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Research & Innovation (SCRI)

The SFPE Roadmap: Identifying Research Needs for the Fire Safety Engineering Profession

Recently the SFPE Subcommittee on Research & Innovation unveiled SFPEs roadmap that identifies the future research needs for the fire safety engineering profession. This roadmap is intended to be a living document and have a long-term focus that will be central to defining the future of SFPEs technical initiatives. Additionally, this roadmap will form the basis of how SFPE will a) coordinate research initiatives for the profession, b) form partnerships with research providers and c) form subthemes for future SFPE conferences.

When the Subcommittee started the process to develop this roadmap, it was determined that obtaining global feedback and ensuring transparency were key factors that would ensure the success of this roadmap. To ensure transparency and obtaining global feedback, the Subcommittee held a series of workshops and made presentations to fire safety organizations throughout the world. Data for the roadmap was also obtained from the IAFSS Workshop “Better Linking Fire Safety Science and Fire Safety Engineering Research Priorities for Fire Safety Engineering” that was held at the 2017 IAFSS conference in Lund Sweden. At the same time, the Subcommittee conducted a survey to obtain additional feedback. Over 370 fire safety engineers, researchers and educators participated in this survey including members from the IAFSS. Based on this feedback, the Subcommittee formed the content of the roadmap. 

The Subcommittee also wanted the roadmap to be a graphical roadmap as opposed to one that is part of a large report that users would not take the time to read. The outline for this roadmap is represented in Table 1.  This matrix outlines the nine major themes of the roadmap and are represented in the vertical axis of the table. For each theme, four cells (horizontal axis) are provided that are related to tools, applications and methods that are applicable to the practice of fire safety engineering. Specifically, the research needs related to data, innovative technology/materials, design tools and risk/probabilistic methods are represented as an individual cell for each theme.

Table 1: SFPE Research Roadmap

For each cell in the matrix, a set of suggested research topics is provided. Additionally, the Subcommittee has published a report that describes the methodology that was used to produce the Roadmap. This report can also be found on the SFPE website.

Additionally, the Subcommittee looked at different prioritization schemes as a way of highlighting the research topics that should receive the highest priority. During these discussions, the Subcommittee decided to provide each theme and one research priority per cell. Once again, the committee used its judgment on the prioritization of topics based on the input collected from the global workshops and the survey.

For each theme the following research topics were identified as highest research priorities:

  • Human Behavior – Data on demographics related to vulnerable populations, anthropometry and cultural differences
  • Building Fires – Standardization of design fires and analysis approaches
  • Resilience/Sustainability – Environmental impact of fire and fire suppression systems
  • Fire Service – Smart firefighting
  • Fire Dynamics – Practical models for extinction/reignition, suppression, underventilated combustion, and glass breakage
  • Fire Safety Systems – Impact of ITM requirements on system reliability
  • Forensics/Investigations -- Improved guidance for quantifying measurement and calculation uncertainty
  • Wildland/WUI Fires -- Risk assessment of WUI & structures
  • Non-Building Fires – Energy Storage

I encourage to go to our website and review the roadmap. Feel free to provide comments to engineering@sfpe.org, as the Subcommittee intends this to be a living document and plans to update it frequently. The Final Report that outlines how this Roadmap was developed is also on this website.

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