What does a two year firefighter and group of firefighters from the Netherlands have in common? No it’s not a joke but a great example of what Steve Kerber from UL along with Dan Madrzykowski from NIST have really done with the research data disseminated to our fire service, they have brought firefighters from across the globe together and talking about tactics and that is in my opinion the greatest lesson for us. Now back to the probie and the Dutch firefighters, I have had the privilege to have been selected to an Underwriters’ Laboratories advisory board currently studying and reviewing the effects of positive pressure ventilation and fire attack. During the next month, tests will be conducted at UL focusing on this tactic and it was during a briefing following one such test this week that it hit me as to what it is we most need to focus on and that is the bringing together of firefighters from across the world all for the sake learning and sharing ideas. Where else can you get this and in what other occupation I ask?
The UL testing is open to any individual who wants to witness, and many firefighters such as the two year firefighter and the group of Dutch firefighters have taken advantage of this opportunity and trekked to Northbrook Illinois to the UL testing center. And it was during a briefing after such a test that I listened intently as my brothers from the Netherlands discussed a house fire they recently had and the lessons learned from, then five minutes later a young firefighter, was inquiring with Mr. Kerber about flashover and conditions associated with such an event that it hit me as to perhaps the most important lesson of all the research and that is getting firefighters together talking, sharing and THINKING about the job. In these days of acronyms, Facebook sites and Twitter feeds devoted to fire behavior and flow paths lets also look at perhaps the most overlooked lesson from the data and testing and that is the discussion and thinking it is stimulating in our service.
Do I agree with everything? No, I am and always will be a purist who wants the young firefighter to focus on the building and the fire’s effect on it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want them or any of us to learn everything possible about fire behavior and all that can be cultured from today’s tremendous research. But when they ask me what the most important acronym for them to remember I will tell them UL and I won’t tell them it stands for Underwriters Laboratories I will tell them what it stands for to me and that is “UNIVERSALLY LINKING” for the work of Steve Kerber and UL is universally linking our profession together than never before and that will make us a stronger, safer profession. So the next time you shake your head or curse at a member talking about Steve Kerber take a breath and think about the acronym UL (Universally Linking) and then go take them out to study a building!
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