Jun 8, 2020
James Andy Lynch is a fire protection engineer who specializes in commercial research and testing for his company, The Fire Solutions Group. Andy has a bachelor's and a master's degree in fire protection from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. In episode 5 of Fire Code Tech, we discuss what it takes to get UL listed and/or FM approved. We also dive into the intersection of new and unique technology like augmented reality and the fire protection industry.
How did you get into fire protection?
Expand on your education and your experience at WPI?
A high level overview of Andy's Professional Career?
What does the testing / research process look like on a day to day basis?
How do you get a UL Listing or FM Approval?
What does kind of project work is Andy involved in for the Fire Solutions Group?
Andy's experience with modeling software?
How does the emergency response capability of the Fire Solutions Group work?
What professional development resources would you recommend to professionals?
What is one piece of advice you would give to yourself starting out?
Hello, all welcome to the show. I'm Gus Gagliardi, and this is fire code tech on fire code tech. We interview fire protection professionals from all different careers and backgrounds in order to provide insight and a resource for those in the field. My goal is to help you become a more informed fire protection.
Professional fire code tech has interviews with engineers and researchers, fire marshals, and insurance professionals, and highlights topics like codes and standards, engineering systems, professional development, and trending topics in the industry. So if you're someone who wants to know more about fire protection or the fascinating stories of those who are in the field, you're in the right place.
Hello, all welcome to episode five of fire code tech today on our episode of fire code tech, it's James Andy Lynch. Andy is a fire protection engineer with formal education from WPI and fire protection engineering. Andy's specialty is in fire testing and product development. Early on in his career. Andy worked for several different laboratories.
He was part of a group who helped get a video detection system into NFPA 72 and get it listed with UL and FM today in the interview with Andy, we get into the research and development process and it explains what it looks like to commercially develop a product and get it listed through agencies like FM and UL.
We talk about some of the unique projects that Andy gets involved with through his company, the fire solutions group. I really enjoyed talking to Andy, not only because he was a very knowledgeable fire protection engineer, but he also is an entrepreneur and had a lot of good insights for professionals.
Don't forget to subscribe. So you never miss an episode and follow us on social media. Let's dive in. Well, hello, Andy. How's it going today? Thanks for coming on the podcast. Uh, it's going great. Thanks for having me. Awesome. Yeah. I just wanted to get a little bit more about your background and how you got into fire protection.
Okay. Well, um, I grew up in a town called Andover mass, which is about 20 or 30 minutes outside Boston. So you might hear a little bit of a, a Boston accent. I, I currently lived in, uh, Southern Pennsylvania right on the Maryland line. Um, how I got into fire protection was I actually growing up, my father was a, a, a paid firefighter in the town.
So I was kind of around fire my whole young adult life. Um, I remember he'd get calls and. You know, if they needed extra men at a fire I'd tag along and sit in the truck and watch, and they'd have the firefighter, um, the open houses. So you'd hang around all the trucks and people, and back then they had the, the poles you could slide down.
I think the, most of the firehouses I've gotten rid of those. So there was always kind of this knowledge and interest in, in fire and fire protection. As I progressed, I, I was at high school. I was a, I was a pretty decent football player. So I started to get recruited by some smaller colleges. I knew I wanted to do engineering.
I, I was pretty good at math. Uh, I did well on my SATs and, and mathematics. My uncle was a, an engineer actually worked on GPS systems. And now we're talking, this is, you know, 20, 30 years ago. So I knew I wanted to kind of build something, have, have something and, and. Have that mechanical engineering background being recruited as recruited by RPI, Rensselaer, Polytech and, and WPI, um, taking tours and looking at their curriculum.
I realized that WPI had a fire protection engineering degree. And I think at the time it was WPI university of Maryland and, and Oklahoma, um, had fire protection. So I decided they had a five year program. I was gonna go into that five year program. I, I chose WPI, uh, got an undergraduate mechanical and, and a master's in fire protection.
So I think, you know, if I'm. Pined on one thing, it would probably be my father's influence to go into fire protection engineering. That's a great story. I love hearing about that sort of stuff. Yeah. My grandfather was a fire chief and in the fire service as well. So, uh, that resonates with me and my experience with fire protection.
So that's really cool. That's awesome that you were able. Go to school and get a degree from one of the very few education programs that are out there for fire protection. I mean, even now there's, there's not that many graduate programs or master's programs for fire protection. So I'm always, uh, really interested to talk to individuals.
Who have degrees from those programs, because there's not very many out there and I'm sure they're all different, but have some similarities. But, uh, yeah, I just wanted to get some more information about your education. Like what classes did you enjoy in school? I know you said that you were good in math and sciences.
Could you just go over a little bit of, you know, like what classes you enjoyed in school or maybe some of the, how the fire protection courses worked when you went through WPI and what their degree program looked like? Yeah, absolutely. So, and, and I think, you know, going back on the col I think the only other accredited program currently in the us is, is Cal poly.
So it's, you know, Cal poly, Oklahoma, Maryland, and, and university. I mean Maryland and, and WPI, as far as WPI. I, I really enjoyed my time there. One it's it's a smaller school. Uh, I think there's about, well, when I went, I think it was about 2000 students total. I mean, you have high schools that size now. Um, and there it's all engineering, everybody there is kind of in the same boat, we're all stressed out.
We're all, you know, working hard in that, that engineering, that chemical and computer science and mechanical and civil. And so everybody kind of is, is, well, like I said, in, in that same boat undergraduate, I enjoyed as, as. Playing football. I was in our fraternity. I, you know, had a good time, got decent grades.
I really enjoyed. One aspect of WPI is they have a lot of hands on opportunities. So your junior year you have what's called an I Q P and your senior year an MQP and they take a, a. Semester and you just work on one big project in a group. So you usually have about a group of three or four kids working on some problem.
And I actually got the opportunity to travel to Australia on both my IQP and MQP. So I lived in Melbourne, Australia, and I worked for a company called C S I R O, which is Commonwealth scientific industrial research organization. It's kind of like the, the nest of, of Australia. And my first project, my I QP was actually on fire modeling.
So I traveled around Australia, interviewing people who were using fire models, what they were using it for, what features they liked. Um, and it was kind of just. More of like a data gathering for C S I R O to see what the industry was using and how they were using their, the fire models. My senior year, I went back and I worked for the same company, but I actually did, uh, temperature and heat flux mapping of an apparatus.
They used down there, which looks at wall coverings and carpets, and it, it moves it towards a heater in timed increments until you get things like ignition and flame spread. And they were trying to make it a ISO standard at the time. So they wanted to do the heat, flu and temperature mapping. And, and that's what we did for that project.
The other thing about WPI is you need to take a, a minor and I minored in history and you do a big project with that. So I actually wrote a, a paper on the great Chicago fire and the economic impacts of having a. That size on, on a city. So right from the start, because I knew I was doing fire protection engineering, even though I was getting a mechanical engineering degree, I, I focused on a lot of aspects of, of just fire protection and the history of fire.
Then when I got into my graduate years, I really enjoyed the classes in and the professors there. And, you know, I actually ended up being, uh, uh, Sal Amanda, which is high honors in the program. I got to work in the fire lab at WPI. So there was a lot of opportunity to, to do some real hands on fire testing, whether it was, you know, abroad in Australia or, or in the fire lab there.
And in addition, I actually got a job in the summers working for the mass state police doing fire investigations. So coming outta college, I had a pretty well-rounded background. In fire, just from the testing, the investigation standpoint design. So it, I think it really prepared me to, to move into, you know, quote unquote, the real world definitely had a well-rounded background by the time you got outta college, that's a diverse set of experiences.
And none of that is even in your, you know, your formal listings for, you know, before you got outta college, you had all this experience in, and I think it's really interesting that from a, you know, an early part in your career, you had an interest in testing and fire science and really getting into the modeling and that sort of thing, which I feel like in my opinion, fire protection, Just such a young industry and, you know, just like budding and around the two thousands.
It definitely, it seems like it was picking up speed and like people starting to really take it seriously and becoming its own thing. So I think it's just super interesting that you were getting involved with fire testing and doing cool projects, like traveling to Australia, but yeah, that's, that's awesome.
I wanted to touch on yeah. A couple things that you talked about. I really liked, uh, you talking about the historic fires, uh, something that I would imagine that a lot of fire protection programs do since. A lot of, uh, code or standard is written by disaster, unfortunately. So I thought that was great. And, uh, yeah, I think that from a early age, it's I can kind of see why your career went in the direction it did since like in college, you were already getting into the research and, you know, fire science, the heavy fire science and modeling.
So, yeah, I just think that's interesting from, uh, knowing you from afar next. I just wanted to get in more of your professional career and talk about a high level overview of your professional career and yeah, just a little bit of history about your working career, if you don't mind. No, not at all. So when I was finishing up, uh, WPI, although I had gone in, in a five year program, which was supposed to accelerate it and, and.
The only issue I had with that is like you said, I, I knew I wanted to do fire testing. I, I, I figured that's, you know, going back to the reason I got into engineering is I wanted to contribute. I wanted to build something, you know, have something that I could say, this is what I'm contributing as far as something physical.
Um, so I kind of knew I wanted to do more testing rather than design work and, and more just, um, creating paper reports and, and design drawings. So. If you're in that five year program, you're not allowed to do a thesis because that obviously takes about a year's time or do an internship. So at the end of my WPI career, I actually decided I was gonna do a master's thesis and I wanted to do an internship, um, just to get some work experience.
So I actually got hired by a company called combustion science and engineering, uh, down in Columbia, Maryland. So I moved down and they actually funded my thesis work, where I did. Um, I actually used laser scattering to size, so particles over time. So we would. Burn small samples of different materials.
And then we would actually shoot a laser through it and, and gather the scattering and the scattering based on the particle size changes. So you can actually monitor, you know, growth of glomeration. And the whole point of it was we know that. Smaller particles make ion detectors activate quicker, larger particles make, make photo electric detectors.
So it was trying to look at the aging process and changes in particle size to then relate it back to smoke detector activation for, for litigation cases. Um, so that was kind of my first job was at CSE and finishing that thesis. I also took one class at university of Maryland to actually finish my degree, which was a toxicology class that, um, Maer Milky and purser.
So purser wrote the section on toxicology and the SF P handbook. And then, uh, you know, Most people listening to this will know Mauer and Milky Mauer. Now heads the program at Cal poly and, and Milky the head of the university of Maryland program. So it was a great class to take because I, I got to meet those three individuals, but going back.
So combustion science and engineering was my first job. Did they have a fire lab in their facility? They did a lot of litigation work at the time. So we were doing a lot of fire testing. Um, like I said, that sizing of so particles, we also looked at deposition of so on, um, smoke detector horns. So you can actually tell if a smoke detector activated or not based on the sot deposition, which was a really interesting project from there.
When I finished my master's degree, I actually looked around for other opportunities and went to, uh, Hughes associates, which is now Jensen Hughes. And at the time they were about 150 engineers, but. You know, they were, they were a great company to work for. They were in the Baltimore area as well. Uh, they had a fire lab in the back.
So I, I got to work in that fire lab. I worked on some litigation cases, did some smoke control. I was a young engineer, so I, I tried to grab as many projects as I could. And then the big projects I worked on there were actually for, um, the Navy, uh, the Naval research labs, I think to this day, Hughes still has the contract with them and they have a ship down in Alabama that we did a lot of fire testing on, which was a great opportunity.
I was there and I was working on now, this is, you're talking about 15 years ago, we were working on the detection suppression systems for the next generation of destroyer and carrier. And we were looking at wow, um, video image detection. We were looking at, uh, UV IR. We actually looking at acoustic detection.
So we had microphones in the compartments and we could hear if there was a pipe rupture or, or some event going on and then. What happened was one of the startup companies that was doing video detection at the time, actually hired me away from Hughes. And I worked for a company called Exxon X. I was actually the third person.
Um, I was a partner in that company and we developed video image detection from what it would do was take normal CCTV cameras and feed 'em through, uh, server and process the pixels to look for fire and smoke. We ended up building a fire lab, doing a lot of comparative testing with other detection, um, you know, air aspiration, spot type P type, and looked at how video detection would perform.
We migrated the analytics from the server actually onboard the camera. So you had a self-contained detection device that had, uh, dry contacts that could feed into a fire alarm panel. And then we actually got that technology FM and UL listed, and there was no listings at the time. So we had to actually work through the process with FM and UL to, to create a new standard for video image detection.
And then test to it so we could get the UL and FM mark. And then we also got it into NFPA code N F P 72 adopted video image detection, uh, as well as you know, we were finding customers and doing beta test sites and, and rolling out the product. Um, we built it up to a point where, um, Fike, which, uh, is a fire protection manufacturer, bought the company.
I stayed on board with Fike for about three years, and that's when I left and started the fire solutions group, which is where I am now. And I do mostly fire testing. That's an amazing career you've had so far and continue of having man. That's really impressive. I really enjoyed hearing. Specialization in, uh, detection and, uh, research and testing seems like is the through line in your career.
That's really interesting stuff. Just, uh, wanted to hear a little bit more about, uh, what does it look like? You're speaking about some of these research processes and, uh, you know, I have this image of, you know, what that looks like in my mind, but, you know, I've never, or had the opportunity to speak with somebody who, you know, does this for a living.
You know, when you're talking about testing, you know, certain detectors for litigation purposes, you know, what does this look like? What are you doing on daily basis to perform this kind of. Yeah. So it's, it's probably less fire testing than you'd imagine. Um, although 90% of my business is fire testing.
You know, being the owner of, of your own company, you, you wear a lot of hats. And so there's a lot of emails and marketing. I mean, my typical day, you know, I, I, I do have a wife and kids. I wake up at 6:00 AM, have a big cup of coffee and get them off to school. I, I have an office in York, but sometimes I work out of my house, but a lot of it is writing proposals, you know, talking with clients, uh, you can kind of split my clients into, into two categories.
One is the. The small startup company or, or a smaller company. And they're typically trying to get a technology into the fire protection market. And, you know, some of them have been in the fire industry, some of them haven't, and it's explaining that process and understanding the dynamics of, you know, it's, it's not like.
You put this on a shelf and sell it at Walmart. I mean, there's a lot of moving pieces between the AJ, the building owner, the insurance company, you know, NFPA codes, FM and UL consultants, and, and how you actually go to a market with, with a new technology. So I try to help with them with that by speak to 'em about the process of how to get things FM and UL listed.
I. Do a lot of code review and tell 'em, you know, where they would fit in the code, if anything addresses their technology. In some cases, it doesn't. So I'm writing text for NFPA codes to, you know, get the committee to adopt it, um, so that they can then point to the code. I'll help them through FM and UL.
So whether it's developing a new standard to test two or, or finding the right standard, and then, you know, there is a certain portion of my work that is I, I get a, I write a proposal. I, and I run a test series and, you know, I have a number of places that I test at. I've tested at university of Maryland.
Uh, I have inner tech right up the road from me, probably about five miles from my house. So I've tested in their fire lab. I have access to the, the fire academy here, uh, Aberdeen proving grounds, WPI, FM L. So depending on what the test is, I find the appropriate, you know, facility to test in, uh, I'll. Write up the report.
Um, and that will be the deliverable as well as I always like to, you know, either write a paper or present on the material that I've tested. So recently I was down Atlanta for their SFP Atlanta, um, chapter expo on conference and actually gave two talks. Uh, one was on some testing I did over the summer, uh, with wedding agents and another is on, um, an augmented reality tool I'm working on.
So it's, it's really important, not just to do the testing, but actually roll it out and, and get it out so that people understand what you did. And, and no one else is kind of repeating your work unless it's for verification purposes, but that it's, it's not redundantly done. And it's important for people to know that inform.
I think like most things, the perception of what something is and what it actually is, is a lot different. And so I think that's interesting for you to talk about the nitty gritty of it is documentation and writing proposals and finding the appropriate tests and writing a test plan and, and then presenting it and publishing your work and moving through all those motions.
So, yeah, I always like to get the real story because usually pretty different than how you would imagine you think of people in these, in these lab coats, you know, doing these dramatic experiments, but it's the reality of it is a lot more of writing papers and documentation and crossing your Ts and, and dotting your eyes as far as, uh, getting into the codes and standards.
Exactly. Yeah. I think that was a really interesting point. You touched on. How fire protection is not just a field where you could put something on the shelf and just have it go to market. I've talked with, uh, a couple different companies recently and one for a wedding agent, one for an alternative to a F um, And, uh, just a couple different companies then just, it seems like there's such a barrier to entry to the fire protection industry.
If you're not listed or you're not in the codes and standards, most fire protection professionals just don't wanna give you the time of day. So, yeah. And that's, that's, you know, it's, it's too bad cuz there is a lot of good products out there and I, I try to help the smaller company. I mean, that's was the mission statement of the fire solutions group was to bring, you know, technologies into the fire protection market.
And so I, I see a lot of companies and they're burning through a lot of money in, on the sales side and they don't have. You know, testing to back, back up their product, they don't have FM or UL. And I mean, if you don't have FM and UL, you at least need to have some testing verification so that you can at least write a variance and say, you know, this is why we're equivalent.
And it's kind of trying to explain that to 'em and say, look, I think you have something good here, but you need the documentation. You need some third party to test it and say, this does what it says it's gonna do. Yeah. That's an important note as well. If you don't have the testing and you don't have some sort of documentation to go to an AHJ and say, this is why it's equivalent, you're gonna have a really hard time getting that product into a lot of the larger marketplaces.
You sure you might be able to get it passed in some smaller jurisdictions or some less heavily regulated jurisdictions. But if you wanna get into the big marketplaces, you're gonna have a really hard time. Um, if you can't. Explain to an AJ with some data to say why this is equivalent. Right. So that's awesome.
You talked a couple times about UL and listings and FM approval. Just wanted to hear a little bit more about what it looks like to get a product UL listed or FM approved. What is, how do you start that process? Do you, you know, I, here is something that can be very expensive and very time consuming to do so.
Yeah, it, it can be so, um, You know, the big three in, in north America and the, the us is you've got factory mutual, you've got underwriter lab, and then you have Intertech. So you've got the FM, mark UL, uh, listing, and, and you've got the ETL, which is inter Tech's, um, mark there. So it really depends on if you have a product that already has a standard, or if you, a lot of the companies I work with have a very new and unique technology.
So you kind of have to either find the standard that closest fits or, or you have to talk to FM about creating a, a new standard test standard. The reason we have these companies to, to start is that. When we look at, you know, the life safety industry, we want to make sure things work. We want to make sure that we're getting the same piece of equipment.
Every time we purchase it, that changes aren't being made that could, you know, um, change the functionality of it. And, and it's it's for consistency. So the, the testing portion of it, the fire performance test is, is just one piece of it. Most of, uh, these processes to get a listing is actually a lot of component testing.
So they want to see what failure rates of certain rubbers and plastic gaskets are. They want to, you know, make sure. The functionality of some valve or some circuit board, you know, I mean, there's one test where it's just turning a, a device on and off 500 times, you know, there's a, there's a lot of just wear and tear corrosion, electric tests, um, that just to make sure that the device that's going out in the field is gonna be resilient.
So the, you know, and then you've got temperature tests where they bring stuff down to negative 40 or, or zero and, and up to a hundred, hundred 20, whatever the, the high temperature is. So a lot of it is, is component testing. You have the fire testing and, and the next part is looking at the manuals, looking at your spec sheets, anything you're gonna put FM on.
They want to have control of that to make sure you're not saying something that's outside the listing. You're not making a claim that isn't true. And so it's protecting the market. It's protecting to life safety device. So they want to make sure that that's gonna function. And then with. FM there's follow ups on the manufacturing facilities.
They actually come out and do quarterly audits in some cases where, uh, every quarter an individual from FM comes into the facility and makes sure that your manufacturing process, your quality control in the, in the manufacturing process is there. So when you get a product to submit it, you go to FM their website.
Does they kind of break it down by different departments? And you'll send in drawings, you'll send in your manual. You'll send in, uh, you know, there's paperwork attached. I do an authorized agent form for my clients so that I can speak directly to FM on their behalf. And then they'll give back a quote. Um, if it's a, if it's a, if there's a standard that already exists, the quote's pretty cookie cutter.
They say, this is how much it's gonna cost, depending on what device. I mean, yeah, it takes, it can take up to a year. I know that with any kind of pressurized cylinder, they have a year long leakage test. So that's, you're gonna start that right away. And then you'll start doing all the other component test in the meantime.
So a year is a typical timeframe. It could be shorter if it's, you know, if it's a simple spray head open, you know, day loose, spray head, it could. You know, three months prices range from, you know, $3,000 to I've heard tests, you know, for ESFR sprinklers, they're actually gonna do full rack tests. So you're gonna be, it's gonna be very expensive to run those.
I've heard tests as high as, or close to a million dollars to get a listing. Wow. On some devices, if there isn't a standard, then it's, it's a lot more difficult. Now you're talking about a two, maybe even three year timeframe where you're presenting the technology, you're presenting the case on it. Someone has to kind of be your champion at one of those organizations and say, yeah, we can see why this would be, you know, benefit the industry or in an FM's case.
I mean, the reason FM's approving is for their insurance clients. So they wanna make sure that there's a reason that their clients would be putting, putting that device in. Um, it, so if you do find that champion, then what they're gonna do is say, okay, we'll form a committee and we'll write a test standard.
And they'll usually give you a, a cost associated with that when that cost, if you pay that cost and they, they move forward and they, they build that standard, then you pay to actually test to that standard. So you, you kind of hit double hard O on that aspect. If there isn't a standard already, that sounds like, uh, quite a uphill battle.
Uh, yeah. You touched on something really good here though, is I think you answered a question that was, I kind of intuitively understand, but you went into some different parts of it is why do we have these listings? And it's for good reason that we have these listings for life safety products. And, but, uh, yeah, you also dove into some of the more.
Uncommon pieces like component testing and resiliency and temperature testing. And so those are some things that I didn't know about. And some of the interesting parts of. This process, but yeah, I find that that's really great to hear about and something that was not that aware of, but that's pretty, pretty neat.
Pretty incredible that, uh, it could be anywhere from three months to three years. So that's the range, cuz it sounds like in, yeah. Getting a committee formed just for the release. Project sounds like something that is not easy to do, especially if this isn't something that you're in the business of is, you know, these kind of, uh, endeavors.
Yeah. And for, for a small startup company, it's difficult. I mean, it's, it's something where you almost have to have early adopters and people who are using the technology, um, just to fund and, and get it through. I mean, there has to be a pretty strong demand, uh, for the product to be able to, to last that timeframe, um, and, and get a, a product out to market with an FM L or ETL mark on it.
It's cool that you get to work with small businesses and help these people who I've seen some really neat products. And even if you have a product that works extremely well for certain industry or people using it, and it's, there's clear that it's, uh, has a great benefit. It's still a very hard process to get these things listed.
So. I think that's incredible. Next. I just was thinking, you spoke a little bit about your project work and your different design work. I just wanted to dive a little bit more into your project work now at fire solutions group. And just get a little bit more about what you're doing now. I know you've told us that predominantly you are doing testing and some of, uh, that kind of work, but yeah, I didn't know if you could expand upon that a little bit.
So, um, you know, when you look at, um, my, well, my two customers, I. Kind of hit upon the, the smaller company side. The other half of that is I, I work for larger companies as well. You know, a lot of utility power companies, manufacturing, pharmaceutical stuff, usually with, with higher hazard oil and gas would be another, another big one, but they come to me and, and they usually want me to test a product that they've been approached to, to see if it actually functions the way they are claiming, or if they're using it in a unique application, is it gonna function?
Uh, the way they intended? So some of my projects cause that one I, I recently worked on was actually a, a thermally activated gas shutoff. And so they wanted to look at when it would actually engage when it would shut the gas supply off under different heat flues, as well as different flow rates of gas.
And so, uh, we actually found out that yeah, the flow of gas does affect the activation time of the device, cuz it's actually cooling it. As the gas passes through. So that was kind of an interesting project and the smaller ones, you know, I've, I've worked very closely with, uh, international fog and we helped them develop a, a new nozzle.
It's an open head nozzle. That's actually has a rotor on it. So a lot of firefighters. Refer to it as a cell nozzle or, or a Bresson distributor nozzle, but it has fine holes. And what's great about that. Nozzle is we, we tested it in a piece of equipment called the fours, and we found that at the same flow and pressure as a typical deflector plate, uh, sprinkler, we actually get better distribution of water and we get further throw and it's because you're not losing the momentum of the droplet by hitting it against a plate.
The spinning rotor actually shoots the water out at a further distance. So you could actually get better spacing with that nozzle and, and cover more. So that was a, a, a pretty interesting project. Of course, the, the VI from the last company was a very long and interesting project. Um, as far as bringing that through FM L I work with a lot of agents.
Both, you know, foam and, and wedding agents, uh, testing those for different applications. Lithium ion, uh, is big right now. So I've been doing a number of those tests in addition to your typical, you know, pan fires and, and, and wood crib fires, um, working with a company that's doing some, uh, nano mists. So it's actually, you know, if you look at your water missed range, it's up to a thousand nanometers, the nano mist is actually single digits.
So it's a very fine droplet. It's, it's more of a fog also working on some battery safety systems to try to reduce, um, the amount of flammable and HF gas coming off, off lithium ion on battery. So those are some of the technologies and, and projects I'm working on currently. Very interesting. Yeah. I like, uh, I'm I have a huge personal interest in suppression.
And so I like hearing about people making, basically being able to distribute. Less water farther or get better coverage with your nozzle that you were talking about. That's something I find really interesting to have a huge, uh, personal interest in just recently was looking at a job and was looking at the sprinkler heads and how far there's space.
And I was like, ah, you know, I don't think that I know of a sprinkler head that has a 32 foot spacing. And so this sprinkler head is either, you know, under spaced or, you know, I need to take a look at the identification number and get it figured out. Yeah. It's always interesting, uh, working with existing construction, but I like, I like hearing about those new technologies.
That's cool stuff. You've talked a lot about some different testings and some different, uh, products you've been working. Yeah, I, I saw some examples of some modeling and some simulation software on your website. Uh, what kind of simulation programs or do you guys use FDS or some of those type of programs or?
Yeah, so I, I get asked or in, in a test series sometimes I'll, I'll do a little bit of modeling for my own, you know, kind of self-interest to see where the, the fire's gonna go before I, I run a test. Um, if it's for a client, I, you know, I've, I've learned enough about fire modeling. And it's something I don't do on a consistent basis that I I've learned to outsource
Uh, and, and what I mean is you gotta be really careful with fire models and, and who's running. 'em what their qualifications are. Um, if they're not doing it full time and haven't been doing it for a number of years, uh, you really gotta, you know, worry about what inputs and outputs are, are coming in, you know, garbage in, garbage out.
And if they don't have a good process, you, you, chances are, you're not gonna get the results that you're looking for, you know, what, what is actually gonna happen. So there's a handful of people that I know have been doing. I mean, one of them's know a rider, um, from the fire risk Alliance, which is a, a, a sister company of mine, a, a good friend runs it.
Terry Fay is, is another one that, that I would trust running fire modeling for me. So a lot of times I'll contact them and, and they'll do it for me. And, and. Obviously it's it's for my clients. So they, they kind of gimme the results and, and I'll write up the report. It'll be part of a, a larger project, but yeah, there's, you know, you've gotta find a really good fire modeler.
And, and usually it's someone who does it on a day to day basis and, and has that experience and understands the model and all the assumptions. And, and so that's what I do. That's my perception of fire modeling as well, that it sounds like it could has a very steep learning curve and you gotta know what you're doing.
And you know what? I talked with somebody recently who specializes in performance based design and like, uh, FDS simulations and. All that. And they had some different ideas about it, but, uh, I think they do it for a living, but it seems very not intuitive and complicated to get into. So that's why I wanted to ask the question, but yeah, that makes sense.
If you don't know, I learned that garbage in garbage out when I was first starting to do hydraulic calculations early on. Sure. You can get your water supply to work if you're not putting in anything that's real or has any basis in reality. So I could see how you could very easily get into that same scenario with simulations and, uh, modeling.
So, so I've seen from taking a look at your website and your LinkedIn, that fire solutions group also has like, uh, emergency response or like an active firefighting portion of the business. Yeah, I. What is that, uh, what kind of clients do you guys interact with on that basis? Or I don't really understand like the services or their, so you guys are like, uh, uh, emergency responders to high industrial facilities born out of necessity.
I, I, we work with a lot of power companies and, um, there was an instance and, and. Trained as an industrial firefighter, I, I go down toques, um, on a regular basis and, and go through their industrial fire school. But this was actually a case where actually our first one was a large coal bunker and they had a fire and the local departments had been fighting the fire for about a month.
Um, and, and all the fires we do that we respond to are, are wow, bulk material fires. So not flammable liquids, but you're talking about large silos that could have coal in it or corn feed, or we've done pecan shells. You know, there's just sawdust, it's, it's those type of fires. And what's unique about those is, um, they're very slow.
They're deep seated fires. So something happens either hot material, or it can even be, you know, self combustion or there's like a, a. Growth of mold that's producing heat, um, and the heat's trapped in this bulk material. So it heats up high enough that an actually smoldering fire begins and the fire will kind of spread in, in veins and form crusts, um, in the material as it burns and kind of follows the oxygen.
But these can be burning for weeks, months at a time. Like if you're in a silo, um, there's been cases where the, the fire's been going for a month and it's just a real slow burning, progressing fire. What's dangerous about these fires is you have. A risk for a dust explosion. And you also have, you can have co build up and the co can build up in the head space of the silo.
And then if I, you know, if a spark happens, you'll get the explosion, the top of the silo will blow off. Um, and the only way to put these fires out is you have to empty all the material from the bunker or from the silo. And then once you get all the material out, you know, that hu spots out and, and the fire's done.
So you have to, there's kind of a process where you wet down the material. Um, and then you start slowly unloading, and that's why the fire department. Couldn't get the fire and the bunker out is cuz they never started to unload the material. So when we got there, you know, you usually spend a day or two just soaking down the material and letting the, the water.
We use wedding agents, um, F 500 and, and we use a new one crossfire RX because it breaks the surface tension of the water and can actually migrate through the material. And I, I just did a presentation on that at S F P E in Atlanta. But, uh, once all the materials wet, then you can start the unloading process and, and empty it out.
So, you know, again, you hear emergency response and you think about a firetruck get into a, a house fire in five minutes. This isn't that, you know, we get a call and we're usually there within 24 hours, but we could be on site for a week putting, you know, putting this fire out. If, if not longer, when I heard wedding agents earlier, I was immediately thinking of, uh, like firefighters or I had seen a presentation recently comparing wedding agents to.
Foam and showing how effective they are. I think that's interesting that your company actually gets into the functional use of those wedding agents. For those, for those who don't know about wedding agents, what are wedding agents? From my understanding, it just makes water, it's like an amplifier effect for water just makes the water adhere better.
But yeah. What are wedding agents? It's really interesting because if you go to the N F P code, so NFPA 18 and 18 a is, is it kind of covers the category of wedding agents. And if you read and I would suggest everybody do this, when they, when they go to a fire code, read the history of it, cuz some of them are very interesting, you know, on that first cover page.
I think it's. Maybe right after they list all the committee members, they tell you a, a history that, that runs through what the code is about. So when you read N F P 18, what's interesting is, and a lot of people don't know this is foams was originally a wedding agent, uh, the whole foam N F P 11. Category came out from NFP 18.
So 18 is actually the original code that foam was in just foam became so widespread and used that they split it out and, and created their own code. But a wedding agent is pretty much any additive to water in, uh, You know, probably one of the issues I have with the wedding agent code right now is that it's all encompassing.
So I know products and I, I work with products that actually thicken the water and make it into a gel and they would fall in that category. And those are good for like thermal protection. You know, I've started to play with the idea of actually spraying it on, uh, adjacent. Tanks that if you have like a full surface tank fire, will you actually be able to use less cooling water by using a gel or like a LPG sphere?
Could you use a gel to, to keep it cool versus, you know, the water method, but I, I know it's been used in forest fires and applications like that. And actually for class C manhole fires and, and pole fires, they, they use gelling agents on the opposite side is you get a lot of agents that break the surface tension, which is good for bulk storage fires.
And I, I just showed cotton, which is really hydrophobic to water. It can penetrate into the cotton and, and put out a fire, which is a, a, a pretty difficult fire to, to suppress. So you have that. Surface tension. And then you have, uh, a category encapsulating agents. And what those do is when they mix with the flame liquid, they actually make the flame liquid inert.
So it's good. If you just have a pool that's not on fire yet, you could spray it in AER the, the flame liquid, but as well as putting it on class B fires, I, I wouldn't say necessarily a, a pool fire, but like a, a three dimensional fire. Um, those encapsulating agents are, are really good at, so if you have a diesel engine or a transformer or, or something like that, it, it would be good for protection.
And I've seen those encapsulated agents used in fixed systems for those transformers and, and, and diesel engines as well as for manual operations. So that's kind of the, the wedding, when I say wedding agents, it's it pretty much covers every water additive that's used for firefighting outside of foam, which split off from the wedding agent category, um, and made their own fire code.
I was, uh, aware of. Uh, you know, an encapsulating agent, but I don't think that I knew that it was more nuanced than that, you know, and I think that's interesting what you're saying about, you know, it's any additive, so there's, you know, different subcategories of the effects and the, um, firefighting properties of these different types of wedding agents.
So that's really interesting. I like hearing about that. Um, yeah, I feel like, uh, you know, maybe once these encapsulating agents get more tested and, and maybe we have some time that they might be, do, you know, from the one that I heard a presentation on, it had a really minimal environmental impact. And, you know, as far as effectiveness, it was.
Pretty comparable to foam. And so, yeah, there's been quite a shake up recently with foam and hanger firefighting or, uh, hanger, fire suppression, I should say. And so I think it's, uh, be interesting to see where the industry goes with that sort of thing, sort of on the same path of emerging technologies or, you know, where the industry is heading.
I saw that fire solutions group has a product called, uh, fire vision, or it looks like it's a application or something that you guys are working on. It works with. Augmented reality. Tell me a little bit about that. Yeah, sure. So it's something I've been working on for since actually last April is, is when I started the process.
And it's the first in-house new technology development that we're doing. You know, usually I work with clients that have, have come up with an idea being kind of involved with new technologies. I always look at anything that's coming out. That's not in the fire industry and go, okay, could I apply this to the fire industry in some way?
And so I started looking at virtual reality and augmented reality, uh, virtual reality being, you know, you put on a set of goggles and you're completely immersed in, uh, a digital world. And I think that's good for training exercises. You know, almost like a, at the command post type exercise or, or size up when you look at augmented reality and you start digging into it, it it's, it's pretty fascinating because it's not just, you know, the definition is it's a digital image.
That's. That you is visually overlaid onto a, a real live image. Um, so you think of like the NFL does the first down line in yellow, that's augmented reality. It's not actually there, they're taking a digital image and showing you information that you would otherwise have to think about and say, okay, it's second and five.
They have to get five yards. And, and here's the first down line. It's so much more than that though, because when you look at the implementation of it, it's really a new way of organizing the world's information. So when you think of what Google did for the internet, where you can just type in and search and, and you get that information, that information is now gonna be distributed globally to where it makes sense.
So if you are, you know, visiting a historic site like Gettysburg, you could hold up your phone and get information. You could see, you know, Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address or a pickets charge up, you know, up the hill, um, at Gettysburg, but in the fire industry. And what I would like to do is.
I walk on a lot of sites, like an oil and gas terminal, and it's like, okay, well where's the fire pump. Well, wouldn't it be great if I could just hold up my phone and I have the icon for a fire pump and it shows me right where it is. And then when I walk up to that, I push that icon and it gives me the manual or gives me the inspection testing and maintenance forms, or it gives me, you know, it's the pump curve, all this information that we gather during our fire hazard analysis in that, you know, the building owner's interested in the fire department wants to know where the FDC connections are and, um, you know, how much foam do I need for full surface tank fire?
How much cooling water am I supposed to be getting on the adjacent? Thanks. Everything that's in their emergency response, I mean would be there at a glance and you'd be able to see it. And so we're in the process now with implementing that, um, we've, I've been having a team of developers. Work on it. And part of it is you 3d map an area.
Um, there's a large push by a lot of large companies. I mean, you're talking apple, Samsung, Facebook, all these people are getting into the augmented reality cuz they realize this is kind of the next, the next big thing. And there's actually whole cities that have been 3d mapped. All of London is New York city will be this there's a hundred major cities.
There's also the technology out there to do it. So I just bought a camera. It's called Matterport. Um, and. You know, sits on a tripod and just rotates in a circle and takes a 3d map of, uh, indoor and outdoor locations. You take that 3d map and change it into what's called a, uh, point source cloud. And what that enables you to do is put these digital images in a spot, cuz GPS isn't good enough.
There's too much drift, but when you 3d map, it's gonna stick that, that icon, that image where it's supposed to be. Um, so we're using all hazmat standardized hazmat icons, as well as NFPA one 70 is the standard for images and icons that are used on floor plans or, you know, your, your design drawings. So we're using a combination of those icons along with some other ones.
And then. Attached to those, depending on what the icon is, will be the information. So if it's a hazardous material, you could have, you know, as well as inspection data, but you could have the MSDS sheet there. And so that information will be stored on the cloud. So now when I walk into that same fictional oil and gas terminal and hold up my phone, I know where all of my fire protection hazards and resources are.
And I have information on those about what condition they're in, when they were last inspected. And I think that's gonna be a really powerful tool for the fire industry as a whole to organize the information, but communicate the information to each other, between HJS insurance, building owners, firefighters, consultants, and, and the contractors that are responsible for constructing and, and doing the inspection, testing and maintenance of the, of the equipment and hazards.
That's really powerful. I, you know, I, I guess I could tell the, you know, appeal from a. Emergency response side of things. But yeah, what really peaks my interest is when you're talking about, you know, integrating this technology with, um, building information systems and, you know, that's what I do as a job every day is, you know, 3d modeling and integrating data into the way.
You know, we construct and, you know, develop contract documents. You know, I could see, you know, this program, I love what you're saying about walking up to a fire pump and being able to, you know, get the capacity and the rating and the pump curve. And then, you know, the ITM data inspection, testing, maintenance data, that would be so beneficial because all that stuff, uh, is usually pretty hard to find, you know, in an existing pump room.
It's almost impossible unless the rating plate is on there. Uh, just saying, and that information is usually scattered. I mean, you have to go around to multiple parties. If I wanna see the emergency response plan, I have to talk to the fire department. If I wanna see, you know, the design drawings, I'm talking to the consultant.
If I wanna see the Asbuilt, sometimes it's the contractor and, you know, I'm, I'm lucky if the building owner has, you know, a, a lot of this information readily available so that, that's why I really help up and, and speed up the process for everybody. Yeah, definitely. I, I can see just a lot of benefits to that idea.
You know, it's like take a look for, at a building from the outside, you know, and could just be able to say, oh, this building is sprinkler. This building does not have a fire pump. You know, like the FDC is located here, you know, there's these other fire protection systems in the building. And as far as streamlining and test, uh, testing and, and uh, inspection stuff, uh, I think that'd be wonderful, but yeah, I think that has a lot of promise and yeah, that's neat to hear about, I get excited when I hear stuff like that because, you know, I think that, uh, fire protection is.
On the crest of about to seeing a lot of these technological advances, uh, impact the field. And yeah, it's exciting to see where things are going. Yeah. I wanted to move on to maybe one or two questions about professional development, since it's, it's clear to me that you've had, uh, amazing career in fire protection so far, and you get to work in some really neat fields.
So, and I love what you said about, uh, looking at the history and the NFPA standards. You know, I definitely have looked at those before, but I just kind of glance over 'em and. You know, think, oh, this is this just some rhetoric by NFPA, but yours, you know, I love your tip about, go take a look at those because they actually have some really interesting information.
I haven't heard that before, but I really like that. Um, wanted to ask, yeah. What fire protection resources would you recommend to professionals? Yeah, I mean, if, if you're not, I mean, already a member, you, you should definitely become members of N F P and, and S F P you know, attend, try to attend your local SF P meetings.
I try to go and speak at as many as I can every year, you know, I'll, I'll. Try to give, like I said, part of testing is distributing that information and, and making sure people are aware of the tests that you have done and, and what you've found out, so it can, can help them design and install better, better fire protection systems.
So, yeah, I, I would say go to those S F P E meetings, uh, become an NFPA member. My most productive week business wise is NFPA expo. You know, this year it's down to Orlando next year. It's back in Vegas. I mean, hopefully if this coronavirus pandemic ends, they won't delay. Um, but I mean, even if you, you know, your company isn't gonna pay for it, or, I mean, I've, I've gone every year to NFPA and some years I've had been in a booth some years, I've done talks.
Even if I don't do those two things, if it's just walk the expo floor, it's worth going, cuz of the people you meet, you can get insights into what's going on in the fire industry. What some of their issues are. I personally like those, those outer aisles, because those are usually the startup and potential clients for myself, people who are just getting into the, the fire industry and they have a new technology and they're trying to, trying to get it into the industry.
So I like talking to those, those outer booths as well as, you know, the big guys, the Honeywells, the Siemens, the, the JCI Tyco, uh, booths, and, and going in, seeing, seeing those guys and making connections and, and going to the events, you know, a lot of the, the big companies have open events after, um, the conference closes where you can, can kind of mingle and, and, you know, find people find a mentor.
If you're, if you're young in the industry, find someone who. You know, you want to do what they do or, or learn about what they do and, and, and get a mentor. And then LinkedIn is a great resource. Uh, I mean, this community is a small community. I mean, there's four colleges in the us. And when you're talking about people with FP degrees, it's not seven degrees of separation.
It's two. So we're a small community. You can really learn everybody. Who's, who's kind of in the industry and, and connect with them and in some form or fashion, and it's, those are probably the big three is just the networking and, and, and mentorship aspect of, of the industry. I think that's all good advice.
Yeah. I haven't been, had gotten a chance to go to N FPA yet, but I really want to get there, but it sounds like just a great place to meet people and all of the resources and, you know, talks. And as far as the who's, who of fire protection and what's going on in the industry, it sounds like that's probably the biggest.
Event for, uh, definitely in the us. Just had one more question and, uh, we can wrap this up. What do you wish you would've known before you started in the FP field? I know you just gave a lot of great advice for, uh, young professionals and that might have encapsulated all of your thoughts on that sort of thing, but.
Yeah. I didn't know if you had anything, you know, any culture shock or anything that you weren't aware of before getting into fire protection. Sounds like you had a lot of experience with it from a young age. So maybe not. Yeah. One thing I, you know, if, if you're still in college or, or, you know, maybe you're listening to listen, you're, you're gonna go into, um, an FPE program.
It would be take full advantage of being in college. I mean, there's a lot of resources that when I look back I'm like, man, I wish I, you know, spent more time in the lab. I had great professors, um, at WPI, I wish I, you know, kind of pick their brain more, talk to them more. I mean, and it's all free, right? I mean, you've got free access to a fire lab.
You have free access to this knowledge base. Um, and, and probably taken more advantage of, of that aspect. And then the other thing I'd say is. Try to decide where you want your career to go early on. And, and, you know, whether I knew I wanted to do testing, I mean, right from college, when I started running test, I enjoyed it.
I knew I wanted to do fire testing and I, I took a career path. That was that way. But whether you wanna, you know, if you want to do smoke control or detector, or, I mean, try a bunch of different things, learn about a diff bunch of different things, but, you know, do you want to be a design engineer, your whole career, or do you want to be a project manager?
Do you want to own your own company? Do you know, do you want to transition into a business role rather than, you know, doing engine, whatever. Goal is at the end of your career, you know, or NFPA committee member or whatever it is, try to plot a path to that and, and pick companies that are gonna help you get there, pick mentors that are gonna help you get there.
And, and that would be my advice is kind of plot out and you may not get that company that, you know, the job at the company that you wanted, but even if not, I mean, you can pick our mentor. Outside of your company and, and start talking to them and, and get insight from them. People in the industry are, are, I've found relatively easy to talk to and, and will share information.
Um, if it's gonna help, you know, another fire protection professional. And I think that, like you stated previously fire protection is so tight knit that people are really, uh, they want to, they want to help you. They want to see you do well. They, they want the industry to do well. So yeah, I think that's all great advice.
Well, Andy, thank you so much for getting on and talking with me. I know I learned a lot, you so much. Yeah, no problem. We'll have to do it again. We should. Thanks for listening. Everybody. Be sure to share the episode with a friend, if you enjoyed it, don't forget that fire protection and life safety is serious business.
The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are by no means a professional consultation or a codes and standards interpretation. Be sure to contact a licensed professional. If you are getting involved with fire protection and or life safety. Thanks again. And we'll see you next time.