Discoveries in Safety Grants
December 11, 2023

Innovative Research Leading to the Reduction of Thermal and Chemical Fire Exposures to Firefighters

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Program Overview

Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) of UL Research Institutes (ULRI) is interested in research aimed at reducing exposure to the thermal and chemical combustion products of fire to first responders.

Award Information

Type of Award: Competitive grant 
Number of Awards Given: Up to 2   
Funding Amount: Up to $200,000 a year 
Duration of Award: 3 years  

Key Dates  

Feb. 16, 2024 (by 11:59 p.m. EST): Letter of intent submission due (required)
May 10, 2024 (by 11:59 p.m. EST): Full proposal deadline

Key Resources 

Full Notice of Funding Opportunity
Program Terms and Conditions (updated April 1st, 2024)
Application Submission Instructions

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Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) of UL Research Institutes advances fire safety knowledge to address the world's unresolved fire safety risks and emerging dangers. As part of UL Research Institutes, we are committed to sharing our fire safety insights with everyone to advance UL's public safety mission of providing safe living and working environments for people everywhere. Through advanced fire science, rigorous research, extensive outreach, and education in collaboration with our international network of partners, we impart stakeholders with the information, tools and resources that enable them to make better, more fire-safe decisions that ultimately save lives and property.

Grants are being sought to develop data, methodologies, or techniques that can be used to advance FSRl's fire safety mission. The topics in which research proposals are sought represent key areas that can connect and utilize current fire research programs; however, these areas have traditionally had little to no sources of funding.

FSRI will collaborate with successful grantees to translate the results into educational information for the fire service.

Grant Purpose  

First responders in the course of conducting their jobs are routinely exposed to the thermal and chemical combustion products of fire. Given the variability of the fuels involved in structure and vehicle fires, the characterization of the chemical exposures is limited. The materials that burn during a house fire or a vehicle fire may include cellulosics, plastics, hydrocarbon fuels, refrigerants, Li-Ion batteries, and a wide range of chemicals (paints, cleaners, etc.). The combustion products of these materials are deposited in and around the fire area, contaminate the PPE of fire fighters and can expose other postfire workers such as fire investigators and fire restoration service workers.

The challenges are broad. In some cases, the source terms of the materials burning and the ventilation characteristics are not well known, and thus the resulting compounds and concentrations present will vary. In terms of thermal exposures, there is a lack of evidence-based understanding in connecting the thermal exposure of a fire environment to the safe operational time of firefighters. Similar unknowns exist in terms of fire effluent exposures when wearing PPE.

What can be done to better understand and then reduce thermal and chemical exposures on the fire ground? Once the personal protective ensemble (PPE) is exposed to the thermal and chemical insult of the fire, what is the composition of the contamination on the PPE? What are the best methods for cleaning the contaminated PPE? Are there improvements in the design of protective clothing that can result in improved thermal and chemical protection? Can improvements to cleaning the protective clothing reduce the risk for secondary exposures and cross contamination?

Applicants are encouraged to select from one of the two focus areas that respond to thermal and chemical fire exposures:

Focus Area 1: Human and Environmental Impact

The goals of research under this topic are to employ innovations in measurement, numerical modeling, skin simulants, models of respiratory system impact and/or other novel research approaches to close the knowledge gaps related to the human health and environmental impacts of the fire events.

The Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) partnered with the American Burn Association to identify gaps regarding thermal exposures and resulting burn injuries. FSRI also completed a pilot study providing an initial characterization of liquid condensate from smoke produced by full-scale residential structure fire scenarios. High concentrations of benzene and naphthalene were detected in fire effluent condensate which provided insight into an important mechanism for human exposure risks associated with fire smoke. The presence of solvents such as acetone and ethanol in the fire effluent condensate may impact absorption of other contaminants known to be present in fire effluent. The condensates are strongly acidic which may also pose a human health risk. Research to expand these topics and efforts to further quantify human and environmental impacts of thermal and chemical exposures are desired.

Focus Area 2: Personal Protective Ensemble (PPE)

The goals of research under this topic are to provide characterizations of the thermal and/ or chemical exposures from structure, wildland-urban interface, and/ or vehicle fires and the resulting contamination of firefighters' PPE. Additionally, this research topic includes potential studies on how to best remove the contaminants from the PPE.

The prevalence of fires involving lithium-ion batteries in homes, vehicles, and mobility devices and the unknown contamination to firefighting turnout gear present as a high priority. There is also a need for understanding the effectiveness of fireground (aka preliminary exposure reduction), advanced and specialized cleaning procedures. Additionally, FSRI is completing research that quantifies chemical and thermal exposure risks from common training fuels in two different live fire training structures. A successful grant in this topic area might extend this research through modeling of the PPE response to exposures or developing data sets of other thermal and chemical exposures.

Eligibility Information  

Who Should Submit Proposals:  
All proposals should be submitted by an accredited college, university, government, or non-government organization (including not-for-profit and for-profit institutions) with recognized legal status in their respective country.  

At ULRI, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are critical to who we are and what we represent as a leading safety science organization. We believe that our inclusivity fuels brilliance in innovation, creative problem-solving, and, ultimately, excellence in safety science discovery. Learn more about ULRI’s commitment to DEI.

ULRI encourages proposals from, or collaborations with, diverse research teams, including minority-serving institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other institutions with a predominantly underrepresented student population.  

Who May Serve as PI:  
The Principal Investigator (PI) must be an individual of the organization holding a full-time administrative or faculty role. The PI should continue in this role for the duration of the three years of the award. Multiple PIs can be added during this time.  

The PI must NOT be:  

  • From a country under U.S. export control or sanctions; 
  • A previous employee of UL Solutions, ULRI, or UL Standards & Engagement (ULSE) within 12 months prior to submitting a Letter of Intent for this program. 

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