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Take some time to keep-up with research that is important to all of us.

Often, we get caught-up in seeking information about tactics and task level training needs and desires. Additionally, a lot our members (especially the younger ones) spend a significant amount of searching the Internet for dramatic fire “videos”. Don’t get me wrong, there is value to both of these pursuits. However, I would also encourage all members from all age and seniority groups to spend more time looking at, reading and learning from several on-going research projects that have real significance to the fire service

For example, the research work NIST (National Institute for Standards and Technology) has been conducting in the past several years including their work on PPV, thermal imaging, wind-driven fires, turn-out gear (and more) have and continue to provide the fire service with valuable information and equally valuable ammunition.

One of their current projects, funded by a FIRE Act grant and in cooperation with the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the Fairfax County (Va.) Fire and Rescue Department; the International Association of Fire Chiefs; the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Montgomery County (Md.) Fire and Rescue Service, is examining the effect of firefighting crew sizes and equipment arrival times on fire growth rates and a person’s ability to survive in a structure-related building fire. They are studying how two, three, four and five person crews perform the same tasks on the fire ground.

This is indeed an important study that will be backed by the credibility and reputation of NIST. Similar studies have been conducted in the past; however, they were not all recieved as credible by elected officials. Hopefully, this will remove or at least lessen the usual grievances from our elected officials about the “self-serving” nature of our current “propaganda”. Will this NIST study will finally give us the “science” to substantiate the "anecdotal" information and "less quantitative" studies that have been the mainstay of our arguments and discussions with our elected officials for years? My hope is that the good work already done in Dallas, Seattle, Boston, Providence the by IAFF and others will be validated and the results will help further our cause.

The fight will continue; however, perhaps armed with science rather than “more of the same burning baby stuff”, we will be able to make some head-way on minimum manning, reinstating companies, re-opening closed firehouses and opening new ones. Our duty and obligation is to provide efficient, effective and professional fire and rescue services and I believe this study will help us to move forward with that agenda. And as you know, all of these things are good for the citizens we serve, and therefore, good for us. Follow the link below for additional information.

There is much discussion on this and other training sites related to Firefighter deaths and injuries as well as fitness and wellness and the relationship between these issues. There are two studies that should be of particular interest to all firefighters because of the groundbreaking research being conducted and the eye-opening data being produced by each.

The Illinois Fire Service Institute has produced their report of the “Cardiovascular and Biomechanical Responses to Fire Fighting and PPE”. This research project provides a review of the known research and new and important findings concerning the interrelationship of cardiovascular function, biomechanics and the design of personal protective equipment. This research provides valuable insight into the issues; however, the study needs to be read, understood and changes in our behavior will have to be enacted in order to realize the true value of this study. Denise Smith, Ph.D. is a co-author of this important study and coincidently, she is also a member of this training community. I’m sure she would be happy to field your questions and/or fill in the blanks after you read the study. Please use the link below to download and read the report.

Indiana University researchers in the Department of Kinesiology received a Fire Act grant, providing the necessary funding to examine the toll firefighting takes on firefighters' cardiovascular and respiratory health. With any luck, the results will provide the “science” needed to make improvements in firefighter health and safety. The goal, is to reduce the number of firefighter deaths that occur in the line of duty

Early results found that cardiovascular stress hit peak levels at fires where civilians or other firefighters faced imminent danger. During one fire, in which firefighters worked to rescue a mother and three children trapped in a burning house, five firefighters had heart rates at or above their predicted maximum for more than 30 minutes, project leader Jim Brown said. "If I hadn't seen the data myself, I would have a hard time — as a physiologist — believing it was true," Brown said.

For more information on the Indiana University study, follow the link.

Finally, Underwriters Laboratories has developed their UL University to showcase some of their work on issues of importance to firefighters. Structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions provides a two-hour presentation summarizing a research study on the hazards posed to firefighters by the use of lightweight construction and engineered lumber in floor and roof designs. There is also some revealing information regarding the use of thermal imaging. I think the key here is to know the capabilities and limitations of all of the tools at your disposal. The TIC is a wonderful tool; however, it is limited. The TIC should not become a crutch and should not be expected to provide information that is not capable of providing. The TIC reads surface temperatures and as demonstrated in the UL studies, even with severe fire conditions below the floor, the surface temps on top of the finished floors were quite low in comparison. I think this study will change some department's tactics if they relied upon the TIC to warn of conditions above or below.

For more information, follow the link.

So Brothers and Sisters, take some time to look over these research studies, there is valuable information contained therein. As you seek continuous improvement for yourself and your members, don’t overlook the “boring” stuff

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Comment by Chris Fleming on February 13, 2009 at 11:03am
Thanks for the posting. The more data we have from independent sources the more ammo we will have to fight the "enemy". I also kind of agree with Ray, that you have to be careful what you wish for. I think it was Benjamin Disreali who said, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics." In looking at this data you have to be aware of all the parameters that are set and how they pertain to your situation. Response times are a huge part of the equation and I'm glad they are looking at those as well. I wonder what kind of fire scenarios they will be looking at? Is it all single family residential or multi family low rise buildings? Again, if your response district includes alot of high rises or industrial buildings are those studies going to be accurate for your situation. NFPA 1710 does address "high hazard" areas, but in a limited way. What ever comes out of these studies, I think it is a positive sign that people are taking our trade seriously enough to put it to scientific study.
Comment by Jeff Schwering on February 11, 2009 at 12:43pm

I can only hope people really read the studies and use them to try and change some critical things happening now in the Fire Service. Art is correct, we are under attack and we truely are fighting an uphill battle. The way thing are looking we will be reduced from an 8 to 7 per shift, it was 9 when I started at this dept, 18 years ago. With vacations, we will be at 3 per company, much of the time. Art, many of our folks are to busy with other things, sports, second jobs, etc, to worry about what is happening with manning, much less training. I fear this will get worse before it gets better. Thhose of us that understand must fight the best fight of our lives, to protect those that look the other way. Thanks for writing this Art, It truely keeps me focused.
Comment by Art Zern on February 11, 2009 at 9:59am

Exactly the point. This is not new information, my hope is that is new study will validate, reinforce and illuminate the work already done at a critical point in time. The American Fire Service is under attack and I am hopeful this study will help our cause. Could they have different findings? I can't imagine, but I guess it's possible.

The intent of this blog is/was to encourage more members to look deeper into our important issues. Spend time learning and staying current on more than just the tactic and task level information. As you said, we all have a responsibility to preserve, protect and defend our profession.

Thanks again,

Comment by Michael Bricault (ret) on February 10, 2009 at 11:53pm
I hope my comments were not misinterpreted. It was in no way meant as an accusation or even a criticism of the blog but rather intended as an accusatory finger pointed at all of us, the fire service as a whole. Had someone in the FDs participating in the evaluation been more informed to the finer points in our profession and the groundwork already paved maybe "we" could have prevented a needless waste of federal tax dollars or possibly avoid the experiment blowing up in our faces as Ray pointed out. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
-Moreover, the comment was intended to be a wake up call to all of us to start paying closer attention to who we are and what we do and remove the fog of mystery surrounding the fire service in this country. We are all responsible as professionals to be custodians of this grand and noble profession.
Comment by Art Zern on February 10, 2009 at 8:27pm

Got it. I guess that I'm hopeful that the NIST studies will tell us what we already know, and "validate" the work already done. I guess it's possible that they could find differently??? Also, I agree with your point on having the right people involved and that was my point about getting more awareness from the masses.

Thanks Ray
Comment by Ray McCormack on February 10, 2009 at 7:58pm
Art - You are correct Re the dispatch policy. Over-dispatching units based on sketchy information may result in lower response times maybe not. A portion of any response time is dispatching no matter where you work. Pushing dispatchers to blank check responses is not the answer. Utilizing the abilities of your dispatchers to key in on specific questions and answers and assigning the appropiate response to the call is the answer. New York only look to the difference between "pull" boxes and ERS boxes to know that over dispatching is wasteful and unproductive.
We all know that a certain number of firefighters are required to stretch a hoseline. If the results come out to be less firefighters than what other studies have claimed and now you have "scientific" proof then the fire service will have a real battle on its hands.There are many variables with hose stretching and although NIST is an agency I respect the information and parameters of their future study will have to be guided by fire service experts. I just hope they pick some that have actually spent some time on the fire floor and not those on the dole. .
Comment by Art Zern on February 10, 2009 at 6:41pm

Thanks for your reply. I hope many members are aware of the good work done by those departments mentioned. As Ray pointed out, response times and civilian survivability are also part of the study. I am hopeful that this new "science" will add to, fill-out and provide depth to the other studies. I am also sure that their good work will be validated by NIST. Will this hold more weight than the studies that have been called "self-serving" by many elected officials because they were conducted by fire departments?

Thanks again Brick

Comment by Art Zern on February 10, 2009 at 6:30pm

If you wouldn't mind, could you dig a bit deeper on your point? I assume you are talking about the FDNY modified dispatch procedures, but I'm not sure waht you meant about being careful what you wish for? I know there has been some controversy regarding the "quick" dispatch protocol, what is your take?


Comment by Ben Fleagle on February 10, 2009 at 2:42pm
Art. This is great. You are right about how we sometimes limit ourselves. Thanks for the heads up. These studies are valuable and ....not in the limelight, because you actually have to read them, not just push play. I like it. I wonder if I have enough printer ink?
Comment by Ray McCormack on February 10, 2009 at 2:34pm
Lets not forget another portion of the NIST study- Arrival times. To get lower response times dispatching policies can be modified by obtaining limited information and sending out an assignment based on that brief information. You can always return what you do not need however a broader picture needs to obtained so that we do not have apparatus randomly over responding. Just be carefull what you wish for you may not like the results.

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