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Foundations of the Laws of Thermodynamics

The branch of science called thermodynamics deals with systems that are able to transfer thermal energy into at least one other form of energy (mechanical, electrical, etc.) or into work.  The laws of thermodynamics were developed over the years as some of the most fundamental rules which are followed when a thermodynamic system goes through some sort of energy change.

HISTORY OF THERMODYNAMICS

The history of thermodynamics begins with Otto von Guericke who, in 1650, built the world's first vacuum pump and demonstrated a vacuum using his Magdeburg hemispheres.

Guericke was driven to make a vacuum to disprove Aristotle's long-held supposition that 'nature abhors a vacuum'.  Shortly after Guericke, the English physicist and chemist Robert Boyle had learned of Guericke's designs and, in 1656, in coordination with English scientist Robert Hooke, built an air pump.  Using this pump, Boyle and Hooke noticed a correlation between pressure, temperature and volume.  In time, Boyle's Law was formulated, which states that pressure and volume are inversely proportional.

CONSEQUENCES OF THE LAWS OF THERMODYNAMICS

The laws of thermodynamics tend to be fairly easy to state and understand ... so much so that it's easy to underestimate the impact they have.  Among other things, they put constraints on how energy can be used in the universe.  It would be very hard to over-emphasize how significant this concept is.  The consequences of the laws of thermodynamics touch on almost every aspect of scientific inquiry in some way.

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A publication of The Italian Association of Chemical Engineering Online at www.aidic.it/cet

The evolution of fires in confined space such as chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses is characterized by the complex interaction between the combustion process, the enclosure and occupants, which has to be managed when coping with fire emergency and, more in general, for fire safety. This paper proposes a quick, decision-making tool based on adversity scenarios and more specifically through the definition of four main elements: i) the potential fire spread categories, which describe the potential paths and extents of fire propagation; ii) the thermal load expressed as hot gas layer temperature; iii) the available safe egress time (ASET) for people to leave the enclosure, which is essential for organizing people evacuation; and iv) other specific hazards. The proposed tool can be usefully adopted to improve the level of information to interested stakeholders (building owner, fire service, etc.) concerning both the fire hazard and the building fire performance. 1. Introduction Fires constitute one of the most important hazards from chemical and pharmaceutical warehouses. They can give rise to serious damage to people as well as to the environment and they can cause extensive economical losses. For these reasons, in order to assist the management to identify the most suitable countermeasures (both organizational and technical), it is useful to have a tool that allows identifying in advance the potential adverse situations that could characterize the analysed system. In the present work, two indicators describe the potential fire-induced adverse situations, the first is a qualitative description of the potential fire, and the second is a quantitative evaluation of the thermal load on sensible targets, based on Hot Gas Layer Temperature (HGLT). The assessment process is based on the inspection of the workplace (Dusso et al., 2015): the workplace is divided into cells, i.e. single rooms or enclosures, or in more in general, subsections of the same workplace separated from those adjacent by physical elements as walls or floors and - in the open - barriers or separation distances. Then, important information regarding the characteristics of the stored materials, the storage conditions and the features of the enclosure such as floor area, ceiling height, openings should be collected.

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Successful Litigation Relies on Proper Analysis

by Roman Kickirillo, P.E., CFEI, CVFI, Donan Engineering Company, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee

The investigation into the cause and origin of motor vehicle fires should be considered a separate field of study than structure fires. Although the basic Fire Science remains the same, there are important differences in the interpretation and analysis of fire patterns and other evidence. An understanding of these differences before litigation begins can avoid lost time and expenses later in the process. There are very few absolute rules in vehicle fire investigations, but one always holds true: If your expert’s analysis is incorrect, the opposing side will be more than happy to let you know about it - at the worst possible time.

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White Paper

Study by: Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid KemalExponent, Inc. USAMichael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas SkowronskiNorthern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USAEric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. HaddenSchool of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

Albert Simeoni, Zachary C. Owens, Erik W. Christiansen, Abid Kemal Exponent, Inc. USA Michael Gallagher, Kenneth L. Clark, Nicholas Skowronski Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, USA Eric V. Mueller, Jan C. Thomas, Simon Santamaria, Rory M. Hadden School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT

Two experimental fires, with contrasting intensities, were conducted in March 2016, in the Pinelands National Reserve (PNR) of New Jersey, United States in order to provide a preliminary assessment of the reliability of the fire direction indicators used in wildland fire investigation.  The experiments were part of a larger project intended to measure firebrand production in a forested ecosystem.  As part of this project, fire behavior, as well as the environmental and fuel conditions were also measured.  Two burn parcels, covering an area of approximately 30 hectares each, were ignited from unimproved forest roads which delimited them.  The forest canopy was comprised primarily of pitch pine with intermittent oaks.  The understory contained a mixed shrub layer of huckleberry, blueberry, and scrub oaks. In order to explore a wide range of indicators, objects such as bottles, cans and small fence elements were planted in the burn area, and photographed before and after the fire.  To obtain an accurate measure of pre- and post-fire fuel properties, fuel load, fuel bulk density, and fuel moisture content were also measured. In addition, environmental data (wind velocity and direction, air temperature and humidity) were recorded.  The fire behavior can be reconstructed using measurements of fire rate of spread, fire front temperatures, fire front geometry, and heat fluxes.  Video and infrared cameras were used to document the general fire behavior in selected locations.  This paper represents the first step in the analysis of the fire indicators and focuses on the more intense of the two burns and on the appearance of the macro- and microscale fire pattern indicators.  A majority of the indicators were assessed, although the configuration of the burn parcels, the ignition technique, and precipitation immediately following the fires limited a full study.  The results show that some fire direction indicators are highly dependent on local fire conditions and fire behavior and may be in contradiction with the general spread of the fire.  Overall, this study demonstrates that fire pattern indicators are a useful tool but must be interpreted in the frame of a general analysis of the fire, combined with a good understanding of fire behavior and fire dynamics.

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From Out of the Abyss...

This week’s article from the past is titled Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted and was written by Benjamin Horton, CPCU, who was President of the National Adjuster Traing School in Louisville, Kentucky..  It is taken from the Decembe 1968 Vol. XVI No.5 issue.

Incendiary Fires Can Be Spotted 

Abstract Candles can enhance décor or be a source of light. However, they can also start fires. National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that candles were the heat source in an estimated average of 9,300 reported home fires annually during 2009-2013. These fires caused an average of 86 civilian deaths, 827 civilian injuries and $374 million in direct property damage per year. More than one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in the bedroom. Almost three of every five (58%) fires occurred because the candle was too close to something that could burn. Candle fires are most common around the winter holidays. Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power appear to pose a particular risk of fatal fire. Home candle fires climbed through the 1990s but have fallen since the 2001 peak. ASTM F15.45 has developed a number of standards relating to candle fire safety. Despite the considerable progress made in reducing candle fires, they are still a problem. In 2009-2013, candle fires ranked second among the major causes in injuries per thousand fires and average loss per fire. Efforts to prevent these fires must continue.

Abstract

Candles can enhance décor or be a source of light.  However, they can also start fires.  National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that candles were the heat source in an estimated average of 9,300 reported home fires annually during 2009-2013.  These fires caused an average of 86 civilian deaths, 827 civilian injuries and $374 million in direct property damage per year.  More than one-third (36%) of home candle fires started in the bedroom.  Almost three of every five (58%) fires occurred because the candle was too close to something that could burn.  Candle fires are most common around the winter holidays.  Candles used for light in the absence of electrical power appear to pose a particular risk of fatal fire.  Home candle fires climbed through the 1990s but have fallen since the 2001 peak.  ASTM F15.45 has developed a number of standards relating to candle fire safety.  Despite the considerable progress made in reducing candle fires, they are still a problem.  In 2009-2013, candle fires ranked second among the major causes in injuries per thousand fires and average loss per fire.  Efforts to prevent these fires must continue.

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Outfitting Your Smartphone for Fire Investigations

by:

Cathleen E. Corbitt-Dipierro

Stonehouse Media Incorporated

www.interfire.org

Smartphones are quickly taking over the US cellular phone hardware market — iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, Palm, just to name a few brands.  With their advanced computing capability, smartphones are enabling users to perform more and more tasks on their phone than just the simple calling and texting.  This computing power is harnessed by “apps,” which are application software programs used on smartphones.


For the fire investigator, the smartphone can become a handy tool in your daily work, but only if you know how to outfit it.  This article highlights some of the core apps that fire investigators can use every day to assist in managing their investigative and administrative work.  One caution before we begin: the investigator should be aware that any investigative information kept on your smartphone is not secure and also may be discoverable in a future legal proceeding.  For that reason, we’ve confined the discussion of apps in this article to those where case-based investigative information is not stored or shared.  At all times, exercise the utmost caution with investigative information.


Weather
There are a variety of weather apps available, from simple forecasts, to detailed Doppler radar, to live lightning strike data.  Weather apps can help you in many ways:


  • Figuring weather information into your investigative plan.  For example, sunset times will tell you if you might need to call for supplementary lighting and watching the radar of incoming inclement weather will provide critical data, so you can deploy investigative assets accordingly.
  • Employing weather data in your investigative fact-finding process, such as corroborating a witness’ statement that it was dark at a certain time or ascertaining whether a lighting strike might have been the cause of a fire.
  • Understand what special scene security and processing measures need to be taken, such as covering ventilation holes in the roof if rain is approaching or whether high humidity will prevent your evidence samples from air drying promptly.


Most weather apps have auto location based on the GPS signal from your phone, meaning that the app knows where you are and provides the weather data for that location.  You can also lookup weather for a different area and program a favorites list for different locations you travel to repeatedly.

Mapping
Mapping applications, many of which are GPS-based, have both administrative and investigative value.  Using the GPS in the phone and the mapping app, you are able to:

  • Enter the address of the call you are going to and immediately get customized directions.
  • Plan a route from one location to another for a given day and receive a custom route.
  • Use the phone as a mobile GPS to get walking directions from one address to another, which can assist in tracing witness routes, finding the vantage point a witness had, or understanding the spatial relationship between addresses.
  • Obtain an overhead map showing all the roads into a certain area or to a certain address, which can help you understand witness statements, potential access points to a property, and arrival and departure routes for vehicles.


Mapping can also be used in other apps that help you find traffic, tides, mass transit, or parking information.

Remember that any information gleaned from one of these apps should be verified with another source. Roads change, streets are temporarily closed, and other events occur that may make the situation on the ground not the same as it is in a published map.


Administrative Management
There are a wide variety of management and productivity apps that can help you organize your daily tasks, including:

  • “To do” list apps, many with the ability to manage multiple custom “to do” lists.
  • Contacts apps to manage all your outside expert and scene management resources, from forensic chemists on call to heavy equipment excavators.
  • Calendar apps to keep track of your appointments, training sessions, meetings, and presentations.
  • Email “on the road,” set to copy yourself, to assist in communicating with your office, including your whereabouts, which is especially important if you are working a scene alone.
  • A business card reader that scans a card placed on the screen of your smartphone and stores it with your contacts.
  • An “hours tracker,” which is especially useful for private sector fire investigators, where you can track your hours working on individual projects using just a few finger taps.
  • A dictation app that you can use to make notes to yourself or to forward to others.


Take a little time to think about the administrative tasks you do every day and then search the available apps for your device to see what’s out there to help you manage and streamline the administrative process.

Incident Management
There are several Incident Command System apps that can help the investigator handle large incidents, including the National Incident Management System (NIMS) components, concepts, and planning forms.  Some of the ICS apps also provide an interactive look at the chain of command structure, which can assist with proper reporting at the scene.

Scene Safety
There are a number of apps available, and more are under development, that assist the investigator in working safely at the scene.  Some examples of currently available scene safety apps include:

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
  • DOT 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook
  • Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) from the U.S. National Library of Medicine


These apps can assist in identifying hazards at the scene and provide information on how to respond to the identified hazard.

Locators
There are a number of locator apps available that can help the investigator find businesses nearby. Some locator apps also provide ratings and reviews for these businesses.  A locator app works by using the GPS in the smartphone to determine your location, and then searching a database of nearby businesses that fit the criteria you enter, which is typically a category of business or government, and sometimes augmented with additional search filters, such as distance, price, or number of “stars.” These locator apps can be extremely helpful when you are not familiar with the location and can assist you in both physical comfort and investigative ways.

Some examples of what you can find with locator apps include:

  • The address of the nearest government and public service offices, including firehouses, police stations, courthouses, and federal offices.
  • A restaurant for lunch or coffee.
  • A nearby hotel if the investigation keeps you overnight unexpectedly.
  • A repair shop if you have car or equipment trouble.
  • A list of gas stations nearby, which can help you canvass for where an ignitable liquid might have been obtained.
  • A specific place that a witness told you they were at the time of the fire or the location of their place of work or other important investigative detail.


There are also people locator apps, including offender and sex offender locator apps.

You should be aware that the locator app databases may not be definitive or complete and any information should always be confirmed with another source.

Web Searching

Most smartphones include a web searching capability, which investigators can use to look up information such as deeds and records while still in the field instead of having to go back to the office.  Be aware that some websites have a mobile device version of their site just for smartphones.  These mobile device versions may or may not include all the information available on the “regular” website.  Also, there are some website features that may not work on your smartphone.  Consult your provider for more information.

Utilities
Many apps offer handy utilities that fill a specific need for fire investigators:
  • Flashlight app that uses a brightly lit screen to turn the smartphone into a flashlight.
  • Police scanner apps to help understand emergency response in the area of the incident.
  • Barcode scanner apps that scan the barcode on any product and can, in many cases, identify the product and some of the places it may be sold.
  • Ruler app can provide a quick and dirty measurement of small items — please note that this is not a replacement for a proper scale in an evidence photo.
  • A level app for use at the scene.
  • Compass apps provide cardinal directions — this is especially handy for your diagrams and photo locations.
  • A unit conversion calculator (metric to English and English to metric units).
  • Electrical tools apps provide electrical calculators and tools that may assist in understanding the electrical system at the scene.
  • The CFI Calculator app available from CFITrainer.Net can assist you with basic field calculations for Flame Height, Heat Flux, Flashover and Fire. Growth
  • iTunes, which enables you to listen to podcasts on topics of professional interest, including the CFITrainer.Net Monthly Podcast.


There are thousands of apps and more are being released every day.  Set aside some time to browse through the apps available for your smartphone and think through how they might assist you in the field.  Be sure to keep your apps up to date and periodically look for new apps that have been released and may be beneficial to you.  Put your smartphone to work for you and you can work more efficiently, safely, and thoroughly.

 

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