Category Archives: Security

Swedish research project studies underground evacuations


Data on current evacuation simulations that involve climbing stairways are outdated and imprecise. A new project being conducted by Lund University seeks to correct this problem by providing better evacuation solutions for underground constructions. 

Buildings are on their way underground, so to speak, and new constructions are now deeper than ever. In Copenhagen, for example, construction of the underground metro system is underway. This trend is also apparent in Sweden, where the next stage of Stockholm’s metro will reach depths of up to 100 metres.

These deep constructions will result in escape routes that include long stairways in the event of an evacuation, and this is something Sweden’s Lund University is currently studying quite closely. The research project, whose title is ‘Ascending Stair Evacuation’, examines how people behave while following escape routes that involve stairs.

– Our ambition is to study how long stairways affect walking speed, as well as which physiological factors come into play, explains Karl Fridolf, a Ph.D. candidate in Lund University’s Department of Fire Safety Engineering and leader of the project.

Existing data is imprecise
The project began in 2013, and the original idea came from an actual need among engineers working with underground constructions such as cellars or metro systems.

– I spoke with a group of engineers who had worked on a large underground project in Stockholm. They had plenty of doubts as to how they should model the construction in relation to emergency exits and escape routes, as they couldn’t find data on how people behave when climbing long stairways during an evacuation, Fridolf recounts.

When he looked into the scientific literature in the area, it became apparent that the existing data had been produced some 40-50 years ago.

– We’ve actually changed physiologically since then. We’ve become older, and there are more overweight people today. At the same time, the data we found involved relatively short stairways that can’t be compared to today’s constructions with longer stairways. All things considered, the data didn’t apply to today’s conditions, he explains.

A 30-storey walk
To find data that better meets today’s needs, the project team is conducting three trials that share a common recipe: a demographically representative group of about 70 test subjects are being asked to climb three sets of stairs, from bottom to top, while having their time, pulse and metabolism rates measured.

The first of the three trials was conducted in a 12-storey building, while the next trial will be held in a 30-storey building to determine whether there is a limit for how long a stairway can be before one should consider alternate evacuation options, such as fire-proof elevators. The data from the first trial has not yet been fully analysed, so it is still too soon to report any final conclusions.

– It does appear, though, that people make it to the top regardless of whether they’re in a hurry or taking their time. Eventually, everyone finds their own tempo, Fridolf says.

Based on the findings of the trials, the project group will obtain precise data about walking speed that can be used in evacuation simulations – and not just for people as a whole, but for separate subgroups, too.

– Because we also have the test subjects’ demographic data, we’re able to assign a specific walking speed to certain groups of people – such as the elderly or those who are overweight – and these speeds can be used to create even more precise simulations, explains Fridolf.

Proper solutions
Today’s evacuation simulations that involve climbing stairs use a single walking speed for all people. Using the project’s data, however, future simulations will paint a much clearer and precise picture of real life evacuation situations. Furthermore, this new type of data will come to influence which solutions are used in future constructions.

– Previously, when engineers performed simulations in a tunnel, they reduced walking speed for safety’s sake if there was smoke in the tunnel. When we studied the matter in connection with the Metro project, though, it turned out that people actually reduced their speed due to the smoke – but not as much as one might expect when coming up with an evacuation model. This suggests that less costly evacuation solutions can be found, Fridolf explains.

This finding may also be the result of the Ascending Stair Evacuation project. With new, precise data, engineers can better calculate exactly which evacuation solutions are needed, instead of using over- or under-dimensioned solutions.


Ascending Stair Evacuation (ASE)
The ASE project began in 2013 and is scheduled for completion in 2015. The purpose is to determine walking speeds for people climbing stairs in evacuation situations, and the information will be used to create more precise simulations. The Department of Fire Safety Engineering at Lund University is directing the project, which is also supported by the Swedish Transport Agency and Brandforsk, the Swedish Fire Research Board. The project has a working budget of approximately €215,000.


The Metro project
Metro was a joint project whose goal was to secure underground railways and tunnels in Sweden. The project was completed in 2012, and the Department of Fire Safety Engineering at Lund University was involved in the evacuation phase. The research teams examined which warning systems had the best effect in a tunnel, and how quickly people moved – though only until they reached a stairway. The ASE project is thus a natural successor to the Metro project, the purpose of ASE is to study what happens when people have to climb stairs during an evacuation procedure. The Metro project had a total budget of around €1.5 million.

Large-scale fires in Norway underscore need for comprehensive emergency planning

IMG_6449Local emergency planning needs to be rethought from bottom to top. Such was the simple conclusion of a new report by the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning, which investigated the local response to a January fire in the village of Lærdalsøyri.

When 40 houses burned to the ground on the night of 19 January in Lærdal Municipality, it was the worst fire Norway had experienced since 1945. However, it was also the result of a series of unusual and unavoidable circumstances, as the Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning concluded in a recent report entitled ‘The Fire in Lærdal, Flatanger and Frøya, Winter 2014’.

The fire started in a building in the tiny village of Lærdalsøyri, and its actual cause has yet to be determined. But just after 11 p.m., a local inhabitant rang to the emergency dispatch centre to report what was most likely a flash fire in the building next door, and that there was a considerable risk that the flames would spread.

– The region is normally dry in January with only a little precipitation, and this year there was  under seven millimetres of rain or snow, says Anne Rygh Pedersen, a branch manager at the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning.

Over €24 million in damages
Meanwhile, the weather was warmer than usual, and the wind made fire conditions even worse.

– The wind was blowing quite hard. And when it hit the valleys, it was deflected off the rock face and created turbulence and unstable wind conditions in the village, Pedersen explains.

Even though the first fire engine reached the scene just six minutes after the emergency call, by 11:15 p.m. the flames had spread to several neighbouring houses. The houses were made of wood, the direction of the wind was shifting constantly, and the fire continued to spread to the rest of the village and up into the valley. The wind eventually died down the following morning, and with help from local inhabitants, fire departments from neighbouring towns and the Norwegian Civil Defence, the fire was brought under control. By this time, however, 40 buildings had burned down (of which four were part of the village’s historic town centre, though none of these were protected homes), 70 people had lost their homes and property, and the damages totalled more than €24 million.

A lack of training
The incident in Lærdalsøyri was one of three large-scale fires to hit Norway within a span of 11 days due to unusual weather conditions that included drought and heavy winds. And the three fires have raised questions about the region’s emergency preparedness and organisation, as the overall response was less than optimal. Take the Lærdalsøyri, for example:

– The response efforts were too poorly organised. There are around 2,100 people who live in the Lærdal Municipality, and the emergency response team is quite small, with 16 part-time fire fighters and no on-call emergency service, Pedersen explains.

An emergency response team of this size is not equipped to lead or organise a large-scale effort that includes fire brigades from several municipalities, helicopters and the Norwegian Civil Defence.  And the Lærdal Municipality suffered the consequences.

– A small emergency response team does not have the necessary training to lead such a large-scale effort. They don’t have the overview of the available resources, such as those that can be obtained from neighbouring municipalities. In Lærdal, this meant that a tanker loaded with foam, which could have been used to prevent the fire from spreading, first arrived from an airstrip in a neighbouring municipality five hours after the initial deployment. Had it arrived earlier, several of the buildings most likely could have been saved, Pedersen assesses.

A lack of emergency planning
It is not only in the event of an emergency that the small response teams have difficulties meeting the challenge at hand. The preventive work is often insufficient because smaller municipalities might not have the means to hire a fire safety engineer.

– There was no plan that could have been followed to coordinate the efforts of the many fire brigades that showed up in Lærdal. They organised themselves without a strategy, and without any real cohesion among the different fire-fighting efforts, says Pedersen.

Overall coordination was further complicated by the fact that communication between the various actors was widely based on mobile phones, and the network buckled in connection with the fire, as did the power grid.

Furthermore, there was no emergency response plan in place for saving the protected buildings in Lærdalsøyri. As a result, a plan was simply drawn up on the fly while the fire was underway, which cost a great deal of dear time.

Consolidated efforts are necessary
The challenges presented by sparsely populated regions with small emergency response teams are much greater in Norway than in Denmark, which is not a new phenomenon.

– In autumn of 2013, a working group headed by the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning conducted a fire safety study for the Norwegian Ministry of Justice and Public Security. In it, there was a recommendation for combining Norway’s emergency response teams from 18 regions because, from our point of view, the working group knew the existing emergency efforts were poorly organised. It’s something we’ve known for many years, and it was very clearly underscored by the three fires we saw in January, Pedersen emphasises.

– There is a need for more experienced leaders and improved preventive measures. A large and consolidated emergency response team is necessary, says Pedersen.

It’s too early to say what consequences of this might be, as the municipalities themselves decide whether they want to consolidate their emergency response teams with those of neighbouring municipalities.


The fire in Lærdalsøyri by the numbers

16 part-time fire fighters served in the municipal fire brigade
€24+ million in damages
40 houses burned down
70 people lost their homes and property
115 fire fighters were involved in the emergency response
178 members of the Norwegian Civil Defence participated in the response
270 people were hospitalised for shorter or longer periods of time
446 people were examined at the hospital
680 people were evacuated from their homes
4,000 hours were spent fighting the fire

Become certified for the US market at DBI

Only a handful of fire laboratories in Europe are certified to conduct tests in accordance with UL standards. DBI is one of them. It is a quick and easy admission ticket to the American market.

Would you like to enter the American market or supply building components to facilities owned by the US government, but which are located outside of the United States? If so, then prepare to ship your components to the US to have them fire-tested. 

This was hitherto the reality for Danish and other European manufacturers that hoped to enter the US market. Today, however, the costly trip across the Atlantic can be avoided, as it is now possible to fire-test products within Europe at DBI – in accordance with standards set by UL, an American certification company.

– There are several American companies whose certifications grant full access to the American market. But UL’s is the right one to go with, says Trine Dalsgaard Jensen, a civil engineer at DBI’s fire laboratory.

In addition to being one of the most widely recognised of its kind, the UL certification provides access to regions outside of the US, such as to the Middle East.

– There are also many American-owned companies, such as Intel, that require their buildings in all countries to be constructed of products that are UL-listed, says Chris Miles, who is the acting business manager for UL in Europe.

Testing and laboratory requirements
The tests are conducted at DBI’s fire laboratory and are normally monitored by a UL employee, who ensures that the requirements for UL certification are met.

– We ensure that the process in the testing phase complies with UL standards, and that the sampling, monitoring and other matters are carried out as they should be. We also subject the results to an approval process and issue any applicable certification, Chris explains.

In most cases, one way in which testing conducted in accordance with the UL standard sets itself apart from EU standards is by requiring a different type of measurement equipment.

– The rejection criteria are often different, too. Furthermore, the laboratory in which the testing is carried out must meet a number of requirements. We set requirements regarding quality control, the personnel and facilities before conducting any tests, Chris points out.

The facilities are particularly important in this regard. For example, following an ordinary barrier test in which a component is subjected to the effects of fire, the UL standard also calls for a subsequent hose stream test, which examines the effects of high-pressure water streams on the component.

– DBI is one of the very few labs in Europe that has the facilities and equipment to carry out such testing, Chris says.

Experience with sharp requirements
The hose stream test is most likely also one of the elements that are new to many clients.

– Some may see it as a strange and sharp requirement. Many constructions risk becoming damaged, and even the welds can come undone when they are quickly cooled by the water.  The water pressure itself can also damage the construction. But we have experience from the marine area with the hose stream test, and we can advise our clients based on their own products, as well as on our knowledge of the rules and the strains of the test, Trine explains.

Simultaneous testing for the EU and US
Even though some areas are different between the UL and EU testing standards, there are also many similarities.

– Within some product areas, it will be possible in the foreseeable future to approve products for both the EU and US with just one testing phase. This is already possible for doors and ducts. We’re not quite there for all other products, though, says Trine, who concludes:

– But even though two different rounds of testing are needed to obtain both certifications, it’s still easier and cheaper to go with DBI than sending components to the US to be tested.


… stands for Underwriters Laboratories. The company is the leading certification authority in the North America and has some 11,000 employees in 46 countries. The company tests and certifies almost all product areas, from wireless money transactions to drinking water and fire safety. The company is one among a handful of companies in the US that may develop standards which are referred to in official American building codes.

Become certified for the US market at DBI
Christ Miles, business manager for UL in Europe, and Mette Winther Pedersen, managing director for UL International Demko, attend a meeting at DBI.  In order to receive UL certification, the testing sequence must be observed by a UL employee, who ensures that all requirements are met.

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.



… 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.

CNPP enters into a contract with Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology


In the summer of 2013, CNPP entered into a contract with DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, as an associated laboratory of DBI’s certification function.

DBI had to find a new partner when their associated laboratory, Delta, due to a failing market closed down the testing of components and systems to be used in fire detection and alarm systems. As Delta was the only Danish laboratory in this field, DBI was looking for a partner outside of Denmark.

With only a handful of significant European laboratories left to choose from, the choice of CNPP was not difficult. High professionalism and high confidence in CNPP’s products and services were some of the deciding factors that made DBI choose CNPP. Furthermore, quick handling in terms of both testing and report preparation played an important role.

“We knew that CNPP had a very European mindset but actually we were surprised to realize just how much when we first visited”, says DBI senior consultant Finn Massesson, who has no doubts that CNPP is the right partner for DBI.

“We have very high expectations for our collaboration and believe that both DBI and CNPP will, indeed, benefit from it. As CNPP offers a broad spectrum of testing fields, we may even be looking to extend our collaboration fields”, Finn Massesson adds.

About DBI
DBI is Denmark’s leading knowledge centre within fire safety and security. DBI participates in research and development activities and services which are offered to private and public enterprises, institutions and authorities. Moreover, DBI actively contributes to settings norms and standards at national and international levels within fire and security technology.

Perimeter Protection Systems – more important than ever

Security starts outside the building – CFPA Europe publishes first European training schedule for Perimeter Protection Systems


Numerous public institutions, commercial areas and industrialbuildings as well as their related open areas which are used for storage of material of all kinds are profitable targets for criminals and at the same time the security systems are often not a big challenge.

For many types of operation and sensitive infrastructures, traditionalshell and internal protection is not sufficient.Exterior systems are necessary: perimeter detection and protection systems.

In the new European training course the participants learn about the components of perimeter protection and detection systems and are enabled to evaluate these on their effectiveness and usefulness.

Further information on the seminar and the training organisations offering this course are available under

The information is available for free download here