Articles by Larry Anderson
A new handheld device can detect the presence of explosive methane gas from up to 100 feet away. For firefighters, the tool provides situational awareness, saves time, and ensures safety from a distance. Knowing the presence of methane gas enables a firefighter to deal with an emergency gas leak and to avoid a deadly explosion. Gas laser The Gas Laser from Teledyne Gas and Flame Detection can shoot a laser beam through a window, a gap in a door, or another common venting point to provide an instant reading of the amount of methane in an area up to 100 feet away. The laser is invisible, but a green-spot pointer guides the aim as a user “points and shoots.” The laser bounces off any reflective object and then analyses the parts per million (ppm) of methane gas per meter of distance along the path of the laser. It measures down to a threshold of 1.25 ppm/meter. The handheld device can also capture a video image and a GPS location in addition to the gas reading stored on the device. It can be connected via WiFi and/or Bluetooth to a smartphone or other device and has onboard data logging. The device is automatically calibrated and tested when it is returned to its case. Detects minute quantities of methane Gas laser detects a much smaller amount of methane than would be explosive, thus preventing explosions “It’s a brand new device, and everybody wants it,” says Alan Skinner, Regional Manager, Portable Gas Detection for Teledyne Gas and Flame Detection. “Once they understand what it does, they want it. Now you don’t have to be inside a hazard to detect the hazard.” The Gas Laser detects a much smaller amount of methane than would be explosive, thus preventing explosions by addressing leaks early. The lower explosive limit (LEL) for methane is 5 percent, the equivalent of 50,000 ppm, much higher than the measurement threshold of the Gas Laser. Previously, there was no entirely safe method of evaluating the gas concentration without being near an area, typically using a three-foot probe sensor, for example. “Now they know what they are getting into before they enter,” says Skinner. “It saves a huge amount of time.” Understanding working of gas laser Getting the word out about the device has been a challenge given the continuing coronavirus pandemic and disruptions of the hurricane season. “It’s one of those products you have to show them and let them play with it to understand what it does,” says Skinner. Interest was high at the recent FDIC show, where Teledyne unveiled the new sensor alongside its broader range of gas detection sensors. Teledyne’s range of portable sensors traces its roots back to GM Instruments (GMI), founded in Scotland in 1947. The sensor company was involved in multiple mergers and acquisitions in recent years, including ownership by companies such as Battery Ventures, Tyco, Scott Instruments, Johnson Controls, and 3M. Two years ago, the product line was acquired by Teledyne and represents the portables segment of their Environmental Monitoring Division, which also includes Detcon, Simtronics, and Oldham. Protege ZM and PS200 sensor PS200 sensor measures levels of four gases – methane, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide Another sensor among Teledyne’s range of handheld devices is the Protégé ZM, a carbon monoxide sensor that a fireman can clip to their helmet, pocket, or bag. The “disposable” device has a 24-month lifespan, requires zero maintenance, and provides a calibration and bump test. The PS200 sensor measures levels of four gases – methane, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. An internal pump extracts a sample before a firefighter enters a confined space. A charge, bump, and calibration station (ABC Station) ensures calibration on a weekly, monthly, or twice-yearly basis. PS500 and GT Fire sensor The PS500 model adds another sensor to the four – typically either a photoionization detector (PID) for volatile organic compounds such as benzene, or a hydrogen cyanide (HCN) sensor to measure the presence of carcinogenic compounds that can be a byproduct of burning vinyl or plastics. The PID sensor can help investigators detect propellants that might indicate arson. The GT Fire sensor detects explosive gases in the PPM/LEL ranges with optional CO, H2S, and O2 sensors. The device can sniff out small gas leaks before any LEL level is reached. Able to find leaks in the PPM range, the device can pinpoint exactly where gas is leaking.
Electric bikes and scooters are a newly popular way to travel through urban environments. However, the nifty devices come with a fire risk that could be deadly. In London, firefighters have responded to more than 25 fires, involving e-bikes or e-scooters in recent months, some of them significant incidents with serious injuries. Lithium-ion batteries pose fire risks The fire hazards of e-bikes and e-scooters stem from their use of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that can erupt into flames. Complicating the problem is use of unauthorized or third-party batteries that may not be safe. E-bike conversion kits are available to convert standard bikes into e-bikes, but they include only the motors and control gears. Batteries must be sourced separately, often over the internet and by cost-conscious buyers, who may not consider safety issues. Cheaper batteries may be faulty. Using trusted batteries and proper storage Firefighters urge residents to use only trusted batteries and to store them correctly Damaged batteries are also problematic. Spare batteries should not be knocked around, which can increase the likelihood of damage to the cells. Firefighters urge residents to use only trusted batteries and to store them correctly. In one recent incident, a first floor flat in Brixton in south London was badly damaged, after a fire was caused by a fault in the lithium-ion battery pack of a mountain bike that had been converted into an e-bike. In another incident, five people were taken to hospital, after a fire at a flat in Southwark in Central London, caused by the failure of a battery in an electric scooter on charge. In the United Kingdom, anyone over 14 years old can ride an ‘electrically assisted pedal cycle’ (EAPC) without a license and with no need to register, pay tax or ensure the bike. Parameters for e-bikes in the UK The bike must meet certain requirements, such as displaying the power output and motor manufacturer, showing either the battery voltage or the maximum speed of the bike, and having a maximum power output of 250 watts. The electric motor should not be able to propel the bike, when it’s traveling more than 15.5 mph. Assuming a bike (or vehicle with more than two wheels, such as a tricycle), meets the requirements, it is classified as a normal pedal bike and can be ridden on cycle paths, and anywhere else where pedal bikes are allowed. E-scooters for emission-free transport E-scooters are stand-up, electrically powered scooters that are becoming more popular in urban environments E-scooters are stand-up, electrically powered scooters that are becoming more popular in urban environments, providing individual and emission-free transport. In a city like London, e-bikes are a familiar sight. Riders may store and charge their e-bikes in communal areas or hallways, when they are home. This practice heightens the fire danger, because any fire that erupts is likely to block an escape route and trap occupants within the building. Avoiding unsafe mixing of batteries and chargers The London Fire Brigade’s Fire Investigation team has seen incidents involving multiple batteries and chargers for a number of bikes at one property, which has resulted in the unsafe mixing of batteries and chargers. Lithium-ion batteries are susceptible to failure, if charged incorrectly, which may be a contributing factor in some incidents. Batteries can get warm during use and should be allowed to cool down, before attempting to re-charge. They should also be charged on hard, flat surfaces, in order to allow heat to dissipate. Chargers and batteries should not be left unattended or while residents are asleep. Installation of smoke alarms is advisable in areas where e-bikes or e-scooters are being charged.
Given the large global consumption of hydrocarbon fuels across all sectors, the associated risks are constantly expanding. The Allianz Global Corporate Specialty study cites fire and explosion as the largest causes for loss claims filed globally from 2013 - 2018. Fire and explosion Furthermore, fire and explosion are among the top 10 global business risks in 2021. More than 100 major fuel explosions have been reported, since 2019 around the world, most of which were avoidable. The risks are driving an expanding market for fuel explosion prevention systems, although the warning and mitigation solutions previously available in the market offer limited respite. An innovation is the ATOM Explosion Prevention System, by ATOM Alloys, headquartered in Dubai, UAE. ATOM Explosion Prevention System The technology is compliant to NFPA 69 standards and is tested and certified by international agencies The system works with a passive protection module inside fuel containers that does not allow any deflagration to escalate into an explosion. By containing the fire, the system actively prevents loss, reduces disaster risk and gives mitigation systems more time to work better. The technology is compliant to NFPA 69 standards and is tested and certified by international agencies. A range of products has been developed to suit contemporary industry requirements, helping to upgrade to higher standards of explosion safety and to enable efficient transfer and storage of fuels. “At the heart of most fuel explosions sits an unprotected fuel container,” said Ajit Tharoor, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ATOM Alloys, adding “The first fuel tank explosion triggers additional explosions in fuel tanks within the vicinity, thereby multiplying the effect. Our disruptive technological innovation addresses the safety of that unprotected fuel container.” Passive protection module for fuel containers By equipping every fuel container with a passive protection module that is explosion resistant, the technology makes liquid fuel storage and transport tanks explosion resistant. By resisting explosion, ATOM shifts the safety steps from mitigation to hazard prevention. It has multiple product applications, from a jerry can to fuel tankers to bulk storage, which create an ecosystem of safety. Technological innovation to protect workplace and residences “The technological innovation can protect every workplace and residence that uses fuel, from hospitals and malls to schools and industrial complexes, and convert them into zones safe from fuel tank explosion,” said Ajit Tharoor. He adds, “Any explosion wreaks damage and destruction on the business, the community and the environment, but fuel tank explosions can be prevented. For us, it is our purpose, to bring top level explosion safety to everyone who uses fuel.” For firefighters, an explosion prevention system complements their mission and adds another layer of safety, by providing specific advantages, such as: Explosions have a ‘domino effect’ and such incidents generate immense pressure on the firefighting force, in terms of response time, resources and manpower. Resisting explosions without any human intervention can reduce such pressures on the forces and contain the level of damage. At a practical level, in the event of a fire, a protected fuel tank can be accessed easily by firefighters for extinguishing the fire and even decanting fuel from the tank. The explosion prevention system enables industries and communities to equip and take more responsibility themselves, in the prevention of disaster incidents, thus helping firefighting forces to optimize their efforts and work better. Once an explosion is prevented, the safety risks faced by a firefighter are far less, when compared to when they have to handle an explosion, and there is more time to handle fire mitigation interventions. An explosion-resistant retrofit can protect fuel tanks of vehicles that move in explosion hazard spaces. This could be particularly useful for fire vehicles. Innovation in materials science and fire dynamics The technology draws on innovation in materials science, design engineering and fire dynamics. A passive protection module works on the three principles of thermal conductance, flame quenching and structured packing. Made from the intervolving of a reticulated alloy mesh, the patented module works by its passive physical presence in the Deflagration to Detonation Transition (DDT) stage. The ATOM Explosion Prevention System works towards preventing an explosion from happening Fire protection and mitigation systems Unlike the mitigation systems that work after an incident, the ATOM Explosion Prevention System works towards preventing an explosion from happening. It is also different from warning systems, as it works without the requirement of any triggering sensors, chemical reaction or human intervention. While fire protection and mitigation systems have been developed in recent years that address explosions mostly in controlled environments, the tested, proven and certified solution provides a range system of explosion prevention solutions for liquid fuel storage, at industrial scale with cost effectiveness. Additional features of durability, slosh resistance and industrial customization have been incorporated. Specialized sector-based solutions ATOM can be applied at a ready-made product level or as customized process-based integration to existing systems Specialized sector-based solutions have been developed. Essential service providers – data centers, schools, hospitals, hotels, civil defense organizations, etc. are today required to maintain a high level of energy resilience (fuel storage) to avoid service disruption and business interruptions. Such fuel storages are high risk with great volumes of fuel. ATOM can be applied at a ready-made product level or as customized process-based integration to existing systems. Some examples are fuel tankers for the oil and gas industry, mobile fullers for the fuel delivery business, marine fuel tanks for the maritime industry and storage tanks for industrial and civil uses. The defense industry is one of the highest consumers of fuel, and it is required to maintain energy resilience banks as well as store and deliver fuel to militarized/border territories. This places huge demands on supplementary storage and transportation of flammable fuels. Explosion risks faced by defense sector The explosion risks faced by the defense sector are also the highest due to their operations in conflict zones, the presence of highly explosive ammunition in their spaces, and the threats of war, sabotage, and vandalism. Dedicated products for the defense sector include jerry cans, skids, mobile containers, barrels, smart fuel stations, marine fuel tanks and underground built tanks, among others. The explosion prevention system has been granted the Explosion Resistant verification mark by the Underwriters Laboratory. Following successful trials for military application, ATOM has been awarded four patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and is registered in PCT countries (most major industrial countries). Explosion prevention system The system has been tested by the Southwest Research Institute, USA and certified by the VCA Dangerous Goods Office, UK The system has been tested by the Southwest Research Institute, USA and certified by the VCA Dangerous Goods Office, UK, Underwriters Laboratories, USA, Bureau Veritas, France, and Emirates Industrial Lab, UAE. It is compliant with NFPA 69, Chapter 14, 2014; ASTM F3429/ F3429 M20; United Nations Rec. on Transfer of Dangerous Goods, Ch. 6.1; IMDG Code and ICAO Technical Instructions. The system has also been registered with WIPO and is in the PCT Registration, Foreign National phase, and the company is a member of the National Propane Gas Association. Asset protection “Every explosion generates damaging effects on the environment in addition to business interruption and losses. The adoption of an explosion prevention system helps organizations and governments fulfill their commitments towards environmental protection, climate change and safety,” said Ajit Tharoor. He adds, “The presence of the system reduces fuel evaporation loss, thereby reducing emission/air pollution. Further, ATOM helps businesses protect their assets, workplace, staff from risks and losses and reduces disaster risk for communities and the environment.”
This year’s catastrophic wildfire season reminds us of the need for early detection of wildland fires before they escalate out of control. Historically, tools such as satellite imagery and localized video cameras have helped to identify fires at their origin and to alert authorities. However, delayed detection and low reliability have been a problem. Cloudy weather can also be an impediment, and the severity and frequency of wildfires worldwide suggest that new approaches are needed. A new high-tech approach involves ground-based sensors, drones and the Internet of Things (IoT). Wildfire detection solution Numerical analysis of the new technique suggests it can offer a faster and more reliable wildfire detection solution than current satellite imaging techniques. However, the system can only cover smaller areas when compared to satellite imaging. The system can only cover smaller areas when compared to satellite imaging Researchers in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Canada have proposed an early wildfire detection system based on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that pass over to collect data wirelessly, using the IoT, from low-cost sensors positioned throughout a wildland area. The sensors monitor the forest for any signs of smoke or heat. In a report published by the IEEE Internet of Things Journal, the researchers sought (1) to study the performance and reliability of UAV-IoT networks for wildfire detection and (2) to propose a guideline to optimize the network to improve fire detection probability within limited system cost budgets. monitoring larger area The research suggests a need for a delicate balance to optimize the density of sensor devices and the number of UAVs covering a forest area. The goal is to maximize the lower bound of wildfire detection probability within a limited time and low system cost. Research suggests that more sensors equate to better detection up to a point. The researchers demonstrated that the IoT/UAV network could detect fires in a shorter time Beyond that threshold, however, efficiency is lost because extra time is needed for the UAV to gather data in each location, which delays the ability to monitor the larger area. The researchers demonstrated that the IoT/UAV network could detect fires in a shorter time when compared to satellite imagery. This finding expands the capability to fight a fire before it spreads out of control. IoT sensor devices After a fire ignition, the IoT sensor devices within a limited distance from the fire can detect it and then report their measurements to nearby UAVs. The researchers used Discrete-Time Markov Chain (DTMC) analysis to compute the fire detection and false alarm probabilities. Markov Chains use statistical models for real-world processes. Inexpensive sensors, like the ones proposed for this application, do not have sufficient range to communicate with a distant fire control center. Therefore, the drones are used to fly over the area, capture the data wirelessly and then return to a base to report a fire. Lower-Cost drones The outlook for accelerating numbers of wildfires this year and in the future looks grim The researchers are Osama M. Bushnaq of the Autonomous Robotics Research Center of the Technology Innovation Institute (TII), Abu Dhabi, UAE; Anas Chaaban of the School of Engineering, the University of British Columbia, Canada; and Tareq T. Al-Naffouri of the Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering (CEMSE) Division of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwai, Saudi Arabia. More than 95% of the Western United States is in drought, and there has been more than a month of above-normal temperatures. The outlook for accelerating numbers of wildfires this year and in the future looks grim. New technologies provide a tool to address the problem, even as global warming makes it worse. Connectivity of the Internet of Things provides new opportunities to leverage the power of sensors, software and other technologies to address the challenges, and lower-cost drones are providing an additional tool to collect data that will power decision-making during wildfire seasons of the future.
Back in Indianapolis for the first time since 2019, FDIC International 2021 offered a full slate of conference sessions, hands-on training and equipment exhibitions. Attendance was down, but everyone appeared happy to be back at the show, after cancellations and delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Masking compliance was low, despite continuing concerns about COVID-19 and the Delta variant. There was little social distancing. In many respects, the show seemed back to normal. A highlight of the event was the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s (NFFF) 9/11 Stair Climb. It’s a way for attendees to honor and remember those in the fire service community, who gave their lives in the 9/11 tragedy. Hundreds of FDIC participants paid tribute by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. MSA’s LUNAR hand-held device on display As always, safety was a huge theme at the FDIC exhibition, including development in hand-held tools As always, safety was a huge theme at the FDIC exhibition, including development in hand-held tools. MSA Safety displayed the new LUNAR hand-held device that helps keep firefighting teams connected, combining direction and distance information with thermal imaging to help find separated teammates and decrease response time. LUNAR uses cloud technology to increase fire-scene management capabilities for incident commanders. LUNAR can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of an MSA SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) system. Thermal imaging with edge detection identifies hot spots and ventilation points, so as to simplify navigation through low-visibility environments. Tethered drone and Reveal FirePRO X thermal camera FotoKite (Perspective Robotics AG), which has a joint development agreement with MSA Safety, featured a tethered drone that hovers over the site of an emergency, in order to provide networking capabilities through the tether for better connectivity. Seek Thermal offers the ‘smallest and lightest’ thermal imaging camera, available for US$ 799 and seeks to bring the benefits of thermal technology to every position on the fire team. The Reveal FirePRO X can now be charged using a four-station charging dock priced at US$ 399. The compact size makes the FirePRO X easy to carry and manage, while its high resolution and fast frame rate ensure superior images. Teledyne gas detection systems exhibited Teledyne displayed a range of gas detection systems, starting with the simple Protégé ZM carbon monoxide meter that can clip onto pockets, helmets, and EMS bags. A new product is the Gas Laser, a hand-held device that can quickly scan common venting points from a safe distance, in order to identify the presence of dangerous explosive gas. Teledyne recently acquired FLIR and the combined companies will provide a spectrum of imaging technologies and products spanning X-ray through infrared and from components to complete imaging systems. FDIC International’s Innovation Hub focused on new technologies coming to the fire service Innovation Hub FDIC International’s Innovation Hub focused on new technologies coming to the fire service, featured in a presentation theater on the show floor. Leading the initiative was SafeTech, a College Station, Texas-based non-profit organization, whose mission is to bring new technologies to first responders and armed forces. One featured company was Tracks North America, which provides unmanned vehicles with fork-lift capabilities. Another was Infysort, which makes superabsorbent pellets – ‘hyper-blown polypropylene sorbent nanomaterial’ that can absorb 50 to 60 times its weight in oil. Hale Products SAM control system HURST Jaws of Life demonstrated eDRAULIC 3.0, a new underwater power extrication tool The SAM control system, by Hale Products, is gaining in popularity, offering computerized/integrated water flow controls that manage a fire truck’s pump, tank, intakes and discharges using touch-screen display for simplified interface. The new SAM Smart Nozzle allows firemen to control flow from the end of the fire hose. HURST Jaws of Life demonstrated eDRAULIC 3.0, a new underwater power extrication tool that can withstand salt water. The Lifeline Firehose provides a source of continuous breathable air coming from the nozzle of a fire hose. The patented coupler design enables the continuous air supply, which can also be used to power air tools. Seeking to help small and medium fire departments replace paper documentation, incident management systems offer low-cost digitization. Environmental awareness From Rosenbauer A topic among fire apparatus companies is idle reduction systems designed to shut off the main engine in a fire apparatus when not needed, eliminating loud diesel engine noise and exhaust, while maintaining power for lighting and air conditioning, for example. It is a reflection of growing environmental concerns among fire manufacturers. For example, Rosenbauer’s Green Star system makes idle reduction easy, using electronic controls to shut down the chassis engine on-scene (if the fire pump is not engaged or no aerial operations under way), and starting a diesel-driven Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Pierce Volterra zero-emissions pumpers The first Pierce Volterra zero-emissions pumper has been placed in service in Madison Pierce launched their Volterra platform of electric vehicles. The first Pierce Volterra zero-emissions pumper has been placed in service in Madison, Wisconsin. At FDIC International 2021, the Pierce booth included an electric vehicle technology kiosk and took attendees through the electric fire truck’s attributes. CMC Rescue Rope and Harness Systems CMC Rescue Inc. demonstrated rope and harness systems for rescue operations, including special duffle bags and access packs for easy transport of harnesses. The CMC Clutch is now available in 13 mm and 11 mm models, for hauling, lowering, ascending, descending, belaying and deploying twin-tension rope systems. The CMC Triskelion 10-foot tripod features rapid deployment, for example, over a hole where a rescue is taking place and is certified to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standards.
Given that the majority of today’s workforce is comprised of Millennials and Gen-Z employees, the fire service needs to up its game to attract these younger candidates into employment opportunities in an environment dominated by Baby Boomers. And the demographic trends will continue: Millennials will make up 75% of the U.S. workforce by 2030, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To attract Millennials to the fire service, and to manage them once they are onboarded, it is necessary to understand the motivations, needs, and expectations of this group. In fact, given the size of this demographic and their crucial role in the future of the fire service, shifting focus to attract them to the fire service workforce is a top priority. Choosing a new career path Millennials are not as young as they once were they began turning 40 in 2021. As they enter middle age, some Millennials may be looking to change their career paths. Tired of settling for careers that provided little satisfaction and/or did not match their passions, the older Millennials will be searching for new opportunities. The fire service provides an opportunity to serve to provide purpose to a new career path For many Millennials, their career path has not matched their ideals or what they imagined back in high school or college. Some are looking for purpose and to serve the greater good. The fire service provides an opportunity to serve – and a wealth of challenges providing purpose to a new career path. Strategies to attract millennials Let’s consider some of the characteristics that drive Millennials (born between 1981 and 1997) and Gen-Z’ers (born after 1997). Greater understanding enables the fire service to design strategies to attract these employees in a highly competitive labor market. They are the digital generation: Younger employment candidates access the internet using their smartphones and are more likely to use a smartphone for a work-related process as well. They may spend hours on social media or watching online videos. They prefer to communicate electronically: They want to be engaged in the workplace, and stay informed about all aspects of their employment, but they may not be comfortable with communicating face-to-face. Rather, they prefer texting, tweeting, liking, Facetiming, etc. as primary ways to interact with the world. They embrace technology: Investing in new technology solutions can attract Millennials to a job, and their affinity for technology makes the transition to more innovation-driven approaches easier for employers. (On the other hand, they tend to be less mechanically inclined than Baby Boomers.) They are well educated: Around 39% of Millennials have attained bachelor’s degrees or higher compared to a fourth of Baby Boomers. They want to continue learning: Millennials see learning new skills as a route to greater career success and value the opportunity to learn. Millennials are likely to be enthusiastic about training, which is an important element of modern firefighting. They seek purpose in their employment – and in their lives: Millennials want their employment to be aligned with their worldview and core values. They do see money (salary) as an important priority but are not willing to compromise the bigger picture to make more money. They want to feel empowered. Orientation of Millennials should emphasize values and decision-making boundaries. They want instant gratification: Millennials grew up at the center of their parents’ worlds. Some were coddled. Some grew addicted to receiving trophies for everything, even participation. They may be impatient with the idea of working hard now for an eventual reward. These expectations may be at odds with the fire service’s elements of rank and structure that are based on tenure. They value diversity and want to work for organizations whose management and workforce are diverse. They expect to have many jobs during their career and are less willing to commit to a single employer for a longer-term: The corollary of this outlook is a likely higher level of turnover, a continuing challenge for employers to manage. They value a work-life balance: They are less willing to work long hours. This trend is even more pronounced in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, which reminded employees across the board of a need to shift priorities away from employment and toward a richer home life. They appreciate flexibility. They value teamwork. Group projects and teamwork have recently been a higher priority in schools, colleges, and universities, which have oriented Millennials to value teamwork and being part of a greater whole. They also value constructive feedback and better internal communications. They are skeptical of the importance of business and free enterprise in society. Purpose-seeking Millennials are drawn to non-profit organizations and institutions that serve a higher purpose (such as firefighting!) Welcoming millennials in the fire service The next generation of personnel will likely change the fire service for the better while preserving the core elements Successfully embracing Millennials into the workforce is essential to the success of the fire service. The task demands leveraging their affinity for technology and searches for purpose while managing the culture-shock challenges of adapting to a more structured organization. The fire service can benefit broadly from more attention to issues such as diversity and work-life balance, which are near-and-dear to the hearts of Millennials. In short, the next generation of personnel will likely change the fire service for the better, while preserving the core elements that have enabled it to fulfill its mission for generations.
We are currently seeing fewer fires in the United States than in past decades. However, statistically, if a fire is reported in your home, you are more likely to die today than 40 years ago. Today’s homes with their synthetic furnishings and open floor plans burn faster than homes did in the past. Occupants might have fewer than three minutes to escape after a fire starts. Every 24 seconds, a U.S. fire department responds to a fire somewhere in the country. Nationwide, a civilian dies in a fire every 3 hours and 10 minutes, and a home fire injury occurs every 43 minutes. NFPA report - ‘Fire Safety in the United States Since 1980’ These are among the insights put forward in the latest National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) report ‘Fire Safety in the United States Since 1980’. The project was sponsored and executed by NFPA, with administrative oversight provided by the Fire Protection Research Foundation. The report notes that a lot of progress has been made in decreasing fires and fire deaths, in the years since the landmark ‘America Burning’ report was published in 1973. The new report focuses on the changing trends since 1980. Deploying sprinklers and smoke alarms The widespread use of smoke alarms in homes has been one of the biggest success stories in fire safety in the past 50 years The combination of an engineered solution enforced by codes and standards, and supported by public education has been effective in bringing down the number of reported fires and fire deaths. Adding sprinklers as an additional safety layer further reduces the fire death rate. The widespread use of smoke alarms in homes has been one of the biggest success stories in fire safety in the past 50 years, although 20.5% of single-family homes have no working smoke alarms, and 7.6% have no smoke alarms at all. Fire sprinklers control 97% of the fires in which they operate, although only 5% of year-round housing units have sprinklers. For homes, there has been a decline in the number of deaths per 1,000 reported fires in apartment buildings, while there has been an increase in the deaths in less regulated one- and two-family homes. Cooking, the leading cause of home fires More work is necessary. Cooking remains the leading cause of home fires and home fire injuries, and it is among the leading causes of home fire deaths. Cooking is the only major cause of fire that has resulted in more fires and fire deaths in 2014-2018 than in 1980-1984, which emphasizes the need for fire safety solutions in this area. The UL fire safety standards for new electric coil ranges are a step in the right direction, but more work is needed to ensure that something as simple as food preparation does not lead to death and destruction. Smoking, a major cause of home fire deaths Smoking has been the leading cause of home fire deaths for most of the last four decades and has remained the leading cause for 2014–2018 as a whole. Between 1980 and 2018, the annual number of home structure fires decreased from 734,000 to 363,000, while the number of deaths decreased from 5,200 to 2,720. Adjusted to 2018 dollars, the annual level of property loss remained relatively constant, decreasing slightly from US$ 8.7 billion in 1980 to US$ 8.0 billion in 2018. Injuries decreased during the time period from 19,700 to 11,200. When considering population, fire rates per thousand population has decreased from 3.2 to 1.1 during 1980-2018, deaths decreased from 22.9 to 8.3 per million population, and per-capita dollar loss decreased from US$ 38.4 to US$ 24.5. Fires in hospitals and nursing homes The NFPA study also analyzes fires involving hospitals and nursing homes The NFPA study also analyzes fires involving hospitals and nursing homes, as well as catastrophic multiple-death fires and fires in the wildland/urban interface (WUI), as they have the potential to cause significant human loss. Buildings such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and hotels have seen stricter requirements for fire safety in the last four decades and, as a result, catastrophic fires in these types of buildings are now rare. Great progress in preventing hospital fires Great progress has been made in preventing hospital fires. In 1980–1984, U.S. fire departments responded to an estimated average of 7,100 hospital fires annually, resulting in an average of five deaths per year. In 2014–2018, there was an estimated average of only 1,100 hospital and hospice fires that caused one death per year. None of the deaths in this period were patients. The wildland/urban interface (WUI) has grown, as has the intensity of the fire problem in these areas. WUI fires burn homes, cars, and a variety of other properties. Fatal injuries can occur in homes, outside, or in vehicles while trying to evacuate. Wildland fire season lasts longer due to human-caused ignition rather than lightning causes. Human-caused WUI fires made up 97 percent of WUI fires.
Immediate evacuation is often the appropriate response in case of a fire emergency, but correctional facilities are built on the premise of keeping inmates inside. Such is the apparent conflict, when it comes to responding to a fire in a prison, jail or correctional facility. Fire safety challenges The unique characteristics of a correctional setting present challenges in case of fire. For example, how can locked doors be consistent with the need for easy egress in case of fire? Because doors along a likely exit route are locked, guards or other personnel must be stationed along the exit route and trained to perform evacuation procedures. Rather than moving prisoners outside the facility, the usual strategy is ‘protect in place’, that is, to direct inmates from an area impacted by a fire to a safer area, somewhere else inside the facility. Placement of smoke detectors and sprinklers Another common precaution to promote fire safety is placement of smoke detectors and/or sprinklers Another common precaution to promote fire safety is placement of smoke detectors and/or sprinklers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require such devices be installed and regularly tested in a correctional setting. However, the devices must be located strategically to minimize tampering by bored or frustrated prisoners, and/or protected by stainless steel coverings. Sadly, sprinklers are often employed by prisoners as an anchor from which to hang themselves. To offset the problem, sprinklers can be specially designed to release, when certain poundage of pulling force is applied, although the solution adds costs. Fire incidents in smaller areas in prisons Correctional facilities are constructed primarily of concrete and steel, which are not conducive to fire or its spread. Therefore, fires in correctional facilities are often contained to smaller areas. In fact, the majority of fires occur inside the cells, often deliberately set by inmates. Many likely go undetected and unreported. An inmate might set a fire to draw attention, to exact revenge or intimidation, to protest overcrowding or living conditions, or even to commit suicide. Setting a fire may even be seen as a means to relieve stress or boredom for the inmates. A fire may also be accidental, for example, it might occur from smoking in bed. Most fire incidents inside cells involve ordinary combustibles, such as clothing, books, or trash items, in other words, they are a Class A fire. Other sources of fires in prisons include clothes dryers, cooking, and electrical and heating malfunctions. Dry chemical fire extinguishers can be used to tackle these Class A, B, and C fires. Electronic and control mechanisms for fire safety Correctional facilities deploy electronic and control mechanisms for fire safety Correctional facilities deploy electronic and control mechanisms for fire safety, in order to be able to open and close doors, and to provide immediate detection of a fire point or zone. However, the controls for these systems must be kept in a secure location, and someone onsite must be able to maintain the systems, in case they need to be repaired or reprogrammed. Early fire detection and notification enables control of inmates during fire response. Prison officials should also be trained on how to use self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment. Maintaining fire equipment and systems Maintaining fire equipment and systems is also necessary. However, documents recently released by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Justice point to on-going lapses in fire equipment maintenance in correctional facilities. Issues such as rotten fire doors and missing fire extinguishers in U.K. prisons had gone unaddressed for months or years. More than 400 basic fire safety repairs had not been completed, even six months after they were first identified. Backlog of repairs in prison buildings The National Audit Office identified a £1 billion backlog of repairs needed to prison buildings in England and Wales and a £315 million one-time allocation to tackle outstanding maintenance work, which was deemed too small to make a dent in the backlog. According to a report in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the Prison Service took 1,100 cells out of use, after a fire safety review and then brought 700 of the cells back into use within weeks.
A recent fire in a recycling facility at the Gaskells waste site in Kirkdale, United Kingdom, sent waves of smoke clouding the sky over north Liverpool in the early Sunday hours. Firefighters fought the blaze for 12 hours, and nearby residents were advised to remain indoors with the windows closed. A large quantity of waste material was ablaze, and firefighters used an aerial platform to reach some sections of the fire. The event is representative of the challenges of fires in waste and recycling plans, a significant global issue. Waste, paper and plastic products account for almost half of waste fires. Other waste facilities prone to fire include scrap metal, organics, chemicals, construction and demolition (C&D) and e-scrap. In the United States, there were 317 fires reported at waste and recycling facilities in 2020, and the most fires were reported in California, Ohio, Texas and New York. Contribution of lithium-ion batteries Lithium-ion batteries in the waste stream are a factor in waste fires across the globe One likely cause of a recent increase in waste fires is the rise in use (and disposal) of lithium-ion batteries. These rechargeable batteries are now ubiquitous in our age of portable electronics and electric vehicles. The batteries’ contents are under pressure, so any puncture creates a reaction between lithium and water in the air to generate heat and could produce a fire. There is also danger in the release of fluoride gases when the batteries ignite. Lithium-ion batteries in the waste stream are a factor in waste fires across the globe, including Japan, Austria, Sweden, France, German, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States. Other Likely causes of waste fires Other causes of waste fires include aerosols, chemicals and butane cans; hot and dry environments; recycling of chemicals and hazardous materials; sparks from equipment; and arson. Some observers have suggested that the pandemic may have contributed to waste fires through the disposal of half-empty bottles of alcohol-based sanitizer, which are flammable. Enabling Early detection with thermal cameras Thermal cameras can be connected to sprinklers or automated fire doors to provide early response As the fire in Kirkdale illustrates, extinguishing a waste fire is time-consuming and resource-intensive. However, early detection can address the risk more efficiently. For example, thermals cameras can be used to monitor temperatures inside and outside a waste plant. The cameras can be programmed to provide an alarm when a predefined temperature is reached (as a warning), and again when a higher temperature is reached (an alarm). Smart algorithms enable these cameras to avoid false alarms triggered by, for example, sunlight or cars driving by. The cameras can also be used for routine inspections, for instance, to identify electrical faults, over-heating equipment and other potential ignition sources. Thermal cameras can also be connected to sprinklers or automated fire doors to provide early response. fire prevention plan Waste site managers should devise a fire prevention plan (FPP) that can minimize the likelihood of a fire, seek to extinguish fire within four hours, and minimize the spread of fire to neighboring areas. Fire is also used to manage and dispose of waste. As much as a billion tons of waste is burned in open and uncontrolled fires around the world each year, or almost half of the waste generated. Waste disposal fires typically burn at lower temperatures, and harmful substances such as dioxins can form when PVC plastic is burned, which can adversely affect human health. Burning plastics in open fires releases CO2 and other greenhouse gases, and plastics that are not totally burned can pollute nearby land and water. Burning waste can have negative consequences for the urban poor and waste pickers who are more likely to be exposed to it.
The use of 3D concrete printing, also known as Building Additive Manufacturing (BAM), is on the verge of revolutionizing the construction industry. Advantages include more design freedom, better customization, and greater productivity, but the new technology also comes with risks and challenges. One concern: Questions about fire performance and whether embracing 3D construction creates greater fire hazards in the building environment. Estimating fire performance Building Additive Manufacturing involves creating 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material using 3D modeling software. Additive manufacturing equipment reads data from a computer file and adds successive layers of concrete (in the case of a building) to fabricate an object, such as a wall. The process produces up to 60% less waste than the use of conventional form-poured concrete. For 3D printed buildings, multiple wall configurations and densities can be created as building design dictates, and each design has a related fire performance profile. Researching the fire performance of various configurations of 3D-printed walls (whether solid, cavity, or composite) can help to guide fire prevention and response needs in the future as these buildings become more common. Determining the performance of materials How a construction material performs in a fire is an important criterion when designing a building Because the technology is relatively new, there has been little investigation into the fire performance of the various types of structures. How a construction material performs in a fire is an important criterion when designing a building, given that thousands of lives are lost every year from structural fires, especially in high-rise buildings. Materials used Researchers the University of Sri Jayewardenepura (Sri Lanka) and Northumbria University (England) have used finite element modeling (FEM) to quantify the fire performance of various 3D printed concrete (3DPC) wall configurations, in effect assigning numerical scores to the fire performance of materials with various densities and thicknesses. The modeling evaluated likely performance in realistic fire conditions and then validated the model with experimental results. The material used in the boundary walls of a building plays an essential role in controlling or accelerating heat transfer in case of fire. Additional variables affecting fire performance include the density of the material, thickness of the wall, wall configurations, and the type of insulation. Wall performance Solid concrete wall configurations scored better fire performance than non-load-bearing cavity wall configurations in the research. Walls with hollow cavity construction offer mechanical strength, use less material, and have a lighter weight. However, the research suggests that inferior performance in case of fire is a downside of the cavity wall configuration. Numerical analysis showed non-load-bearing cavity walls were detrimental to the insulation failure fire rating, while sold walls resulted in superior fire rating. Rockwool insulation 3DPC wall configuration incorporating Rockwool insulation showed better fire performance A composite 3DPC wall configuration incorporating Rockwool insulation to fill the cavities showed better fire performance and also achieved weight reduction. Rockwool insulation is stone wool insulation made from volcanic rock (basalt). Fire retardancy was shown to improve significantly, with the ability to last for up to five hours at high temperatures and retain up to 45% of their mass. Applications and challenges 3D printed concrete walls can be used for building houses and for large-scale construction applications. While providing environmental and economic advantages, the use of 3DPC potentially provides future challenges for firefighters that are just now being understood. Fire retardancy is an important aspect when evaluating building materials. The fire impact of these materials should be better understood now before they become more commonly used and it is too late.
Local governments in the U.S. are embracing electric and hybrid vehicles in a big way, and many states have implemented incentives to promote adoption of the futuristic technologies. However, fire department vehicles and apparatus are yet to embrace the transition, largely because vehicles were not available that both meet the needs of firefighters and provide environmental advantages. However, fire vehicle technology is farther along the electric and hybrid path than some people realize. Electric and hybrid vehicles for the fire service are making their way into the market and may be deployed soon in a neighborhood near you. Zero-Emissions pumper Oshkosh Corp., which includes Pierce Manufacturing, has introduced the Volterra platform of electric vehicles for the fire and emergency market. The first Pierce Volterra zero-emissions pumper has been placed in service with the Madison, Wis., Fire Department, making it the first electric fire truck in service in North America. The Volterra pumper is serving front-line duty at Station 8, the City of Madison’s busiest fire station. The department is made up of 14 fire stations serving 100 square miles and a population of more than 250,000. The Volterra electric vehicle configuration weighs 42,000 lbs., seats six, has a 1500 GPM single-stage pump, 500-gallon water tank, 150 cu ft of compartmentation plus ladder storage, and a hose capacity of 1000 feet of 5-in hose. Pierce Manufacturing and Oshkosh Airport Products have introduced the Volterra™ platform of electric vehicles for the fire and emergency market Infinitely variable transmission An Oshkosh parallel-electric drivetrain with an electro-mechanical infinitely variable transmission allows zero-emissions operation when powered by onboard batteries. An internal combustion engine provides uninterrupted power to the pumping system or drive system. The first Striker ARFF will be delivered to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport Fire Department Oshkosh also provides a Volterra platform for a hybrid Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) vehicle, which is debuting at airports across the United States. The hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) meets the growing emergency response needs among airports of all sizes in an environmentally conscious way. Firefighters will be able to experience the technology first-hand. The first Striker ARFF will be delivered to the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport (MSP) Fire Department in late summer 2021. Advanced safety systems Available on a 4x4 and 6x6 chassis platforms, the Striker Volterra performance hybrid delivers superior chassis performance, advanced safety systems, innovative fire suppression technology, reliability and durability. In April, Rosenbauer America’s Revolutionary Technology (RT) concept truck made its national debut in Washington, D.C., displayed for members of the Senate and firefighters based on the district. The viewing was held as Congress considers an infrastructure and jobs plan. “The Rosenbauer RT is the fire truck of the future,” says John Slawson, CEO and President of Rosenbauer America. “Build from the ground up using advanced materials and technologies, the RT is the safest fire truck on the roads today – for firefighters, for communities and for the environment.” The fully electric apparatus features a high level of safety, excellent driving dynamics and maneuverability and is fully networked. Rosenbauer's Revolutionary Technology (RT) fully electric fire truck visits Engine 3 in Washington, D.C. Auxiliary equipment chargers The RT’s electric drive is powerful and noise emission-free. The electric drive train ensures that almost no fuel is combusted while driving. Lighting and auxiliary equipment chargers are also powered by the batteries. A local power grid can be created with up to 14 kW operated simultaneously via the power outlet. A built-in range extender (REX) comprises a small diesel engine powering a large generator Conceived as a multi-purpose vehicle, the RT is a pumper first and foremost, a connected mobile command unit, and a vehicle for assistance in wildland fires. A built-in range extender (REX) comprises a small diesel engine powering a large generator. Volvo Penta developed the electric driveline for Rosenbauer’s RT fire truck, which is also being tested in fire departments in Berlin, Amsterdam and Dubai. Pioneering electric drivelines “After many years of successful collaboration with Rosenbauer, we are proud to be pioneering electric drivelines and partnering with them on this revolutionary project,” says Paul Jansson, Chief Product Manager at Volvo Penta. “This is our first industrial OEM partnership in the area of electromobility, and it’s a big step toward creating a new product platform of the future.” The new fire truck aims to respond to global megatrends such as climate change, shifting demographics and urbanization – and their impact on the work of fire departments. Firefighters responding to a call need a vehicle capable of high speed, rapid acceleration hard braking and maneuverability.
While wildfires can be beneficial and necessary for some species and ecosystems, there are various negative impacts on our air, water, and land, as well as, subsequent impacts for human health. Given the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) mission to protect human health and the environment, the EPA’s Wildland Fire Research focuses on the impacts these fires have on human health and ecosystems. Examining ambient air quality EPA researchers are examining the worsening of ambient air quality from smoke and the contamination of surface and drinking waters, as well as ecological effects to habitats impacted by fire. EPA’s Wildland Fire Research aims to address knowledge gaps across wildland fire topics, including: Development and evaluation of applicable ambient measurement technologies, Fate and transport of wildland fire smoke emissions, Elucidation of primary and secondary ambient air quality impacts, Effective interventions to reduce smoke exposure, Communicating health risk and public education strategies Impacts of fire and smoke on watersheds, and drinking water, Remobilization of chemicals at contaminated sites, Air, water, and soil impacts of fires that reach the wildland-urban interface (WUI), Public health impacts resulting from smoke, and Integration of social science approaches into public health research. Key contributions to emissions characterization EPA has made and continues to make significant contributions to the body of knowledge on emissions characterization (emission factors). These include measuring and modeling smoke’s impact on air quality, especially concentrations of fine particles and ozone. They are also working to characterize the chemical components of smoke and their respective toxicities. Other contributions include physiological responses to smoke exposure; epidemiological studies for understanding population exposure to smoke and health outcomes; and impacts of fire on water quality and quantity. The EPA seeks social science methods to develop communication and community capacity tools to help communities reduce exposure during smoke episodes. Air quality impacts of alternative fire management practices Improving understanding of these impacts can help support forest management decisions to prevent severe fires EPA is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to evaluate air quality impacts of alternative fire management practices, including prescribed fires that can reduce the severity of wildfires. Improving understanding of these impacts can help support forest management decisions that can prevent severe fires. EPA research has not focused on occupational health regarding wildland fires. While occupational exposure studies are very important, this works falls under missions of the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Assessment on impact of prescribed fire and wildfire EPA is leading the development of an assessment, comparing the impacts of prescribed fire and wildfire, in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Department of the Interior (DOI), with contributions from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This report will provide a better understanding of the health and environmental impacts of wildland fire, specifically smoke. The interagency approach is critical as USFS and DOI are experts in understanding various aspects of fire, NIST is an expert in the damages from fires, and EPA provides expertise in understanding the public health and environmental impacts of fire. EPA’s Wildland Fire Research As EPA’s Wildland Fire Research grows and adds to the body of knowledge over time, much of the findings will impact protecting human health and the environment by characterizing and developing strategies to mitigate the impacts of wildfire smoke on human health and ecosystems. EPA research on this topic will also inform the way we prepare, respond, and recover from wildland fires. EPA’s researchers are top scientists, representing a broad range of disciplines, including atmospheric science, health sciences, ecology, and social sciences. They are faced with the growing challenges associated with climate change and ensuring equitable protection for all citizens including disadvantaged communities who bear a disproportionate impact from air pollution and climate change. EPA’s multi-disciplinary researchers, together with partners from throughout federal, state, and local government agencies around the country, are working together to address these challenges. EPA will conduct the research needed to reduce the growing risk of wildfires and continue to protect human health and the environment.
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.”
When you think about the 21st-century innovations that will drive the future of the fire service, almost every new technology depends on faster and more dependable digital communication. In short, the future of technology in the fire service demands that we embrace 5G technology. 5G (fifth generation telecommunications) promises faster data speeds, less latency, and greater reliability. Increased connectivity and technologies From increasing connectivity to enabling wearable technologies, from monitoring health conditions to supplying more precise location data and even automated vehicle navigation, the success of all these technologies will depend on 5G. The advent of 5G will also boost the cybersecurity of devices and avoid disruption of systems and hacking. Benefits 5G is designed to increase network capacity by expanding into a new spectrum such as mmWave Other benefits include massive network capacity, increased availability, and a more uniform user experience for more users. 5G is designed to increase network capacity by expanding into a new spectrum, such as mmWave. Enhancing communication via 5G The increased communications requirements of wearable technologies and V2X (vehicle-to-everything) communications will benefit from faster and more dependable 5G performance. Drones providing aerial views of fires and processing information on the geolocation of fires and firefighters in the field will depend on the broadband 5G network to make information available in real-time. 5G will also be helpful in the deployment of rescue robots by providing low-latency communications to carry out dangerous tasks without putting personnel in danger. Reliable and dependent On the development front, an “open generation consortium” called MITRE Engenuity is collaborating to explore various public safety and business use cases and working with stakeholders to test numerous applications. In general, 5G’s promise of faster uploads and downloads fits perfectly with the fire service’s greater dependence on data. Estimates of 5G data speed are up to 20 Gbps, compared to about 35 Mbps for 4G LTE. Ease of information transmission 5G connectivity on FirstNet will be suitable for the IoT and video solutions useful to first respondersFirstNet, a public safety network powered by AT&T, is upgrading its dedicated FirstNet network core to enable 5G connectivity to bring the full benefits of 5G to first responders. 5G connectivity on FirstNet will be suitable for the Internet of Things (IoT) and video solutions useful to first responders. For example, using 5G in an ambulance enables the transmission of patient data to the emergency room ahead of arrival. First responders in 38 cities and more than 20 venues gained access to AT&T’s mmWave (5G+) spectrum this April. This is the beginning of a multi-phase, multi-year journey to deliver full 5G capabilities on FirstNet. FirstNet FirstNet is also designed with a defense-in-depth security strategy that goes beyond commercial network security measures. The approach protects without sacrificing usability or impacting public safety’s mission. Comprehensive tower-to-core encryption is based on open industry standards. FirstNet traffic will be automatically secured as it moves from the cell tower, through the backhaul, to the core and back again. Only FirstNet will have encryption along the entire route. Supports the health of First-responders FirstNet has also established the FirstNet Health & Wellness Coalition, whose two dozen members include the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Emergency Management Association, and other industry groups. The coalition seeks to integrate responder, community, industry, and academic capabilities to support the health, wellness, and readiness of America’s first responders. FirstNet provides first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity, unique benefits such as always-on priority and pre-emption, and a high-quality Band 14 spectrum.
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.”
Wildfire season presents special challenges to firefighters, and environmental trends point to even more frequent wildfires in the future, due to factors such as global warming. Technology, in all its variety, provides new tools to aid departments tasked with fighting wildfires. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the emerging technologies in wildfire prevention and protection?
Ethics are principles concerning right and wrong behavior that govern how we conduct ourselves. Morals are standards of behavior based on those ethical principles. Ensuring the highest standards of ethical behavior is central to the fire service mission and to managing a fire department effectively. Ethical behavior Ethical behavior almost appears to be a logical extension of the culture of firefighting, given the fire service’s shared mission to serve society positively. Firefighters exhibit physical courage every day, so doesn’t it follow that they would also display moral courage and strength of character? Isn’t ethical behavior part of the shared mission of fire departments, exhibited in the rituals, traditions, and everyday experiences of being a firefighter? Moral, selfless and trustworthy The fire service has a tradition of putting the common good above the individual good, an approach that advances the idea of moral and selfless behavior. The public image of firefighters as selfless servants of the common good certainly supports the idea that departments display the best ethical code and highest moral convictions. Successful fire departments are built around integrity, trust, ethical behavior, transparency, and open communication Successful fire departments are built around a culture of integrity, trust, and ethical behavior, not to mention transparency and open communication among personnel. Trust is especially relevant among team members when there is a common goal that can be a matter of life and death. Exceptions Hopefully, ethical infractions are more the exception than the rule in the fire service. When there is sexual misconduct, drug use, theft, or cheating in a fire department, the transgression generally makes its way into the media. As much as such incidents tend to sully the reputation of the broader fire service, we can take comfort in the fact that they are the exception rather than the rule. News articles focus on the unusual, not the day-to-day. Heaven forbid such activities to become accepted practices to the point that they are no longer newsworthy! Transparent reporting of misconduct If and when there is a moral or ethical lapse in a fire department, transparent reporting of the misdeeds to the public is critical to ensuring ongoing public trust. The offenders should be held accountable, as should leaders who perpetuated an environment in which misdeeds were tolerated. As we all learned from Watergate, the coverup is often worse than the crime. Code of conduct Many fire departments have unspoken expectations about how fire personnel should conduct themselves. Those expectations are part of the tradition of firefighting, but shouldn’t they also be explicitly spelled out, if only to make it easier for newcomers to grasp their nuance and understand their importance? Ethical and moral conduct Departments can promote the best behavior and standards among their members by explicitly defining a code of ethics and stating their core values. Ethical and moral conduct should be incorporated into every department’s policies and SOPs Ethical and moral conduct should be incorporated into every department’s policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs). Top managers of a department should lead by example and embody faultless role models for every member of the department, but especially the newbies. Core values In the best-case scenario, fire departments consider issues of ethics and morals often and seek out ways to communicate those core values up and down the department’s ranks. Expressing core values and expectations often can ensure they are not taken for granted or even ignored. Especially useful is to consider practical ways ethics and morals can be incorporated into the everyday operation of a department. Code of ethics As a starting point, or to provide more food for thought, consider the National Society of Executive Fire Officers’ Firefighter Code of Ethics, which includes this observation, “Character is defined by decisions made under pressure when no one is looking when the road contains land mines, and the way is obscured.” Here are some other points excerpted from the Firefighter Code of Ethics – more food for thought: Conduct personal affairs in a manner that does not improperly influence the performance of duties or bring discredit to the organization. Avoid financial investments, outside employment, outside business interests, or activities that conflict with or are enhanced by a firefighter’s official position or have the potential to create the perception of impropriety. Never harass, intimidate or threaten fellow members of the service or the public and stop or report the actions of other firefighters who engage in such behaviors.
Thinning forests to prevent wildfires include the removal of diseased trees and other debris by private, state, and federal land managers. The byproduct of that thinning is called woody biomass. Removal of woody biomass from forests can help mitigate disastrous wildfires in fire-prone states like California. Reducing wildfire risk Some of the biomass material is left to decay, is burned in place, or is hauled to landfills. However, this byproduct of reducing wildfire risk can also be used to produce engineered lumber, paper and pulp, and a range of other wood products. Woody biomass is a compelling organic feedstock for conversion to renewable liquid fuels Alternatively, it can be used to produce bio-based fuel products such as ethanol. In fact, woody biomass is a compelling organic feedstock for conversion to renewable liquid fuels. However, there are obstacles, such as resistance to chemical breakdown and possible toxicity of pre-treatment methods. New conversion methods Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories are developing new treatment methods to pave the way for more efficient conversion of woody biomass into ethanol. In one study, researchers have optimized pre-treatment and scale-up of an integrated one-pot process to deconstruct California woody biomass using ionic liquid (cholinium hysinate) as a pretreatment solvent. In scaling up the process, researchers streamlined and optimized the impact of solid loading, solid removal, yeast acclimatization, fermentation temperature, fomentation pH, and nutrient supplementation to maximize final ethanol yields. First-ever end-to-end process With the refinement of the processes, researchers reached ethanol production at $3 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) via the conversion pathway. It is the first-ever end-to-end process that combines both high conversion efficiency and a simple one-pot approach. The simplified process is also the largest scale demonstration of ionic liquid pretreatment and biofuel conversion known to date, and overall biomass-to-ethanol efficiencies are the highest reported so far. The research was published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering. There will be 38 million tons of dry woody biomass available each year by 2050, making it an abundant carbon source for biofuel products, say the paper’s authors. Converting Biofuel to ethanol In another study, at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBI) at Berkeley Lab, researchers evaluated woody biomass types (pine, almond, walnut, and fir) from California as potential biofuel feedstocks. The feedstocks were pre-treated with two ionic liquids (cholinium lysinate and ethanolamine acetate) followed by enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentation to produce ethanol. The demonstration of the use of ionic liquids for pretreatment of woody biomass blends results in high overall efficiency The study represents the first demonstration of the use of these ionic liquids for pretreatment of woody biomass blends that results in high overall efficiency for ethanol products. In addition to providing new sources of ethanol to contribute to fuel supply, the techniques transform biomass sources that would otherwise be burned in the field, thus increasing the risk and severity of seasonal wildfires. Tackles wildfire risk Converting woody biomass into fuel simultaneously tackles the multiple problems of wildfire risk, air pollution caused by burning of crop residues, and dependence on fossil fuels. In addition, the approach will reduce carbon in the atmosphere and create new jobs in the bioenergy industry. The research was supported by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science. Additional authors of the research are affiliated with the Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts Process Demonstration Unit, the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center, and Southern Illinois University.
Rental storage units represent a serious and unpredictable risk for firefighters. For example, hundreds of rented units at a three-story, self-storage warehouse in Manchester, United Kingdom, were recently destroyed by fire. Fire in rental storage units There were 125 firefighters and 25 fire engines called to the scene. There were no injuries, but hundreds of customers lost thousands of dollars in stored goods in the fire. Notably, the facility was not protected by a sprinkler system, which no doubt contributed to the scale of the loss. The Manchester fire is far from the first to start in a self-storage warehouse. In 2017, a fire destroyed most of a self-storage building, as well as several other businesses in Tottenham, in North London. There were 20 fire engines and 140 firefighters involved, who spent hours extinguishing the blaze. One person was injured. Self-storage warehouse fires In 2018, a self-storage warehouse in Croydon, in south London that housed 1,198 rental units In 2018, a self-storage warehouse in Croydon, in south London that housed 1,198 rental units was destroyed in a large fire. At the height of the fire on New Year's Eve, the whole of the four-story structure was ablaze, and there were 120 firefighters on the scene. There were no injuries. When the new four-story replacement facility was opened, the owners decided to include sprinklers in the rebuild, although they are not required by building regulations. Lesson learned. In 2019, a storage warehouse in Bedfordshire was destroyed by a blaze that spread from a plastics factory next door. Lack of barriers between units Fires in self-storage buildings provide unique challenges. There may be little separation between the various units, so a fire can spread quickly. Lack of barriers between units makes it less likely a fire will be easily contained. Furthermore, the contents of each unit are unknown, and some units may contain large quantities of furniture, tightly packed together and including flammable materials. In fact, the contents of any given storage building could literally be anything, which leaves firefighters perpetually uninformed about what they are dealing with. The resulting large fires burn for a long time, create a lot of smoke, and can challenge the resources of the fire service, as past incidents in the United Kingdom illustrate. Proactive use of sprinklers in rental storage units Sprinkler systems help to control fires, by allowing fire crews more time to access and extinguish a fire Sprinklers are a useful tool to slow the spread of fires in self-storage warehouses, and one that is not always deployed. Sprinkler systems help to control fires, by allowing fire crews more time to access and extinguish a fire. Proactive use of sprinkler systems can minimize damage and avert the worst outcomes in the case of self-storage fires. In fact, a viewing of overall United Kingdom fire statistics reveals that 95% of fires can be controlled or even extinguished by the operation of fire sprinklers. Importance of fire sprinkler systems Fire sprinkler systems make buildings more resilient to the impact of fire, by automatically controlling or even extinguishing it, before the fire service arrives. Sprinkler systems have an operational reliability of 94%, evidence suggests. The Business Sprinkler Alliance (BSA) seeks to highlight the true cost of fire and to increase the number of business premises that have automatic fire sprinklers. The BSA is driving a culture change to ensure that sprinklers are understood and accepted, as the norm in UK business buildings. Whether it’s in a self-storage building, a car park or an office, uncontrolled fire knows no limits. Proactive use of sprinkler systems can provide a level of control by delaying spread of a fire until firefighters can begin to play their important role.
Last month, a fire raged across land in Swansea, in southern Wales, spreading 6 hectares (about 15 acres) and injuring a firefighter. Weeks earlier, flames raged across 20 hectares (almost 50 acres) in nearby Fairwood Common, Gower, in a fire that may have been deliberately set, and another 30 hectares (74 acres) of grassland and forest burned in Maesteg, Bridgend. Almost 4,000 miles away in northwest Minnesota, crews battled a grass fire that briefly closed a highway in the area. Low humidity levels and strong winds created dangerous fire conditions across the state. Effective prevention strategies The vast majority of brush, grass and forest fires are caused by human activities, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Leading causes include intentional fire setting, open burning of waste, smoking materials, and electrical power or utility lines. Grass fires take a toll on fire department resources, can spread to homes, vehicles and other property, and cause injuries, according to NFPA. Grass fires can start and spread quickly and are extremely dangerous Fire departments can use Information about the causes and circumstances of these fires to develop more effective prevention strategies and campaigns. When the conditions are right, grass fires can start and spread quickly and are extremely dangerous. They can travel up to 25 km (15 miles) per hour and pulse even faster over short distances. Grass provides a fuel that burns faster than bush or forests. Creating fuel breaks Grass fires may be less intense and produce fewer embers than bushfires, but they still can produce enormous amounts of heat. The taller the grass, the more intense the resulting fire; shorter grass height yields fires that are easier to control. Grass dries more quickly, so fires can start earlier in the day. Living in an area with dried brown or golden-colored grass more than 10 cm (4 inches) tall is a fire risk. To manage the risk, homeowners should reduce the height and proximity of grass to their homes and other buildings by slashing, mowing, grazing, or spraying herbicide. Creating fuel breaks at least 3 meters (10 feet) wide can stop a fire and create a ‘defendable space’ around assets to be protected. Narrower fuel breaks may slow down fire spread but are unlikely to stop it. Internal combustion engines Use of machinery with internal combustion engines can increase the risk of grass fires Use of machinery with internal combustion engines can increase the risk of grass fires. Tractors and other machinery should be free from faults or mechanical defects and equipped with an approved spark arrestor. Small actions can help to avoid grass fires, such as disposing of cigarettes in a responsible manner, not leaving campfires and barbecues unattended, and clearing away bottles, glasses, and broken glass that can magnify the sun and start a fire. Providing eye protection Grass fires create a lot of radiant heat and can kill anyone caught in the open. The safest place to be during a grassfire is far away from the threat. In case of a grass fire, protective clothing should be available to cover up exposed skin, including a long-sleeved shirt and pants made from natural fiber. A face mask or towel can be used to cover the mouth and nose. Smoke goggles provide eye protection. Other useful items are sturdy boots with woolen socks, tough leather gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat. A solid structure such as a building can provide shielding from radiant heat.