Posts Tagged ‘Institution of Fire Engineers’

A Community of Practice

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Greetings from Australia

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am in Sydney, Australia to participate in the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) Compartment Fire Behavior Special Interest Group (SIG) International Instructor’s Workshop and present at International Firefighting Safety Conference 2009 which is being held in Sydney and Perth, Australia. I am energized by the unique opportunity to be involved with these two events.

In 2008, Dr. Stefan Svensson of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (formerly Raddningsverket or the Swedish Rescue Services Agency), had an idea to invite a number of instructors, fire officers, and researchers with an interest in compartment fires to Sweden. His purpose was to “see what would happen” if he put a dozen or so highly motivated, passionate, and generally opinionated fire service professionals from around the world who share a common interest in the same room for a couple of days. Stefan in an interesting guy, he is a fire protection engineer who conducts research on fire behavior and firefighting operations and teaches at the national Fire College in Revinge. However, he is also an part time firefighter and crew commander assigned to a fire station in a small village outside Malmo, Sweden.

I was fortunate enough to be one of those invited to Stefan’s experiment. Last spring we traveled to the Fire College in Revinge, Sweden and spent several days listening to presentations participating in a wide range of live fire training exercises and observing demonstrations of fire control techniques and training methods. Interestingly, we found that we had much in common (both personally and professionally) and all learned a great deal.

At the workshop we discussed how this collaborative effort could be continued. Shan Raffel from Queensland, Australia, suggested forming a SIG within the IFE as one way to help maintain momentum and provide an means to bring the range of fire service professionals engaged in research, study, and application of knowledge related to fire behavior. As a significan number of the group were IFE members, this semed like an excellent idea. At the time, Shan was the President of the Australia Branch of the IFE and served as the principle organizer and driving force behind accomplishing this task and bringing the group to Australia for our next meeting.

Working Collaboratively

I had an interesting dinner conversation with Stefan Svensson Saturday night. We were talking about the importance of our network, working together, and sharing knowledge. Neither scientists nor firefighters have a complete understanding of fire behavior; both have part, but not the entire picture. However, working together, we are more likely to be asking the right questions and gain an improved understanding.

Stefan shared that he had tried to figure out how many firefighters there are in the world. Likely this estimate was far from accurate, but the number is quite large. He observed that many firefighters do not collaborate with others outside their own agency (and in some cases even within their own agency). We puzzled over why this was the case. All of us are engaged in essentially the same types of work (at least in the firefighting domain), we use the same technology (water, hose, nozzles, tools, ladders), and share the same passion for our work. Why is it often so difficult for agencies and individuals to work across borders (local, national, or international)?

Over the last year, a number of the participants in the first international workshop have maintained contact and collaborated using e-mail and Skype (free voice over internet protocol voice and video phone). I am equally as likely to collaborate with colleagues in Sweden, Australia, the UK, Croatia, Canada, or Chile as those in neighboring jurisdictions. While it is great to travel, meet face to face and share information, today’s technology provides a great (and considerably less expensive) way to do so. For example, I had never met Shan and John McDonough when Paul Grimwood and I worked with them to write 3D Firefighting: Training, Techniques, & Tactics. We accomplished that task simply using e-mail. I think that with current technology (e.g., Skype) this would have been an easier task.

My next post will be following the conclusion of the International Fire Instructor’s Workshop and I will share our experiences and accomplishments. The challenge for you is to look for opportunities to share your knowledge, collaborate with and learn with others and develop a broader community of practice as a fire service professional!

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO

International Fire Instructors Workshop &
Firefighting Safety Conference

Monday, April 20th, 2009

In May 2008 I was fortunate to be one of 12 instructors, fire officers, and fire scientists who met in Revinge, Sweden at the invitation of Dr. Stefan Svensson of Räddnings Verket (Swedish Rescue Services Agency). Stefan was intrigued by the idea of putting a dozen or so leading fire service professionals with an interest in fire behavior, but divergent perspectives on strategies and tactics in the same room. His research question was to “see what would happen”. Stefan invited participants from Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Germany, Spain, France, and the United States to this unique event.

Figure 1. Participants in the 2008 International Fire Instructors Workshop


What happened was that we found tremendous commonality of interest and commitment to improving firefighter safety and fire protection across the world. Surprisingly, while we often disagreed on technical issues and discussion was at times quite vigorous, we left the workshop with greater understanding and a stronger bond.

Special Interest Group

As an outgrowth of our meeting in Sweden, we formed a special interest group (SIG) under the umbrella of the Institution of Fire Engineers. The Compartment Fire Behavior Special Interest Group serves to construct knowledge by integrating fire behavior research, instruction, and practical application.

The first meeting of this newly formed SIG will be held 27-28 April 2009 in Sydney, Australia with the theme Finding the Common Foundation. Participants from around the world will be examining compartment fire behavior training principles and practices to find common ground and identify best practices. Immediately following the workshop, the participants will be presenting at the International Firefighting Safety Conference in Sydney on 29 April through 1 May and in Perth on 4-5 May 2009.

International Firefighting Safety Conference

The conference theme is Protecting the Protectors with a wide range of presentations on fire science, strategy and tactics, and fire behavior training.

I will be making two presentations in Sydney and one in Perth:

  • How Much Science? (Sydney)
  • Extreme Fire Behavior: Understanding the Hazard (Sydney)
  • Fire Development in a Compartment (Perth)

Additional information and a complete outline of the program is available on the conference web site .

Critical NIOSH Recommendation

On Thursday morning, I will be somewhere over the western Pacific, but use WordPress’ automated publishing feature to upload a post on NIOSH Report F2007-28 on the line-of-duty deaths of Captain Matthew Burton and Engineer Scott Desmond of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District while conducting primary search at a residential fire. In a groundbreaking first, NIOSH has identified the need for improvement in Firefighter and Fire Officer Professional Qualifications Standards in the area of fire behavior knowledge:

Standard setting agencies, states, municipalities, and authorities having jurisdiction should: consider developing more comprehensive training requirements for fire behavior to be required in NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications and NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer Professional Qualifications and states, municipalities, and authorities having jurisdiction should ensure that fire fighters within their district are trained to these requirements.

Following the conference, I will publish a series of posts from a CFBT-US case study on this incident and the potential influence of the ventilation tactics used on the extreme fire behavior phenomena that occured.

Reports from the Workshop and Conference

I will be posting on information presented at the workshop conference over the next two weeks.

Ed Hartin, MS, EFO, MIFireE, CFO