SOURCE: Underwriters Laboratories

May 04, 2006 08:00 ET

UL Receives Grant to Study Fire Behavior in the Built Environment, Develop Safety Programs for Nation's Firefighters

NORTHBROOK, IL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 4, 2006 -- Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) has received a $985,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct research designed to better understand the dynamics of fire in residential and commercial settings and to use that understanding to develop more-effective fire-safety training programs for the nation's firefighters. The grant is administered by the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) under the DHS Fire Prevention and Safety grant program in partnership with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC).

About 100 firefighters are killed -- and many more injured -- in the line of duty each year, according to the USFA.

"These projects are intended to help reduce firefighter deaths by examining how fire behaves in real-life situations and then using that information to teach firefighters how to better protect themselves during a fire," says J. Thomas Chapin, Ph.D., general manager of UL's North American Fire & Security Sector.

According to Chapin, the changing dynamics of building contents, human behavior, ignition sources, the lack of smoke alarms and sprinklers, and the misinterpretation of codes and product standards are significant contributing factors to firefighter and civilian deaths. A study released last year by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) suggests that these factors may interact today to produce hotter, more aggressive fires than was typical in the past, cutting the time needed to escape some types of fires from 17 minutes to as little as three.

The grant is divided into two major areas: investigating fire paths in commercial occupancies and conducting fire research into residential occupancies. Data collected from the research, including that from fully instrumented fire tests in full-scale residential settings and historical information from well-known commercial occupancy fires such as 1980's MGM Grand Hotel fire in Las Vegas, as well as relevant standards and code information, and fire performance data products and furnishings, will be incorporated into a series of courses designed to complement existing USFA training classes. Chapin envisions the data and findings will also be used to develop education programs for the general public and public safety officials in the future.

UL's education and training division, UL University, will present the course material through classes and Web-based seminars to key audiences, including the IAFC, International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), International Fire Marshals Association (IFMA), International Code Council (ICC), and the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM).

For more information on the year-long project, please call Pravin Gandhi, Ph.D., at (847) 664-3354 or e-mail him at

About Underwriters Laboratories

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit product safety certification organization that has been testing products for more than 110 years. UL tests more than 19,000 types of products annually, and more than 20 billion UL Marks appear on products each year. Worldwide, UL's family of companies and its network of service providers include 62 laboratories, and testing and certification facilities.

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