipment is the number one cause of fires in animal housing facilities, with malfunctioning electrical systems coming in at a close second. The lack of smoke alarms and fire sprinklers as well as an abundance of fuel such as hay or straw at many of these locations all work to heighten the fire risk.   One important resource that exists to help limit the number of these fires is NFPA 150, Fire and Life Safety in Animal Housing Facilities Code. Although NFPA 150 has existed in some form since 1979, it wasn’t until 2006 that the scope of the code was expanded beyond racehorse stables. (Read more about NFPA 150 and its origins in “Critter Life Safety Code,” the cover story of the November/December 2018 issue of NFPA Journal.)   Even today, widespread awareness and use of NFPA 150 is lacking. The recent foundation report found that in a survey of 71 individuals who in some way represent the animal housing industry, roughly 60 percent of them had no familiarity with the code. According to NFPA’s CodeFinder® tool, only two states in the US reference NFPA 150, Delaware and Nevada.   An opportunity exists “to create training outreach programs and other fire protection training to better educate animal housing facility owners and staff,” the report says.   In addition to NFPA 150, NFPA also offers a number of barn fire safety tips aimed at consumers, which can be found for free online at Amid reports that people are rushing to buy their own chickens in the face of high egg prices, stay tuned for another NFPA blog next week that will provide safety tips for anyone looking to build a chicken coop in their backyard.

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!  

Preparing Homes for Wildfire: Property Upgrades Across Neighborhoods Can Prevent Fire Losses

The Outthink Wildfire™ policy initiative from NFPA® is a bold call to action and a challenge to end the destruction of communities by wildfire. It’s a comprehensive push to address one of the gnarliest challenges we face in the fire safety arena. The gnarl factor is heightened by the fact that there are already 45 million existing US homes at risk of burning to the ground due to wildfires. At a recent policy summit, more than two dozen experts discussed what it would take to upgrade these homes to be more ignition-resistant and to improve their chances of survival. Phrases like “retrofit” and “home hardening” were used, but in the face of ever-growing wildfire threats, some may wonder if a home improvement strategy could truly be effective in stopping the trend of multi-billion-dollar disasters involving thousands of homes in a single incident. While home improvements alone will not solve the problem, individual home retrofits across neighborhoods, and scaled up across regions, can absolutely make a difference. Sixty-plus years of research, experiments, and analysis give us the confidence to say that what people do to their homes and immediate surroundings can indeed improve fire-resistance and structure survival in the face of wildfire, as described in detail by the University of California Cooperative Extension Forestry. Many of these structural improvements are simple and inexpensive, on the order of regular home maintenance. Others involve a large but infrequent investment that will pay off over time, such as roof and window replacements. The key activities appear on the NFPA preparedness checklists, in NFPA standards, in some state and local regulations, and in the new Wildfire Prepared Home designation from the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS). These standards and guidelines all derive from what fire safety advocates have learned from the research community over decades. What do we know about how homes burn in wildfire events? We know that burning vegetation can ignite homes in three ways: radiating heat to the structure, flames touching the structure, and burning or smoldering embers piling up on or entering the structure through openings. These three mechanisms of fire spread can all happen at the same time. The most notorious culprits in home ignition from burning vegetation are embers, also known as firebrands. These pieces of burning material pile up on roofs, in gutters, and on flat surfaces like decks. They are driven by the wind into any openings in a home, including chimneys, vents, windows, pet doors, and in the cracks under doors. They can also burn mulch and shrubs up close to the home that then ignite the structure. Homes can also ignite if any flames touch the house, porch, deck, fence, and any other structural attachments. Imagine a dry lawn or a bed of pine needles providing a continuous path for flames to travel to the vulnerable parts of your structures. Finally, if there is enough dense vegetation within 30 feet (9 meters) of a structure, it can potentially radiate enough heat to ignite the walls. But for all the damage that burning vegetation can do to homes, it’s our own human-made fuel packages, in the form of vehicles, firewood piles, outbuildings, and our homes themselves that present some of the greatest dangers and can result in the destruction of whole neighborhoods. Once the wildfire burning through the vegetation ignites one of these fuel packages, it’s arguably no longer a wildfire. It’s a conflagration where these elements burn for a long time and ignite nearby homes through radiant heat or by generating flames that touch other houses or by casting off embers that go on to ignite neighboring properties. What can we do to prepare homes for wildfires? There are a number of steps homeowners can take to prepare. 1.     Operate under a worst-case scenario. Assume firefighters cannot respond with personnel, vehicles, and water to protect your home. Keep in mind that your home safety upgrades are for when a wildfire is approaching, and you and your family have evacuated. Retrofits should be aimed at preventing the wildfire or surrounding structures from igniting your home. 2.     Minimize ignition to your home’s exterior with roof repairs or replacements, dual- or triple-paned windows, and screened vents and openings. Repair any cracks in shingles or siding, and remove ignitable material from decks and patios during times of high wildfire danger. 3.     Address the area within 5 feet (1.5 meters) of your home’s perimeter and ensure there is nothing there that can burn—mulch, shrub, wood piles, wooden attachments, and so on. 4.     Keep large fuel packages like firewood piles or vehicles 30 feet (9 meters) or more from homes at times of high fire danger. 5.     Reduce the ignitability of your yard or acreage within 30 feet (9 meters) of your home and out to your property line by landscaping with fire in mind. 6.     Work with your neighbors to reduce ignitable elements on your shared boundaries and encourage them to work with their other neighbors. These tips and more can be found on the NFPA website. As advocates for improving policy to incentivize and support home and community fire safety, NFPA and like-minded organizations continue to seek ways to accelerate the pace of home and neighborhood upgrades so we can end wildfire disasters.
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