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Technology and innovation are shaping the future of the fire industry. During 2020, TheBigRedGuide.com published many articles touching on research, development, and new technologies.

This roundup will review some of the most popular articles, including links to the original content.

Thermal Imaging & Augmented Reality (AR)

Combining thermal imaging and augmented reality (AR) enables firefighters to see through smoke, in effect enhancing their vision in the life-threatening environment of a fire.

AR capabilities can be deployed in a visor attached to a helmet, and an affixed thermal camera captures the images. The most recent prototype of such a product is a robust helmet design that withstands rough treatment.

The system also includes software processing that augments thermal images to enable firefighters to see the outline of objects more clearly, thus enabling their detection in the field.

Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS)

The fire research program at the Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) in Missoula, Mont., enhanced firefighter safety by improving metrics for determining firefighter safety zones and escape routes, improving and modernizing determination of fire danger, and developing systems and applications such as the Wildfire Safety Evaluator (WiSE) and WildfireSAFE to facilitate the use of these metrics by wildland firefighters.

The program has also pioneered the development of metrics for scenario planning and assessing wildfire risk to communities.

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding the variety of technical capabilities deployed in the interest of public safety, and smart cities are leveraging IoT data to provide insights and improve operations.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is promoting technology development through its Science and Technology Directorate’s SCITI (pronounced “city”) solutions lab. SCITI stands for Smart City and Internet of Things Innovation.

Crowd Management & Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF)

Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has developed a computerized tool to provide data Crowd management can be critical in a fire emergency – or in almost any other emergency situation.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) has undertaken a project to develop a computerized tool to provide data and situational awareness about crowds based on computer vision analysis of the video.

Crowds have become an unusual occurrence during the COVID-19 pandemic, but sooner or later, life will be returning to normal. When it does, the safety consequences of poor crowd management will again become top-of-mind for many in the emergency response fields.

Complexity Of GPS Coordinates

A solution to address the complexity of GPS coordinates in an emergency situation, “what3words” is an easy way to identify precise locations using a unique combination of three words.

The benefits of what3words for fire and emergency services agencies are already being realized.

what3words addresses are shorter, easier to understand over the phone, and built-in error prevention technology allows emergency services to immediately verify the location and correct mistakes.

Drones For Firefighting And Fire Prevention

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are expanding their usefulness in the arenas of firefighting and fire prevention, whether in a downtown business district or in fire-prone wildlands.

Among other benefits, drones can provide situational awareness, guide emergency response, and perform dangerous duties while keeping fire personnel safe.

Drones provide a new solution for extinguishing fires in high-rise buildings, which can occur beyond the reach of fire nozzles and rescue ladders.

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning

Students and faculty at Hongik University are developing AI and machine learning (ML) algorithms The fire service worldwide collects a lot of data, and a university in Seoul, South Korea, is researching how to crunch the numbers using artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the probability of fires more accurately and to direct fire departments’ assets where they will do the most good.

Students and faculty at Hongik University are developing AI and machine learning (ML) algorithms into a model that can predict the probability of fires and enable authorities to take action to make the city safer.

The project has used the Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Studio, a Web portal for data scientist developers. The researchers ran various ML modules until they were able to predict fires with 90% accuracy.

Firefighters Health

Wellness, mental toughness, and psychological self-care for firefighters are available in the palms of their hands; in a smart phone app.

Fire and police agencies can provide their officers access to these and other self-help tools in an app that reflects each agency’s identity and design choices.

Employees can be assured that the use of the app is totally confidential.

Tracking Exposure

Tracking firefighters’ exposure to smoke and cancer-causing materials is important when it comes to assessing liability claims, worker's compensation, and coverage for occupational health claims.

Tracking and documenting exposure data for firefighters is easier than ever using the National Fire Operations Reporting System (NFORS) Exposure Tracker App, developed by the International Public Safety Data Institute (IPSDI) as part of the NFORS Analytics Data System.

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Larry Anderson Editor, TheBigRedGuide.com, Notting Hill Media

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Preventing Restaurant Fires Requires Maintenance And Technology
Preventing Restaurant Fires Requires Maintenance And Technology

Many restaurants around the world are suffering from loss of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has made fire prevention a lower priority. Fire authorities should work with restaurant owners and associations to address this issue and offer guidelines and training to increase awareness in the community. Restaurant fires account for about 6% of all non-residential building fires reported to fire departments each year, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS). These fires resulted in an average of less than one fatality per 1,000 fires, 11 injuries per 1,000 fires, and US$ 23,000 in loss per fire. Cooking, major cause of restaurant fires As one might expect, cooking is by far the leading cause of restaurant fires, accounting for 64% of restaurant fires, according to NFIRS. Heating and electrical malfunction each accounted for an additional 7% of incidents. All other causes, including unintentional, careless actions (4%), appliances (4%), other heat (3%) and several other categories at less than 3%, each accounted for the remaining 23% of restaurant fires, according to the National Fire Incident Reporting System. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the top five causes of fires in restaurants are cooking equipment, with 61%, followed by electrical fires, heating equipment, smoking materials and intentional. Kitchen exhaust systems under high fire risk equipment At the top of the list of fire risks, related to cooking equipment, is a kitchen’s exhaust systems At the top of the list of fire risks, related to cooking equipment, is a kitchen’s exhaust systems, which are a common cause of fire, when they are not properly maintained. They build up grease, until a point where the hot smoke and steam that goes through the ventilation ignites that grease and causes fires. Also, grease traps should be properly emptied and cleaned or they will catch fire. Also, related to cooking, other common causes of restaurant fires are gas leaks or malfunctions due to poor maintenance. Not as common, but also a culprit of fire losses are fires caused by inadequate use of deep fryers or large cooking pans, and faulty cooking equipment such as pressure cookers. Detectors and automatic suppression systems Ivan Paredes, Latin American Head of Product Marketing for Fire Detection at Bosch Security and Safety Systems, lists the following technologies used to prevent and/or minimize restaurant fires: Automatic suppression systems built into stoves and oven hoods. Foam that reacts with the grease and CO2 extinguishing are the most common. Heat and smoke detectors located near the cooking area. UL 268 7th edition-approved smoke detectors can be installed inside kitchens and should not give unwanted alarms. Flammable gas leak detectors and automatic fail-safe valves to avoid gas leaks. Importance of regular maintenance of systems “The main challenge in fire prevention in restaurants is awareness and local regulation compliance,” said Ivan Paredes, adding “Restaurant owners should schedule regular maintenance of systems, proper cleaning of areas where grease and oil build up or are stored, and guarantee proper ventilation of the kitchen at all times.” He adds, “Restaurant staff also should be properly trained in fire prevention as well as the use of fire extinguishers and the systems installed (automatic suppression, gas leak detection, etc.) and regular housekeeping helps avoid flammable materials igniting near fire sources such as stoves and ovens.”

PAMS Software Promotes Accountability Of Fire Service Responders
PAMS Software Promotes Accountability Of Fire Service Responders

The fire service has always struggled with maintaining accurate accountability of personnel who are responding or operating in emergencies. Lack of firefighter accountability is often cited as a contributing factor in Line of Duty Deaths (LODD). Compounding the accountability challenge are volunteer responders who can be coming from anywhere, with some going to the station and others going direct. The existing accountability tools and processes were unreliable and failed when needed the most. Need for reliable and accurate system As a firefighter and Incident Commander, Justin Brundage witnessed firsthand the data gaps of the tools and processes commonly used. A reliable and accurate system was needed in the fire service to avoid unnecessary risk to responses and responders. The intuitive process fits within an existing response workflow and provides an end-to-end solution  Seeking to address the problem, Brundage co-founded Incident Management Technology, whose Personnel Accountability Management System (PAMS) software is a solution for maintaining accurate and reliable firefighter accountability. The intuitive process fits within an existing response workflow and provides an end-to-end solution for firefighter accountability. The software was developed to solve operational gaps in emergency response and to help departments operate more effectively and safely. Real-time operations With the PAMS system, all personnel can see the available, deployed, and responding staff and resources in real-time on a mobile app or web browser. Responding apparatus are also viewable in real-time, including all the personnel on the apparatus. At an incident, the software tools simplify the accurate tracking and management of all personnel on the scene and enable a shared common picture of the who, what, and where of all responders at all times. PAMS gives department members and officers the information they need in real-time to optimize their responses. “We do this by sharing availability and response information throughout the department on a smartphone app,” says Brundage. Operational safety In addition to the improvement in operational safety that agencies get from PAMS, the software also improves response. “When all responders can see the other responders’ destinations and estimated times of arrival (ETAs) they can adapt and optimize the response efficiency by responding where they are needed most and not duplicating unnecessarily,” says Brundage.  PAMS software functions as an electronic equivalent to tag-based systems, which are ineffective, cumbersome, and error-prone. The key difference is that, by being electronic, the “accountability” information is viewable to anyone connected to the agency in real-time, regardless of location. Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) The software manages the responder throughout the lifecycle of the emergency response New incidents are sent to the responder mobile app automatically from computer-aided dispatch (CAD). Responders mark up if they are responding, and the system calculates and shares each responder's destination and ETA. The software manages the responder throughout the lifecycle of the emergency response. The entire department can see who is responding, who is assigned to each responding apparatus, who is operating at the incident, and where they are operating. Because this is an electronic process managing the personnel, is much easier with timers on task activities, and a simple and quick participatory action research (PAR) process. Fits in emergency workflow PAMS software is designed to fit into the existing workflow of an emergency response. “As responders ourselves we understand the burden of adding more operational requirements to the already chaotic moments of response and incident mitigation,” says Brundage. PAMS was built to work effectively on the equipment that is in many cases already deployed and installed in the response apparatus. The mobile app is available for iOS and Android and is used by the personnel responders, and then the web app is browser-based and can run on a browser window on tablets, mobile computing devices (MDCs), and laptops. Affordable, But has a lack of awareness In rolling out the product, awareness has proven to be a challenge for Incident Management Technology. “As a startup company most agencies that would benefit from the system aren’t aware that a solution like this even exists,” says Brundage. The system is expanding features and functionality to maximize incident response effectiveness The system is expanding features, functionality, and integrations rapidly intending to build an affordable solution for all fire departments to minimize their operational risks and to maximize their incident response effectiveness. Benefits of the software “We are currently having success with organic growth and the network effect,” says Brundage. “Our current customers are showing the system and validating the benefits to other agencies local to them, and we are increasing our awareness that way every day.” He adds, “We love doing web demos and talking to fire and EMS departments. Most fire departments have the same operational challenges, and the feedback we receive from customers and prospects is what we use to drive our next phase of software development.”

Using State-Of-The-Art Technology To Prevent And Put Out Wind Turbine Fires
Using State-Of-The-Art Technology To Prevent And Put Out Wind Turbine Fires

As more and more countries in Europe and North America commit to net zero, a key strategy is replacing old fossil fuel-driven forms of power generation and replacing them with renewable energy, such as wind turbines and solar panels. The wind industry has seen a particular boom, with tens of thousands of new turbines installed every year across the globe. However, like any other heavy machinery, wind turbines can catch fire due to mechanical or electrical failures. These fires can have impacts beyond the turbine if there is secondary fire spread to surrounding lands, resulting in potentially catastrophic loss. Without this technology in place, a single fire could cost $7-8 million and cause substantial downtime. The time is now for the industry to use all available technology to prevent these incidents and reduce the risk of fires spilling into the environment. How do wind turbine fires start? Wind turbine fires can catch fire due to external causes, such as lightning strikes, or internal causes, such as mechanical or electrical failure resulting in sparks or heat in the nacelle. Most nacelle fires start at one of three points of ignition – converter and capacitor cabinets, the nacelle brake, or the transformer. Nacelle brakes are used to stop the turbine’s blades from spinning in an emergency.  Converter and capacitor cabinets and transformers are necessary for the turbine to generate power and transform it into a voltage that can be exported to the grid. An electrical fault at either location can produce arc flashes or sparks, which can ignite nearby Class A combustibles, like cables, plastics, or fiberglass. Nacelle brakes are used to stop the turbine’s blades from spinning in an emergency. The brakes can cause turbine fires, albeit due to sparks from mechanical stress and friction rather than electrical failure. While some turbines have been designed with safer, electrical brakes, mechanical brake systems are often used as a backup in the event of power or control failure. These ignition points are all necessary for the safe generation of electricity from the wind, and cannot simply be designed out. As such, wind farm owners and operators must be ready to deal with fires when they spark. Why are wind turbine fires hard to fight? Modern wind turbines often exceed 250 feet in height, while most ground-based firefighting can only reach up to 100 feet. A team sent up-tower to manually fight the fire would constitute a major health and safety risk, as turbines have limited space and escape routes – putting employees not only in direct contact with fire but at risk of being in the turbine if it collapses. As such, when turbines catch fire, they are often left to burn out, with firefighters’ efforts focused on preventing the spread and clearing the area as fiery debris falls. This results in irreparable damage to the turbine, necessitating its replacement. What is the cost of a wind turbine fire? The cost of replacing a burned-out wind turbine depends on a number of factors. First and foremost is the size and initial cost of the turbine. Turbines with more than 3MW of rated capacity can cost between $3-10 million to install during development. Replacement turbines can often cost even more, as manufacturers are likely to charge more for individual, one-off installations. Another key loss is business interruption, or how long the turbine was offline – and therefore not generating revenue. The average loss due to a turbine fire was estimated by insurance company GCube to be $4.5 million in 2015. As turbines have grown larger and therefore more expensive to replace with greater losses in revenue, we expect a fire to cost anywhere between $7-8 million for new models. How can turbine owners and manufacturers manage fire risk? Firetrace’s system is designed with flexible Heat Detection Tubing, which ruptures in response to extreme heat or open flame Turbine manufacturers are already taking steps to “design out” fire risk in turbines. For example, lightning protection systems on turbine blades safely re-direct the surge of electricity away from cables, while condition monitoring systems can identify whether a component is overheating and likely to catch fire. In order to put out any turbine fires that do start at their source, turbine owners and manufacturers can install automatic fire suppression systems at common points of ignition. Firetrace’s system is designed with flexible Heat Detection Tubing, which ruptures in response to extreme heat or open flame, releasing a clean suppression agent precisely at the source of the fire before it can spread. Wind farm owners who have taken a more proactive approach to manage risk via fire suppression systems have been able to snuff out fires before they can spread throughout the turbine or into the environment. By investing in the latest technology for fire suppression, owners and operators have avoided the worst-case scenario, saving millions in operating costs.

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