Articles by Larry Anderson
Colossus, a fire-fighting robot, was deployed in the nave of the Notre Dame cathedral during the destructive fire on April 15 in Paris. Pumping water high into the air and onto the flames, the robot was instrumental in turning the tide for firefighters, extinguishing the fire and lowering temperatures inside the nave. Colossus was developed by the French Company Shark Robotics and deployed with the Paris Fire Brigade. The caterpillar-tracked robot stands just two and a half feet tall, weighs 1,000 pounds and can carry another 1,100 pounds of equipment. At Notre Dame it helped firefighters extinguish the blaze and mostly save 850 years of history. It helped firefighters extinguish the blaze and mostly save 850 years of history Robots in firefighting The historic use of Colossus illustrates the growing role of robotics in firefighting, including mobile systems with advanced features to assist an operator in navigation and to perform a wider range of tasks. According to Brian Lattimer, Ph.D., Associate Professor at Virginia Tech, a robotic system is a mechanical device that performs a task using sensors to perceive its environment, computer programs to control the robot based on its environment, and a human operator to assist with robot operation. A variety of robotic systems support a range of fire events, whether involving structures, vehicles, aircrafts, shops or wildlands, he says. In addition, the functionality of robot systems varies to support firefighters in tasks such as sizing up the fire, identifying trapped people, locating the fire, monitoring conditions, controlling fire spread and suppression, says Lattimer. Sizing up the fire, identifying trapped people, locating the fire, monitoring conditions, controlling fire spread and suppression automated robotics Also, aerial robotics such as drones provide added situational awareness, and indoor robots can eliminate fires at close range. There are also fixed systems, such as automated fire monitors, that can be used to extinguish significant fire hazards rapidly. Several robots have found utility in the fire service in recent years. Fire-fighting robots were essential for suppressing the blaze at Notre Dame Other life-saving robots The Tactical Hazardous Operations Robot (THOR), developed for the U.S. Navy’s Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFIR) program, is a human-like robot that can travel across unstable floors on ships, utilize hoses, and open doors. Because Navy ships have hazardous materials on board, extinguishing fires is critical. The robot uses stereoscopic thermal imaging and LiDAR (light detection and ranging) sensors to navigate. It walks and works semi-autonomously with the help of a remote operator. The Thermite Robot is a small tank created by Howe and Howe Technologies for the U.S. Army. The Thermite RS1-T4 is remotely operated with a belly-pack controller that provides high-definition and infrared video in real-time. It has the power to push vehicles from its path, the agility to climb stars and can output 1,250 gpm of water at 200 psi. Thermite is designed as an advanced tool to help operators combat fires safely and efficiently. It has the power to push vehicles from its path, the agility to climb stars and can output 1,250 gpm of water at 200 psi Turbine Aided Firefighting Machine (TAF 20) is a robot created by Emicontrols, a subsidiary of the TechnoAlpin Group. Designed for small spaces such as tunnels, it uses a turbine to clear smoke, move obstacles with a bulldozer blade and focus its water spray from a mist to a jet. an emerging technology component The Fire Ox, a robotic firefighting vehicle that carries its own water tank, is designed as a first response unit. It suppresses fires, assists in search and rescue, and can handle dangerous materials. It is semi-autonomous and can be controlled from up to 200 miles away. Research at Purdue University has yielded firefighting robots with an automatic T-valve system, a “discharge valve,” that can remove water from the fire hose whenever a robot moves to a new location. The technology takes less energy and enables a firefighting robot to maneuver more quickly and efficiently around a burning structure. Robots can withstand hazardous environments and help to avoid injury to firefighters. They are an emerging technology component that will impact the art and science of firefighting for years to come.
A “Complaint of Non-Conforming Products” has been submitted to the U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission on behalf of a forensic expert who says he has identified non-compliance dangers and vulnerabilities related to fire and burglar alarm control units. Millions of alarms conceivably could be recalled following an investigation in response to the complaint. The U.S. Consumer Safety Product Commission is tasked with promoting the safety of consumer products by addressing “unreasonable risks” of injury, such as risk of fire, chemical exposure, electrical malfunction or mechanical failure. Typically, the CSPC evaluates such complaints and determines what corrective action, if any, is appropriate, in this case possibly by the end of the year. Report from Jeffrey Zwirn Jeffrey Zwirn, an alarm and security forensic expert, says he has identified problems with the alarm devices and has posted online a series of videos confirming that they do not operate in conformance with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) 985 and 103 and NFPA 72 (National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code) Standards. The single data-bus circuits of the hardwired devices can be short-circuitedSpecifically, the single data-bus circuits of the hardwired devices can be short-circuited and become either fully or partially non-functional. IDS Research & Development Inc. (Zwirn’s company) and Connaughton Group LLC, a product integrity consulting firm, sent a request to the CSPC on Sept. 20 asking for an investigation of products across the North American household fire and burglar alarm control units and commercial burglar and fire alarm control panel category. Includes products from big brands The request estimates that “hundreds of millions” of the units were sold and installed across the United States. The request estimates that 'hundreds of millions' of the units were installed across the USAThey include products sold under brand names such as Honeywell, DSC, NAPCO, ELK Products, and Interlogix. If the recall were to happen, it would be the largest recall in the history of the alarm industry. The request states: “It is our expert opinion that these non-conforming control panels present a foreseeably dangerous and serious public safety hazard and risk to all of the unsuspecting consumers, their families and business owners who have these control panels installed in their homes and businesses.” Interceptor addresses the vulnerability Zwirn has also submitted the products for investigation by UL and Intertek Testing Services Inc., which respectively provide the UL and ETL certification marks and are Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL). Outcomes of those investigations are forthcoming. Jeffrey Zwirn also promotes and sells a product, The Interceptor, that would address the vulnerability. It is a microprocessor designed to protect the data-bus and auxiliary power output wiring installed throughout a protected premises.
The Phase 1 report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, released Oct. 30, examines events of 14 June, 2017, when 71 people were killed in a high-rise building fire at Grenfell Tower, a residential tower block in North Kensington, London. The report finds London Fire Brigade’s planning and preparation for such a fire was “gravely inadequate.” The report reflects the first phase of the inquiry. Investigators will consider problems related to design, maintenance and renovation of Grenfell Tower in the second phase, as well as whether building and fire regulations were adequate and adhered to. Report Suggests Lack Of Training The report found that otherwise experienced incident commanders and senior officers attending the fire had received no training in the particular dangers associated with the building’s combustible cladding, even though some senior officers were aware of similar fires that had occurred in other countries. Otherwise experienced incident commanders and senior officers attending the fire had received no training in the particular dangers Although the London Fire Brigade purports to maintain an operational risk database (ORD) for buildings in London and has a risk assessment policy accessible by all operational firefighters at an incident, the database entry for Grenfell Tower contained almost no information of any use to an incident commander called to a fire. The database information was many years out of date and did not reflect the changes made by a building refurbishment. “None of the firefighters or incident commanders on the ground seem to have been able to conceive of the possibility of a general failure of compartmentation or of a need for mass evacuation; they neither truly seized control of the situation nor were able to change strategy,” according to the report. Evacuation Plans The report continues: “National guidance requires fire and rescue services to draw up contingency evacuation plans for dealing with fires in high-rise buildings that spread beyond the compartment of origin causing a ‘stay put’ strategy to become untenable. They should understand, for any given high-rise building in their area, when a partial or full evacuation might become necessary and provide appropriate training to incident commanders.” Friends and families still await justice for their loved ones following the report The public inquiry by Rt Hon Sir Martin Moore-Bick is being conducted in parallel to investigations by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and Her Majesty’s Coroner for Inner London (West), Professor Fiona The decision to evacuate the building was delayed by almost an hourWilcox. Once the Grenfell fire was out of control, the decision to evacuate the building was delayed by almost an hour, which resulted in additional fatalities. A decision should have been made to evacuate the tower between 1:30 and 1:50 a.m., according to the report. The “stay put” strategy was not questioned, even in response to early indications the building has suffered a “total failure of compartmentation.” The "Stay Put" Recommendation The ‘stay put’ recommendation was based on general wisdom that most fires are likely to be contained in small areas of a building and that anyone trying to escape is likely to run into dangerous flames, smoke-filled corridors, or to interfere with fire-fighting efforts. Obviously, it was bad advice in this case since the fast-moving fire rapidly spread and engulfed the entire building. Combustible panels on the exterior of the building accelerated the fire. The aluminium composite material (ACM) rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores acted as a source of fuel. The ACM rainscreen panels with polyethylene cores acted as a source of fuel There were serious deficiencies in command and control. Although additional resources arrived swiftly, some senior officers failed to give sufficient practical support or inform themselves quickly enough of conditions and operations within the building, according to the report. Communication Strategies Channels of communication between the control room and the incident ground were improvised, uncertain and prone to error. Control room operators did not therefore know enough about conditions in the tower or the progress of responses to individual fire survival guidance calls, so they lacked a sound basis for telling callers whether help was on its way. In a statement in response to the Phase 1 report, the London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “We are disappointed at some of the criticism of individual staff members who were placed in completely unprecedented circumstances and faced the most unimaginable conditions while trying to save the lives of others.” Furthermore, Matt Wrack, head of the Fire Brigades Union commented: “Nobody [has] explained how you would alert residents when there’s no common fire alarm system.” He also said the building was already a “death trap” when firefighters arrived.
Ethics should be considered in almost any decision in the fire industry. Here is an example: A customer asks a technician to forge a certificate saying the customer had previously passed a fire audit in order to validate his previous year’s insurance. What do you do? If a company has laid a strong ethical foundation, it’s much easier for the technician to refuse the customer’s request and cite the corporate Code of Ethics as a solid basis for the refusal. Chubb Fire and Security is among the companies providing an example of how an emphasis on ethics can benefit a company, their employees, their customers and the world. Corporate Code of Ethics At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start" In the fire market, the result of unethical actions could make the difference in life and death. For example, if an employee acts unethically when servicing a fire extinguisher, the result could be to burn down the building. “At Chubb, we have a code of ethics, our ‘bible,’ that is issued to employees when they start,” says Harv Dulay, Director of Ethics and Compliance at Chubb Fire and Security. “Within the bible are core fundamental rules about what’s acceptable and not acceptable. We lay it out for employees very specifically. They understand and embrace the code of ethics, which is based on trust, integrity, respect, innovation and excellence. If you get them right, the business moves in the right direction”. She adds, “A key piece of our ethics policy is based on trust. We relate to others with openness, transparency, and empathy. It makes Chubb a better place to work and enables us to provide better service to customers.” Importance of conforming to fire safety regulations For Chubb, ethics is not just theoretical, but ethical concepts play out every day in practical ways. An example might be an engineer who goes to a customer’s site and is asked to do a task that is outside his or her duties and/or not allowed under the ethics policy. The pressure might be even greater if the employee is struggling to meet a sales figure. The code of ethics addresses specific situations and outlines the behavior that is expected. “Ethics is embedded in our values and has been since the beginning,” says Dulay. “Ethics is making sure people do the right things. Ethics is integrated into the Chubb business model, and everyone knows what is expected of them. It’s a message heard from the top down, from everyone in the company.” Fire safety and security risks “The fire and security industry is different than others because lives and people’s safety are on the line,” Dulay says. “Our purpose is to protect clients from fire safety and security risks. This is a business where no one should take short cuts. It is important to do the right thing all the time, every time, and it’s about protecting lives and property.” Ethics discussions begin for employees at Chubb when they join the company; clear instructions about ethics are included as part of employee induction. There are nine modules of ethics training during employee orientation, and a discussion with an Ethics and Compliance Officer is part of the onboarding process. Online ethics training modules A series of supervisor-led trainings encourage managers to deliver face-to-face ethics training to their team The training program includes information about ethics, company expectations around ethics, where to go for questions about ethical issues, and details of the anonymous ombudsman program. Additionally, field staff is trained by their supervisors via regular face-to-face ethics toolbox talks. Office staff completes a series of on-line ethics training modules regularly. A series of supervisor-led trainings encourage managers to deliver face-to-face ethics training to their team, citing real-life examples. Healthy discussions are encouraged to deal with any ‘gray areas’. Dulay estimates that ethics and compliance officers spend about half their time answering questions and clarifying for employees what’s expected in the code of ethics. Data security Some 14,000 employees globally have multiple options when it comes to reporting an issue, and there are full-time Ethics and Compliances Officers in every country where Chubb does business. A reflection of Chubb’s global approach to compliance is their worldwide implementation of data security requirements of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); the company saw the benefits of the program for any jurisdiction. Training and education are part of Chubb’s investment in ethics. For example, a recent module on ‘respect in the workplace’ covered the need to create a company culture in which everyone feels respected. Training and education are part of Chubb’s investment in ethics Training and communication “Training and continuous communication are embedded in the organization. We invest in the process,” says Dulay. She adds, “We have had employees who left the company and then come back. They realized the importance of ethics and rejoined us.” “We start with the foundation that we would rather lose business than give up our ethical standards,” says Dulay. “We won’t abandon our policies even if there is money at stake. Some business is not worth getting if you don’t adhere to your values.” Effective conflict resolution “We manage potential conflicts proactively by creating and instituting methods in which employees have access to tools they can use to be successful and adaptable in times of change,” says Dulay. “Also, we will not tolerate retaliation against any employee who reports wrongdoing – regardless of the outcome of the investigation.” We measure it by people’s conduct, the number of cases we have, and awareness" And while there is no specific monetary value assigned to good ethical practices, success can be measured. “We measure it by people’s conduct, the number of cases we have, and awareness,” says Dulay. Good ethics behavior “It’s good for employee morale, and it’s good for customers and our business. It’s not measurable, but it is fundamental for business and customers. The work we do as a company can impact people’s lives so it is important that everyone has an understanding of the importance of their role,” says Dulay. A common misconception about ethics is that if no one is watching, it must be ok. However, Dulay says it is the things employees do when no one is watching or checking in on them that form good ethics behavior. During training, Chubb emphasizes that ethics is about doing the right thing, all the time even if no one is watching.
The biggest causes of false fire alarms are older technology and systems that are improperly designed and/or not maintained. Modern technology, proper design and regular maintenance can minimize false alarms. Systems over 15 to 20 years old do not have the technical means to handle deceptive phenomena. Proper planning, design, installation, commissioning and maintenance should be provided by firms certified for such work as defined in the European Standard EN 16763 Services for fire alarm and security systems. Preventing false alarms False alarms and counterstrategies must be taken seriously by the planner from the beginning of the planning process in the fire protection plan. The prevention of false alarms is also the responsibility of the operators and site managers. There is still a lot of optimization potential. These are some of the observations from the Euralarm False Alarm Study (2019), which looks at the situation in Germany, Austria (Vorarlberg), Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom. To further the reduction of false fire alarms even more, better data is needed to outline and support any measures defined.To further the reduction of false fire alarms, better data is needed to outline and support any measures defined The study also shows that, in some regions, approximately 30% of the false alarms are caused by 5% of the sites. “We have to optimize the planning and application processes,” says Dr. Sebastian Festag, who headed up the research. Euralarm “False Fire Alarms” task group The Euralarm “False Fire Alarms” task group completed a three-year study in 2018 that aimed to identify the actual state of the false alarm issue of fire detection and alarm systems (FDAS), their conditions, main causes and measurements to reduce them. The result of the work is the False Alarm Study (2019), which was the follow-up to a pre-study that led to an observation of the questionable quality and availability of data. The lack of common data and terminologies – as seen in the first study – makes further analysis and the development of prevention strategies difficult. Reducing the incidence of false alarms requires an understanding of the phenomenon and the conditions (terms, data, transmission paths, standards and calculations). Differences and similarities among countries could be used to derive measures to influence the issue and its ratio, but the circumstances between countries are too varied to truly compare. Systems over 15 to 20 years old do not have the technical means to handle deceptive phenomena Comparisons between countries are not possible In the countries that were visited, the Fire Services collected the data. “An observation here is that comparisons between countries is not possible; hence gaining a better understanding through this process today has limits,” says Lance Rütimann, Chairman of the Euralarm Fire Section and member of the Task Group. In the context of fire safety engineering, a false alarm is a fire alarm with no conditions that motivates a fire interventionThe study differentiates between a “real” fire alarm and a false fire alarm. “Real” means that there is a fire alarm with a fire or other conditions that requires an intervention, either by someone in the building or the fire services. “False” alarms are defined as events in which experts establish that there is no real hazard existing. In the context of fire safety engineering, a false alarm is a fire alarm with no conditions that motivates a fire intervention (the alarm is not classified as a real fire alarm; a fire intervention is unjustified). False Alarm Study Lists Counterstrategies One chapter of the False Alarm Study lists an overview of counterstrategies. There are many well-known measures (e.g. two-detector dependency), and technical progress provides new opportunities (e. g. multisensory-detectors) Founded in 1970, Euralarm is an organization representing over 5000 companies within the fire safety and security industry valued at 67 billion Euros. The organization provides leadership and expertise for industry, market, policy makers and standards bodies. Euralarm members make society safer and secure through systems and services for fire detection and extinguishing, intrusion detection, access control, video monitoring, alarm transmission and alarm receiving centers. Euralarm members are national associations and individual companies from across Europe. Not all can be avoided People get annoyed by false fire alarms, which pull them out of what they are doing and force them to evacuate a building. However, it is a misconception that all false fire alarms can be avoided. A fire detection and fire alarm system is constantly monitoring and evaluating the environment in a building. Sometimes what might be perceived as a false fire alarm is in fact an event that was caught in a very early stage. Clearly it is better to be safe than sorry, and to move people to a safe area whilst intervention forces are in action.It is a misconception that all false fire alarms can be avoided False alarms should not be seen as purely negative. A lot can be learned from false alarms; for example, in dealing with vulnerabilities in the technical and organizational alerting process. In general, the number of false alarms is falling, while the number of installed systems is rising, demonstrating that technology works and that false alarm reduction strategies are effective. The number of false fire alarms had declined in all countries in the last years/decades due to optimized technologies. The industry is focusing on the remaining false alarms, some of which are systems that are outdated, no longer meeting site conditions and/or are not professionally maintained.
Drones can help save lives by delivering rescue equipment to the site of a medical emergency minutes faster than the arrival of emergency personnel. A recent trial of the technology in Ontario, Canada, demonstrated its value while expanding the capabilities to longer distances at even faster times. Automated external defibrillators The trial in the county of Renfrew used 4G LTE cellular connectivity to enable beyond-visual-line-of-site (BVLOS) drones to deliver automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to the scene of a cardiac arrest patient. The drones arrived more than 7 minutes before paramedic vehicles in each test flight. The trial in the county of Renfrew used 4G LTE cellular connectivity to enable BVLOS drones The American Heart Association estimates that more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside hospitals every year; some 70% occur in homes. Drones can deliver AEDs to private, residential and rural locations where static AEDs are almost never used. They can deliver to balconies or upper levels in high rise buildings. Drones equipped with cameras can help 911 dispatchers assess a victim’s condition and support bystander CPR and AED application. Multiple studies have shown that AEDs can significantly increase chances of survival. LTE-connected drones The trial in Ontario adds new elements to the scenario, including a greatly expanded range of flight. The LTE-connected drones can fly to locations in a 10-mile operating radius. The project is among the first to be granted permission for a BVLOS flight, which could expand the reach of emergency services. The project offers the potential to deliver life-saving AEDs to patients up to 80 miles away. The Ontario trial demonstrates a marked improvement: A study in Sweden previously demonstrated a median response time of more than 16 minutes. The trial also suggests the possibility of obtaining permission to fly rescue drones beyond the operator line-of-sight in the United States. The LTE-connected drones can fly to locations in a 10-mile operating radius Emergency responders “Given the large area and varied terrain that the county encompasses, it is often difficult to get paramedics to patients in a timely fashion,” explained County of Renfrew Paramedic Chief Michael Nolan. “We have been successfully using drones to support our emergency responders for several years, but until now, the operators have had line-of-sight of the situation. We will now have further reach than ever.” For the Ontario trial, InDro Robotics supplied unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Cradlepoint provided the NetCloud Service, including an on-board IoT router that enables LTE connectivity to control data and video between the vehicle and its pilot, using signals traveling over an LTE advanced cellular network. Ericsson provided 4G LTE equipment with carrier aggregation, cellular network design support, and drone research. Artificial Intelligence The drone flew over cellular to remote take-off points selected by GPS The drone flew over cellular to remote take-off points selected by GPS and landed successfully to deliver an AED to onsite researchers, who used the device to deliver required shocks to a mannequin. The drones could share images and video with operators and employ artificial intelligence to manage collision avoidance and other key functions. Looking ahead to additional deployment of drones to deliver AEDs and other equipment, the U.S. Fire Administration lists several implementation challenges: Where should drone launch sites be located? Where they can cover an entire region or where they are needed the most? How time-consuming and costly will drone maintenance be? How will recharge time or swap-out of AEDs factor into a system deployment? How long should the drone remain on the scene? Will drones be able to operate in poor weather such as icing, turbulence and extreme cold? Drone-delivered AEDs The County of Renfrew trial suggests new options for the technology. “What’s particularly innovative and exciting about this trial is the potential of drone-delivered AEDs to have a transformative impact on emergency care for patients suffering cardiac arrest,” said Nolan.
How can a building’s fire systems be integrated with access control and other security systems to ensure effective function of both? It can be a challenging and delicate endeavor. Integration of fire and security systems provides multiple benefits and some challenges to be addressed. It is useful to consider fire and security systems as part of the same overall mission to keep a building and its occupants safe, while also being attentive to the differing roles of the systems and how they can complement each other. integrating security and fire systems Integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency “There’s a conflict between life safety and security systems,” says Karen Trigg, Business Development Manager, South East, for lock company Allegion (UK) Ltd. “We must secure buildings without impeding the flow of movement and hindering immediate escape should a fire incident occur. To do this, we must have a greater understanding of building requirements.” In today’s world, integrating security and fire systems is becoming paramount to create improved efficiency and effectiveness of a building’s safety technology — and this integration can provide monumental benefits, says Eric Widlitz, Vice President of Sales for North America for access control company Vanderbilt Industries. video management systems For example, in the event of a fire, an alarm from a fire system can trigger an access control system to release locks on fire escape doors, as well as generate muster reports to provide information on who is inside the building, says Widlitz. “Additionally, video management systems have the ability to provide access to real-time, remote video footage of the fire’s actual location, helping firefighters and other emergency personnel to assess the situation and respond with greater accuracy.” Many challenges and opportunities that facilities face when integrating systems relate to whether a building’s infrastructure is designed well enough to connect security and fire systems, says Julie Brown, Institutional Market Leader for Johnson Controls. By conducting a site assessment first, owners and managers can better determine where physical building updates may be needed. Integration Of Video Surveillance And Fire Alarms Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier" For example, if video surveillance is obstructed in certain areas, owners need to identify if the cameras can be moved to a better location or if physical alterations to the building are needed. “Adjusting design in this case can eventually help make the integration of video surveillance and fire alarms easier,” says Brown. “In the event that a fire alarm sounds, owners can have peace of mind that their cameras have an unobstructed view and that they can be automatically alerted to provide visibility into the area affected and potential cause of the alarm. It is critical to occupant safety that building owners address any design hurdles. Budget is often an issue,” says Trigg. “Although a challenge, understanding budgets – not only for the system in place but also ongoing maintenance and upgrades – helps uncover the correct solution, showing that the ‘cheaper option’ may cost more in the long run for some.” thermal imaging cameras Joe Byron, Vice President for the Americas for MOBOTIX Corp, says integrating fire and security opens the door to a world of possibilities. “When specifically looking at industrial applications, these systems require an added layer of reliability in order to guarantee workplace safety and operational efficiency,” he says. This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines" Byron points to a specific deployment as an example: MOBOTIX’s work with KUHN RIKON, a world-renowned cookware manufacturer. In 2015, during mechanical pot polishing, an abrasive component spontaneously combusted causing a large-scale fire, leading to a dust explosion, says Byron. “While an unfortunate tragedy, this led to an opportunity to outfit the plant with thermal imaging cameras,” he adds. “This technology is tied into the fire-suppression system and can monitor the temperature of specified machines. With built-in logic, the cameras can alert technicians to heat warnings and, if not acted upon, can automatically shut-down the machinery and queue fire systems if required.” Fire And Security Systems A well-designed and integrated control room can help to organize, automate and streamline critical sensors by implementing workstations that transmit only the most critical information at any given time. “Additionally, operators are better equipped to make more educated and timely decision by leveraging audible alarms, visual LED indicators and video displays with built-in intelligence to change content based on triggers from third-party systems such as fire, building automation and access control,” says Dan Gundry, Director of National Control Room Sales for Vistacom. At the end of the day, fire and security systems are two elements of the same mission: To keep buildings and their occupants safe. However, the two systems often operate independently and may not be integrated. More integration offers benefits, but there are pitfalls to be avoided.
Among the tools of the fire service, some of the most powerful are hand-held devices. These technologies provide information to firefighters than can direct their approaches to emergency situations and safe lives. Today, more powerful devices are available in smaller, hand-held form, sometimes taking the place of much larger and more expensive devices. For example, previously the Los Angeles Fire Department carried just one large thermal imaging camera (TIC) that cost upwards of $10,000 on each fire engine. Structure Damage Evaluation Los Angeles is one of the municipal fire departments in the country to equip every on-duty firefighter with a hand-held TIC A new, smartphone-sized TIC from Seek Thermal, Santa Barbara, Calif., costs just $750 and now offers each firefighter the ability to perform faster search and rescues, execute a self-rescue if needed and locate smoldering hot spots. Los Angeles is one of the largest municipal fire departments in the country to equip every on-duty firefighter with a hand-held TIC. The purchase of a thousand TICs for the LAFD was made possible by the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation through the support of individual donors and organizations such as the Wasserman Foundation and California Community Foundation. Hand-held TICs are becoming more and more popular. FLIR has unveiled the K1 handheld TIC that is more affordable for first responder officers and fire investigators. At $599, the K1 detects heat and provides visibility through smoke and in total darkness to enhance situational awareness for use in wildland fire control, search and rescue missions, structure damage evaluation and investigative work. FLIR has unveiled the K1 handheld TIC that is affordable for first responder officers and fire investigators Gas Leak Detector The K1 is powered by the FLIR Lepton thermal microcamera and uses MSX technology, which extracts high-contrast details from the images taken by an onboard visible light camera and superimposes them onto the thermal images. It simultaneously captures thermal and visible images of a scene and stores up to 10,000 image sets to create post-scene reports, analysis and evidence. A pistol grip design allows firefighters to view a scene from their line-of-sight for improved safety and situational awareness. A spot thermometer easily identifies unseen hot and cold spots for instant troubleshooting. New handheld devices in the fire service also include a gas leak detector and a combination device that is cloud-ready. The Ultra-Trac LZ-30 compact methane-specific leak detector from Sensit Technologies provides fast and accurate readings up to 100 feet away. The device uses TDLAS (tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy) to provide instantaneous alerts to the presence of methane. Potentially Dangerous Situations Firefighters can conduct leak detection investigations themselves without the need for PPM detectors Operating at a distance, the LZ-30 eliminates the need for firefighters to access the gas plume directly and keeps them safe from potentially dangerous situations. They don’t have to climb to elevated areas or access fenced-in property or climb to elevated areas. Firefighters can conduct leak detection investigations themselves without the need for specialized PPM detectors – no need to wait for gas engineers. A simple interface provides user-friendly operation of the ergonomically designed instrument. Another wireless, handheld device includes thermal imaging, firefighter ranging, motion alarm and cloud technology with GPS. MSA Fire’s LUNAR is a small, wireless, cloud-ready device designed to provide higher levels of protection for firefighters through enhanced vision, improved situational awareness, and team connectivity. It is part of a suite of SMA products that, when used together provides a new platform for firefighter safety. MSA Fire’s LUNAR is a small, wireless, cloud-ready device designed to provide higher levels of protection for firefighters Better Situational Awareness It can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of an MSA self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) system. Thermal imaging increases visibility and improves situational awareness. Firefighter ranging combines direction and distance information to find separated teammates and decrease response time. A motion alarm sounds an alert if it does not detect a firefighter’s motion. Production of the device will begin in summer 2020. The ability to provide better situational awareness to firefighters in the palm of their hands can go a long way toward keeping firefighters safer. For example, LAFD says the thousand new TICs are a significant technology purchase and a critical component to their ‘Everyone Goes Home’ initiative. We often marvel at the powers of modern technology, and clearly those powers include saving lives.
The wildfire season in 11 Western U.S. states has started out slower than last year, although deadly fires could still develop in the second half of the season, as they did last year. Meanwhile, wildfires in the Arctic have reached new levels, especially in Alaska and Siberia. Wildfires in the West killed 160 people and caused $40 billion in damage in the past two years, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The trend is toward larger fires burning more acres – especially in years that are warm. This year has presented some relief. Through mid-July, California’s wildfire numbers were down: from 34,957 large fires on 3,554,03 acres in 2018 to 23,378 fires covering 2,371,397 acres in 2019, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. 87 wildfire incidents reported so far In Alaska, a dry spell this year has exacerbated 58 large fires throughout the state, including the Hess Creek Fire The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported 310 significant incidents (consuming at least 10 acres) in 2018, compared to only 87 significant incidents so far this year. The largest has been the Lonoak fire in Monterey. There were 38 wildfires that burned at least 2,000 acres in California in 2018; there have been only four such blazes in California through mid-July 2019. However, five of California’s largest fires last year happened in the second half of the year. In Alaska, a dry spell this year has exacerbated 58 large fires throughout the state, including the Hess Creek Fire, the largest so far in 2019. Effects of wildfires on Artic ice On the international level, the scale of wildfires in Siberia has been unusually high and dangerously close to population centers, and some environmentalists are concerned the soot from the fires can deposit on Arctic ice, speed up its melt rate, disrupt the local ecosystem, and even increase the sea level rise. Some fires are also in remote areas that are difficult to reach. Fires throughout the Arctic – in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska – are producing plumes of smoke visible from space. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has called the Arctic blazes ‘unprecedented’. Fires throughout the Arctic – in Greenland, Siberia and Alaska – are producing plumes of smoke visible from space Arctic fires are not only the result of dry vegetation; in some cases, the underlying peat has caught fire. “The amount of [carbon dioxide] emitted from Arctic circle fires in June 2019 is larger than all the combined CO2 released from Arctic circle fires in the same month from 2010 through 2018,” the WMO says. Forests are more vulnerable during droughts Throughout the Western U.S., higher temperatures correlate well with larger wildfires: The warmest weather years have equated to the most fires. Forests are more vulnerable during droughts, but even a wet winter may not relieve fire risks, according to Climate Central. The moisture can spur growth of grasses and shrubs, which dry out on warmer days and provide additional fuel The moisture can spur growth of grasses and shrubs, which dry out on warmer days and provide additional fuel. Climate Central’s analysis is based on data reported by the U.S. Forest Service covering Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Data shows that many states are struggling to use prescribed burns to reduce fuel for out-of-control blazes, but there is much less federal funding for prescribed burns than for fire suppression, according to Climate Central. Compressed wildfire season expected Looking forward, an active but compressed wildfire season is expected across the West as the southwestern monsoon becomes more active in August. While this will effectively end the season across the Southwest, lightning-induced fire activity is expected to increase elsewhere, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. By October and November, California will reenter the fire season amid concerns of higher-than-average fire potential due to the presence of an abundant crop of fine fuels in the lower to middle elevations.
Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations to the U.K. Government after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 were that the competence of the individuals working in the construction and life cycle of Higher Risk Residential Buildings (HRRBs) needs to improve and be clearer. Work had already started in many fire protection sectors to create fully recognized qualifications, and these help raise the benchmark. Improving fire safety training A force driving improvements in training is the Fire Industry Association (FIA). As a trade association, FIA is looking at ways to help its members and the broader industry sectors. One way to do that is to improve the training that FIA has provided to fire detection and fire alarm technicians for over 20 years. Having looked at various ways of doing this, FIA’s members agreed that creating nationally recognized qualifications would help add more professionalism to this sector. To offer nationally recognized qualifications, the FIA chose to become an awarding body registered with OFQUAL [Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation]. Initially, training is focused on the FD&A [Fire Detection and Alarm] sector, with future plans to offer training in other fire sectors. The process of becoming an awarding body was rigorous and difficult. It took FIA more than three years of applying and submitting policy documents before the organization finally achieved awarding body status in 2014. Fire system installation roles Training is provided in the four job roles as described in the fire system installation standard BS 5389/1: 2017 Training is provided in the four job roles as described in the fire system installation standard BS 5389/1: 2017; they are Design, Installation, Commissioning and Maintenance. These roles are also recognized within company third party certifications schemes (LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203). The designer designs the FD&A system, and the Installer installs it. The Commissioning technician checks and signs off the installation, and the Maintenance technician will complete the routine maintenance during the life of the system. Training modules Training in FIA’s four qualifications, at National Vocational Qualification Level 3, is broken down into modules. The Foundation is the information that each job role needs and is common to all four job roles, as is the Environment module and the Health and Safety module. These are the core modules. The final job-specific module picks up on the differences among the roles; e.g., what does a maintenance technician need to know that is different to an install technician? “Providing a qualification requires a process of asking the sector what it wants,” says Martin Duggan, General Manager, Fire Industry Association (FIA). “We went through a comprehensive route with ‘voice of the customer’ days and surveys plus syllabus reviews to check and double-check that the qualification reflects what the industry wants.” The base is the BS 5389 standard, although more was added such as Health and Safety and Environmental aspects. National Vocational Qualification Level 3 Level 3 is for supervisors or unsupervised workers and in a lot of cases, the individual will work unsupervised once they are qualified and have gained experience. The work done to create the services standard EN 16763: 2017 Services for Fire Safety Systems and Security Systems identified Level 3 as the appropriate level. The trailblazer aimed at apprentices in this sector also reached a conclusion that level 3 was the right one, as did FIA’s own research. Many electricians and security companies install fire alarm systems as their skills are very similar; however, the Fire Safety Order (England and Wales) states that a responsible person should only use competent persons to install and maintain fire protection systems. But how do you prove competence? Training in FIA’s four qualifications, at National Vocational Qualification Level 3, is broken down into modules Fire Safety Order “One of the worst things we see from all types of installers into buildings is leaving big holes in compartment walls,” says Duggan. (A compartment wall is designed to contain the spread of fire for a designated period of time.) “These should all be correctly sealed up.” The work being done by Working Group 2 (Installers) as part of the industry response group to Government on Dame Judith Hackett’s recommendations includes: Company third party certification (so that the purchasing of services is done through a recognized company). The individuals the companies employ have a relevant recognized qualification. This is backed up on site with a CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) card or equivalent. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) or refresher training is introduced A basic knowledge of fire safe building and compartmentation is understood. “It’s this final piece that will help drive cultural change quickly, if we can implement it correctly,” says Duggan. “Can we get all installers to understand why we build compartments and why it’s so important not to damage these and allow smoke, heat and fire to move freely about a building?” LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 The benchmark for the FD&A industry has been third party certification with the two schemes LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 The benchmark for the FD&A industry has been company third party certification with the two schemes LPS 1014 and BAFE SP203 being well established for the last 20 years; however, there are many companies that still are not registered, says Duggan. The excuse is based on cost, that customers are not asking for it, and that it’s not mandatory. “The way the current legislation works and is policed, it’s only likely that poor installations etc. will be found after a serious fire when it’s too late,” says Duggan. “Unfortunately, customers do not fully understand their duties to only employ competent people, and the courts will ask: What is the industry best practice and what more could have been done to prove your competence?” Third party schemes “We have company third party schemes for most fire protection disciplines and there are qualifications coming online for most sectors as well,” says Duggan. “These are what the FIA would point to as best practice.”
After the World Trade Center attack, First Responders had difficulty communicating quickly and comprehensively. Other crises and emergency events such as the Sandy Hook School shootings, Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Parkland School shootings and many more have continued to validate the desperate need for interoperable communication among First Responders. First Responders, first line of defense In emergency situations, First Responders are the first line of defense for safety and rescue missions. They depend on digital and connected technologies to facilitate life-saving assistance, manage crisis situations, and to bring order to chaos. There is a lack of infrastructure for communications media (radio, video, mobile communications, sensory information, telephony, data files and chat) throughout disconnected silos in both vertical and horizontal environments. Universally, national interoperable communications solutions for emergency response have remained elusive, despite significant investments and determined efforts by many. The company supplies secured communications technologies that deliver speed, flexibility Providing a solution for interoperable communications is Agile, Bethesda, Md., formerly known as Agile Interoperable Solutions. The company supplies secured communications technologies that deliver speed, flexibility and a range of 4G, 5G and LTE coverage. Agile’s line of incident command products support both land and marine applications and do not require hardware changes or full replacement with each new generation. CORE system integration platform Each Agile technology is an extension of its flagship product, CORE (Common Operating Radio Engine). CORE integrates Landline, Cellular, Radio, Wi-Fi and Satellite communications in a portable, ruggedized enclosure supporting incident response and command and control functions. CORE provides interoperability and unified incident command for secure communications among multiple and disparate parties, agencies, vehicles and IoT-enabled devices under harsh conditions. In conjunction with CORE’s interoperable capabilities, Agile’s remote management and virtual SIM technologies provide flexibility and economies of both SIM utilization and hardware maintenance. The management server allows in-field units to be supported, updated, and reconfigured remotely. Virtualization allows SIMS to be loaded onto Agile’s cellular gateways from a central SIM library as needed to change or add cell carriers or a number of active LTE connections. Agile’s technologies provide voice, SMS, MMS, IMS and data over 4G, 5G and LTE up to gigabit coverage. Public and infrastructure safety First Responders should be first in line to this technology because their job is to save lives" “First Responders should be first in line to this technology because their job is to save lives,” says Vernon Guillermo, Agile’s Co-Chief Executive Officer/COO. “Emergencies are unpredictable, and the nature of risk dictates that one does not know who one needs to coordinate with, where that person is or what form of communications and information will be required to mitigate or manage the issues that arise.” First Responder workforces face the most demanding and often dangerous work environments, performing jobs that are critical to public safety and protecting infrastructure, delivering patients to hospitals, fighting fires, operating mass transit vehicles and maintaining the power grid. “These mission-critical workers cannot afford to be disconnected from dispatchers and operations – even for a few minutes. Agile’s technology, CORE, provides the solution for First Responders to achieve secured interoperable communications”, says Shehryar Wahid, Agile Co-Chief Executive Officer/CTO. Bridging communication gaps “During times when immediate and coordinated communication is tantamount, Agile can provide the bridge to close communications gaps and help keep First Responders connected and assist them in their efforts to save lives”, says Wahid. Agile’s technologies are being deployed by a major Southern Florida municipality’s First Responders and firefighters and are on the verge of being deployed by other governmental and non-governmental entities. The 9-11 Commission discovered that a lack of interoperable communications between fire and police was a serious problem that hampered evacuations and contributed to the deaths of personnel after the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) National Emergency Communications Plan (NECP) defines “interoperability” as follows, “The ability of emergency responders to communicate among jurisdictions, disciplines, and levels of government, using a variety of frequency bands, as needed and as authorized.” CORE integrates landline, cellular, radio, WiFi and satellite communications Secured interoperable communications tools Wahid says Agile’s technologies help address this challenge by offering secure interoperable communications tools. Additionally, emergency environments are not static events; new primary, secondary and tertiary effects can emerge rapidly. Therefore, communications are needed with those both in immediate proximity and considerably more remote. “The individuals who are tasked with running these communication systems can themselves be bandwidth-challenged, given the increasing complexity of technology they are required to master while facing increasingly tighter budgets,” Wahid adds. Funding and implementation of technology in general can be challenging. In addition to direct purchasing of Agile products, Agile offers leasing options to ensure affordability to those with challenging budgets. All Agile’s products are solid-state and ruggedized to withstand severe and extreme weather conditions. Agile is the crucial tool and solution First Responders need to help them save lives. “Agile just provides First Responders the desperately needed secured interoperable communications tools,” Wahid says. “There is a misconception that interoperable communications have already been achieved,” says Guillermo. “Unfortunately, with unpredictable emergencies that arise all over the world, First Responders are reminded with each event about the critical need for integrative communications under the most rigorous of circumstances. Agile’s mission is to bring the complete solution to First Responders globally.”
One lesson of Grenfell is how many fire system technicians operate without the appropriate qualifications. Since the Grenfell tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt has called for all relevant trades to hold formal qualifications, and for industry to implement a system in which clients and end users can be assured that operatives are fully competent. Another lesson is that fire service audits of buildings are no longer fit for purpose. For instance, the current system does not require proof that a fire system was installed by a “competent person.” Fire safety in commercial buildings “The general public would be horrified to learn that someone can fit a fire safety system in a commercial building without any proper qualifications or licence,” says Tom Brookes, Managing Director of Lindum Fire Services Ltd., former Chairman of the British Fire Consortium (BFC), and current Chairman of the Fire and Security Association. When it comes to competency, the whole industry needs to up its game" “When it comes to competency, the whole industry needs to up its game,” says Brookes. “Some larger companies are upskilling their staff and moving towards formal qualifications. If small- and medium-sized enterprises do not follow suit, they will fall behind and may be excluded from the marketplace altogether.” Working Group 2 on installer competence Working Group 2 on installer competence was established after the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt’s final report last year, under the joint leadership of Build UK and the Fire Sector Federation. The group has discussed extensively the need for systems engineers to be suitably qualified and able to demonstrate their competence. “In my opinion, there is too much focus on rival competency schemes rather than overall industry outcomes, which somewhat muddies the waters,” says Brookes. “However, one thing that has become crystal clear is that all fire and emergency systems engineers will likely need to hold a Level 3 qualification in the future.” Training provided BFC, FIA and IFEDA Although quality training is provided through the British Fire Consortium (BFC), Fire Industry Association (FIA), Independent Fire Engineering & Distributors Association (IFEDA) and others, historically there have been no Ofqual-approved qualifications for the fire sector. (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation [Ofqual] is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests.) Changes are afoot, however. In England, the Fire, Emergency Systems and Security trailblazer apprenticeship attracted around 300 new starts last year. The FIA have replaced their 20-year-old training programmes with a new system that will enable technicians who complete the series to achieve their Level 3 qualifications. Since the Grenfell tragedy, Dame Judith Hackitt has called for all relevant trades to hold formal qualifications BS5839-1:2017 Ofqual-approved qualification The awarding organization EAL are launching a BS5839-1:2017 Ofqual-approved qualification in August 2019. This will allow previously trained engineers to sit an exam and gain a Level 3 award demonstrating up-to-date knowledge. Practical skills testing for more experienced technicians, outside of an apprenticeship, is something FSA are currently working hard on with partners including ECA, NET and ECS. “Our aim is for a few options to become available for operatives to gain some sort of practical competence certification,” says Brookes. “More technological solutions are now being considered for competency evaluation, such as uploading video assessments of candidates to a portal for assessors. This is already used for some NVQ type assessments and widely used in the USA. It may be just what our sector needs at this moment in time.” 'Accountable Person' role Latest Government report following Grenfell states they are looking to create a role in commercial buildings The latest Government report following Grenfell states they are looking to create a role in commercial buildings called the “Accountable Person.” This person will have a legal responsibility to ensure people working on systems are competent. While only for high rise and high-risk buildings, like all developments, it will likely spread throughout the sector. “For as long as I have been in the fire industry trade bodies have called upon the fire authorities and Government to legislate to stop unskilled workers installing and maintaining fire safety equipment,” says Brookes. He notes that both independent third-party certification of businesses and CSCS partner card schemes like ECS for individuals are voluntary arrangements. To date, neither Government nor fire services insist either scheme is used by a fire protection company. “If, heaven forbid, we witnessed another tragedy like Grenfell tomorrow, sadly I suspect the outcome would be very much the same,” says Brookes. “However, looking further ahead, I am confident buildings will be safer once new legislation comes into force and effectively eliminates the threat of incompetent and unqualified fire and emergency system engineers.”
When it comes to physical fitness, every fire department’s approach is different. Some have invested in a fitness initiative, others haven’t. Some struggle to create culture change and an environment where physical fitness is a priority and not an afterthought. Other departments don’t know where to begin, or they approach the issue of health and fitness randomly with approaches that may not be based on science. Firefighters physical health Worse, some departments embrace systems that are too strenuous or likely to cause injury. Using heavy weights can cause harm. Sometimes firefighters exercise beyond the point of fatigue. Basketball may be good exercise, but the risk of ankle sprains and other injuries outweighs the benefits. Any exercise program should be science-based and should “engineer out” the likelihood of injury" “Any exercise program should be science-based and should “engineer out” the likelihood of injury”, says Bryan Fass, Founder and President of Injury Prevention Systems and the Fit Responder. He works nationally with departments to reduce injuries and improve fitness for first responders. Need for a fitness policy at fire stations “Some departments have a ‘fitness policy’ that says firemen should work out whenever they can,” says Fass. “Others have no policy at all, and some have to deal with cities, command staff and unions – it’s hard to have a focused goal because everybody wants something different.” Some departments have built a centrally located fitness facility that crews from multiple firehouses can use on a rotating basis. Others may simply have an arrangement with a local health club that is agreeable to a fire truck being parked out front. A principal benefit of a physical fitness program is avoidance of on-the-job injuries Avoiding on-the-job physical injuries A principal benefit of a physical fitness program is avoidance of on-the-job injuries. The number one physical affliction for firefighters and EMTs is low-back injury. Firefighters also suffer shoulder injuries from pulling; or knee injuries from tripping, stepping in a hole, or climbing in and out of a truck. Injuries also tend to be less severe – and to heal more quickly – among physically fit patients. Fit firefighters are less likely to suffer from heart attacks in a high-stress/high-heat environment. Fitness also helps to offset fatigue. Research shows that a “fit but fatigued” firefighter will outperform, have less risk of injury and better cardiac health than an “unfit but fresh” firefighter in a high-stress/high-heat environment. In short, better fitness equates to better work capacity and fewer injuries. Addressing wide fitness level disparities When it comes to fitness, a concern is the wide disparity among fitness levels of firefighters When it comes to fitness, a concern is the wide disparity among fitness levels of firefighters. There are young firefighters who are relatively fit working out side-by-side with an aging workforce that isn’t equipped for the same level of activity. In the middle are some motivated souls who are more health-conscious. An approach that works for all three groups is to introduce activities with a low-risk-high-reward ratio. Regularly scheduled exercises should cater to the lowest-common-denominator participants. Exercise programs should be risk-averse. Importance of physical fitness programs A big need for fire departments is to have more structure in their physical fitness programs. “The need for structure is there, but every department is different,” says Fass. In fact, a misconception about firefighter fitness is that they have to train all the time. Rather, a balanced approach works best. When scheduling exercise routines for each shift, different kinds of workouts should be scheduled about two days apart. One day might be high intensity; another might be a mobility/recovery workout; a third might be primal lifting, squats and deadlifts; and a fourth might be stability/mild cardio (core training). The light schedule assumes that more fitness-conscious firefighters would work out more strenuously on their own time. A big need for fire departments is to have more structure in their physical fitness programs Incorporating high nutrition in firefighters’ diet Some departments embrace the concepts of good nutrition and how they can impact everything from a firefighter’s fatigue to their ability to survive on the fire ground; others revolt and won’t even listen. There are geographical differences, too: The West Coast is more health-conscious than the Northwest or South. Eliminating pain, increasing mobility and fighting fatigue are prerequisites for an exercise program Eliminating pain, increasing mobility and fighting fatigue are prerequisites for an exercise program. Participants should be taught to self-treat pain in the 16 “trigger points” around the body using therapeutic tools, such as a foam roller or tennis ball. There are tools to target each area of pain. Adopting a “mobility program” involves stretching for greater flexibility and mobility. And combatting fatigue means ensuring that firefighters get enough sleep. Incentives for fit firefighters Fears for their job security may be an unspoken but real concern among firemen presented with a new fitness program: “Get fit, or else….” Fitness programs should allow plenty of time for participants to get back into shape,” says Fass. Some departments offer incentives to employees who achieve better fitness, such as a cash award, gift card, or extra time off. Some offer incentives to do tests based on NFPA 1582, which outlines an occupational medical program to reduce risks and provide for the health, safety, and effectiveness of firefighters.
The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) is setting the standard for the use of drones in firefighting applications. As one of the first major metropolitan fire departments to have a significant drone program, LAFD has flown more than 175 missions in less than two years, including the Skirball fire that burned the Bel Air neighborhood in December 2017. Since Skyfire Consulting, a drone services and training company, helped LAFD secure a Certificate of Authorization (COA) for the drone program, the agency has established a training regimen, secured new products and equipment and grown their program to 17 licensed pilots and a fleet of nine drones. When privacy worries created a backlash in the community, the LAFD met the concerns head-on and ensured their standard operating procedures (SOPs) addressed any privacy issues. Incorporate Drone Technology LAFD started a Pilots Training and Ground School Course earlier in 2019 A report to the Board of Fire Commissioners in March from LAFD Chief Ralph Terrazas outlined the program’s progress. LAFD started a Pilots Training and Ground School Course earlier in 2019 to teach flight skills concepts and legal aspects. LAFD Battalion Chief Richard Fields told the commission the LAFD’s drone program has become a national standard. “We are mentioned in literature, we are mentioned in conferences, we are mentioned across the city family as well as outside agencies,” Fields commented, as reported by NBC4 in Los Angeles. In April, drone technology company DJI announced a Solution Development Partnership with the LAFD to create, test and deploy DJI drones as an emergency response and preparedness tool. The agreement will provide the LAFD with access to new technologies, training and support to incorporate drone technology in its operations. Thermal Imaging Cameras LAFD flies DJI Matrice 600 Series and DJI Phantom 4 Pro drones equipped with visual and thermal imaging cameras that provide real-time video and data transmission to incident commanders. LAFD will continue to use DJI drone technology across a variety of situations including hot-spot identification and aerial mapping to help manage wildfire response, as well as incident response for swiftwater rescues, hazmat operations, and urban search and rescue missions. LAFD will continue to use DJI drone technology across a variety of situations “The LAFD has been working through a pragmatic approach to adopting drone technology for several years, including developing policies and procedures that define clear use case scenarios and building awareness among the general public about the positive life- and property-saving benefits drone technology can provide,” says Fields. “[The partnership with DJI] gives the Department access to developments such as drones equipped with thermal cameras that will give incident commanders a real-time bird’s-eye perspective,” he adds. Complex Urban Environments When considering the benefits of drones, departments of any size can be inspired by LAFD’s example “Combining advanced drone technology with new software tools will help bridge the gap between [the capabilities of] helicopters and [those of] firefighters on the ground, allowing us to address life-threatening situations faster and more effectively than ever before.” The LAFD’s drone program is one of 910 public safety organizations in the U.S. deploying drones for life saving activities, according to the Bard Center for the Study of the Drone (May 2018). “While the LAFD program shows how drones can succeed when operated within expansive, urban areas by a large department, drone technology is valuable to municipalities of any size,” says Romeo Durscher, Director of Public Safety Integration at DJI. “Through our two-way collaboration [with LAFD], we will receive valuable insight into the complexities of deploying drones for emergency situations in one of the most complex urban environments in the nation,” says Bill Chen, Enterprise Partnerships Manager at DJI. When considering the benefits of drones, departments of any size can be inspired by LAFD’s example.
FIREX International, 18-20 June, 2019, at ExCel London will feature 25-plus hours of seminars and panel discussions along with an exhibition of 130-plus manufacturers showcasing products for fire safety. A Sprinkler and Suppression Presentation Area will highlight the important category. Also, for the fourth year, the International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference will take place alongside FIREX International. There will be 18,000 fire prevention and protection professionals from over 70 countries in attendance at FIREX International. Seminars and panel debates, held in the dedicated Expertise and Guidance Theatre, will include sessions covering tall building safety, passive fire protection, case studies, and more. One session will consider how the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union will impact fire safety laws and the fire industry. Implications of fire safety regulations A presentation will cover the development of new tests to assess video smoke and flame detectorsThe aftermath of the Grenfell fire will be the backdrop of several sessions. One will address the competency of fire, emergency and security systems technicians in the post-Grenfell era, presented by Fire and Security Association Chairman Tom Brookes. Also, a panel discussion will consider the process control and record-keeping requirements of Dame Judith Hackitt's proposed ‘golden thread of information’ that spans regulatory, design, compliance, construction and operational management functions. Another session will speak to post-Grenfell implications of fire safety and future regulations, and there will be a summary of the government response to the Hackitt/ADB review and its impact on passive fire protection. Other topics include training, testing, and fire risk assessment. A case study will highlight the importance of smoke alarms in rented properties. A session on defining Fire Industry Association (FIA) Qualifications will address the impact of best practice, legislation and standards. A presentation will cover the development of new tests to assess video smoke and flame detectors. And there will be an update on industry efforts to create an overarching competence body for the fire safety sector. Thousands of products on display The Passive Protection Zone offers an opportunity for delegates to develop their knowledge of passive fire protectionFIREX International caters to everyone within the fire safety buying chain from manufacturers, distributors, installers, integrators, consultants to end users. With tens of thousands of products on display, attendees can test and try them out hands-on. The largest presence at the show will be the Fire Solutions stand, organized by Halma, which will feature six leading suppliers of fire safety technology from the same commercial family hosted at a single stand. The featured exhibitors will be Advanced, Apollo Fire Detectors, Argus Security, FFE UK, Klaxon and LAN Control Systems. The Passive Protection Zone offers an opportunity for delegates to develop their knowledge of passive fire protection via a variety of seminars and workshops. Plus, Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP) member companies will be located around the zone, displaying related products. Tall Building Fire Safety Conference The 6th International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference will focus on innovation, drones, fire science and more. Topics on Day 1 will be fire engineering, fire testing and fire science in tall buildings. Day 2 will address fire risk management, insurance and construction in tall buildings. Day 3 will focus on firefighting in tall buildings. FIREX International is co-located with IFSEC International, Facilities Show, Safety & Health Expo and Field Service Management Expo, catering to those working across many platforms, including building management, and protection and safety of people and information.
More firemen die of suicide each year than are killed in the line of duty. For example, in 2017, at least 103 firefighters and/or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers in the United States committed suicide, but only 93 firefighters died in the line of duty. Mental Health Disorder Effects The grim statistic is a wakeup call to the tragic effects of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide on firefighters and EMS workers. Between 14.6 and 22% of firefighters experience PTSD, 11% suffer depression and almost half (46.8%) have had thoughts of suicide at least once. These insights into the mental health of firefighters and EMS workers are contained in a white paper commissioned by the Ruderman Foundation, and authored by Dr. Miriam Heyman, senior program officer. Increasing PTSD cases among firefighters PTSD results from constant exposure to death and destruction PTSD results from constant exposure to death and destruction. Experiencing PTSD is akin to persistently re-experiencing troubling events in the form of flashbacks or nightmares, trouble sleeping or concentrating, irritability and feelings of isolation and self-blame. Other findings highlighted in the white paper include: Paid firefighters are more likely to receive mental health service through their departments than their volunteer counterparts. PTSD and depression rates among firefighters have been found to be as much as 5 times higher than rates in the civilian population. Even when suicide doesn’t occur, untreated mental illness can lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making. High rates of binge and hazardous drinking behavior have been reported; one study found the rate that respondents reported binge drinking in the previous month was 58%. Shame and stigma attached to mental illness discourage many firefighters from accessing necessary mental health services to help them cope with trauma. Improving mental health of first responders “First responders are heroes who run toward danger every day to save the lives of others, and their work exerts a toll on their mental health,” says Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “It is our obligation to support them in every way possible and make them feel welcome and able to access life-saving mental health care.” McKenna was shaken by the 2016 suicide of Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff Furthermore, the general public remains largely unaware of the issues since the majority of first responder suicides are not covered by the media. Ruderman says departments should encourage or require first responders to access mental health services annually to identify issues early and get needed help. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline “Asking for help was not an option because I was [a] superhero,” says Chris McKenna, a volunteer firefighter and EMT for the Vigilant Hose Company in Emmitsburg, Md. “Nothing could hurt me, and I was afraid what my friends would think,” he told NBC Channel 4 in Washington. “There was one night that I almost committed suicide; I almost became a statistic.” McKenna was shaken by the 2016 suicide of Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff. “I want people to know that mental health in the fire service is OK,” McKenna told the TV station. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. With the sights that we see every day, it’s OK to have nightmares about it. It’s normal. The brain isn’t going to be able to see something traumatic and just turn it off.” The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 provides a 24-hour crisis line connecting with a crisis worker or a confidential live chat online.
From students to policymakers, safety professionals at all levels will gather at the NFPA Conference & Expo, June 17-20, at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas. The multi-faceted event will include a technical session addressing standards development, a product and services exhibition, and education sessions about a range of topics, some of them relating to the fire service. The NFPA Technical Meeting, also known as ‘Tech Session,’ is an important element in the standards development process, ensuring that consensus is achieved on proposed changes to NFPA Standards prior to Standards Council review. Education sessions There will be 120-plus education sessions at the Conference & Expo During this meeting, supporters and opponents of certified motions voice their opinions, and qualified NFPA members vote on proposed changes. The three-day Expo, June 17-19, highlights products and services from 350-plus suppliers that are needed to meet and maintain compliance with prevailing codes and standards in the design, construction and operation of buildings and facilities. There will be 120-plus education sessions at the Conference & Expo. Here is a sampling of some of the education sessions related to the fire service. Engaging Local Officials for Wildfire Risk Reduction - Case studies from organizations around the world illustrate the impact of engaging local officials early and effectively to reduce wildfire Integrating Wildfire into Public Education Messaging - The National Fire Protection Association's Wildfire Division will host an interactive conversation about professional development, engaging residents in wildfire risk reduction, and the resources available to help integrate wildfire into public education outreach efforts. Improving Fireground Visibility Using the Internet of Things - A system incorporates cost-effective, lightweight Internet of Things (IoT) devices, an advanced real-time analytics system, and visualization capabilities to enable incident commanders and firefighters to leverage data from the scene in real-time. Enhanced Smoke Alarms and New UL Testing Standard - Research has enhanced technology that can recognize different fire and smoke characteristics created by changes in home design, building techniques, and modern furnishings -- resulting in fewer nuisance alarms. Cancer and Firefighting PPE - The reality is that firefighters are regularly exposed to carcinogen contamination. Considering dermal exposure, inhalation exposure, and off-gassing, how much protection can firefighters expect from their PPE? Wildfire Tactical Support - The UK’s Response to the Record-Breaking 2018 Wildfires. The United Kingdom’s ‘Wildfire Tactical Advisors’ (WTA) model provides valuable lessons on fire department engagement, including experienced fire officers who support the fire incident commanders at wildfire incidents. ROI on Smoke Alarm Installation Programs - Panel members from NFPA and the Red Cross will explore approaches to smoke alarm program evaluation using the Reach, Efficacy, Adoption, Implementation, and Maintenance (RE-AIM) framework to guide discussion. Foam Firefighting Technologies of the Future - Pressurized Instant Foam (Pi Foam) stores the premixed foam solution initially in a calm environment, and then in a pressurized vessel with soluble gas. At the time of the incident, ready-made foam covers the fire without any foam generator. Connected Technologies for Water-Based Fire Protection Systems - Smart Connected Things (SCoT) used in water-based fire protection systems will enable both owners and service providers to determine system status and perform some inspection and testing functions remotely.
There are 200 video cameras keeping watch throughout five Western United States to provide early warning of wildfires. In the near future, the number of cameras will be growing dramatically. Soon there will be more than 1,000 of the cameras in California alone, keeping watch on thousands of acres at risk of destructive events like last year’s deadly Camp and Woolsey wildfires. The ALERTWildfire cameras are installed through a consortium of universities – the University of Nevada, Reno; the University of California, San Diego; and the University of Oregon. Dozens of partners also participate in ALERTWildfire, including the National Forest Service, other government agencies, utilities and other private companies, state and local fire departments, and NGOs (non-governmental organizations). “It takes a lot of people, pushing in the same direction, to deploy cameras rapidly,” says Graham Kent, University of Nevada, Reno. “We are connected into the community, which is a positive thing.” Monitoring Fire Behavior The cameras monitor fire behavior until it is contained, enhance situational awareness during evacuationsThe cameras can provide early warning when a fire starts and help firefighters and first responders scale the resources needed to respond. The cameras also monitor fire behavior until it is contained, enhance situational awareness during evacuations, and ensure fires are monitored appropriately through their demise. ALERTWildfire currently uses Axis Q6055-E outdoor-ready pan-tilt-zoom network cameras that provide 1080p HDTV signals, 32x zoom and low-bandwidth compression. (Earlier versions of similar Axis camera models were also installed previously.) The camera’s robust aluminum casing can withstand temperatures up to 140 degrees F, although the cameras are positioned on the top of towers where temperatures from wildfires are not a factor. In addition to cameras, each installation site includes a range of equipment including hard power or solar power (on about a third of installations), both with battery backups. Resilient, hardened microwave/fiber networks carry video signals from the cameras to servers at University of Nevada, Reno, which makes them available on the Internet. Geolinks, an ALERTWildfire partner, provides resilient Internet connectivity to mountaintops throughout the West. Watching Fires On Mobile Devices Dispatchers around the West have access to video from the cameras, and fire management can move the camera views through their iPhones. Firefighters can even watch fires on their mobile devices while they are en-route to a fire. Cameras are located currently in California, Nevada, Idaho, Washington and Oregon. There have been 85 cameras in place for five years or so, and the number of cameras has more than doubled since the beginning of 2019. Firefighters can even watch fires on their mobile devices while they are en-route to a fire The accelerated installation schedule is courtesy of a new policy of using existing infrastructure for cameras rather than creating it from scratch. The large number of cameras on the horizon for California is being funded by utility companies such as Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric. AI-Enabled Monitoring For Early Warning The public can view the camera feeds and often call 911 to report early warnings of fires, thus providing a kind of crowdsourcing, a fire-warning version of ‘Neighborhood Watch’. In the future, artificial intelligence (AI) could be used to monitor the video feeds to provide early warning. For now, the system is largely used by 911 dispatchers to confirm reports of fires. “Cell phones are so ubiquitous, people call in fires before the AI could react,” says Kent. “We could never beat 911. A model for early detection of wildfires is in operation in San Diego, where San Diego Gas and Electric manages an emergency center that uses sophisticated real-time modeling to predict fire events based on weather conditions, vegetation, etc., tracked on a threat map. The system enables firefighting resources to be deployed quickly at the first hint of fire and thus to avoid a larger, sweeping wildfire event. The system enables firefighting resources to be deployed quickly at the first hint of fire and avoid a larger, sweeping wildfire event “If you can get on top of it quickly enough, it makes all the difference,” says Kent. “In the case of extreme conditions, 10, 20 or 30 minutes can make a big difference.” Other locations are looking to replicate the San Diego model to discover and confirm fires quickly and then reposition assets to respond. Phos-Chek long-term fire retardant, applied by air from a fixed or rotor-wing aircraft, is used to slow or stop the spread of wildland fires. Early Warning Of Other Emergencies Installing more cameras to provide early warning of wildfires is “a grave need in the Western states,” and the system is likely eventually to be deployed in other areas, too. Wildfires can be a challenge in non-Western states such as Florida and Oklahoma, and a similar approach could also be used to provide early warning of other emergencies, such as tornados. “Once we do the West, we will be looking to do the rest of the United States,” says Kent. Currently, the biggest challenge is keeping up with demand. “Our successes have led to a demand to get more cameras out right now,” says Kent. “Funding isn’t the largest issue. The money is there to do it, but we have to be able to scale up quickly, working with partners. It’s a wild ride.” Key words for success of the ALERTWildfire system are “location, location, location” combined with “coverage, coverage, coverage,” says Kent. “We can solve 90 percent of the problem with coverage.”
For the last 200 years, firefighters have been using inefficient manual methods to track their crews’ movement. Incident commanders need to know the location and status of responders on site. Technology adds a new element to tracking crews’ movements. Firefighters on scene can now be electronically tracked to ensure they are rotated out of danger before their allotted time expires. The officer in charge – standing outside the scene with the rugged tablet in hand – can monitor how much air is left in each tank, determine if a firefighter is in trouble, and issue an order to evacuate an individual or entire team. Situational Awareness The public safety sector has been at the forefront of using real-time data to enhance productivity and shorten response times, says Alex Cooper, Director of Public Sector Strategy and Market Development, Zebra Technologies. The first – and perhaps most important – goal of using real-time data has been to keep law enforcement, EMS, and fire and rescue teams safe while simultaneously protecting the people and interests of the communities they serve. Intelligence is increasingly driving new capabilities among first responders and in business Better preparedness and situational awareness are contingent on the availability and proper utilization of real-time data. Real-life emergency response demands real-time data sharing, whether via dispatch communications or jurisdiction-wide records systems, Cooper says. Intelligence is increasingly driving new capabilities among first responders and in business. Complex Public Demands Enterprises today are focused on intelligently connecting their assets, data and people in collaborative mobile workflows, leveraging the Internet of Things (IoT), advanced networks, machine learning and the cloud. Innovation is exploding at ‘the edge,’ where employees make real-time decisions and interact directly with the people they serve. When organizations lack visibility into the movement of assets, they risk inefficient utilization of resources, growing safety concerns, and the inability to react to heightened customer demands, says Cooper. “Many of these risks apply directly to the public sector, as agencies deploy advanced technologies to meet increasingly complex public demands for results and behaviors, often in budget-constrained environments,” he adds. Today’s first responders are more reliant on mobile technologies to increase their situational awareness Fire And Rescue Agencies Successful first responder operations require the availability and proper utilization of real-time data during dispatch, incident response, restoration and investigations. Public safety employees can leverage intelligent devices that support an array of mobile workflows. “Today’s first responders – though highly skilled at their jobs – are more reliant on mobile technologies to increase their situational awareness and safety levels,” says Cooper. “Fire and rescue agencies just can’t afford to continue investing in multiple, ‘single-purpose’ technologies for each of their operating locations.” Technology investments must be vetted in the field to ensure there are tangible benefits which can be weighed against the total cost of ownership, adds Cooper. “It can be difficult to measure the benefit of safety in a traditional ROI model, but its value is unquestioned,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s up to agency leadership to determine which investments should be prioritized.” Lower-Cost Devices “Though there are multiple factors creating obstacles, I believe the biggest one currently is tied to a cost vs. value understanding,” says Cooper. “Many state and local government agencies still utilize a procurement model that favors ‘best price.’ The upfront sticker price does not accurately reflect the total cost of ownership (TCO).” Cooper says another obstacle is seamlessly integrating intelligence into public safety workflows, in a way that is actionable but not disruptive. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the capabilities and cost of purpose-built solutions “This requires the right combination of applications, analytics, connectivity and user equipment,” he says. There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the capabilities and cost of purpose-built solutions. Many consumer device manufacturers are marketing their mobile devices as ‘rugged,’ so public sector organizations with tight budgets may presume these lower-cost devices will be sufficient. First Responder Actions But, being waterproof or dustproof does not by itself make a device suitable for public safety use. “You have to consider the overall performance, connectivity, security and manageability capabilities of the solution, as this will ultimately be used to capture the raw data that feeds back-end intelligence systems, which will guide first responder actions at the edge,” says Cooper. “Agencies need to be confident that the solutions they invest in will run critical software, interoperate with in-vehicle electronics and provide real-time information for immediate intelligence that enhances situational awareness while strengthening communication and collaboration within and between agencies during emergency response and management operations,” Cooper says. “The best way to accomplish this is to get input and buy-in from procurement and IT decision-makers, as well as end-users and agency leadership including chiefs and commanders. It’s important to take the time to field test solutions to ensure they will be scalable and compatible with future IT architectures.”
Firefighters bravely worked through the night on April 15, 2019, to control and extinguish a fire that was threatening to destroy the beautiful and historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Working nine hours into the early hours of April 16 to extinguish the fire, firefighters are credited with saving the 850-year-old architectural masterpiece from complete destruction, and with rescuing the historic relics and artwork inside the cathedral. 500 Firefighters Involved Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo heralded the firefighters and other emergency workers at a ceremony April 18 French President Emmanuel Macron called the firefighters’ work “exemplary” in a ceremony April 18 at Elysee Palace. Some 500 firefighters were involved in the effort, and about 250 were present when Macron recognized them and said they would be awarded France’s Golden Medal of Honor to recognize their courage and devotion. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo also heralded the firefighters and other emergency workers at a ceremony April 18 at Paris City Hall. She gave the first responders the title “Citizens of Honor” at the ceremony because of their courage and determination. The Role of Technology Technology – robots and drones – also played a role in saving Notre Dame from complete destruction. Drones flew above the cathedral and provided video footage to guide firefighters. A 1,100-lb. robot, called Colossus, was deployed inside the building where it was too dangerous for firefighters to go. The robot is equipped with cameras to enable firefighters to see what’s happening within danger zones where there is high risk of smoke, burns or falling debris. The robot also directed jets of water, controlled by firefighters outside the cathedral. The firefighters decided to give up on saving the roof, as it was engulfed by flames and turned their efforts to saving the cathedral’s Gothic towers Strategy Involved The firefighters’ strategy is credited with saving the building. Firefighters decided to give up on saving the roof, as it was engulfed by flames. They turned their efforts to saving the cathedral’s Gothic towers. In the end the fire destroyed centuries-old oak beams that supported the cathedral’s stone ceiling, thus weakening the building. “It’s a miracle that the cathedral is still standing and that all the relics were saved,” Lt. Col. Gabriel Plus, a fire brigade spokesman, told The Associated Press. The Cause: A Computer Glitch Cause of the fire has been reported as related to a project to renovate the steeple. It has also been reported that a computer glitch and/or an electrical short-circuit (possibly in an elevator) played a role. A flood of donations has jump-started the rebuilding efforts for Notre Dame Cathedral The fire was first reported when a fire alarm was triggered at 6:20 p.m. on April 15, but no fire was discovered. By 6:43 p.m., another alarm sounded. A Paris newspaper reported that a computer glitch might have misdirected firefighters responding to the initial alarm. Addressing firefighters on April 18, Paris Mayor Hidalgo said: “The night of April 15, we saw your courage without limit, your determination without fault. We saw the moment when you decided to take on all the risk to save Notre Dame, a work of humanity.” The comment was reported by NBC News. Rebuilding The Cathedral A flood of donations has jump-started the rebuilding efforts for Notre Dame Cathedral. Almost a billion dollars has been donated, including donations from wealthy families, corporations, institutions and individuals. President Macron has set a goal of completing repairs within five years – in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics, although there is some skepticism the work can be completed so fast. There are also questions now about the nature of the renovations – whether they will seek to duplicate the previous structure exactly or replace it with alternative designs.