Flashover, or the moment in which combustible materials in a room simultaneously erupt in flames, is one of the most dangerous conditions firefighters face in the line of duty. To provide firefighters with adequate time to escape the danger, faculty members from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, along with a research team from the Fire Protection Engineering Department, are developing and testing a system that can accurately predict the onset of this deadly phenomenon.
Although still in development, the WPI researchers estimate that the system will extend the warning time firefighters have of pending flashover from about 8 seconds (with modern heat-resistant gear, firefighters often don't sense extreme heat until it is too late) to well over a minute. Their work is funded by an award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The prediction of the time to flashover will give the incident commander a critical piece of information that, when combined with the location of each firefighter, will greatly enhance the natural decision making process.
Head of the Fire Protection Engineering Department