Through the months of December and January, researchers at the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute examined the effectiveness of positive-pressure ventilation, also known as PPV. Firefighters place high-speed fans in front of an opening in hopes of controlling the path of a fire. If used correctly, PPV may be able to push fire away from an area with trapped victims.
Not all science is created in beakers or test tubes. UL is researching the science behind fires, but not in office with a lab coat. Researchers turned to their firefighting roots to build houses, set them on fire and fight the fire – just like they would in the field.
UL’s unique fire building, a 14,400-square-foot structure with a 48-foot-tall movable ceiling, contains one of the largest land-based elevators in North America. This unusual lab became the residence of two life-size homes, a 1,200-square-foot ranch and a two-story 3,200-square-foot colonial home, complete with carpet, cabinets, paint, furniture and even a television.
Fire raged through the homes 26 times — often more than once a day.
On days when experiments were not conducted, construction experts cleared all burned materials, plastered, repainted and refurnished the homes.
Researchers used hundreds of cables and wires to collect information from 150 sensors placed around the homes. These sensors collected data on heat flux, temperature, gas concentration and air speed to better understand how a fire burns.
Researchers used nearly 100 cameras to examine how a fire moves from room to room. Many of the cameras became damaged or burned by the fires.
UL is making the world a safer place through unconventional experiments, changing how firefighters operate in the field. Now, firefighters have the science to back-up or change the strategies and tactics handed-down through generations.