Author Archives: denmark

Take human behaviour into account, and improve your fire safety

ship

New knowledge about human behaviour can be applied to the design of ships and their fire safety plans. This leads to more safety and minimises the risk of lives and assets being lost.

It is not enough to look to preventive measures and technical solutions if you want to ensure fire safety on ships. If you solely focus on this, you are not taking into account the most frequent cause of fires – human behaviour. Experts from the US Coast Guard believe that this is the cause of almost all fires on ships. If you take behaviour into account, however, you can make more realistic risk assessment and make better plans for the fire strategy – and safety.

– It leads to better fire safety, and we expect this will lead to less casualties in the event of fires and less assets being lost. But it requires a great deal of knowledge within the area, and we haven’t had that before now, says Thomas Hulin, Project Manager at DBI – The Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

Small factors with great consequences
That knowledge has been gained through anthropological studies of human behaviour during incidents at sea. It has provided DBI with insights into a number of factors that are not covered by any guidelines, but which have significant consequences in the event of a fire. For example, a ship’s fire safety strategy is based on every crew member knowing precisely what to do if a fire breaks out. But the training for that might have taken place after the members of the crew had just flown halfway across the world to sign on – in other words, at a time when they were not really ready to be instructed.

Another example is that different cultures and languages found among a multinational crew makes communication difficult during a fire. Or perhaps spaces are being used in a different way that the fire strategy requires – for example, flammable materials might be stored near a potential source of ignition. Each of those examples may have far-reaching consequences for whether a fire will occur and spread.

A holistic approach leads to better safety
The new knowledge makes it possible to add the human factor to the fire strategy and to take it into account when designing ships.

– It makes it possible to have a holistic approach where you don’t just focus on technical solutions and regulations, but also focus on how people act and react. It leads to far more realistic scenarios and can, among other things, be used with the FMEA methodology (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis). The robust experience on the area can be translated into specific designs, and even the early design will allow one to see where the critical points will be, says Thomas Hulin.

Delayed alert cost Notre Dame dearly

notre-dame-cfpa

During the fire at Notre Dame in Paris, alerting the fire department was delayed by approx. 25 minutes. This time-lapse may have meant that the fire went from being a problem to a catastrophe.

A complex technical fire safety system, no direct connection to the fire department, human error and a delay of approx. 25 minutes seem to be the reasons why the fire which ravaged Notre Dame in Paris in April had such grave consequences. Now that the smoke had dissipated, the task of identifying what happened has commenced, and several interesting things have emerged from the ashes and been reported in the newspapers Le Monde, Le Canard Enchaîné and the New York Times.

As a national treasure, Notre Dame had its own fire alarm system. It was a rather advanced system which had been developed and designed specifically for the church over a period of six years. Among other things, it consisted of an aspiration system which was installed in 2013 with detectors on the ceiling of the church where the fire broke out. And the system was functional. Because when the fire began to develop, presumably as a smouldering fire, it gave off an alarm.

The fire department was alerted after 30 minutes
But unlike automatic fire alarm systems in some other countries, it was not connected directly to the fire department. Instead, the alarm went directly to the church’s own fire-detection unit. And it was not just any alarm. The complex system sent an equally complex alarm: “Attic Nave Sacristy ZDA-110-3-15-1 aspirating framework”. This referred to a zone in the church and a specific detector which had gone off in a system of more than 160 detectors and manual alarms.

The employee who manned the system and received the alarm had been on the job for three days and was on his second consecutive eight-hour shift. He misinterpreted the alarm and sent a guard to the loft of the small sacristy, which is next to the church itself. He also called his manager who did not pick up the phone. It took 25 minutes after the first alarm went off before the manager called back, the error was discovered and the guard was sent to the ceiling of the actual church. He then quickly instructed the church’s own fire-detection unit to call the fire department. By this time, 30 minutes had passed since the first alarm had gone off, and 25 of them had been wasted by searching for a fire in the wrong place. In the meantime, the fire had begun to spread undisturbed in a loft which was constructed from oak beams which were several hundred years old.

A fatal delay
This is a critical time delay in relation to what emergency services can do in the event of a fire.

– In a building of this age, the difference is whether a fire can be extinguished or merely controlled, says Tim Ole Simonsen, who is Director of Operations and Fire Chief of the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department.

He emphasises that he is not familiar with the exact details of the sequence of events of the fire in Notre Dame, but adds:

– A delay of this calibre will typically mean that there is a lot of smoke which makes it difficult to get to the fire, and there may be the danger of the structure collapsing. If you arrive quickly, you can sometimes extinguish the fire at an early stage. If more time passes, putting the fire out can take 12-24 hours. A delay of 25 minutes is fatal in this respect.

Few false alarms from modern systems
When automatic fire alarm systems in France do not automatically alert the fire department, it is because they do not want to respond to false alarms. Therefore, an alarm must be investigated and confirmed before the fire department is alerted.

– When the systems were introduced many years ago, it is likely that it was taken into consideration whether they should be connected directly to the fire department. But modern automatic fire alarm systems can actually be calibrated so that they never give false alarms in practise. The system in Notre Dame was modern, and for this reason, false alarms should not have been expected from it. It may seem strange that the fire department was not alerted immediately. Roof fires develop in seconds, and a delay of 20-30 minutes is a long time in this context, says Tim Ole Simonsen.

High density fireproofing of cannabis

Cannabis Drivhuse

Cannabis is being legalised in an increasing number of countries worldwide. Not least in the USA where, up to now, cannabis for recreational use is legal in 10 states. Also, cannabis is increasingly being legalised for medical use. However, the production of cannabis can entail a number of potential fire hazards that we do not experience in the cultivation of other plants.

The increasing legalisation of cannabis means that, in future, there will be production facilities that cultivate hemp plants on an industrial scale. But, growing cannabis is not the same as growing lettuce or watercress. To grow optimally, the plants require very specific conditions, and these conditions can result in fire technical challenges. Therefore, in the USA, they have drawn up guidelines aimed at facilities for producing and extracting cannabis.

– It’s interesting to take a glance at this because they have had legal production facilities over there for a couple of years now, and they have identified several elements of danger, says Mikael N. Gam, a fire safety consultant with DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire & Security Technogogy.

Heat, CO2 and alcohol
Some of these dangers are related to the plants’ need for light. They require light for up to 18 hours a day, and it must be full-spectrum, which is typically achieved by means of incandescent bulbs, which also emit a great deal of heat.

– In addition, it also requires the addition of CO2 to the air in order to ensure optimal photosynthesis, which means gas bottles, which in the event of a fire pose a risk in themselves. Furthermore, the equipment poses a risk of leakages and carbon monoxide poisoning in the event of a fire, says Mikael N. Gam.

On top of that, the plants grow quickly, and this can make it difficult to gain an overview and hamper the fire fighters’ visibility in their efforts to extinguish the fire.  At the same time, the plants are moved around the production facilities, depending on their size, which can block access routes and escape routes.

– When it comes to extracting the substances in the plant, this is done in the production facility with the help of flammable substances, for example, methane, alcohol or CO2. In addition, the production facilities are often protected against theft and break-ins, and this protection must be arranged in such a way that allows the fire fighting service to gain access quickly in the event of a fire, adds Mikael N. Gam.

Newer, but not more dangerous
Therefore, the task in hand is to deal with all the potential fire technical challenges. There is no single solution, but it is important to think about the layout thoroughly. Moreover, the fire fighting authorities must be aware of any particular risks when they respond to an emergency.

– There are aspects of cannabis production that can lead to problems when it comes to fighting a fire. It is not, as such, any more dangerous than many other things, but it is a new area and therefore we should perhaps take a look at the American guidelines in the area, concludes Mikael N. Gam.

The world’s tallest and safest timber building

Mjoestaarnet-1

The prestige building, Mjøstårnet in Norway, proves that timber can be used when building to a height. The level of fire safety is high with a number of passive measures and a reinforced sprinkler system, which also covers parts of the facade.

In Norway, the world’s tallest timber building is located. It is called Mjøstårnet and was completed in March 2019. The supporting structure comprises enormous glued timber pellets. The stairway and lift shafts are of CLT (Cross Laminated Timber). The same material was also used for the balconies on the upper storeys. The storeys up to the 11th floor comprise a building system of timber and rock wool. And, of course, the facade is also timber.

– Even though we have extensive experience in building with timber in Norway, Mjøstårnet is an unusual building, says Even Andersen, Senior Fire Engineer in Sweco in Norway and fire consultant for Mjøstårnet.

– It is a prestige project in the field of building with timber. The rules in the area have been the same for many years, but it has only been within the last few years that we have started to build to a height with timber. The environmental and climate aspects are of crucial importance in this development, he says.

Withstands a natural progression of a fire
Another aspect that has to be taken into consideration when building timber tower blocks is fire safety.

– The organisation of fire safety is function-based, and takes as its point of departure the presumption that the building must be able to withstand a natural fire progression, which we have modelled on the basis of Eurocode 1, and which takes account of the timber’s contribution to the fire, says Even Andersen.

The pre-accepted solution stipulates that the supporting structure in taller buildings must be non-combustible and be able to withstand a fire for 90 minutes. In the case of Mjøstårnet,  it was decided that the construction must be able to withstand a natural fire progression which corresponds to a standard fire of less than 90 minutes. Moreover, the building must be able to handle a standard fire for 120 minutes.

– All scenarios and fire progressions have been calculated and are far shorter than 90 minutes. Moreover, the supporting structure has an even greater resistance to fire than we assumed was needed, explains Even Andersen.

The fire safety documentation is controlled by a third party, and even though the emergency services do not have a regulatory authority role in Norway, they have been involved in the dialogue along the way.

A timber frame remains
In connection with the construction, Sweco had fire tests carried out on the glued timber pellets of which the supporting structure was to comprise. The pellets were tested by SP Fire Research and were exposed to the ISO Standard fire curve for 90 minutes. The test showed that the pellets developed a carbonised surface which protected the underlying timber against the fire. And, when the furnaces were turned off, the carbonisation stopped by itself after a while.

– The glued timber pellets are of considerable dimensions, and a relatively small section of them burns away in a fire. Therefore, they are fairly resistant in a fire. Also, they are self-extinguishing if there is nothing around them to feed the fire. Based on the tests, we have calculated that, in a fire that is not tackled but is allowed to develop and burn out, the supporting structure maintains its resistance and leaves behind a timber frame, even if the rest of the building burns away, says Even Andersen.

Its excellent properties mean that the glued timber pellets do not require any further protection or covering, but that they can be visible in the tower’s interior. Any visible timber in escape routes and the stairwell has been fireproofed.

A multitude of fire sections and cells
The weak points in the structure are the steel plates and the dowels placed at the pellet joints. Therefore, spaces and gaps around the joints are endowed with a material that expands at 150 degrees and protects the joints. Each storey constitutes its own fire section, and every single hotel room and apartment is its own fire cell. Every horizontal division structure is dimensioned to be able to remain standing if the overlying horizontal division structure collapses. The horizontal division structures for the top floors are made of concrete, but not because of the fire risk – the concrete adds extra weight to the building, which prevents it swaying too much and making the residents feel ill.

– The facade has been fireproofed and consists of elements which all have cavity barriers in the event of a fire in the cavity. In addition, there are cavity barriers over all the windows, adds Even Andersen.

The swimming pool is a reservoir
On the active side, the building has full sprinkler coverage with a reinforced sprinkler system which also covers the lowermost storeys of the facade in order to prevent incidents due to pyromania or criminality. The communal water supply is good and ensures an abundant supply of water under normal circumstances.

– If extra water is required, the swimming pool – which is part of the building and lies up and down the tower – functions as a reservoir. That is a rarity in Norway, says Even Andersen.

The building also has an automatic fire alarm system with a direct connection to the local emergency services and riser pipes in all stairwells, which have been dimensioned to enable the emergency services to fight the fire from just one of the tower’s stairwells. The stairwells are equipped with overpressure relief valves, and there is also a control room from which the emergency services can easily survey the building and see exactly where the alarm has gone off and where the sprinklers have been triggered.

– Building to a height with timber does not go without its risks, and you have to know what you are doing. Mjøstårnet is located in rural surroundings and it is completely different from building in, for example, the middle of the city where the risk of the fire spreading is different. So, even if it is possible to build to a height in timber, that doesn’t mean that it is always the right thing to do, concludes Even Andersen.

Wild fires in the USA mobilise the fire brigade’s elite troops

Skovbrande-i-USA

Every year, wild fires cause havoc in the USA. They cause people to flee, cost billions and can continue for weeks. When such a fire needs to be brought under control, the authorities enlist the help of the elite firemen – also known as ‘hotshot crews’.

In the USA they have a season we don’t have in Europe: Fire season. This is the time of year when  cause havoc, particularly in the western part of the USA. In 2015, they had the worst season ever, when more than 40,400 km2 went up in smoke. And in 2018 it was even more disastrous, with the fires in California resulting in many fatalities.

More frequent droughts and increasing temperatures as a result of climate change only make the problem much worse. Therefore, combating wild fires in the USA requires a massive effort. And that massive effort in particular is what the so-called ‘hotshots’ provide. They are the fire brigade’s elite troops who specialise in wild fires and are called on to fight the worst and biggest wild fires all over the USA. In the wilderness they create ‘fire lines’ – i.e. Fire belts in the terrain, the purpose of which is to limit the spread of the fires. This is done by hand – using power saws and axes – or by means of controlled burning, when the direction of the wind is favourable.

The most dangerous tasks
There are around 100 hotshot crews in the USA, each of which comprises 20 firemen. They undergo intensive training in all forms of fire fighting tactics, and the physical requirements are rigorous.  Normally, they are sent out into the wilderness without logistical support in order to create fire lines in shifts lasting up to 48-64 hours for several weeks in a row.

The firemen in every hotshot crew each have their own roles to play. Some of them are trained in first aid, while others are highly specialised lumberjacks who are able to cut down dead or burning trees. Others create fire lines by cutting down vegetation bordering the fire and moving the cut down trees into the fire.

They risk their lives
It is dangerous work, so even if you are one of the best, every now and again it costs human lives. Therefore, all hotshots carry a ‘fire shelter’ which they can use if the fire encircles them. It is designed to withstand flames and radiant heat and contains sufficient breathable air so that the fireman, in an emergency situation, can roll out the fire cover, crawl into it and survive.

However, there are no guarantees. In 1994, nine hotshot member perished in the flames in Oregon when a rapidly moving fire engulfed them. And in 2013, a particularly rapidly moving and violent fire cut a hotshot crew off from their escape route in the wilderness in Arizona. The fire spread more quickly than the crew were able to run and the violent wind created 70 metre high flames and temperatures of approximately 1,100 degrees. The crew were encircled and all of them perished.

If hotshots are the elite troops, smokejumpers are the parachute troops. They jump out of an aeroplane instead of driving or trekking to the fires. The rapid mobilisation means that they can often contain the fire before it grows too big and gets out of control.

Lack of focus on toxic smoke from furniture

sofa

The toxicity of smoke is an important parameter when you are caught in a fire. Therefore, there are strict requirements for what the smoke from materials in trains and ships may contain. The same rules, however, do not apply to building materials or the largest source of smoke in our homes – our furniture.

As is well known, in the right quantities, everything is poisonous. And the quantities may be comparatively small when it comes to substances in smoke. If you are in a place where smoke is a crucial factor in case of fire, for example, a ship, plane or train, the toxicity of smoke is an important part of the materials’ fire-safety properties.

– The interest in toxicity in smoke grew after the fire on the Scandinavian Star ferry in 1990, where many of the ship’s passengers died due to toxic smoke, says Lina Ivar Andersen, Bachelor of Engineering and specialist in chemistry at DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

The disaster prompted the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to prepare new rules in the area, and today there are also requirements for smoke in materials for planes and trains.

– Especially for trains that are to travel through tunnels, where the risk of being poisoned in a fire is even greater, there are strict requirements regarding the toxicity of smoke. The more difficult it is to escape from a fire, the more important the smoke’s toxicity is, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

When flame retardants are a problem
There is no limit to how many substances there are to test when you investigate the toxicity of smoke, but typically the substances that are most poisonous and have resulted in death are measured – this typically includes carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen oxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen bromide, hydrofluoric acid and prussic acid. These substances are especially found in smoke from artificial substances, such as fibreglass or plastic materials, and may be fatal even in small doses.

– Therefore, it is a question of using sufficiently small amounts of these materials in a product. The flammable decorations on non-flammable steel walls on ships are, for example, very thin. Nearly all materials can cause problems with regard to the toxicity of smoke if there are too many of them, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

It can be a challenge when a product has to live up to toxicity requirements. Not least because other, good fire-safety properties may increase the toxicity of a product. Low heat development and fire spreading are also good properties, and they can be achieved by using flame retardants in the product.

– Flame retardants often work by making the product smoulder instead of burst into flame. On the other hand, this means that more smoke develops and the toxicity becomes higher than if it did actually burst into flames. Often, the use of more fire retardants results in more smoke and toxicity. These are useful tools, but their use is a difficult balance for manufacturers, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

No requirements for building materials
The toxicity of materials is not just a parameter for transport. And although its application to building materials is not on our doorstep, it is sometimes a topic that is discussed in European forums. Recently, the European Commission investigated the need for regulating the toxicity in smoke from building materials, which resulted in the publication of a report in the autumn of 2017. It showed, among other things, that it is probably not building materials that comprise the greatest risk for emitting poisonous smoke in our buildings and homes. On the contrary, it is the things we fill them with.

– The smoke from materials that we normally build with presumably contain a limited amount of toxicity. On the other hand, we fill our homes with furniture containing many foam materials, which give off much more toxic smoke, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

Focus on sustainability and fire safety in the EU

Construction-site

A new EU directive on the energy performance of buildings is to result in comprehensive energy renovation and strengthen the focus on obligations related to fire safety. This is explained by Bendt Bendtsen, who is a Danish member of the European Parliament and was the main negotiator for the new directive.

What is the purpose of the new energy performance of buildings directive?
– It is intended to stimulate energy renovation of existing buildings. The old directive from 2010 had a lot of requirements for new buildings, but we only build about 1% building stock a year, while 80% of our existing buildings will be in use in 2050. So, in order to have well-functioning and efficient energy consumption and make Europe more sustainable, we have to energy-renovate many more buildings – in fact, three times as many as today. Only by making our buildings more energy efficient can we cost-effectively achieve the climate and energy goals for Europe. This includes fewer fossil fuels, less import from Putin and better indoor climate for European citizens.

What role does fire safety play in the directive?
– A completely new obligation in the building directive is that member states must prepare long-term renovation strategies to achieve highly efficient and de-carbonised building stock in 2050. In the national long-term renovation strategies, the member countries can both tackle fire safety and estimate the strategies’ significance for health and indoor climate – including the safety of residents and users. According to the directive, the EU countries will – by both building new buildings and through major renovations – take healthy indoor climate conditions and fire safety into account. It is important that the industry and stakeholders insist that the governments of the EU countries live up to their obligations. First of all, when the directive is to be implemented in March 2020, but also when the directive is used in practice.

How do we ensure fire safety generally in the hunt for energy efficiency?
– Energy renovations provide a clear opportunity to tackle fire safety in a way that is the least inconvenient and least financial burden for owners, residents and users. When you energy-renovate, it makes sense to take a position on whether all fire-safety measures have been taken, and whether technical or structural changes can be made to buildings that can improve fire safety.

Joint European building regulations have been discussed before. Is this the beginning of developments in this area?
– I do not think that a European building regulation is very likely. My impression is that the governments of the EU countries will continue to insist the geographic location and placement of buildings will be too nationally specific to justify a European building code. I think that it is already a major step forward for Europe and European citizens that our EU countries have obligated themselves to have a highly efficient, de-carbonised building stock in 2050 by looking at energy performance. The toolbox for getting there is in the hands of the governments of the EU member countries, and rightly so.

Facade fires that have occurred in recent years, including, most recently, the Grenfell Tower in London, have had major consequences in Europe. What is the EU doing to confront this problem?
– In the building directive, we have focused on obligations related to fire safety. This is a good first step, but, of course, it requires that the EU countries are conscious of their responsibility when the directive becomes national legislation. In addition, I have just presented a proposal regarding the EU’s 2019 budget to improve fire statistics in Europe. An improved statistical basis is the first step towards being able to optimise fire safety efforts in the EU countries. Today, there are very different national approaches and calculation methods when it comes to fire safety. It would be good to have a joint European data basis so we can identify ‘best practice’ in the EU countries’ fire safety efforts more easily – and, in time, even start European fire safety measures.

USA streets ahead when it comes to the fire safety of mega-batteries

ESS-fire-service-safety

Mega-batteries in the electricity system, industry and in our homes are on the way, and that will throw up challenges when it comes to fire safety. In the USA, development is more advanced, and the work on managing the risks is in full swing.

Our energy system will be transformed in the years to come. Sustainable energy will become more prominent and the storage of surplus energy from wind turbines and solar cells will be an important part of the solution. Therefore, Energy Storage Systems (ESS) will play a pivotal role, both in the general infrastructure, in industry and even in domestic homes. Development is gradually getting underway around the world, but if you look at the USA, it is in full swing, with ESS being constructed on a large scale.

However, it will entail a number of fire safety challenges when you install large-scale batteries with all the chemicals and energy volumes they contain.

– In Denmark, we are sniffing around the area, for example, in connection with solar farms, in large companies and in data centres. However, the technology entails a number of challenges in terms of fire safety. In a fire, the batteries can emit flammable gases, or ‘thermal runaway’ can occur, whereby the battery generates heat uncontrollably with the result that the battery cells can self-combust. When an entire room is filled with batteries, this poses a risk that has to be managed, says Mikael N. Gam, who is a fire safety consultant with DBI – the Danish Institute of Fire & Security Technology.

New standards in the pipeline
Even though the prevalence is greater in the USA, the technology is also fairly new there. There are standards in the field but they are currently being revised thoroughly due to the experiences gleaned in recent years.

– There are new and relatively prescriptive standards on the way which must describe what you need to do to ensure an acceptable level of fire safety according to American standards. This will change, for example, when an ESS is covered by the standard based on the type of battery technology and the volume of energy in the batteries. As far as possible, the standards will also cover future technologies so that unregulated technologies cannot emerge, even though the field is developing rapidly, says Mikael N. Gam.

In addition, there will be limitations to the energy capacity (probably a maximum of 50 kW) in every block in an ESS and minimum distance requirements between the blocks and between a block and the walls, if the system is installed in a building. This way, you are minimising the risk of a fire spreading unhindered in a really large ESS. There are solutions available up to 30,000 kW, and it is expected that this will increase further in the coming years.

– At the same time, in the drafts of the new standards the scene is now set for requirements for sprinkler systems, for which there is a strong tradition in the USA, explains Mikael N. Gam.

What about the emergency response teams?
It is not only in relation to standards that ESS is being looked at in more depth in the USA. Full-scale tests of various ESS systems are being carried out in order to gain more knowledge on how batteries react in a fire when ‘thermal runaway’ occurs, what effect the batteries have in terms of heat in a fire, how fire spreads between the battery blocks, which gases are created and what can be used to extinguish them.

The last point is particularly crucial as some batteries, for example, can flare up again days or weeks after they have been extinguished and because different battery technologies require different extinguishing methods. For example, it is possible to extinguish a lithium-ion battery with water. But, if you pour water on a lithium battery it can create hydrogen, which is extremely flammable.

– Another aspect that is being focused on is the training of emergency response teams so that they can deliver an effective response. This is made more difficult by the fact that different ESS systems require different responses and that the technology is developing at such a rapid pace that standards can’t keep up. This also makes it difficult for emergency response teams to keep up, says Mikael N. Gam.

The work on fire-testing ESS systems and finding a solution to the training of emergency response teams continues apace in the USA. And, there is good reason to keep abreast of the solutions they come up with on the other side of the Atlantic. Because even if the prevalence of ESS is still limited on these shores, it is on its way.

New method of evaluating overall fire safety

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Fire safety is not just one thing. It involves an interplay between a number of different factors. And, if one of them fails, the entire projected safety falls apart.

This is the underlying basis of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which is a new approach to fire safety that was presented at the NFPA Conference & Expo in Las Vegas in the summer of 2018.

– The method means that you don’t just look at one factor – for example, the design of the building – but you have to view fire safety from a broader perspective in order to ensure that the overall level of safety is adequate. Many factors determine whether a building is safe, and if just one element does not live up to expectations, then you don’t have the expected level of safety, says Mikael N. Gam, fire safety consultant at the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, DBI.

Prudent principles in tumultuous times
In specific terms, the ecosystem encompasses eight points that must be in place.

– In a time when many of the things we have historically based our fire safety on are changing – for example, the use of many new materials with different fire safety properties, the ecosystem is a highly prudent principle to work to. For everything is interlinked and, to a far greater degree than previously, we have to be aware that numerous factors impact on overall fire safety, explains Mikael N. Gam.

The eight points in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem:

  1. The regulatory authorities must develop and maintain effective guidelines and laws in the field.
  2. Planning and design teams must apply the latest guidelines and regulations in the field.
  3. All standards must be referenced and complied with during all phases of a building project (design, execution, operation etc.).
  4. Safety must be invested in, and it must be prioritised in relation to training, the choice of products and the enforcement of guidelines.
  5. The workforce carrying out the construction of the building must be competent and highly trained so that it can perform the work in compliance with guidelines and regulations.
  6. An effective quality assurance system must be in place in order to enforce rules and guidelines during the construction phase.
  7. Emergency response teams must be prepared, well-trained and have the necessary equipment to be able to respond to any risks that may arise.
  8. The public must be well-informed regarding the risks and dangers posed by fires before fire safety is in order.

Climate change presents new problems for the emergency services

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The dry summer has caused a record number of wildfires. This may well become the new normal, as climate change suggests that there may be many periods of drought in the future. This will present challenges for the emergency services, who will require new equipment, knowledge and training.

Whether summer 2018, with its extreme temperatures, will retain the record for being the hottest for many years, or whether climate change will make summers such as this the new normal, is a good question.

– Our scenarios indicate that in the future, the summer months will bring more precipitation in Northern Europe and less in Southern Europe. Put another way, there won’t be a great difference in the amount of precipitation, it will just be more divided. It will also be heavier and we can expect longer periods without rain, says Mikael Scharling, a climatologist with the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

A higher level of drought requires more weeks dominated by high pressure, which keeps precipitation away. But whether periods of high and low pressure will become longer – such as the period of high pressure we have seen this year, remains to be seen.

New requirements for operational crew and equipment
With more dry periods in the future, operational crew, who have been on overtime this summer, should be prepared for this becoming a regular occurrence.

– If dry periods in summer become the norm, this will place completely new demands on both men and machinery. The summer has presented new challenges to take into account in our risk-based dimensioning, including scenario descriptions and capacity analysis. For example, we have experienced more wildfires and fires in woodland areas, says Emergency Services Manager, Søren Lundhild and goes on to say:

– In woodland, it’s often difficult to gain access with the equipment we have today, and it’s essential that we get in quickly so that a fire does not develop further. I think we have to look into the possibility of acquiring light vehicles such as ATVs with lightweight extinguishing equipment and other materiel.

Forest fires also burn into the roots of trees under the earth, so ground pins with water attached can also become necessary. The use of drones to gain a better overview of the spread of the fire in difficult terrain will also be useful for the fire manager.

– In addition, we will need to look at emergency management statistics to see how we can improve our competences to take the right decisions. We need to capitalise on the experience of outside experts in managing the threats posed by drought. And training must be combined with knowledge of national wind conditions, Lundhild says.