Funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this firefighter safety and resource deployment study will help governments make informed decisions to better match resources with risks to the public and firefighters in their communities.
“This is a study many fire industry leaders have dreamed of for several years,” says Chief Dennis Compton of the International Fire Service Training Association, a technical advisor to the project. “Until now, it has simply not been possible, due to the complexity of the tasks proposed and the costs involved.”
A broad coalition is participating in the study, including (in alphabetical order): Center for Public Safety Excellence; Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST); Fairfax County (Va.) Fire and Rescue Department; International Association of Fire Chiefs; International Association of Fire Fighters; Montgomery County (Md.) Fire and Rescue Service; Urban Institute; and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. DHS has provided $1 million each for the two years of research through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.
Fire is a costly problem in our communities in both lives and property. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2007 there were 530,500 structure fires that killed 3,000 civilians and injured more than 15,000, while causing $10.6 billion in property damage. About 100 firefighters die in the United States each year, with 9/11 being the exception, and many more are injured.
Predicting the effects of changes to fire service resources is critical to fire service and local government leaders. “Currently local governments rely on trial and error or a qualitative basis,” explains NIST researcher Jason Averill. “When this study is complete, there will be objective data on which to base these important decisions.”
The study focuses on the effects of crew size (two, three, four and five persons per fire engine) and apparatus arrival time (all engines/trucks arrive close together or arrive at longer intervals) on the fire conditions within one 2,000-square-foot, two-story home specially built to survive multiple fire conditions. This “burn house” has been instrumented with state-of-the-art equipment to monitor the interior temperatures and toxic gas build-up within the structure. In addition, researchers will monitor 22 different tasks at the firefighting site, or “fireground.”
“NIST has a long history of working with the fire service, and these experiments continue this important tradition,” says Shyam Sunder, director of NIST’s Building and Fire Research Laboratory. “With NIST’s expertise in measurement science, we aim to deliver reliable, accurate and timely data that local governments can use to maximize fire safety in their communities consistent with the risks that they face.”
“The information gained from this study will have an immediate and direct impact on how we respond to fires and other emergencies in our communities.
Not only will this study provide scientific data to help local government decision makers with establishing an effective firefighting force, resource allocation and community risk assessment, it will furnish fire and emergency service leaders with the tools for a more efficient response to fire and EMS emergencies,” says Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Acting Fire Chief Richard Bowers. “This study will help make our businesses and communities safer places to live, work and enjoy.”
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