Fire Prevention and Firefighter Safety Research
Three projects undertaken for NFPA’s fire service constituency.
NFPA Journal®, November/December 2008
Through a fire prevention and safety grant from the Department of Homeland Security, the Fire Protection Research Foundation recently completed three projects in response to needs expressed by NFPA’s fire service constituency. The first project, on measuring the effectiveness of fire prevention activities, is designed to help local fire departments measure the benefits of their fire inspection and other prevention services to their local communities. The second and third, on improving our understanding of wind-driven firefighting tactics and the stored energy of firefighter protective clothing, are designed to minimize life loss and injury on the fireground.
Measuring code compliance effectiveness for fire-related portions of codes
The goal of this project was to develop a tool to measure how the fire prevention activities of fire-safety enforcement organizations can reduce fire risk in communities, where both “prevention” and “enforcement” organizations are interpreted broadly. The study, undertaken by Dr. John Hall and Jennifer Flynn of NFPA’s Fire Analysis and Research Division, extends and refines the effectiveness measurement methods developed in a 1976 study conducted by NFPA and the Urban Institute. Using extensive literature review and in-depth on-site interviews in nine communities, the study identified a comprehensive portfolio of effectiveness measures. Innovative practices currently in place in only a handful of communities served as the springboard for some of the newer measures, such as percent of fire and losses deemed preventable by either the enforcement or educational aspects of inspection. In addition, the project includes a component on Leadership in Life-Safety Design (LLSD), which is a potential management tool related to complying with fire-safety objectives that may exceed code requirements.
Firefighting tactics under wind-driven conditions
The focus of this study, carried out for the Foundation through the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) Building and Fire Research Laboratory, was a study of firefighting techniques for high-rise building fires under wind-driven conditions, which can create sudden increases in the fire energy release. A compilation and analysis of historical wind-driven structure fires were carried out to determine key factors for the investigation in the experimental portion of the project. Eight full-scale laboratory tests and related fire simulations were carried out at the NIST laboratory to explore various ventilation conditions and the impact of such techniques as wind-control devices, or fire blankets, and positive-pressure ventilation fans. The result is guidance on appropriate tactical options for use under wind-driven conditions in the form of video and an extensive technical report. The results of the study will also be used to explore the optimum performance criteria for wind-control devices.
Thermal capacity of firefighter protective clothing (PDF, 980KB)
Thousands of firefighters sustain burns every year, and significant numbers of these injuries occur when energy stored in the layers of their protective equipment is released and transferred to the skin of the firefighters. Current product standards and testing protocols do not adequately evaluate the risk caused by this stored energy.
The goal of this Foundation project was to calibrate a test method to develop new information on the impact of stored energy on the thermal response of firefighters’ protective clothing. Using the resources of NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory, North Carolina State University, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s Personal Protective Technology Laboratory, the study evaluated 24 different materials and layer combinations in the thermal radiation/compression tests to provide critical experimental data that can be used to assess the reproducibility and repeatability of the test protocol. The results from this project will provide manufacturers with helpful information for determining if the choice of materials for a particular design of protective clothing increases or decreases the potential for a low heat-flux burn. This information will also inform current standards-development activities underway at NFPA and the American Society for Testing and Materials.
The full reports on the results of these projects may be found at http://www.nfpa.org/Foundation.
Kathleen H. Almand, P.E., FSFPE, is the executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation.