Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2018 Fire and Evacuation Modeling Technical Conference (FEMTC). It was hosted by Thunderhead Engineering and held in Gaithersburg, Maryland, right around the corner from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This three day event spanning from October 1st to 3rd was a single-track agenda which allowed participants to watch all presentations and engage with all speakers. Attendees ranged from engineers to geo-scientists to researchers and a few students. The presentations were a fantastic balance between technical material and more high-level fire and modeling topics. I presented on the first day on stadium egress modeling our team has been conducting over the past year in collaboration with ARUP. The open access version of the paper can be found here and the presentation will be linked when it becomes available from the conference organizers. Our research was well-received and represents stage one of the project, in which stage two will be built upon over the next eight months. One of my favourite aspects of the conference included the fact that many of the Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) software developers were in attendance. Since many of the presentations were geared towards certain aspects of FDS, a lot of the Q&A periods not only consisted of audience questions, but also of comments from these FDS developers of precise recommendations and precautions to take when utilizing FDS for specific purposes.

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Demonstration of a recent experiment conducted at the NIST fire lab

Another last highlight of the trip included the amazing tour of the NIST Fire Lab, where we saw some of the Nation’s most high-tech fire testing capabilities and actual pieces of the steel column from the 911 World Trade Center which was struck by the tail end of the first airplane. Thank you to Thunderhead Engineering for organizing a great event and looking forward to the next one in 2020. Also, shout-out to the best hotel staff member who wore every helping hat in the venue – he was up before dawn setting up chairs, would show up in coveralls when our overhead projector needed repairing, and then appear in a suit as our bartender at night.

–  Danielle Aucoin, MASc Candidate