MFRI Explores Fireground Contaminants through FEMA Grant

MFRI Explores Fireground Contaminants through FEMA Grant

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded a $126,000 Fire Prevention and Safety grant to the University of Maryland, College Park to fund a study on fireground contaminant exposure control approaches utilized by fire departments regionally and nationally.

Drs. Jim Milke and Jamie McAllister of the University of Maryland’s Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) will partner with the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI) on the joint project. MFRI’s Special Programs Section Manager, Darl McBride, will take the lead in the 12-month study researching and facilitating workshops focused on identifying challenges faced by health and safety officers implementing post-incident exposure control and decontamination protocols.

Dr. Milke is a professor and chair of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering (FPE). His principal areas of expertise involve smoke management, fire detection and analyzing the response of materials exposed to fire conditions. He earned his PhD in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, both from the University of Maryland. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Ursinus College.

Dr. McAllister, who is an assistant research scientist in the UMD FPE Department, will serve as the project manager responsible for tasks completed by FPE students. These tasks include surveying various fire departments regarding National Standards - NFPA 1500, 1521, 185. McAllister, who was inspired by her volunteer fire service experience, obtained her Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Fire Protection Engineering. She sought her PhD in Toxicology to better understand fire contaminants and their effects on occupants and firefighters.

“The goal of this research is to educate fire service Health and Safety (H&S) personnel on the requirements and current approaches being utilized regionally and nationally for post-fire and post-incident contaminant exposure control,” said McAllister. The second goal of the study is to develop action items that will direct future efforts to address challenges faced by H&S personnel in developing, implementing, and managing their contaminant exposure control programs.

McBride, who has over 60 years of experience in the fire service as volunteer and later career firefighter with the District of Columbia Fire Department and Howard County, Maryland, will serve as principal investigator of the project. In addition to his fire service background, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Fire Science and a Master of Science degree in Safety Management. In the early 1990’s, McBride served as an adjunct instructor with the International Society for Fire Service Instructors where he delivered 2-day seminars to fire departments on “How to Implement NFPA 1500.”

Regional workshops for H&S personnel from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia will be facilitated at MFRI during the course of the study. Upon completion of the survey, a presentation will be held at the Maryland State Firemen’s Convention in Ocean City, MD.