For more than a century, UL has been a leader in researching fire behaviors in living and working environments, with the goal of helping to reduce loss of life and prevent fires. With the emergence of synthetic materials, new types of smoke and complex energy sources, the modern hazards associated with fires are often more dangerous than they were a century ago. UL works to help manufacturers, firefighters and homeowners understand, prevent and mitigate the risks involved.

Our research shows that modern homes reach flashover eight times faster than homes built 50 years ago and a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than three minutes. Production innovations, such as photovoltaic panels and better sealed building envelopes coupled with new synthetic materials and more powerful personal electronics have fundamentally changed the dynamics and behavior of residential fires.

In an effort to better understand the change in fires, UL is conducting innovative experiments to quantify how fires have become much more dangerous, where new fire containment and suppression strategies are required, and the composition and higher levels of toxicity in smoke.

UL works closely with the firefighting community to develop new methods and operational practices to advance safety.  For example, UL partnered with the Fire Department City of New York (FDNY) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct unprecedented fire research during live burns on a vacant housing complex at Governor’s Island, New York – the exercise yielded some important and actionable outcomes that re-wrote aspects of longstanding firefighting techniques.

As UL’s continuing research is made available, the results can lead to advancements in products, product safety standards, model codes and regulations.

Story Ideas

  • How fires today are more dangerous and pose more risks than in the past
  • New UL research informs fire risks and firefighting tactics
  • Insights on the impact of PV systems and guidance for builders, installers and manufacturers
  • Fire safety and sustainability