Roundtable: Firefighting Tactics and Science

By John “Skip” Coleman

As you are aware, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute have been working with some major fire departments (FDNY, Chicago Fire, Toronto Fire) and some “smaller” departments on firefighting tactics.  These scientists (of which some are also firefighters themselves) are working on such things as wind-drive fire, positive pressure ventilation and its effects on interior fire conditions, and, most recently, ventilation in general and how it affects the flow paths of heat, fire, and smoke in single-family homes. 

This is stuff we do every day, looked at by real experts and scientists (not to mention a group of firefighters from some of the largest, busiest departments in North America–some of whom started with not-so-open minds). This is not a fan salesman hanging sheets of toilet paper from doors and windows. These are scientists with things that measure heat, air movement, gases, and a plethora of other stuff that actually happens in fires.

They are not finished by any stretch of the imagination but their initial findings are certainly eye-opening.    

There most recent studies are summarized at:

They also have created a training program located at:

This month’s question deals with these experiments and the findings. Has your department changed any tactics, evolutions, or procedures because of the findings of these studies?

Register and log in to the Fire Engineering Web site and leave your comments below.

Skip Coleman: Firefighting RoundtableJohn “Skip” Coleman retired as assistant chief from the Toledo (OH) Department of Fire and Rescue. He is a technical editor of Fire Engineering. a member of the FDIC Educational Advisory Board; and author of Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer (Fire Engineering, 1997), Managing Major Fires (Fire Engineering, 2000), Incident Management for the Street-Smart Fire Officer, Second Edition (Fire Engineering, 2008) and Searching Smarter (Fire Engineering 2011) and 2011 recipient of the FDIC Tom Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award.


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