Given the recent proven research by Underwriter Laboratories and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, this call to action is being issued to fire and emergency service officers to take the following immediate actions:
1) Update departmental fireground policies and procedures, deliver training programs and conduct in-service updates to reflect fire dynamic research findings:
- Water doesn't push fire or threaten trapped occupants:
- Water should be applied to a fire as soon as possible and from the safest location because research has proven it reduces thermal temperatures.
- Simply put, if you see fire, put water on it immediately. This greatly increases civilian and firefighter survivability as well as property conservation.
- The recently created pneumonic, S.L.I.C.E.R.S., should replace RECEO VS as a core component of firefighter training programs.
- Coordinate ventilation and fire attack. Ventilation continues to be an important tactic that requires significant coordination and control. Adding air to a building without the immediate application of water on today's fires greatly increases fire spread and reduces survivability for victims and firefighters. It isn't possible to make statements about the effectiveness of ventilation without consideration for the timing and application of water. Venting doesn't always lead to cooling; well-timed and coordinated ventilation leads to improved conditions.
- Control the door, control the flow path. Forcing, or opening, a doorway for entry creates an inflow ventilation flow path. Controlling the door to reduce airflow is an important step to improve the survivability of victims and firefighters, control heat release rates and reduce the chance of flashover.
- Closing interior doors to improve compartmentalization is critical to victim and firefighter survivability. What used to be referred to as "Vent-Enter-Search (VES)" is now known as "Vent-Enter-Isolate-Search (VEIS)." When conducting VEIS tactics, closing the door to an entered compartment prior to conducting search operations is vital to controlling the flow path.
- Assess exterior and interior collapse potential:
- Structural stability and potential for collapse must be a priority for consideration during size-up and brief initial reports (BIRs) should identify the presence or potential presence of engineered, lightweight building materials.
- Sounding the floor for stability is not an exclusive reliable indicator of structural stability and therefore should be combined with other tactics to increase safety.
- Floor sag is a poor pre-indicator of floor collapse as it may be especially difficult to determine the amount of deflection while moving through a structure.
- Thermal imagers are not an exclusive, reliable indicator of the presence or absence of fire in a basement and can't assess structural integrity above floor coverings.
- Water application to a fire in a basement should be applied from an exterior access, penetrating nozzle or via holes cut into the compartment. Conducting an attack on a basement fire from the floor above via interior access is not recommended.
- Conducting a 360° size-up of the fire occupancy should be completed prior to making entry. Wind-driven fires represent an immediate life-threat to firefighters, particularly in light of flow-path research. Attacking the fire from the windward side of the structure may be the most effective way to save lives.
- Discourage or eliminate the widely-used term "nothing showing" from the BIR. As a result of modern fuel loads and energy-efficient building-construction materials, fires in structures can be expected to become ventilation-limited quickly. Smoke or open flame may not be visible from the exterior by arriving fire companies and the term unintentionally but significantly contributes to complacency.
2) Call on standards-setting organizations and publishers to update their programs and products immediately to reflect the latest fire-dynamic research findings.
To learn more about the fire-dynamics research, check out the following resources:
- Watch for It: FSTAR
- There's a wealth of research underway at leading labs, universities and the private sector on fire behavior in the modern-built environment, but it will have little impact on firefighter tactics unless it reaches fire service leaders. The Firefighter Safety Through Advanced Research (FSTAR) is a federally-funded online toolkit being created by the IAFC to break down silos between the academic world, laboratory settings and the fireground. Watch for it in the spring of 2014.