Topic: Research

House on fire with firefighters on the scene

Register to attend free Research Foundation 40th anniversary webinar series

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA®), is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. In support of celebrating four decades of facilitating research in support of fire and life safety community, the FPRF will conduct a two-day free webinar series on August 24 and 25, 2022, which will cover research topic areas and themes that are aligned with research priorities of FPRF and the fire and life safety industry. This two-day webinar series consists of presentations by subject matter experts addressing the following themes: Day 1: August 24, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET 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: August 25, 11 a.m.– 3 p.m. ET 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 Read the full agenda here. Registration is free and is required to attend the live webinar series. CEUs will only be provided to live attendees upon request. We look forward to you joining us for this webinar series. Register now!
Inside a warehouse

Do you manage large warehouse facilities, or design, inspect or insure them? Help us define the elevated walkways in storage warehouses to quantify their impact on sprinkler protection by participating in this questionnaire

Solid and open metal grate walkways are often installed in aisles as part of rack storage in large warehouse facilities. Further, open metal grates are also used as mezzanine levels above storage. Although functional to carry out warehouse operations, there is little information on how these walkway and mezzanine installations impact current storage protection requirements. When is this type of installation considered a problem from a sprinkler protection standpoint? At what point do walkways interfere with prewetting of adjacent arrays? To answer these questions, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) initiated a multi-phase research program, through the support of FPRF’s Property Insurance Research Group, which aimed to develop guidance on the protection of storage when solid or open metal grate walkways are present in storage warehouses.  FPRF, in collaboration with Fire & Risk Alliance, is currently on Phase II of the project which is focused on filling the knowledge gaps identified in Phase I and implementing the research and testing plan to provide guidance back to the NFPA 13 technical committee on walkway/sprinkler interface criteria that is well founded in sprinkler performance. For more information, a summary of this project is available here. A fundamental element of success for this study is to collect information on current warehouse configurations to gain insight into the status quo characteristics of elevated walkways/mezzanines and how storage protection may be changing. Thus, we invite facility owners, AHJ’s, insurers, engineers, and other relevant parties to participate in this international questionnaire conducted as part of this study by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. The questions seek to identify and categorize the types and non-proprietary characteristics of elevated walkways in storage warehouses, specifically focused on storage configurations, stored commodities, details of mezzanine/walkways, sprinkler system details, loss history (if any), and photographs or drawings. This information will be used to ensure our analysis of sprinkler interaction with or disruption by elevated walkways is representative of real-world warehouse configurations. Your participation in this research questionnaire is voluntary. You may skip any question that you are not able to answer. Any information provided through this survey is completely anonymous. If you design, work in, inspect, or insure warehouses with elevated walkway installations, we ask that you participate in this survey. It is estimated that the survey will take approximately 10 minutes or less to complete. The deadline to complete the questionnaire is August 31, 2022. Thank you in advance for your participation!
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.
Activated sprinkler

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.

NFPA offers tips to stay safe in short-term rentals, hotels, and elsewhere

  Over the past several years, companies like Airbnb and VRBO have grown in popularity, promising travelers unique stays in properties like this, which are known collectively as short-term rental properties. But unlike hotels, short-term rentals often don’t have the same code requirements and enforcement as hotels. Fire and life safety protection measures as basic as smoke alarms can be missing.  That’s why experts say it’s critical for guests to be mindful of the spaces they’re in, checking for things like working smoke alarms, two ways out of a building, and more. “Safe travel and lodging needs to be a component of your overall travel plans,” says Andrea Vastis, director of the Public Education division at NFPA. “Choosing places with smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, bringing travel alarms with you, and making sure everyone knows how to safely escape with an agreed-upon meeting place at your destination is critical.” An injury ‘every 44 seconds’ It’s unclear exactly how many people get injured—or worse—in hotels or motels each year, but it does happen with some regularity. The internet is littered with websites for injury lawyers who specialize in cases involving injuries that occurred at hotels. In January, comedian Bob Saget died after reportedly falling and hitting his head in a Florida hotel room.  But according to Justin Ford, guests in short-term rental properties get injured at a higher rate than guests in hotels. Ford has been involved in the short-term rental industry for decades and has advised companies like Airbnb on creating safer environments in short-term rentals.  “We know the home is the most dangerous place. More than 50 percent of our accidents happen in the home. Now we’re taking people who aren’t familiar with that home, and we’re putting them in that home, and that amplifies and makes the accidents even more common,” Ford says on a recent episode of The NFPA Podcast. “I’ve come up with a number that I believe is accurate: Every 44 seconds someone is injured in a short-term rental.” While some communities have made strides to enforce fire and life safety codes and standards in short-term rental properties—Palm Springs, California, is one example, Ford says, where even pools being rented within properties must pass electrical inspections—many short-term rentals never get inspected by a safety professional.  “I’ve stayed in a lot of rentals, and I’ve seen more than most people,” Ford says on the podcast. “I’ve looked up and realized, hey, that smoke alarm up there doesn’t have a flashing light, and I pull it down and it doesn’t have any batteries in it, and it’s because the last renters burned some popcorn and pulled the batteries and no one checked.” To stay safe, Ford advises renters to be proactive about taking safety into their own hands. “You’ve got to do your due diligence if you are a renter to look around and take a minute and ask, is this a safe place for me to stay?” he says. Check that smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms are present and working; make sure fire hazards like matches and lighters aren’t accessible, especially to children; ensure there are two ways out of the building in case of a fire or other emergency; take note of where fire extinguishers are located; if you can, eliminate any trip or fall hazards on the property. NFPA offers similar recommendations for short-term rental guests and a number of additional ones in two tip sheets, “Fire Safety at Your Home Away from Home” and “Take Safety with You!” Ideally, Ford envisions a future where guests don’t need to take as many steps to ensure their safety. Owners of properties would be more dedicated to investing in and maintaining fire and life safety protection equipment in the first place. “We can make these short-term rentals as safe as possible with very little financial impact on the owner,” Ford says. “We’re not talking about a lot of money to put in these safety features. So we’re not saying to get rid of them—they’re great—but let’s put a little effort into making sure they’re a safer experience for the guest.” NFPA resources for short-term rentals and beyond  In addition to its tip sheets on short-term rental safety, NFPA also offers tip sheets for staying safe in traditional hotels and even recreational vehicles.   At hotels, for instance, NFPA recommends guests take steps similar to what’s advised for short-term renters. If fire or smoke prevents you from safely evacuating the hotel, though, there are steps you can take to stay safe, including shutting off your room’s fans and air conditioning, stuffing wet towels in any cracks around the door, calling the fire department, and staying by the window. Read more in the “Hotel & Motel Safety” tip sheet from NFPA.  Recreational vehicles, or RVs, can also present risks to occupants. A report released by the Fire Protection Research Foundation in 2020 found that on average, 24 people die and 64 people are injured in nearly 2,000 RV fires in the United States each year. “Most fatal 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.”  RELATED: Read an NFPA Journal article and listen to an NFPA Podcast on RV fire safety   To stay safe, NFPA advises RV renters and owners, among other steps, to make sure vehicle maintenance is up-to-date and performed by a qualified mechanic and that propane tanks and tubing are code compliant. Read more in the “Motor home, camper, and recreational vehicle safety” tip sheet from NFPA.
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