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Fire Protection Research Foundation celebrates 40 years of research to advance safety

The Fire Protection Research Foundation was born out of a growing need for research to better inform NFPA’s expanding body of codes and standards in 1982. To ensure the research remained independent, the Foundation was formed as a separate 501(c) (3) organization.  As we reflect upon the progress we’ve made through the decades, we recognize and salute the countless groups, organizations and individuals that have contributed to our collective achievements and look forward to advancing fire and life safety through research together for the next 40 years.

Our History

The National Fire Protection Research Foundation, the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), was founded 40 years ago on January 5, 1982 to sponsor and promote research and the development of technology that helps to protect life and property from fire. The mission of the Research Group back in 1982 was to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of fire protection systems and safety messaging for the benefit of the public and workers. Seventeen years after its launch, the name of the organization changed to the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF or Foundation). Today, the Foundation continues to be guided by the same core principles – only with a much broader reach, given a wide array of emerging hazards, persistent life safety challenges, and global demand.

Since its founding, the Foundation has and continues to facilitate major research programs (both domestic and international in scope) that address industry challenges in a broad cross section of areas, including detection and signaling, hazardous materials, electrical safety, fire suppression, emerging technologies, wildfire, economic and environmental impact of fire, firefighter health and safety, among other critical and emerging fire and life safety issues.

You can read more about the Foundation’s history and how it operates here.

A note from the Foundation Executive Director

Amanda KimballAmanda Kimball, the Foundation’s Executive Director, reflects on the past 40 years: “The Fire Protection Research Foundation could not have possibly had the impact it has over the past 40 years without strong support from NFPA and so many others who have funded our efforts and joined forces with us in the interest of safety. This milestone was made possible by diverse thought leaders who recognize the value of research and a devoted FPRF team who works each day to reduce risk in the world. And we look forward to many more years of collaboration and discovery.”

The Foundation through the years

1982 – Incorporation of the National Fire Protection Research Foundation (NFPRF)
Former NFPA President Robert Grant incorporated the National Fire Protection Research Foundation (now known as the Fire Protection Research Foundation) in 1982, appointing Rick Mulhaupt as the original executive director. Since that time, there have been three other executive directors of the Foundation: Kathleen Almand from 2005 - 2015; Casey Grant from 2015 - 2019; and Amanda Kimball from November 2019 to present.
1983 – First FPRF project completed
The Fire Protection Research Foundation's first project, titled, “Field test of a retrofit sprinkler system” was published in 1983. This research was done in response to several deadly hotel fires in the early 1980s, including the MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas and Stouffers Inn in White Plains, NY. This research aided in achieving wide acceptance of plastic piping for hotel fire sprinkler retrofits.
1988 - Environmental action on Halon Phaseout
In the 1980s, the environmental risk of ozone depletion became a significant concern. On September 15, 1987, the Montreal Protocol was adopted globally. With the fire protection community recognizing the risk of ozone depletion potential of Halon emissions, FPRF undertook a series of research studies in 1988 and 1989 to identify alternative agents and discharge testing for applications that would historically use Halon-based agents.
1997 - Inaugural SUPDET Conference
Mulhaupt noticed that a lot of research was going on, with very few forums for the work to be presented in one place, where presenters and attendees could gather and connect in person. So, a suppression and detection symposium (SUPDET) was created so the Foundation and others could present on the latest research in suppression and detection applications. The first conference was held in Orlando in 1997 and is still held annually today.
2004 - Founding of first planning council
The Detection and Signaling Research Planning Council, FPRF's first research planning council, was formed in 2004 by founding members Wayne Moore, Bob Schifiliti, and John Cholin. This council had a mission to advance the implementation of detection and alarm system technology through research and communication programs, closely tied to the needs of NFPA Technical Committees. The Detection and Signaling Research Planning Council is still active today, along with two others: Automatic Sprinkler Research Planning Council and the Electrical Safety Research and Advisory Committee.
2005 - First Grant Received
FPRF received its First federal grant award of $119,000 from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS-FEMA) Fire Prevention and Safety Grant program in 2005 to study “Reducing fire deaths in the aged: optimizing the smoke alarm signal”; Since that time, FPRF has been awarded 47 direct grants and subawards. FPRF has received over $11 million in direct federal grant funding, where 13 grants were funded through the Department of Homeland Security, 11 were from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
2005 - Establishment of FPRF Policies for the Conduct of Research
In 2005, the Foundation established Policies for the Conduct of Research which protects the Foundation's ability to do independent and credible research.
2006 - Initiation of the NFPA Research Fund
The Code Fund, now known as the NFPA Research Fund, was initiated in 2006 by former NFPA President Jim Shannon, to stimulate and provide a mechanism for facilitating research to support the work of NFPA Technical Committees and other NFPA activities. This FPRF activity is supported each year by a generous financial contribution from NFPA. Stakeholders are invited at the end of every calendar year to submit research ideas to the Foundation for consideration for the upcoming calendar year.
2007 - Started offering advisory services
In 2007, the Foundation began offering a Research Advisory Services program, which works to actively support universities and other academic institutions conducting fire safety research consistent with NFPA’s mission. This program provides a wealth of guidance, input and resources on a broad range of fire safety issues, including fire loss, emergency response, the fire service, disaster resiliency, fire data, smart firefighting, sustainability, and electrical hazards, to name a few.
2008 - Endowment from NFPA
The Fire Protection Research Foundation received a substantial endowment from NFPA in September of 2008. This provided great stability to the Research Foundation and has supported its efforts to conduct independent research.
2010 - Founding of First Research Consortium
In 2010, several insurers came together to sponsor a project on High Volume Low Speed Fans in Warehouses. Insurers were concerned about these fans impact on sprinkler performance. This project and cost sharing effort among the insurers led to the founding of the Research Foundation's first Paid Research Consortium known as the Property Insurance Research Group. The Foundation now has a total of three paid research consortiums, with the Facilities Research Consortium founded in 2017 and the Energy Storage Research Consortium founded in 2021.
2011 - First Foundation Medal Award
The Foundation Medal recognizes the Foundation project completed in the prior 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. This award was first given in 2011 to Code Consultants, Inc., and Underwriters Laboratories for a project on "Antifreeze Solutions in Home Fire Sprinkler Systems". This award has continued to be given annually to the lead researchers, sponsors, and project technical panelists of the awarded project.
2012 - Initiated FPRF Student Project Initiative
In 2012, FPRF initiated a Student Project Initiative which had a goal of exposing students to real-world projects while addressing timely issues and information needs of the fire protection and safety community. Every year, the Research Foundation works with NFPA Technical Committees and other stakeholders to identify a range of projects, typically small literature reviews or assessments that could be completed by graduate or senior-level graduate students, that meets the information needs of the fire protection community.
2015 - Foundation received first grant to address firefighter PPE Gear Cleaning Validation
In 2015, the Foundation received its first DHS-FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) grant to address a critical firefighter health and safety topic, of cleaning validation of firefighter personal protective equipment. Since then, the Foundation has been addressing this critical topic of “how clean is clean fire protective clothing?” by successfully receiving two additional grants in 2018 and 2021, respectively.
2021 - Founded the Energy Storage Research Consortium
In the past few years, a growing number of stakeholders expressed a need for a forum to strategically identify and deliver credible and publicly available research and data on the hazards associated with various battery and energy storage technologies, that can inform the development of regulations and procedures that are grounded in research. Based on this need, FPRF formed a new Energy Storage Research Consortium to allow stakeholder to come together and have a forum to discuss industry-relevant challenges, identify research needs, and have a continuous funding mechanism to support transparent battery research.
2022 – Fire Service Roadmap for the Firefighting Foams Transition
The Fire Protection Research Foundation was awarded a DHS-FEMA Assistance to Firefighter Fire Prevention & Safety Grant in September 2020, to develop a strategic roadmap and guidance for the fire service community while transitioning from fluorinated firefighting foam (i.e., aqueous film forming foams) usage to more environmentally friendly alternatives.  A final report documenting this effort is forthcoming and is anticipated to be published in April 2022.

More information

From NFPA Journal

  • Research DrivenAs it marks its 40th anniversary, the Fire Protection Research Foundation faces an imposing array of global research challenges. Amanda Kimball, the Foundation’s executive director, considers the group’s accomplishments and impact so far while planning an ambitious research road map for the next 40 years.

FPRF 40th Anniversary blog series

Stay tuned for upcoming events and join us at the FPRF 40th Webinar Series (More information coming soon!)