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News & Press: Foundation News

SFPE Foundation Awards Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant to Main School of Fire Service

Thursday, March 9, 2017   (0 Comments)
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The SFPE Foundation is pleased to announce the 2017 Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant has been awarded to Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw, Poland, for its research into a visual localization system for fire brigades using Building Information Modeling (BIM) technology. The $25,000 grant is named in memory of FDNY Assistant Chief Donald Burns, who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001, while setting up his command post to direct the evacuation. The purpose of this grant is to help advance the integration of information modeling as a means of improving infrastructure safety and first-responder preparedness.


The grant was awarded through a partnership with Bentley Systems, Inc., a global leader dedicated to providing comprehensive software solutions for sustaining infrastructure. It will fund research into the use of radio beacons, acceleration measurements, and BIM technology to provide reliable information on the location of firefighters in a building. Reliable location information enables commanding officers to position staff safely and efficiently.


Paula Smyczek, graduate master student and author of the application, will build on Main School of Fire Service research to develop a system that uses simple radio beacons attached to existing smoke detectors, which allows calculation of firefighter locations in a building using BIM technology. In addition, the system could potentially create models for estimating civilian locations in buildings based on mobile phone signals, generate reporting for firefighter activities, and create models for estimating the size and effects of fires.


“Paula and I are genuinely shocked. It feels a bit like receiving an Oscar,” says Dr. Piotr Tofilo, adjunct professor at Main School of Fire Service, who will supervise Smyczek’s research along with Dr. Adam Krasuski, assistant professor of computer science at Main School of Fire Service. “We are very happy and grateful.”


“I know Don would be honored to see the research strides the grant in his name is enabling. He was very interested in technology and fully appreciated the value of innovative methods of preventing fire hazards,” says Lew Reed, Bentley Systems vice president and Chief Burns’ brother-in-law.


A presentation about the project will be submitted to the 2018 SFPE North America Conference and to the official SFPE journal, Fire Technology, for possible publication.


Last year’s Chief Donald J. Burns Memorial Research Grant was awarded to University of Michigan’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering for a project called “Computing Infrastructure for a Multi-Criteria Wireless Sensing and Real-Time Visualization Network for Intelligent Firefighting.” The grant funded research by Ph.D. student Paul Beata; Dr. Ann Jeffers, an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Michigan; and Dr. Vineet Kamat, a professor in the same department, in the use of wireless sensor networks in structures to transmit critical information to firefighters and incident commanders in real-time, which aids in strategizing firefighting operations and provides early warning of impending danger.


“On behalf of the SFPE Foundation, I am pleased to see this final Donald J. Burns Memorial Grant awarded to the Main School of Fire Service in Warsaw, Poland, because their proposal was directly related to the objective of this grant program, namely to use building information modeling to help inform incident commanders and protect firefighters,” says Dr. Frederick Mowrer, chair of the SFPE Foundation's Board of Governors. “The SFPE Foundation is grateful to Bentley Systems for sponsoring this grant program for the past five years and we hope to foster future collaborations with Bentley Systems and others on this important issue."


For more information about the scholarship, or to make a donation to the SFPE Foundation, visit the Foundation website.

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