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CCM Plays Key Role in Fire Safety Composites Initiative

15 April 2005

The Center for Composite Materials (CCM) at the University of Delaware is producing research and providing a course for firefighters to understand the effects of fire in composite material.

One of the goals of the initiative is to provide military firefighters with the training needed to safely respond to composite material fires. Over the last year, Air Force Reserve Laboratory (AFRL), CCM, and the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute have constructed a three-day training course, with the pilot version presented to the Dover Air Force Base Fire Department in February.

The Purpose of the training was to provide civilian and military firefighters and first responders with the methodologies they need to rapidly and safely extinguish composite material fires.

Twenty-four firefighters attended the three-day course and provided feedback on the content and presentation. At the firefghters suggestion, a simulated hazardous material response exercise was added to the course.

Donald Striejewske, Fire Chief of Dover Air Force Base, noted his appreciation for the pilot course: ""As first responders to emergency incidents where composite materials are involved, firefighters have to face special hazards that can affect their health and safety. This new course offered by the University of Delaware and MFRI has provided my firefighters with the training and expertise to handle such emergencies with proper care and to rapidly extinguish fires involving composite materials.""

In addition to the training goal, CCM is performing research to learn more about the effect of fires on composite materials in an airfield environment. Critical questions currently being addressed include ignition times, the effect of fires on nearby composite materials and air quality, and capabilities for identifying levels of damage in composite materials after a fire.

CCM told Netcomposites that the research also includes thermal damage assessments of materials such as Carbon/BMI and non-destructive methods to estimate heat damage in composite materials.

Dr Shridhar Yarlagadda, who is leading the CCM effort noted ""CCM is breaking new ground in looking at real issues for fire safety with the increased use of composites in aircraft"".

Dr Yarlagadda said that the three day fire fighting training course taught in six sections introduced the basics of composite materials, reviews hazardous material response procedures, provides information on composite materials burns and firefighting tactics to be utilized in combating composite material fires, and covers techniques for overhauling the hazard after the fire. Students also took a practical exam on the last day.

More than 10,000 DoD firefighters, first respondents and hundreds of thousands of civilian firefighters are expected to receive and benefit from the program.

The USAF publishes a Technical Order (TO), TO 00-105E-9 that is currently available to military and civilian firefighters and the general public. This valuable resource contains a major section (Chapter 3) on Mishap Composite Awareness. A main deliverable of the Composite Fire Safety Course is communication of the pertinent information contained in the TO relating to combating composite material fires.

The Technical Order is publicly available online here