June 21, 2004 Roof collapses can be especially dangerous to firefighters during building fires. A new CD-ROM and a DVD, both available free from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), should help fire departments improve training to better deal with such hazards.
The CD* recreates a one-story Houston, Texas, restaurant fire in 2000, which cost the lives of two firefighters when a roof collapsed on them. Two NIST software programs—the Fire Dynamic Simulation (FDS) and Smokeview programs—were used to answer questions posed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) during its investigation of the incident.
NIST’s FDS physics-based program analyzed the fire’s temperatures and spread. Smokeview translated the data into images. The CD simulation portrays the fire’s inception in an office, its early entry into the attic, its attack of hidden roof trusses and the roof’s collapse. The narrated simulation, which includes cutaways of walls, ceilings and other partitions, shows that the attic was already aflame when the firefighters arrived on the scene, that the use of the positive pressure fan had no effect on the intensity of the fire and that it might have been possible to see the fire if a ceiling panel had been removed. The possibility that the attic space could have been obscured by smoke also was noted.
NIST’s DVD** contains video clips of NIST roof collapse field experiments with the Phoenix (Ariz.) Fire Department. The DVD features burning warehouses and single-story wood frame structures, each with human-weight mannequins on the roofs. The research, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s U.S. Fire Administration, is part of an ongoing effort to develop a system to predict roof collapse.
The CD titled “NISTIR 6923: Simulation of the Dynamics of a Fire in a One-story Restaurant-Texas, February 14, 2000," also contains the NIST report to NIOSH and the final NIOSH report on the tragedy. It is available from Daniel Madrzykowski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The DVD titled “Structural Collapse” also contains a statistical report on “Trends in Firefighter Fatalities Due to Structural Collapse 1979-2002.” The DVD is available from David W. Stroup at email@example.com.
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