Fire safety technology is changing in interesting ways. Worcester Polytechnic Institute has the only graduate fire protection engineering program in the United States. Professors at this school have said that big data is becoming more integral to the fire protection field.
Big Data Finds New Applications in Fire Safety
Data analytics is a pretty hot topic right now. In fact, the phrase itself is one of the leading catchphrases of big business. Perhaps that’s because data analytics is transforming just about every known area of business. Yet, the many benefits of big data go way beyond that. Data analytics has a role to play in lots of non-business applications, like fire safety for example.
It was just a few years ago that fire prevention experts began looking at the potential of utilizing data analytics as a fire prevention and damage mitigation tool. Those tasked with incorporating analytics into fire prevention have come a long way since. We have collectively learned a lot from the work they are doing.
Are you still skeptical? The National Fire Protection Assocation has actually hosted a seminar on the role of big data in their profession.
Predicting Future Fires
One of the most obvious uses of data analytics and fire safety is predicting future fires. Predictive analytics is one of the main uses of big data. The healthcare industry relies on it to determine the likelihood that certain types of patients will be diagnosed with certain illnesses down the road. Fire safety advocates can do much the same thing.
By analysing reams of past data and combining it with what we know about both commercial and residential structures, it is possible to predict where future fires are most likely to occur. Local officials can then use the data to determine which buildings in a given area need to be inspected sooner rather than later.
Regular inspections help minimise structure fires by identifying problems and holding property owners accountable to address them. The more problems that are identified and addressed, the lower the cumulative risk of fire involving targeted properties.
Individual Property Assessments
The same data analytics that can predict the geographic locations of future fires can be harnessed on individual properties for a similar purpose. Data can show specific areas within a given property that are most susceptible to fire. Analytics can point out specific workspaces or rooms in a single building, for example.
When it comes to fire assessment planning for businesses, this kind of information could prove invaluable. The right kind of data can provide the direction responsible persons need when conducting fire risk assessments. Inspectors can turn to the data to better understand what they should be looking for in everything from fuel and combustion sources to available means of egress.
Having access to such information makes it easier to develop prevention strategies around a given property. Because inspectors know what to look for, they also know to recommend the kinds of prevention strategies that are most appropriate for likely scenarios.
Design and Fire Suppression Systems
Big data in the fire safety arena is not limited to predictive analytics. Another great use for the data is to use it to determine the best fire suppression systems for individual environments. Just as there are different classes of fire extinguishers, there are different types of fire suppression systems for commercial spaces. Not every commercial building is best served by a water-based system.
Suppression system designers can look at data to determine what types of fires – in terms of their classification – are most likely to occur in different kinds of buildings. They can look at past data to see how different fire suppression systems performed against each kind of fire.
So many comparisons based on years of historical data can make it a lot easier for architects and designers to zero in on the best possible fire suppression solutions. In an office building, this might mean a water-based system for open office areas and a powder or foam system in the mechanical room. It might dictate a carbon dioxide fire suppression system in a data centre.
Improving Response Times
The best fire prevention and suppression strategies do not eliminate the need for fire departments to respond. Thankfully, big data can help here too. Fire departments throughout Europe and North America are gradually looking toward data analytics solutions to help improve response times.
For instance, collecting and analysing data can tell fire departments how long it normally takes to respond to fires reported at certain times of the day. The data can tell them if they need to choose new routes to avoid traffic congestion. It can tell them how quickly firefighters need to be in their trucks and ready to go at the sound of an alarm.
Data analytics is really all about key performance indicators. Success is measured somewhat differently in the fire safety arena, but it is measured, nonetheless. Being able to measure it through big data and analytics is helping everyone do better.
There is nothing humanity can realistically do to eliminate all fire risks. But we can better manage our risks by coming up with new prevention strategies and better ways of responding when fires occur. Data analytics will be part of the equation for the foreseeable future. As it improves the way we prevent fires and respond to them, fires will gradually cause less havoc and claim fewer lives.
The Incredible Value of Big Data in Fire Prevention
Technology has always been at the core of modern fire protection strategies. This has been the case since the first sprinkler system was designed. Big data is the newest advances in the fire protection field. It is disrupting the profession in impressive ways.