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5 Posts authored by: amandakimball Employee

The Research Foundation's SupDet 2016 symposium wrapped up last week in San Antonio, Texas.  Over the course of the four-day conference more than 100 attendees and 30 presenters met to discuss the latest research, developments and emerging issues in the fire detection and suppression world. Attendees listened to presentations on topics such as the History of Fire, New Technology for High-Challenge Sprinkler Protected Warehouses, Hazards of Lithium-Ion Batteries, Data Collection related to Smoke Alarm Performance, Indoor Positioning Systems, new research focused on reducing Nuisance Alarms, as well as a workshop on the opportunities for big data to inform ITM practices of fire protection equipment.


The conference presentations and extended abstracts on each of the topics are now available on the Foundation's website:


The Foundation expresses special thanks to our sponsors that helped make this event a success: Victaulic, UL, Zurich, Globe Fire Sprinkler, Tyco SimplexGrinnell, and Siemens.

Wednesday afternoon at SupDet was dedicated to a Workshop on Big Data and Fire Protection Systems focused on identifying the opportunities for big data to inform inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) decision making.    The on‐going reliability of built‐in fire protection systems is related to ITM of these systems.


Nathaniel Lin (pictured below), NFPA's new director of data strategy and analytics, gave a presentation on “Big Data Analytics and Decision Making” where he highlighted the need for analytics to turn raw data into insights and solutions that can be acted upon.  “True analysis,” he said, “leads to predictions.  It uses the past to predict the future.”


Gayle Pennel followed with a “Case Study Presentation: Update of Fire Pump ITM Data Coordination” which came out of his 2012 Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Fire Pump Field Data Collection and Analysis" and was an effort to “provide credible and statistically valid fire pump performance data that substantiates testing frequencies and protocols.” 

The second half of the afternoon was devoted to breakout groups who wrestled with the larger questions of what data might inform ITM decisions, how standard data formats might be developed, what data sources might be available, and what potential barriers to data sharing might need to be overcome.  It was an exciting and talk-filled two hours!  A workshop summary will be made available in the future.


Recent additional efforts to address this topic have included a previous Foundation Workshop on “Applying Reliability Based Decision Making to ITM Frequency” (2012), and a workshop at SupDet 2015 on the topic of general research needs around the topic of ITM, which identified several areas where data is needed to answer key questions such as the optimal frequency for certain tests and the relationship between ITM activities and failures.


Lithium-ion batteries have become a staple of everyday life, from the small ones that power our cell phones, laptops, and tools, to the larger energy storage systems (ESS) that may soon be found in many houses storing energy created by solar panels for later use.  With the power potential that makes them so useful comes additional safety concerns.  This morning at SupDet 2016 we heard from a number of researchers examining different issues.


Mark Smith presented 3M’s promising experiments with using fluorinated ketones to stop thermal runaway in battery packs in “Preventing Cell-to-Cell Thermal Runaway in Li-ion Battery Packs by Means of Fluid Application.”


Andrew F. Blum (pictured above), Exponent, Inc., presented “Lithium-ion Energy Storage System Fires.”  The focus was on assessing failure scenarios in energy storage systems.  They suggested future fire testing to develop safe installation rules, consider ventilation and placement needs, and recommend fire fighter tactics.


Ben Ditch, FM Global, presented “Cartoned Lithium Ion Battery Storage Sprinkler Protection” which focused on reduced commodity evaluations of a variety of lithium-ion batteries in order to assess and classify hazard levels.  The future holds a large scale test of the highest hazard batteries to confirm proper protection levels.  Their aim is “protection based on actual results for actual batteries.”


Additional Research Foundation projects related to lithium-ion batteries can be found online.  To access the SupDet 2016 presentations and papers, please visit the proceedings website.

There is limited prior research related to protection of storage under ceilings with slopes steeper than 2/12. Previous studies exist from FM Global, University of Maryland/Custom Spray Solutions, the Fire Protection Research Foundation, and National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA), but there are still many open questions related to the protection criteria for storage under sloped ceilings. The questions include, but are not limited to; sprinkler activation pattern relative to fire source location, and optimal sprinkler installation orientation.

There are many different parameters related to this design challenge. Some of the key parameters include the slope of the ceiling, the commodity being stored, types of sprinklers (including ESFRs), sprinkler orientation, and sprinkler spacing. Some possible protection design solutions to sloped ceiling facilities are to use higher densities or larger calculation areas than for storage under flat ceilings.

Further modeling analysis will be beneficial in order to understand the potential protection challenges related to sloped ceilings, and to determine the range of scenarios that should be studied further through testing. The information from this work as well as information gathered from testing could help inform the NFPA 13 requirements.

The Fire Protection Research Foundation initiated this project to ultimately determine the impact of sloped ceilings on protection of storage and develop the technical basis for the NFPA 13 Technical Committees for new requirements and guidance. This report, "Protection of Storage Under Sloped Ceilings - Phase 1" authored by Kenneth E. Isman, Stephen J. Jordan, Andre W. Marshall and Noah L. Ryder from Custom Spray Solutions, covers the first phase of this project with the objective to develop a test plan based on the review of current range of typical storage configurations and modeling.

A separate FM Global report titled “Numerical Modeling of Sprinkler Activations and Spray Transport Under Sloped Ceilings” contains the results from the modeling effort and can be downloaded

During the revision cycle for the 2010 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, the Technical Committee on Single- and Multiple-Station Alarms and Household Fire Alarm Systems (SIG-HOU) focused renewed attention on nuisance alarms. Based on the information in the NFPA report "Smoke Alarms in U.S. Home Fires" authored by Marty Ahrens, during the development of the 2013 edition of NFPA 72 the SIG-HOU Technical Committee added several new provisions to Chapter 29 to further reduce nuisance alarms.

There was a lack of characterization of common nuisance sources for the development of new performance test protocols. Accordingly, the Foundation initiated a project to work toward characterizing common nuisance sources for the development of new test protocols to meet the NFPA 72 requirements. This Phase 2 project involved collecting data to characterize nuisance sources from cooking and steam/water mist and comparing the nuisance source data to existing fire test data.

Now, the full report from Phase 2, "Smoke Alarm Nuisance Source Characterization: Experimental Results" authored by Joshua B. Dinaburg and Dr. Daniel T. Gottuk, Ph.D. with Jensen Hughes, is available for download.