Study of the Fire Service Training Environment: Safety, Fidelity, and Exposure

Bridging the gap between the fire service training ground and fireground response.

The UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute (FSRI) is currently leading a 3-year Technology Research and Development Project examining the fire service’s training environment. The increased understanding of fire behavior that has emerged from previous Federal Emergency Management / Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant-funded research has raised many questions about teaching these principles during hands-on training. When following current training standards, it can be challenging to produce thermal environments in training buildings and props that fully demonstrate the impact of firefighting tactics (i.e., ventilation and suppression) on ventilation-controlled fire behavior. Despite ongoing financial and time restrictions, training academies must continually produce firefighters who have a thorough understanding of fire dynamics and the ability to apply such knowledge to operations on the fireground. Firefighter training standards that constrain certain aspects of fuel packages (e.g., composition, size, etc.) and structures (e.g., geometry, materials, etc.) have been developed and continue to evolve in response to live-fire training incidents that resulted in serious firefighter injuries and/or fatalities. While these constraints help limit the hazard associated with fire training, they may also lead to scenarios that cause students to observe and internalize inaccurate concepts such as “ventilation always leads to cooling”, “ventilation always reduces the chance of flashover”, and “enter the fire room before flowing water”. It is imperative that fire instructors supply the proper context during live-fire training so that correct lessons are transmitted to the students, even if they aren’t directly experienced within the training fire environment.

The Study of the Fire Service Training Environment: Safety, Fidelity, and Exposure involves conducting four series of experiments that will provide the source data needed to understand the differences between the training environment and actual fire incidents. Fuels commonly used in training as well as those often found in residential structure fires will be characterized for heat release rate, burning characteristics, and products of combustion. The training fuels will then be placed into a ranch style home previously utilized in research projects to better understand the impact of horizontal, vertical and positive pressure ventilation. The results will be compared to the experiments previously conducted in this test fixture with furniture-based fuels primarily composed of synthetic materials and foam plastics. In the second series of experiments, training fuels will be compared to furniture-based fuels in a concrete fire training building to examine the differences in fire dynamics and response to different ventilation and suppression tactics. The third series will focus on L-shaped training props, specifically the impact of different wall constructions on fire development and thermal exposures to instructors and students. Finally, a series of experiments will be conducted utilizing innovative fire training configurations that are being used in the fire service to try to improve fire training fidelity without compromising safety.

Goals and Objectives

  • Improve firefighter safety by increasing knowledge of fire behavior.
  • Bridge the gap between fire dynamics knowledge and the utilization of training buildings and props for hands-on training.
  • Characterize fuels commonly used in training and compare them to fuels found in the residential fire environment for both burning characteristics and potential firefighter exposure.
  • Better understand the concepts of fuel and ventilation limited fires and research how they can be visually taught during hands-on fire training.
  • Provide firefighters and fire instructors with an interactive training program that will provide context and a connection between the training environment and the fireground.

This research study is needed to address the challenges associated with transferring proper knowledge and skills from the training ground to the fireground. A comprehensive fire service outreach program will ensure that this science meets the street. Additionally, results from this project will support the continued development of NFPA 1403: Standard on Live Fire Training.

Fast Facts

  • The purpose of this study is to improve fire service knowledge of fire dynamics and the impact of their tactics through a better understanding of how the safety, fidelity and exposure of the training ground relates to the fireground.
  • This project will expand on previous research studies that examined fire dynamics and fire service tactics and improve firefighter hands-on training.
  • This project is funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency/ Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.

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