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Fire Models: The Future is Now!

pdf icon Fire Models: The Future is Now! (1685 K)
Bukowski, R. W.

NFPA Journal, Vol. 85, No. 6, 60-62,64,66-69, March/April 1991.


fire models; computer models


Computer fire models are turning up more and more in the everyday practice of fire protection. There are models that can be used to predict the development of fire, the performance of fire protection features and systems, the behavior of people during a fire, the effects of fire on victims, and more. Increasingly, expert judgment is no longer sufficient to win a court case unless it is backed up by calculations. In addition, code officials are more willing to accept innovative designs as long as detailed computer simulations show that the full intent of the code is being met. And manufacturers are having their products tested voluntarily to obtain the data neeed to produce models that will assess the performance of those products. To meet these varied needs, a large number of models have been developed. A recent international survey identified 36 actively supported models just to predict the development of fire. Of these, 20 predict the fire-generated environment--mainly temperature--and 19 predict smoke movement in some way. Six calculate fire growth rate, nine predict fire endurance, four address detector or sprinkler response, and two calculate occupant evacuation times. But what are these models? How do they work? How accurate are they? How can we tell when--and when not--to believe them? These are just a few of the questions every fire protection professional must be prepared to answer when using, or encountering the results of, the models themselves.