Firefighter

 SAFETY

Firefighters frequently face dangerous conditions that can result in injury, death and long-term health issues. One of UTFRG's most important missions is to support our fire service in addressing the health and safety of our nation's firefighters. Our research focuses on developing new training tools to help firefighters better prepare for field operations and new technologies to reduce the risks firefighters face. Our goal is to provide the fire service with state-of-the art tools and scientific resources so that they can better protect themselves as they serve and protect our communities.

Firefighter hazards can be effectively evaluated using a hazard identification & risk assessment framework. At the core of any hazard assessment methodology, testing, modeling and engineering analysis are essential tools used to evaluate failure propagation through the Li-BESS system and quantifying risk and hazards that firefighters may encounter fas a result from these failure scenarios. 

Simulation of the dispersion of flammable gases released from a Li-BESS rack due to a system failure (above). Fire Dynamics Simulator is used to model the vent gas release. Gases released from lithium-ion cells during thermal runaway events include hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Isosurface of 4% hydrogen concentration is shown.

Project:

ENERGY 

    STORAGE SYSTEM 

  FIREFIGHTER

     SAFETY 

Researchers: Erik Archibald, Austin Baird, Serhat Bilyaz, Tyler Buffington,  Robert Kennedy, Dan Wanegar

Energy storage is a key technology for improving the reliability and efficiency of our electrical grid. Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage Systems (Li-BESS) are capable of providing grid support functions, such as frequency regulation and peak shaving, and can be integrated with renewable energy sources to solve issues with intermittent power production.  The purpose of our project is to evaluate and assess potential fire and explosion scenarios that firefighters may encounter when responding to fires that may involve Li-BESS. Although these events likely have low probability, the potential severity of consequences for firefighters can be extremely high. The goal of our work is to characterize, predict and model these scenarios so that the fire service can have a better understanding of these risks and hazards.

 

This project is a joint effort between UTFRG and our partners--UL, ESSPI, and the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF). 

Firefighter hazards can be effectively evaluated using a hazard identification & risk assessment framework. At the core of any hazard assessment methodology, testing, modeling and engineering analysis are essential tools used to evaluate failure propagation through the Li-BESS system and quantifying risk and hazards that firefighters may encounter fas a result from these failure scenarios. 

Simulation of the dispersion of flammable gases released from a Li-BESS rack due to a system failure (above). Fire Dynamics Simulator is used to model the vent gas release. Gases released from lithium-ion cells during thermal runaway events include hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and hydrocarbons. Isosurface of 4% hydrogen concentration is shown.

Project:

ENERGY 

    STORAGE SYSTEM 

  FIREFIGHTER

     SAFETY 

Researchers: Erik Archibald, Austin Baird, Serhat Bilyaz, Tyler Buffington,  Robert Kennedy, Dan Wanegar

Energy storage is a key technology for improving the reliability and efficiency of our electrical grid. Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage Systems (Li-BESS) are capable of providing grid support functions, such as frequency regulation and peak shaving, and can be integrated with renewable energy sources to solve issues with intermittent power production.  The purpose of our project is to evaluate and assess potential fire and explosion scenarios that firefighters may encounter when responding to fires that may involve Li-BESS. Although these events likely have low probability, the potential severity of consequences for firefighters can be extremely high. The goal of our work is to characterize, predict and model these scenarios so that the fire service can have a better understanding of these risks and hazards.

 

This project is a joint effort between UTFRG and our partners--UL, ESSPI, and the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF). 

Project:

MODELING   

    FIRE HOSE 

TRAJECTORIES

Researchers: Ben Trettel

The fire hose was invented in Holland in the 17th century by the Superintendent of the Fire Brigade, Jan van der Heiden and his son and was made of sew together leather sections. Although fire hose technologies have come a long way since then, the fact remains that fire hoses are the main tool for firefighters to suppress and contain fires. A better understanding of the fire hose trajectories and fluid dynamics can help improve fire hose tip designs. The fundamental physics gained will also support development  and improvement of water droplet and spray modeling capabilities of fire codes such as Fire Dynamics Simulator developed and maintained by NIST. Such codes are commonly used by fire protection engineers to conduct performance-based evaluations on fire protection systems such as sprinklers. 

 

Water jet 

Image of the nearfield region of a water jet from a fire engine deck gun (above). Photograph taken during experimental testing conducted with the Cedar Park Fire Department.  Comparison between predicted and actual fire hose trajectories (below). 

Schematic showing possible acoustic paths and interference between the PASS source and rescue firefighter in a structural fire (top). Comparison of head-related transfer function (HRTF) with a firefighter helmet on (Gear) and off (Bare) (middle).  HRTF is a measure of how the environment changes the acoustic signal as it travels from the sound source to the ear. Time response of search firefighters to the PASS source for different types of PASS signals during field testing with the Austin Fire Department (bottom).

Project:

FIREFIGHTER

  PERSONAL ALERT SAFETY SYSTEM (PASS)

Researchers: Mustafa Abbasi, Mudeer Habeeb, Casey Farmer, Kyle Ford, and Joelle Suits

On the fireground firefighters can be overcome by smoke and heat in a fire and disoriented or trapped in a structure. Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) devices are designed to alert other fireground personnel that aid is required using audible signal-producing technology. This research project seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of differet PASS alarm signals used throughout the U.S. fire service and address possible technological enhancements such as receiver enhancements and addressable non-audible frequencies. Aspects of this project include studying how degraded gypsum reacts with sound, modeling the fire environment with acoustics, evaluating firefighter reactions to new PASS signals, and measuring acoustic properties of a PASS/SCBA device.

The final project report is available for download here or at the NFPA Fire Protection Research Foundation site

Project:

POSITIVE  PRESSURE VENTILATION

    (PPV)

 FIRE TACTICS

Researchers: Craig Weinschenk, Colin Beal, Kevin Carollo, Kristopher Overholt

Airflow control has become a large part of the tactical toolbox that firefighters use to combat fires. Control of airflow requires managing the impact of environmental conditions (i.e., wind) and optimally using mechanically generated flows from fans to drive air and combustion products through predetermined vents. This research explored the ability of analytical and computational models to predict flow variables associated with the use of positive pressure ventilation. To make these predictions, it is shown that various levels of approximation and a knowledge of (the often neglected) structure leakage rates are required. This research involved experiments and simulations of airflow rates associated with fan-induced pressure differences between the environment and a structure.

Large scale testing of PPV conditions using UTFRG's Burn Structure (top), and simulation of the test showing the flowfield dynamics resulting from PPV tactics (bottom)

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