NFPA presents awards for contributions in fire and life safety

June 15, 2020 – The National fire Protection Association (NFPA) presents a series of awards that recognize outstanding achievements in fire and life safety. Following are this year’s winners of the Harry C. Bigglestone Award, Research Foundation Medal, and Standards Medal.

Harry C. Bigglestone Award

The Harry C. Bigglestone Award is given annually to a paper appearing in Fire Technology that best represents excellence in the communication of fire protection concepts. This award honors the memory of Harry C. Bigglestone, who served as a trustee of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, and was a fellow and past president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers. The award is accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize from NFPA.

The 2020 Harry C. Bigglestone winning paper is “Should We Leave Now? Behavioral Factors in Evacuation Under Wildfire Threat by Jim McLennan, adjunct professor, school of psychology and public health, La Trobe University; Barbara Ryan, senior lecturer, school of arts and communication, University of Southern Queensland; Chris Bearman, associate professor of cognitive psychology; Queensland University (Adelaide campus); and Keith Toh, deputy dean of learning and teaching, RMIT University.

Research Foundation Medal

The Research Foundation Medal recognizes the Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation) project completed in the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission, technical challenges overcome and collaborative approach to execution that is the hallmark of all Foundation projects. There were 24 eligible projects for the award. An awards committee consisting of representatives from the Research Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed summaries of the projects along with staff assessments of how they meet each of the criteria.

The project Digitized Fuel Load Survey Methodology Using Machine Vision has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Foundation Medal. This project addresses the need to provide reliable fuel load data to quantify design fires for buildings. The availability of fuel load data has been hindered by the lack of an efficient building surveying method. This project developed and applied a new digitized methodology for fuel load surveys using machine vision that can facilitate the collection, storage, and analysis of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. This first generation, proof-of-concept methodology provides a path towards the development of a fully automatized surveying method, which could ultimately be used to provide design guidelines for fuel load density in codes and standards, for application in performance-based designs.

The Foundation Medal will be presented to Negar Elhami-Khorasani, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo (N.Y.), Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (Md.), and Juan Gustavo Salado Castillo, Esther Saula, Timothy Josephs, and Gauhar Nurlybekova, students in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Buffalo (N.Y.).

Standards Medal

The Standards Medal is the most distinguished award given by the NFPA Standards Council, recognizing and honoring outstanding contributions to fire safety.

The 2020 recipient of the Standards Medal is Peter J. Willse, who began his professional career as a field engineer for Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) and served in associated roles and capacities in the U.S. and internationally for several years. After IRI became GE Global Asset Protection Services (GAPS) and ultimately XL Insurance, Willse was promoted to director of research, where he oversaw relationships between GAPS and NFPA, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and Underwriters Laboratories.

Willse is responsible for the publication of the GAP Guidelines manuals and teaches in areas of building construction, combustion controls, natural hazards, and special hazards. He has authored articles on Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems (EIFS) and fire walls, and he has revised chapters for multiple editions of NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook.

Willse serves on the FPRF Board of Trustees and Worcester Polytechnic lnstitute (WPI) Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board. Having served on NFPA's Board of Directors and Standards Council, he is currently chair or past chair of several NFPA committees, and sits on several other NFPA committees.

Willse is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; Connecticut Fire Marshal's Association; International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI); NFPA; and SFPE, where he is currently a Fellow and president of its Connecticut Valley Chapter. In addition, Willse is a firefighter/ EMT in his hometown, an advisor for the Fire Cadets, and a deputy fire marshal. He graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering.

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

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About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)

Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information, visit All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at

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