By Bobby Halton
This week's "From the Fire Engineering Vault" sheds an interesting perspective on how we view today's "modern fuel load." Here's a Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) presentation piece written by a Underwriters Laboratories (UL) engineer named D.L. Breting. The piece is entitled "Pretty Plastics--Ugly Fires." For those of you who may not be familiar with FDIC, it has been held annually in Indianapolis for the last 17 years. Back in the day, those presenting submitted a white paper that covered what their presentation would be about.
In this article, Mr. Breting talks about "modern plastics" and how UL were at that time evaluating them to see how they would burn so that they could be cataloged correctly in the Fire Hazard Classification of Building Materials. The year was 1954. One fascinating comment reads that "not all plastics are bad actors when it comes to fire." But make no mistake about it, Mr. Breting was well aware of the dangers of plastics and he writes with tremendous clarity about how important it is going to be to classify plastics correctly. He concludes by stating that he would not condemn the use of all plastics is building materials, but clearly recognizes the fire hazards of plastics as building materials ise predicated largely on the composition and specific shape and use of those plastics.
Today, researchers at UL and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are looking at today's plastics. The composition of plastics has changed, as new materials are being used in the development of "plastics" and polymer-based materials such as open cell foam. We look forward to seeing some of the new research as to the heat release rates flames spread and toxicity of these products going forward.
It's a great read and we hope you enjoy this week's article, which you can get as a PDF HERE (1.7 MB).
FDIC is 85-year-old conference which today is the largest, most extensive, and by far most attended fire training conference in the world. More than 30,000 firefighters will be at FDIC this April to participate in one or two of the 19 hands-on training classes, attend several of the 78 four-hour preconference workshops, attend the main program, or take one of the 200 one-hour and 45-minute classes that they can between Wednesday and Friday. Besides being a world-class educational event, FDIC is also home to the largest, most extensive, and most engaging exhibition of fire service equipment, tools, and apparatus assembled anywhere. Many other social events are also planned at FDIC, including the sixth Annual Courage and Valor Fun Run, the FDIC 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, the National Fallen Firefighters Stop Drop Rock 'n Roll, the Wednesday night F.O.O.L.S Bash, and the Friday night Union Open House.
For more information go to http://www.fdic.com/index.html