SFPE Chicago Chapter Spring Educational Seminar April 1-2, 2014 – A New Annual Event

On April 1 and 2, the Chicago SFPE Chapter hosted the first annual Spring Educational Seminar at Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The event brought together over 30 professionals and the SFPE International Board members. Five exceptional speakers Robin Zevotek (UL), James Golinveaux (Tyco), Daniel Madrzykowski (National Institute of Standards and Technology), Skip Donnell (Liberty Mutual Insurance), and Andrew Cox (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) presented on the latest issues impacting the fire protection engineering industry.

Zevotek started the seminar with Predictors for Detection of Cook Top Fires, by discussing recent research conducted by UL and the University of Maryland identifying precursors to stove top fires and how to most effectively utilize the precursors to provide early fire detection and prevent nuisance alarms. UL is currently conducting experiments to continue his work. Golinveaux followed Zevotek with Significant Advancements in Water-Based Fire Suppression for Storage Occupancies, and spoke about the advantages and disadvantage of using FM – based vs NFPA 13 based sprinkler system designs for storage occupancies. He showed some eye-opening examples of NFPA 13 – designed sprinkler systems (using density/area curve criteria) struggling to effectively suppress rack storage fires. In the afternoon, Madrzykowski presented Fire Dynamics in Structures and identified the need to depart from traditional firefighting tactics and embrace research backed tactics. New research and reviews of past incidents showed that commonly used ventilation and water application tactics can induce flashover in residential structures.

Wednesday morning began with Donnells presentation on photovoltaic panels, Photovoltaic Arrays. He spoke about the causes of PV panel fires, the necessity of proper installation and maintenance, and the challenges the panels pose for firefighters. He concluded by explaining the lessons learned from four costly fire losses involving PV panels, including the recent Dietz and Watson fire in southern New Jersey. The last presentation, Persistent Myth of Post-Flashover Fire Dynamics, centered on how compartment fire ventilation impacts burn patterns. Cox explained that it is a common assumption in fire investigation that the fire originated where the damage is most severe. But frequently, changes in ventilation can move the flame front many feet away from the origin and toward the vent, damaging the compartment near the vent more than near the origin. The seminar concluded with a tour of UL.

PDF’s of two of the slide presentations can be accessed below. When other approvals are obtained, these presentations also will be posted here.
Daniel Madrzykowski (National Institute of Standards and Technology)
James Golinveaux (Tyco)

The Chicago Chapter would like to thank the speakers for their time, UL for providing the venue and a tour of their facilities, and lastly the attendees for supporting this new venture. It is our intent to make the Spring Educational Event an annual event. Our goal is to provide a local opportunity to learn about and discuss emerging issues in fire protection and network with other professionals. We hope to develop the seminar over the next couple years to ultimately draw national attention to the seminar and to Chicago. Nine PDHs were provided to all attending engineers requesting them.

(submitted by Kelly Opert /Kim Mniszewski, 4/18/14)