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UL: Fire Dynamics in the 21st Century

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Tue, 10 Dec 2013|

Video courtesy of Underwriters Laboratoies.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

[NOISE] Governors Island is really an amazing treasure in the middle of New York Harbor. It's 172 acres, it's about 800 yards from the shore of Manhattan. And the island has been vacant since 1997. Brick Village is a set of buildings that has no future use. Now the site for some very important tests that could revolutionize the way FDNY and fire departments around the nation fight fires is really an honor. We're here to do some testing partnered with Underwriters Laboratories. Looking at the effectiveness of our current tactics and procedures to combat modern day fires in the modern buildings that we're encountering, with the modern fuels that are filling all of our homes. So battalion chief, I was in charge of a fire where multiple members came very close to losing their lives. Today, I still get chills thinking about how close we came to, to gentlemen losing their lives, to children losing their fathers. That's not acceptable. [MUSIC] We're we're finding that fires are reacting very differently than they did even 10 years ago. And because of that, firefighters are getting in trouble. We were seeing fatalities in our firefighters and we didn't know why. And, and without knowing why, you have to start to look for answers. When I first heard about Governors Island's test for the New York City Fire Department, along with NIST and UL, I really didn't know what to expect. I just knew that there were going to be scientists and engineers that had these ideas that had been formulated through the fire service for many years. Things that were known but never scientifically proven. When I got the phone call from FDNY, they wanted to leverage our expertise to make sure that everything that we've taught them over the last three or four years of our research got incorporated into these burns. The fire department in the city of New York had a great opportunity with these buildings that were going to be demolished. They invited NIST and UL and it's technical experts in order to get as much information and knowledge out of these building fires as they possibly could. Both for FDNY as well as fire departments around the country and around the world. The importance of the partnership with the FDNY and UL has really been, we've been able to key into and tap the resources of UL, the knowledge, and experience, and the expertise. We bring back the expertise of firefighting and tactics. And they bring the expertise of fire growth, fire dynamics, and fire service testing. And we can bring these two together in a marriage that serves the fire service community like its never been served before. UL has been testing fire equipment since the 1800s. We've been testing personal protective equipment, fire apparatus, inter-operability of communication devices. And now, we've had the ability, through research, to test their tactics. We've received grants from the federal government over the last 6 years, looking at different firefighter issues, and conducting research to try to solve those issues. Now we're getting involved in the tactics and the operations of the fire services to kind of help their processes as, as time goes on. Friends of mine have come to me and said, what the hell can a scientists tell me about putting a fire out? They're not telling us how to put a fire out. They're showing us really what a fire does. At every point in the building, we don't have the knowledge or the resources to pull any of this off on. Zero. It, it just can't happen. Whenever UL and NIST involved we get that credibility right off the bat. NIST and UL, well NIST used to be the National Bureau of Standards. And of course, UL, I would say their collaboration goes back more than 100 years. Many of the firefighter tactics that are used today were really sort of set in stone back in 1890, 1910. You know, more than 100 years ago. Residential firefighting has changed dramatic over the last 30 years. A number of changes have taken place. Homes are larger today. They incorporate many new construction materials. More energy efficient, impacts how the fire grows. The challenges for safety on a live burn is huge. We have about firefighters that are coming each day. We have UL work engineers, NIST engineers, chiefs, and I see that's overseeing how well that this is going. We have media attention. We have many people who are filming and getting involved with all the things that are going on. Today's modern fire load in a residential building is all synthetic, it's all plastic. We're gonna put real fire loads into real buildings as opposed to, you know, fire loads in laboratories or, you know, burned buildings. Here we have one of the typical units that we're gonna be burning. It's 2-storey townhouse with a basement. We've got 20 identical units, which allows us to look at several different variables. We're going to light several fires, depending on the unit. Either on the first floor, second floor, or in the basement. How can we better know what's going on in the environment around us? We all gonna need the ability to know that on the fiery ground. Fuel is measuring temperature using thermal couples, heat flux using radiometers, gas concentrations such as oxygen, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. We've got numerous video views to catch every angle of every unit, and we also have thermal imaging. [SOUND] We need to look at this as a group of involved, interested, knowledgeable people that can sit down, study this. And come up with some common sense realistic approaches that we can put into our tactics. The global impact of this, UL has already been at the forefront of that. Fire doesn't know if it's in the US, it doesn't know if it's in Canada. It doesn't know if it's in Tokyo. It's physics. And our eyes have been open by this work that we've done with UL, with NIST to really educate ourselves in to the environment we work in. We put our selves in harms way to protect the public. But as to me, this is a fire service, as a leader in the FDNY, I owe it to every family, everyone's family to make sure I make their, their loved ones as safe as possible. And it's a passion. Firefighting is just like any other profession. Things change and you have to adapt to how things change. You need to do things smarter as time goes on. Now they have the opportunity to innovate their tactics to make sure they're doing the safest thing possible to deal with today's fire environment. [MUSIC]

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