Predictive technology could help firefighters save lives

Fires in homes and offices could be tackled more efficiently using technology that predicts how a blaze will spread.

The new technique is able to feed data taken from sensors located in burning buildings into computer models so that rescue services can predict how fires will spread.

The technology could save firefighters time by giving several minutes of warning on how a fire will develop.

Sensors incorporated into smoke alarms, room-temperature sensors or CCTV cameras are able to measure the temperature and height of a fire. Computer models can then convert the data into a forecast of the fire’s dynamics.

This technology, dubbed Sensor-Assisted Fire Fighting, has been developed by researchers at Edinburgh University.

It allows real-time observation of a fire, with the forecast being constantly updated using information from the sensors. In the event of a significant change in conditions, such as a window breaking, sensor measurements enable the computational model to adapt the forecast.

Dr Guillermo Rein of the university’s School of Engineering, who supervised the study, said: ‘Firefighters often have to follow their instincts when tackling a fire. This technology could give them the extra information they need to consider more options available in handling the emergency and reduce lost opportunities or unnecessary risks, ultimately saving lives and minimising damage.

‘However, further research focusing on making the simulation as realistic as possible will be needed before this technology can be put into practice.’

The research, published in Fire Safety Journal, was partially funded by the UK Technology Strategy Board and the European Union.