Monthly Archives: January 2014

Has European fire safety research moved down a gear?

Has European fire safety research moved down a gear?

Fire safety engineers need both useable data on the properties of fire safety technology and standards that are closer to the reality. That was the verdict from Eurofire 2013

DBI is on the right track with its intense and increasing focus on research and development in the field of materials. This was the conclusion reached following the Eurofire 2013 Conference which took place in the Swiss city of Basel on 9th and 10th October.

– The conclusion reached at the conference was that research into fire safety technology was on the increase up to the turn of the century but has gone into decline since then. This is probably due to decreased funding. At the same time, new requirements, new construction materials and increasing requirements with regard to, for example, sustainability, also play a role because this requires that new methods of fire protection need to be developed. Thus, at the conference it was abundantly clear that there is a need for new knowledge in a variety of areas, concludes fire technology consultant, Anders Dragsted from DBI, a delegate at the conference.

Standards don’t correspond to the reality
The need for knowledge is due, in part, to a widespread worry that the many standards for fire testing do not adequately correspond to the reality. The same applies when it comes to the dimensioning of fire safety technology whereby fire safety regulations are met using calculations or simulations.

– An important message from the conference was that there is a real risk that fire safety engineers lose touch with reality and are no longer critical enough of simulated results. Therefore, we need to ensure that standards and methods match the reality more closely. Otherwise we run the risk of regulatory authorities losing confidence finding it necessary to introduce more stringent rules to the cost of dimensioning of fire safety technology, which is an important element in the ability to work with function-based fire safety requirements, insists Anders Dragsted.

Lack of data on materials
At the same time, there is a lack of fire technology data for components and construction materials in a form that can be used in calculations, which are often extremely complicated.

– Most data on material is defined on the basis of European or national standards for fire classification. However, typically there are a few discrete values for the product and that can make it difficult to use this data in calculation programs which require continuous data, says Anders Dragsted.

An example of this is the fire technology classification ’reaction to fire’ which can be, for instance, B-s1, d0. The first letter describes the extent to which the construction material is conducive to fire and the subsequent letters describe smoke production and the release of burning particles respectively.

– Such a classification cannot be used in fire technology calculations or simulations because the classification is awarded on the basis of several different parameters. The underlying test results are also difficult to use because they are only applicable to the specific conditions defined by the testing standard and those conditions are unlikely to occur in a real fire, explains Anders Dragsted.

The Fire Tools project can plug knowledge gaps
Once again, the conference proved that DBI is on the right track. Professor Patrick van Hees from Lund University presented the research project, Fire Tools, which DBI is coordinating, and it was widely agreed that Fire Tools can help plug the gaps in knowledge.

Namely, the aim of Fire Tools is precisely to create computer simulation tools, methods and models that use the traditionally expensive and time-consuming fire tests optimally while, at the same time, reduce the differences between simulation and reality. Five international PhD students are carrying out research in the project in order to contribute with crucial and useable knowledge about the modelling and simulation of fire safety.

– Better tools mean more opportunities for fire technology dimensioning. Thus, if the Fire Tools project fulfils the ambitions set out for it, work can get underway on the methods that can lead the way in further developments in the field of fire safety, explains Anders Dragsted.

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Facts about the Eurofire conference

Eurofire is a conference with a more all-encompassing objective than, for example, scientific conferences, whereby researchers present their results. At Eurofire there is greater focus on general trends in the field of fire safety than on concrete research results.

Better cross-border communication when disaster strikes

The DISASTER Project

The DISASTER Project is now half-completed and, so far, has resulted in computer simulation and a data model that can translate symbols. Both have the ability to improve European emergency services across national borders.

An aeroplane crashes into the Øresund Bridge. It is now up to the Danish and Swedish tactical emergency services to jointly coordinate emergency operative preparedness. Communication will be monitored throughout the entire process. For, even though there is a Danish and a Swedish chief emergency director communicating with one another, there has been no plane crash and the operational forces are only sitting at their computer screens. You see, it is purely a simulation. The computer simulation is one of two products that will emerge from the DISASTER Project, which will come to an end in January 2015 and which DBI is part of. The main aim of the project is to improve communication between the national emergency services in the EU.

Natural disasters don’t respect national borders
The second product is the actual DISASTER data model, which is a symbol translator. It translates symbols from, for example, the German emergency services’ IT system to the Dutch symbols.
– The symbols for, for example, fire, HAZMAT, natural disasters, fire engines and equipment differ from country to country and, in some cases, even between the different regions in the countries, explains Jesper Florin, safety adviser with DBI and associated with the project.
It may seem a somewhat limited need we are seeking to meet. For, how often are the emergency services of two countries required at the same time?
– The need is widespread in connection with natural disasters, for example. Forest fires and floods don’t respect national borders. However, it could also be relevant in the event of a plane crash where information on, for instance, cargo loads is needed quickly and in a version that is understood universally, says Jesper Florin.
For example, an aeroplane from Turkey carrying toxic material crashed in the Netherlands. The emergency services at the site of the crash simply didn’t get to know about it and they subsequently became ill.

Provides an insight into preparedness
The DISASTER data model has already been tested twice in connection with major exercises in the Netherlands.
– Last year, we tested the module during an exercise at the airport in Twente. It was an early version of the module, but even then the emergency services thought that the concept was a good idea. This year we tested a more mature version during a major exercise at Schiphol. However, the results from that test are not ready yet, explains Fanny Guay, Project Manager in DBI’s Research and Development Department.
The module will be tested again next year. However, with the simulation program, you don’t need to move heaven and earth in terms of preparedness in order to carry out an exercise using DISASTER. All it requires is the involvement of the special operations commanders from two different countries. And they can do it from their usual place in the office.
– With the simulation, you can train the communication between the countries in the event of different scenarios occurring. And then you can add the DISASTER data model and see the effect it has on the result of the scenario, explains Jesper Florin, adding:
– But even without the DISASTER data model, the simulation model can reveal any breakdowns in communications or bottlenecks. If, for example, a telephone isn’t answered for five minutes in a crisis situation, you have found five minutes that can be spent saving lives instead.  So, the simulation doesn’t just provide an opportunity to measure the effectiveness of the DISASTER data model, it also provides an insight into your own system.

Spread the message
Once the project is completed, both the DISASTER data model and the simulation program will be made available to all European emergency services, free of charge, after which they will be able to get an IT developer to develop specific scenarios. However, neither the DISASTER data model nor the simulation program will get used if people don’t know about them. Therefore, DBI, who are responsible for the dissemination of the project, have a huge task ahead.
– The results of the project are beginning to emerge now. Therefore, we are focusing on spreading the message. We are doing this, for example, by getting speaking time at as many conferences as possible and involving as many experts from various emergency services as possible. We will use feedback and input to make the solution more usable. At the same time, we are spreading awareness, says Fanny Guay.

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DISASTER …

… stands for Data Interoperability Solution At STakeholders Emergency Reaction. It is an EU-financed research project, the aim of which is to improve communication between different emergency services in emergency situations. The project is running from February 2012 until January 2015. Besides DBI, institutions from Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany are participating.

TRAINING SECURITY AWARD TO THE TRAINING COMMISSION OF CFPA EUROPE

tsa1SEGURTECNIA magazine has awarded its prestigious Annual Award of Security during the celebration of the twenty-seventh edition of its ‘Security Luncheon’. This event counted with the assistance of more than 500 professionals from the sector and was presided by Miguel Ángel Fernández Rancaño, acting as president of the Technical Assessor Board for the magazine.

The Training Commission of the European Confederation of Fire Protection Associations (CFPA Europe) that was supported and presided by CEPREVEN during its first thirteen years of activity was awarded the Trophy for Training in Security for the work it has done during these thirty one years. During this time the organization has created common Educational Programs and globalized Diplomas and Certificates around sixteen countries. This has meant that the technicians that work in Prevention and Protection against Fires can have similar knowledge in any of the countries that have associations that are related to these programs.

Jesper Ditlev, President of the CFPA-E, received this award from the Secretary of State for Security, Francisco Martínez Vázquez, together with the first President of the Training Commission, Miguel Ángel Saldaña, former Director of CEPREVEN. The latter expressed his gratitude in the name of the European Confederation of Fire Protection Associations for the trophy and expressed his satisfaction at the recognition this meant for the hard work of the associations in the different countries, with special emphasis in thanking CEPREVEN. He encouraged all the European associations for the continuation of quality education with common and globalized European bases, in benefit of security.tsa2

25 years of hot work training in Finland

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Savings generated by hot work safety training in the past 25 years amount to millions of euros in Finland

Hot work safety training is an excellent example of what can be achieved by extensive safety training. Before such training began in the late 1980s, hot work caused up to 40 percent of all major fires in Finland. Today, the figure is 5 percent. Over the years, more than 900 000 people have completed the training. The hot work safety training is supervised and developed by the hot work committee of the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK).

The hot work training course teaches participants how to prevent fires at temporary hot work sites. However, some of the practices can be extended to other parts of the worksite environment. The training includes emergency extinguishing practise also.

In the past 25 years, more than 910 000 persons have learned about practical fire safety on one or several hot work safety training courses. Those who successfully complete the training are granted a hot work licence, which is valid for five years. After this time the training must be renewed. There are currently over 400 000 valid hot work licence-holders throughout Finland.

Thanks to hot work safety training, the proportion of major fires caused by hot work has been cut from 40 to 5 percent. Based on this, it can be calculated that the training has contributed to material savings amounting to hundreds of millions of euros, as fires have either been completely avoided or workers have been able to extinguish them before major damage could be done. It is also reasonable to assume that the training has saved lives.

At present, hot work safety training courses are taught by 1200 trainers. Nearly half of the trainers are teachers working for educational institutions, and most hot workers complete the training as part of their vocational studies. For the needs of foreign workers, training materials have in the 2000s been translated into various languages, including English, Russian, Polish, and Estonian.

The hot work safety training is supervised and developed by the hot work committee of the Finnish National Rescue Association (SPEK). In addition to SPEK, the committee includes representatives of The Federation of Finnish Financial Services and The Finnish Association of Fire Chiefs. SPEK maintains a training register and monitors training quality.