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Impact of the UL Study on Ventilation and Fire Behavior

December 10, 2010 UL issued their finding of a study titled "Impact of Ventilation on Fire Behavior in legacy and Contemporary Residential Construction".

There has been a few articles written, on-line training from UL, an excellent class at FDIC 2011 and a few discussions that I have seen read and taken part in surrounding the UL study. Jerry Knapp wrote a good 2 1/2 page article http://www.fireengineering.com/articles/2011/06/ul-vent-study.html urging each of us to read, learn and train off of the data presented by UL from this study.

 

So now that this study was issued just over 8 months ago I have a few questions for all of you regarding this study.

 

Are you aware of the study?

Have you read the executive summary? http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmat...

Have you read the 405 page study? http://www.ul.com/global/documents/offerings/industries/buildingmat...

Have you discussed the study with your crew at the kitchen table or during training?

Have you changed your tactics based on the study?

Have you trained and practiced getting water onto a fire with 100 seconds for a 1 story home and 200 seconds for a two story home?

Do you feel the fire service will learn from this valuable study and apply the skills learned to ventilate today's fires?

 

I ask these questions in an effort to open the discussion surrounding this report. I would venture to say that many of you have not read the entire report. So my goal with this post is to start the conversation so we can all learn from each other and begin to train and apply the valuable information documented by UL. Please understand that the following discussions can not replace the necessity for you to read the study. Yes, its 405 pages and its allot of information to digest. But we must each read and learn what has been published to keep each of us and our crews safer.

 

So how about it, who's up for some good spirited conversation so we can each learn from each other?

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Chief Norwood and others,  If there is anything I can do to answer questions about the research please don't hesitate of ask.  I will try to answer or point you in the right direction.  Also don't forget about the online training program that is available at http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/industries/buildingmat...  My team at UL and the firefighters on our advisory panel worked really hard to make the technical details in the report available in an interative format with videos and pictures to teach the tactical considerations.  If you are limited in time or are looking for material for a drill go through the tactical considerations module of the online program.  Be safe out there and remember you are not fighting your grandfathers fire anymore.  - Steve Kerber, UL Fire Research
After reading this report , it goes back to the ole adage that we are 4 minutes behind before we even respond. Unrestrained fire growth is a constant obstacle we must deal with on a daily basis. As firefighters we must understand the problem and identify what is causing the problem. I have learned from this and I will share the findings within this report with our personnel.
 

Steve, thank you for your offer! Without the due diligence of you, your co-workers and the entire UL staff we wouldn’t even be having this conversation! I truly appreciate your offer to assist all of us.

 

If there are any additional resources you can point us to we would greatly appreciate it. I have completed the on-line training program and would highly recommend it to everyone. If someone reading this can't not digest the entire report what would you recommend to them besides reading the Executive Summary and completing the on-line training? However, I am confident once anyone reads the summary and completes the on-line training they will make the time for the whole report because it is so crucial!

 

 

Steve Kerber said:

Chief Norwood and others,  If there is anything I can do to answer questions about the research please don't hesitate of ask.  I will try to answer or point you in the right direction.  Also don't forget about the online training program that is available at http://www.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/industries/buildingmat...  My team at UL and the firefighters on our advisory panel worked really hard to make the technical details in the report available in an interative format with videos and pictures to teach the tactical considerations.  If you are limited in time or are looking for material for a drill go through the tactical considerations module of the online program.  Be safe out there and remember you are not fighting your grandfathers fire anymore.  - Steve Kerber, UL Fire Research

Excellent comments so far! I had the opportunity to serve on the technical panel for this study, so I had a head start on working through the data and important implications of this work. I have also reported on the study, report, and course on the CFBT-US blog with my recent posts focusing on expanding the tactical implications from this important study.

 

I have read the summary and report and added the UL on-line course based on the report to our department's training program with the addition of a short post test to ensure that our members had a solid understanding of the study and it's implications. Our tactics have not changed since the study (but changed prior to this work based on an understanding of the influence of ventilation on fire behavior, particularly under a ventilation controlled/limited burning regime). Work continues on developing multiple options for rapid application of water (particularly with limited staffing).

 

I believe that this study will have long term impact on the fire service, in fact the fire behavior, fire streams, ventilation, and fire control chapters of IFSTA Essentials 6th edition (currently under development) will integrate the tactical implications from this study. However, the near term impact is up to us! Encourage other firefighters to complete the on-line course, read the report, and integrate this important information into their work.

I am still reading the study and trying to come up with a condensed version for a training at my department. As the officer of the ladder company I found this information very valuable and have incorporated some of it in our company drills. For years we have been taught to get the building opened up as soon as possible. This research has proven that more is often not better. As far as our search operations are concerned, we have used the oriented search technique. Now I am going to work with my crew on VES techniques in 1 and two story structures.

I've read a little bit but what I've really been waiting for is someone to do all the work and figure out the tactics. Should I take the window before we open the door to the house? Should I wait until the nozzle is at the fire room before opening a window? Does it matter if it is a single story or multi-storied building?

These are the questions I am looking to be answered.

Kelly, There are no simple answers. It depends! While we can develop training programs, manuals, and books, this does not take the place of being a student of our craft. Each of us needs to understand the application of fire dynamics in the real world (practical fire dynamics).

Keep reading and thinking about how these concepts apply in your context. The building, fire load, and resources are all critical elements in answering important tactical questions.

As Massey Shaw (first chief of the Metropolitain London Fire Brigade) wrote in 1876; In order to carry on your business properly, it is necessary for those who practice it to understand not only what they have to do, but why they have to do it...No fireman can ever be considered to have attained a real proficiency in his business until he has thoroughly mastered this combination of theory and practice.

Chief Norwood,  Unfortunately there aren't alot of resources out there for firefighters to better understand fire dynamics.  I am glad that Chief Hartin joined the conversation because he does a great job of taking the study results and combine them with actual incidents and practical knowledge.  His blog is really first rate in explaining the why of fire tactics.  There are also alot of resources at NIST, www.fire.gov.  I was involved in the PPV research and the wind driven fire research.  Both have alot of fire behavior lessons associated with them.  If you have not recieved the training DVD's from NIST go to the website and request them.

 

At UL we are currently wrapping up two studies.  One on basement fires and collapse hazards and the other on the hazards of roof mounted solar panel systems.  Both should be added to www.ul.com/fireservice by the end of the year.  We are also in the beginning stages of starting a study on vertical ventilation. 

How right you are Chief! Unfortunately, we can not learn alone from reading, watching DVDs and attending educational lectures and classes. There is no replacement for getting out of the firehouse and training! Thats where we all can learn each and everyday that truly makes the difference.

 

Chief, I echo Steve Kerber's words. I am very happy you have joined this discussion and we appreciate everything you have done and continue to do to help educate us all.

 

Feel free to get on a soap box here and give us all some of your opinions and learning points to this study. Many FF's and Officers I feel are not taking the time or just don't have the time (I know not a good excuse, but reality) to digest the entire study. So anything that you can provide here for them would be very beneficial.

 

Thank you for your hard work and I appreciate you joining this conversation!



Ed Hartin said:

Kelly, There are no simple answers. It depends! While we can develop training programs, manuals, and books, this does not take the place of being a student of our craft. Each of us needs to understand the application of fire dynamics in the real world (practical fire dynamics).

Keep reading and thinking about how these concepts apply in your context. The building, fire load, and resources are all critical elements in answering important tactical questions.

As Massey Shaw (first chief of the Metropolitain London Fire Brigade) wrote in 1876; In order to carry on your business properly, it is necessary for those who practice it to understand not only what they have to do, but why they have to do it...No fireman can ever be considered to have attained a real proficiency in his business until he has thoroughly mastered this combination of theory and practice.

Hi

This is an extremely interesting topic and I am also working my way through the report.  I find it more interesting to engage in these discussions with my North American brothers, as our firefighting tactics differ in so many ways.  We do not have "engine and truck companies". Therefore the first arriving unit decides what the priority tactic is to be.  For house fires it is almost always getting water onto the fire before anything else (unless we see a victim in need of rescue).  Ventilation is an area we consider as secondary to applying water.  In fact often we will employ "anti-ventilation" until hose lines with sufficient flow rates are established prior to making any opening (including the front door).  I have travelled to the USA on a study tour and the greatest difference in our operational tactics is the aggresive ventilation employed in the USA.  I believe we have a lot to learn in that respect.  I'm sure that we can do better at tactical ventilation and I think that the lack of ventilation may have contributed to injury for us in the past in some cases, so I'm certainly not saying we are any better, or even that we have got it right.  I do note however, having examined the different "styles" (in the USA, Europe and at home) I think we can all learn from each other and that perhaps the aggresive ventilation employed by some may also have contributed to injury in the past and that anti-ventilation, or pausing the ventilation tactics may be advantages and prevent injury in some cases as well.

There is a fantastic book available called "Euro Firefighter" written by Paul Grimwood.  He examines this topic in some detail and offers his perspective from experience in the UK and the USA.  I highly recommend his book.  He is truely an expert in relation to fire fighting tactics.

We are a global community and as I have discovered, there is so much to learn by looking outside and having an open mind about what others are doing.  I look forward to following this discussion and learning what I can from it.

Kind Regards

Mike D

Kelly, I agree with Chief Hartin as there are no absolutes. But, I will add that if you are venting ahead of the line as you should always be, you must coordinate with the hose team. Now, this does not mean they must call you on the radio!

Check out this clip from my vent video from Fire Engineering/Penwell's Tactical Perspective Series: http://community.fireengineering.com/video/video/show?id=1219672%3A...

 

When you see or hear signs that the hose team is in place and/or flowing water then open the windows. Check out this excellent video: http://community.fireengineering.com/video/video/show?id=1219672%3A...

You also question should you open the door before the window. This there is definitely no absolutes as you must be able to read the building (construction and fire load) and determine which way the fire is moving or will move and where your hose team is entering. You must remember anything that you open is ventilation and the fire will grow. This is a double edged sword that we must understand and we need to get our FF's and Officers to understand ventilation MUST be coordinated and MUST be ahead of the advancing hoseline.

 

Check out my videos posted on my page in this community also check out this video in its entirety and it may help you with some of the tactical elements you are looking for: http://www.pennwellbooks.com/tapebdvd3ve.html here is a trailer on you tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4QxVGBn130



Kelly Wingert said:

I've read a little bit but what I've really been waiting for is someone to do all the work and figure out the tactics. Should I take the window before we open the door to the house? Should I wait until the nozzle is at the fire room before opening a window? Does it matter if it is a single story or multi-storied building?

These are the questions I am looking to be answered.

Mike, do you have the information to post so if anyone is interested in purchasing it?



Michael Dombroski said:

Hi

This is an extremely interesting topic and I am also working my way through the report.  I find it more interesting to engage in these discussions with my North American brothers, as our firefighting tactics differ in so many ways.  We do not have "engine and truck companies". Therefore the first arriving unit decides what the priority tactic is to be.  For house fires it is almost always getting water onto the fire before anything else (unless we see a victim in need of rescue).  Ventilation is an area we consider as secondary to applying water.  In fact often we will employ "anti-ventilation" until hose lines with sufficient flow rates are established prior to making any opening (including the front door).  I have travelled to the USA on a study tour and the greatest difference in our operational tactics is the aggresive ventilation employed in the USA.  I believe we have a lot to learn in that respect.  I'm sure that we can do better at tactical ventilation and I think that the lack of ventilation may have contributed to injury for us in the past in some cases, so I'm certainly not saying we are any better, or even that we have got it right.  I do note however, having examined the different "styles" (in the USA, Europe and at home) I think we can all learn from each other and that perhaps the aggresive ventilation employed by some may also have contributed to injury in the past and that anti-ventilation, or pausing the ventilation tactics may be advantages and prevent injury in some cases as well.

There is a fantastic book available called "Euro Firefighter" written by Paul Grimwood.  He examines this topic in some detail and offers his perspective from experience in the UK and the USA.  I highly recommend his book.  He is truely an expert in relation to fire fighting tactics.

We are a global community and as I have discovered, there is so much to learn by looking outside and having an open mind about what others are doing.  I look forward to following this discussion and learning what I can from it.

Kind Regards

Mike D

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