The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a virtual reality simulation of fire situations that will enable fire professionals to demonstrate how life-threatening conditions can develop in structures and to test firefighting tactics on computers without risk to life and limb.

To build the most realistic physics-based computer fire simulations to date, NIST experts are reworking the agency's fire modeling software--known as the Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS)--and fire imaging program--known as Smokeview. Refinements to FDS will increase the system's ability for simulating the smoke, hot air and other gas flow caused by fire, wind, ventilation and structural conditions. The upgrade also will improve data processing, yielding speedier calculations that will permit even the most complex fires (such as a multistory or multibuilding event) to be portrayed.

NIST will be working with firefighter instructors to develop a simulation of all of the possible outcomes for different fire scenarios used in training. These will be incorporated into a software package, enabling users to change a simulation with the click of a mouse. Immediately, firefighters will be able to learn the ramifications of actions such as opening a window, closing a door or focusing a hose spray in a certain direction. Enhancement of fire-related images, such as picturing "smoke" realistically on the computer screen (instead of denoting it symbolically with contours, dots or vectors) will add to "real" feel. Online News--NFPA Codes To Be More Stringent in Wake of Disasters The Standards Council of NFPA has issued amendments to the association's two key safety codes. The Standards Council of the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) has issued amendments to the association's two key safety codes. Precipitated by recent nightclub tragedies in both Rhode Island and Chicago, the amendments institute requirements that are believed at this time to be among the nation's most stringent.

Effective in 20 days, the new requirements, also known as amendments, will strengthen NFPA safety codes: NFPA 101, Life Safety Code(R), and NFPA 5000(tm), Building Construction and Safety Code(tm). The requirements call for fire sprinklers in all new nightclub-type facilities, and for existing nightclubs with occupancies exceeding 100. Also issued were restrictions to festival seating when occupancies exceed 250 (unless a life-safety evaluation is performed), a requirement for crowd managers for all places of assembly, and requirements for regular egress inspection and record-keeping for existing nightclubs.