UK Firefighters Face 50 BACKDRAFTS a Year!
In December 2004 the UK's Building Disaster Assessment Group (BDAG) of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) published a series of critical research documents that clearly offered radical recommendations for change in current tactical approaches at structure fires, further suggesting that firefighter training should reflect these changes in the future.
An excellent review of the current situation in the way firefighters approach UNDER-VENTILATED FIRES was presented by Brian Hume of the Fire Statistics & Research Division where it was demonstrated that UK firefighters regularly face, in excess of, 50 Backdrafts and several hundred other related phenomena of rapid fire development every year. These remarkable statistics mean a Backdraft is, on average, a weekly event for the UK's 30,000 professional firefighters. Such data is hard to come by in the rest of the world. In the USA 37 firefighters reportedly died of flashover related phenomena between 1990 and 1999 although the NFPA now record data simply as rapid fire development and fail to differentiate between flashover, backdraft or other ignitions of the fire gases.
The report concluded that further research, including a four year European funded research project into under-ventilated fires - FIRENET - was well underway (2002-06) and therefore any recommendations in tactical approaches and firefighter training should await the outcome of such research. It was also suggested that changes to some building codes may well serve to enhance firefighter safety, particularly in basement areas, in respect of fire loading, sprinklers and smoke ventilation systems.
The way firefighters approach fires on the upper levels of high-rise buildings was the topic of ODPM research covered so well by Simon Hunt and Guy Roberts in their report dealing with ASPECTS OF HIGH-RISE FIREFIGHTING. Their research demonstrated some most valid points I had initially raised in FOG ATTACK in 1991 and questioned the performance capability of rising mains (standpipes) inline with the excessive physiological demands placed on firefighters who are expected to tackle fires in tall buildings. Their work was detailed in the physiological research supported by the OPL REPORT and the hydraulic assessments provided in the BRE REPORT.
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