Building Construction, Fire Prevention & Protection, Firefighting, Tech Zone

Harper College Fire Science Technology Program Unveils Innovative Training Tool

Firefighting strategy and tactics at structure fires require firefighters to make split-second decisions in mitigating a safe and effective fire attack. Are they going to be offensive and go inside the building to aggressively attack the fire? Or, is the building too dangerous, forcing them to fight the fire from the outside in a defensive manner while protecting adjacent exposures?

Building construction and materials often dictate those split-second decisions.

Harper College (Palatine, Ill.) professor Sam Giordano has found an innovative new training tool to engrain the concept into his students. He recently unveiled a one-of-a-kind construction model to demonstrate how a structure will play into fire-ground strategies.

“Firefighters must be able to understand beyond a reasonable doubt what the fire is doing to the building and what the building is doing to the fire,” Giordano said.

Harper College Fire Science Technology Program Unveils Innovative Training Tool

The model features detailed, lifelike structures that depict the five methods of construction as delineated by the National Fire Protection Association, from heavy timber to exterior-protected masonry. Giordano uses the tool to ensure firefighters and fire officers have intimate knowledge of building construction and its relationship to fire behavior, providing a higher level of training to both new and perspective firefighters.

‘”It’s also essential that every fire department knows the type and methods of construction of each structure in that department’s response area,” he said.

Harper College Fire Science Technology Program Unveils Innovative Training Tool

The construction design and model was a dream of Giordano’s and took a year to come to fruition. The professor is the coordinator for the Fire Science Technology and Emergency Management programs at Harper College. He is a veteran of the fire service, beginning his career in 1974 with municipal and fire protection district departments.

Dean Caminiti of Architectural Artists in Palatine constructed the $6,000 model, which Giordano began incorporating into his courses earlier this month.

“It is safe to say that no other model of this type exists in any fire science program in the country,” Giordano said. “Harper College has the honor of being first to provide this necessary training.”

NFPA Construction Types (left to right in photo at top)

Type I: Fire-Resistive (i.e. Pre-Cast Concrete Slabs)

Type II: Non-Combustible (i.e. Steel with Protective Fire Coating)

Type III: Exterior-Protected Masonry (Wood interior)

Type IV: Heavy Timber (i.e. Solid or Laminated Heavy Timber)

Type V: Wood Frame (Platform Frame and Balloon Frame)