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President`s Letter: Are You Paying Attention, Chief?

Are you paying attention, Chief? I mean really paying attention? While we’ve been focused on and even struggling to keep our departments finically afloat for the past few years, some interesting and exciting scientific research has been conducted about how we fight fire. This isn’t any old routine scientific research, but important work that will eventually change how we fight fire.

Probably more important than anything else, it will help us fight fire safely.

As the economy begins to improve and budget fires begin to cool, take a look at some of the studies recently published. Here’s a good start:

Our friends at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Fire Research Division conducted a study in cooperation with FDNY. It looked at fire behavior and suppression tactics and stands to be a world-changer, as it overturns many of our long-held beliefs about tactics and fire behavior. They've demonstrated the importance of controlling the flow path for heat and flames, of carefully coordinating ventilation with suppression and of the value of transitional fire attack.

The science is pretty clear: we’ve been doing it wrong, especially as the fuel load and construction in modern structures has changed. We must become familiar with these study results and incorporate them in our training and fireground tactics.

With AFG funding, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has been doing a great deal of fire behavior research related to building construction. The webpage at UL.com >Company > New Science features training programs and videos based on groundbreaking research into basement fires and the structural stability of engineered lumber in fire conditions.

Most recently, they've researched and documented the change in the residential fire environment based on changes in fuel load and building construction. As this research has progressed, they've focused on changes in fire behavior and the impact it should have on firefighter ventilation tactics.

We have long been criticized for being a profession that's long on tradition and short on science to back it up. Knowledge and experience is passed down around the station’s kitchen table, often without regard for what is changing in the fire environment. The good news is that solid scientific research is being done by credible organizations like NIST, UL and others.

It’s now up to us, to take the results of this research and make sure it gets translated into changes in our training programs and our fireground tactics.

It’s up to us, Chief. You and me. Take the time to read the research and ask what you need to do in your department to operationalize what they've proven scientifically.

Chief William R. Metcalf, EFO, CFO
President and Chairman of the Board

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