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The Official Website of Dr. John H. Klote, PE -  Updated June 22, 2015

Smoke is the major killer in building fires, and smoke control

provides significant protection from the threat of smoke.

Full Scale Fire Testing

Experiments are the foundation of science and engineering. Scientific theories need to be verified by experiments. An experiment is a test in which a series of actions are performed and the effects of the actions are carefully observed to learn about something. Scientists and engineers have a high level of confidence in the results of well planned and executed experiments. Engineering system concepts and methods of analysis need to be verified by well planned and executed experiments.

Unfortunately, some experiments are not well planned and executed, and poor quality experiments can lead to unjustified conclusions and recommendations. Some tests are conducted to support a favored position rather than for the purpose of objective research. Design engineers and code officials need to evaluate research and test projects to determine if they are well planned and executed in an unbiased manner, and to do this attention needs to be paid to the testing organization, the project leader and the project sponsor.

Ideally the testing organization and project leader would have extensive experience with full scale fire testing, and project sponsor would have no financial interest in the conclusions and recommendations of the project. However, good fire testing projects have been done at organizations with no history of fire testing by project leaders who gained their knowledge of fire testing just for the project. An experienced researcher who takes on fire testing without detailed knowledge of fire testing can make expensive mistakes and even blunders that invalidate the entire project. In the early stages of some projects, consultants are brought it to provide expertise in fire testing.

Chapter 22 of the Handbook of Smoke Control Engineering has detailed information about fire testing including the project plan, test facility, safety plan, video, fuels, instrumentation, instrument wiring, data collection, data analysis, and the final report. Instrumentation includes thermocouples, flow meters, differential pressure transduces, flux gages, bidirectional velocity probes, gas analyzers, smoke meters, and load cells.

Living Room Fire 50 Seconds After Ignition

(Fire test conducted at NIST.)

Dry Scotch Pine Fire 5 Seconds After Ignition

(Fire test conducted at NIST.)