Author(s): Jesse Roman. Published on May 1, 2015.

Kid Stuff
An eighth-grader rocks SUPDET. Plus, new FPRF leadership, and a new look at PASS effectiveness. 

ELYSE GOTTUK IS PROOF that you don’t necessarily need an advanced degree to do meaningful fire protection research. Or even a high school diploma.

The 14-year-old eighth-grader from Maryland was the youngest presenter at this year’s Suppression, Detection and Signaling Research and Applications (SUPDET) Conference, held in March in Orlando, Florida, and hosted by the Fire Protection Research Foundation.

Gottuk’s presentation, “The Effect of Ceiling Fans on Smoke Alarm Performance,” looked at the usefulness of a rule in NFPA 72®, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, stating that smoke alarms must be placed at least three feet from a ceiling fan, and asked if alarms could be positioned closer to fans in some situations.

To answer that question, Gottuk borrowed equipment from her father, Daniel Gottuk, a fire protection engineer at Jensen Hughes, and installed smoke alarms in a line stretching from a ceiling fan to the walls and measured how long each alarm took to activate under various conditions. The experiments showed that the fan did impact smoke detection times, but that in many cases the alarms nearest to the fan were still effective.

Based on the results, Gottuk urged NFPA 72 technical committee members to consider amending the standard to allow alarms to be installed closer to fans when the three-foot threshold is not physically possible. She also concluded that further tests should be conducted in smaller rooms to evaluate alarm effectiveness.
The research drew praise from the SUPDET crowd, as well as an invite from NFPA 72 technical committee member Richard Roberts for Gottuk to present to the committee at a future meeting.

Grant named Foundation executive director

Casey Grant has been named executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF).

Grant previously served as the Foundation’s research director. He succeeds Kathleen Almand, who has been named vice president for research at NFPA.
“Casey brings years of experience with the Foundation and NFPA and deep research expertise to his new leadership role,” said Jim Pauley, NFPA’s president. “Through his great accomplishments directing a wide range of research, Casey is uniquely qualified to lead the Foundation in advancing NFPA’s mission.”
The Foundation, an affiliate of NFPA, manages funding and research on a variety of fire safety issues in support of the NFPA mission.

Prior to joining the FPRF in 2007, Grant was the secretary of the NFPA Standards Council and assistant chief engineer for nearly 20 years. He holds fire protection engineering degrees from the University of Maryland and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

PASS research published

Although personal alert safety systems (PASS) are credited with saving firefighter lives, scientifically-based research has been lacking on how well they work, if they could work better, or on the acoustic characteristics of the fire ground.

Shedding light on those unknowns and finding a “credible and scientific basis for determining the optimum PASS signal performance characteristics” were the aims of a recent FPRF project, “Evaluation and Enhancement of Fire Fighter PASS Effectiveness,” published in April.

“PASS is a technology in widespread usage today, and this effort provides it with a scientific basis that was virtually non-existent before,” said Casey Grant, executive director of the FPRF and an author on the study. “It also allows us to collectively prepare for the evolution of the next generation of PASS technology.”
A PASS device, attached to a firefighter’s personal protective gear, sounds an alarm if a firefighter is motionless for a set period of time, alerting fellow firefighters to a potential problem.

Through a series of tests in a lab and in the field, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin were able to gather valuable data on the sonar characteristics of various PASS devices in different locations and scenarios within a structure fire.

The results will provide future researchers with information critical “to formalize the analysis, design, and optimization of future PASS devices and technological enhancements,” the study said. 

JESSE ROMAN is staff writer for NFPA Journal.