SOURCE: Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

September 12, 2007 17:00 ET

Underwriters Laboratories Receives DHS Grant to Enhance Firefighter Safety in Modern Fire Situations

Engineered Lumber and Effectiveness of Extinguishing Agents to Be Examined

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwire - September 12, 2007) - The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently awarded Underwriters Laboratories (UL) a $991,900 Fire Prevention and Safety Research Grant to enhance understanding of the hazards to firefighters in structural fires and provide data to further advance knowledge of current fire fighting tactics.

Conducted in cooperation with the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), Chicago Fire Department and University of Maryland Fire Protection Department, the Firefighter Safety Research Project will 1) investigate the structural stability of engineered lumber and 2) evaluate the effectiveness of extinguishing agents used to fight fires in modern structures.

"The Firefighter Safety Research Project will provide the fire community with an even better understanding of the evolving issues in fighting fires and help develop alternative methods and materials to further advance fire science," said Tom Chapin, UL's director of Research and Development. "It is the next logical step in our ongoing efforts to systematically address modern-day fire growth behavior and protect all of us from property damage and loss of life in structural fires."

Lightweight wooden trusses, made with engineered lumber, are commonly found in 65 percent of new residential and commercial developments, according to the Wood Truss Council of America. Allowing for faster, more cost-effective construction, recent anecdotal evidence has indicated that lightweight wood trusses may become unstable and collapse more quickly in fire situations than traditional trusses.

"The research conducted under this grant should shed new light on an issue we've long suspected was causing instability for firefighters and leading to injuries. We applaud DHS for recognizing the importance of this research and we hope to have strong recommendations for the future of fighting fires in new residential and commercial developments to follow," said IAFC President Chief Steven Westermann.

Earlier research by the National Engineered Lightweight Construction Fire Research Project indicated that unprotected lightweight wood truss assemblies can fail within six to 13 minutes of exposure to fire. Between 1998 and 2003, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health attributed 13 firefighter fatalities and nine firefighter injuries to the collapse of buildings built with lightweight wood trusses. During the same timeframe, five fatalities and two injuries are attributed to collapses of buildings with heavy timber, solid-joist lumber truss construction.

"Building and roof collapse are the most dangerous elements of fire fighting," said Raymond Orozco, Chicago Fire Department Fire Commissioner. "The move toward more and more lightweight construction means that men and women in the fire service must have the best information available to be able to determine the risk and timing of structural failure. This grant and the subsequent data developed will prove invaluable in establishing procedures that minimize risk and maximize safe suppression techniques." The second part of the research project will evaluate the effectiveness of various extinguishing foams in residential fire situations and provide information to help national fire service organizations design new firefighting tactics, develop Web-based training programs and increase overall firefighter safety.

The Firefighter Safety Research Project is UL's latest research and development project to advance the DHS goal to eliminate residential fire deaths by 2020. In May, UL completed a groundbreaking study that investigated 27 synthetic and natural materials and various combinations of materials now most commonly found in homes. As a result, UL is now strongly recommending that consumers utilize both photoelectric and ionization technologies to optimize detection and permit the best available escape time in residential fire situations.

UL expects the research project to take one year and anticipates a report on the findings in early 2009.

Underwriters Laboratories is an independent, not-for-profit product safety certification organization that has been testing products and writing Standards for Safety for over a century. UL evaluates more than 19,000 types of products, components, materials and systems annually with 21 billion UL Marks appearing on 71,000 manufacturers' products each year. UL's worldwide family of companies and network of service providers includes 66 laboratory, testing and certification facilities serving customers in 104 countries. Visit: www.UL.com/newsroom.

Established in 1873, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) represents the leadership of over 1.2 million firefighters internationally. IAFC members are the world's leading experts in fire fighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous materials spills, natural disasters, search & rescue, and public safety legislation.

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