Improving fire safety for the community

Improving fire safety for the community
Partnership in summary

Partner
Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) Fire Investigation and Research Unit

Collaborating since
2005

Type of partnership
Ongoing

Purpose
Improve fire safety knowledge base including the development of high fidelity fire models for new and existing materials to better predict fire and smoke spread. 

Funding
Four Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project Grants (totalling $415,000), plus cash contributions from FRNSW

Outcomes
High fidelity fire models have been used in criminal and forensic investigations and to inform legislation change in sprinkler use in buildings by the New South Wales government.

In this classic example of a successful academic-government collaboration, one ARC Linkage Project turned into two, which turned into a series of projects within the framework of an established and mutually beneficial relationship. Today, there are no end of ideas to pursue and opportunities in sight for the team from FRNSW’s Fire Investigation and Research Unit and UNSW’s School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (MME).

According to Professor Guan Yeoh from MME, there has never been a greater need for fire research and modelling. “Many of the materials being used in products today are increasingly complex and their burning behaviours aren’t properly understood,” he says. “Buildings are being designed differently too. To keep the community and firefighters safe, research needs to keep up with the pace of change.”

Outcomes from the 10 plus years of collaboration have included the development of high fidelity fire models that have been used in criminal and forensic investigations; information to inform legislation change in sprinkler use in buildings by the New South Wales government; and their research has influenced the development of building codes and standards.

Chief Superintendent Chris Lewis has been involved across the whole partnership with UNSW and says the skills and knowledge transfer has run both ways. “Partnering with Guan’s team of researchers has enabled us to tap into ARC grants and do some really meaty research. This has significantly improved the fundamental knowledge base and the practical outcomes have improved safety legislation for the whole community. We wouldn’t have been able to do that otherwise.”

Chief Superintendent Lewis believes this kind of partnership is going to be an important feature of fire services in the future as they move from just working in prevention to working in policy too. “I think FRNSW has an important role to play in things like building design and standards development,” he says. “The only way we can do that is by an evidence-based policy that has been rigorously sought and gained. And the only way we can do that is by working with universities such as UNSW,” he says.

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