Simulation and Modelling in Fire Safety: Virtual Reality for Smart Firefighting

Simulation and Modelling in Fire Safety: Virtual Reality for Smart Firefighting

Tomaz Hozjan, Kamila Kempna, Jan Smolka
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 31
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3059-7.ch009
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Actual and future concerns in fire safety in buildings and infrastructure are challenging. Modern technologies provide rapid development in area of fire safety, especially in education, training, and fire-engineering. Modelling as a tool in fire-engineering provides possibility to design specific fire scenarios and investigate fire spread, smoke movement or evacuation of occupants from buildings. Development of emerging technologies and software provides higher possibility to apply these models with interactions of augmented and virtual reality. Augmented reality and virtual reality expand effectivity of training and preparedness of first (fire wardens) and second (firefighters) responders. Limitations such as financial demands, scale and scenarios of practical training of first and second responders are much lower than in virtual reality. These technologies provide great opportunities in preparedness to crisis in a safety way with significantly limited budget. Some of these systems are already developed and applied in safety and security area e.g. XVR (firefighting, medical service).
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One of the main concerns of safety of infrastructure is fire safety. In case of fire occurrence, probability of domino effect is increased. For limitation of consequences, their impact and loses on life or property, effective reaction and suppression attack is the key. Effective suppression response and rescue operations require efficient and advanced training. This training is usually time consuming, expensive and time demanding. It also requires a place where some of the techniques need to be tested for possible future events. Modern technologies provide improving of this training and drill and decrease expenses and price of a firefighter’s teaching program. One of the most emerging advanced technologies is Virtual or Augmented Reality.

It has been decades when firefighters do not only extinguish fire but also provide additional special service and duties in frame of rescue operations. It is also reason why fire brigades are commonly transform to Fire and Rescue Service. Activities of Fire and Rescue Services in frame of firefighting include structural firefighting, forest firefighting, extinguishing of vehicles, industrial firefighting, or any other types of fires where involving potentially injured or killed persons, animals or damaged property. Furthermore, activities of firefighters include services in HazMat leakages, intervention in traffic accidents related to collisions, search and rescue activities, rescue from waterscapes, rescue from heights and depths, technical assistance such as emergency opening of apartments, assistance in explosive findings and much more.

This is a wide list of activities that requires large amount of basic training and additional continual professional development which can deliver highly efficient persons able to react in the most difficult situations in modern technological and industrial world.

Intervention in mentioned activities are usually done under stress of the persons. Time pressure in some cases is life decisive. These tasks are usually realized in difficult conditions including high or low temperatures, when first responders hear people screaming, in darkness or low visibility caused by smoke, occurrence of toxic gases, products of combustion or any other danger substance. Every mistake can cause serious consequences on health of his own, persons in danger or property. In event of fire, firefighters provide suppression attack usually with breathing apparatus (SCBA), which increase load on firefighters’ body very often exceeding 20 kilograms. With this equipment, a firefighter is able to operate in basements as well as in high-rise buildings and provide effective intervention in limited time defined by his own air consumption in SCBA, depending on health, psychological state, fitness and activity of firefighter, usually up to 40 minutes.

These conditions require physically and psychically health persons with ability of own decision making under pressure of surrounding circumstances and very well trained in his tasks. It requires a lot of time consumed by drills for specific activities, education and preparing for specific tasks, training cooperation, communication and coordination with other crew members.

Specifically, activities and specialization require additional training in facilities – for e.g. climbing in a polygon and diving in a smoke, try HazMat polygon. Firefighters learn a lot of theory about fire dynamics, fire behaviour, car systems, building structures, extinguishing methods and principles and much more.

There are several aspects and information needed to deliver to firefighters in so called basic course. Additional load of knowledge for firefighters necessary to understand and know can be learned during further continual professional development in their career. As training of firefighters requires to know theory, practical training and drill is equally important to deliver full preparedness for a practice or firefighters. In case of volunteer firefighters, it is even more complicated because of limited time of their training and preparedness due to training in their free time.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are modern solutions and future possibilities to effectively deliver knowledge to firefighters and partly replace practical training. Use of these technologies dates back to early 90’s when they have been used for training of astronauts, pilots of airplanes, first responders, military combat trainings and training of operators and drivers of vehicles or medical care service.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS): is a computational fluid dynamics model of fire-driven fluid flow. FDS solves numerically a form of the Navier-Stokes equations appropriate for low-speed (Ma < 0.3), thermally driven flow with an emphasis on smoke and heat transport from fires.

Unity: Unity is development platform for virtual reality.

Building Information Modelling (BIM): It is an intelligent 3D model-based process that gives construction and other professionals the insight and tools to more efficiently plan, design, construct, and manage buildings and infrastructure.

Augment Reality: AR is a type of virtual reality technology that blends what the user sees in their real surroundings with digital content generated by computer software.

Heat Release Rate: HRR is a measure of the rate at which heat energy is evolved by a material when burned. It is expressed in terms of power per unit area (kW/m 2 ).

Virtual Reality: VR is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world, a mediated environment which creates the sensation in a user of being present in a (physical) surrounding.

Compartment Fire Behaviour Training (CFBT): CFB training integrates the topics of fire behavior, fire streams and ventilation within a structural firefighting context.

Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA): is a device worn by rescue workers, firefighters, and others to provide breathable air in an immediately dangerous to life or health atmosphere.

Virtual Environment (VE): Artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user suspends belief and accepts it as a real environment. It can be immersive, semi-immersive, non-immersive, or even augmented.

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