Its been awhile since we have updated the community on our progress at York University. You can follow our research activities. So this post serves as this update following a seperate posting in the IAFSS newsletter

Recent Research Projects

When lab restrictions came into place back in March 2020, a number of data collection initiatives were concluding in our group. We had also initiated planning for several research frameworks for the coming years. These, combined, have kept our group very operational despite the struggles in Toronto (and globally).

The York University Fire Group has recently been the recipient of equipment funding to enable fire testing, and the first test programs have recently reached the end of their first phases in March of 2020. This began with the commissioning and testing of various heating capabilities and environmental system assessment. This then allowed us to perform a comprehensive analysis of gypsum board performance using narrow spectrum illumination technologies (developed with our friends from NIST), as well as the investigation of stay bridge cables (pictured). We have worked quite closely with our friends and collaborators at the University of Waterloo to see these projects to success. Both of these projects were led by graduate students: Ben Nicoletta, Chloe Jeanneret, and Bronwyn Chorlton, with supported by members of our undergraduate team. The bridge cable experiment research programme is supported through a partnership with Arup UK Fire Engineering. The Gypsum research was supported by the Canadian Government. The recently accepted peer reviewed papers at the time of writing this news can be found here:

Did you know that YorkU fire has a transportation skills research team? Combining resources from transportation teams in Ottawa and at York, we have developed multiple research projects. We are currently investigating accessibility in transportation terminals, including lesser-considered mobility impairments. Pedestrian dynamics, required actions and decision making are being evaluated to identify considerations for the flow of occupants within transportation facilities. Multiple technologies are being tested to help collect data to inform and validate pedestrian models, including AI tracking from camera footage. Early results appeared last summer at the human factors sessions of the International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics conference series, led by team members Seth Gatien and Tim Young. This data analysis work will continue over the next year. We are also investigating human factors in wildland urban interface community evacuation. You can find reference to our recent paper here:

Related, we received funding from the SPFE foundation to undertake the construction of a movement parameters database for human behaviors in emergencies, and to analyze our existing video database for new parameters over 2020. The research project was a joint collaboration with Arup North Americas (Specifically William CK Wong and Jarred Stock). The database will be publicly available once our Eastern Canada Student Chapter for SFPE is finalized in the coming months ( a joint initiative with Waterloo, ETS in Montreal and Laval). The final SFPE report is now publicly available. The student chapter’s initiatives are focused on developing educational based materials in the french language for greater accessibility of fire engineering teaching resources in Canada.

Our team’s paper “The Historical Narrative of the Standard Temperature-time Heating Curve for Structures” was recently published in the Springer-Nature journal Fire Technology. This research began 9 years ago as part of from team lead, Dr. Gales’ first ever research grant he received as a PI. The grant was to archive and digitize various difficult to find papers which would be obtained from antique dealers like the one you see here. That project began by also digitizing meeting minutes, books, and papers not previously accessible to the greater community and buried in stacks of musty library halls. The Queen’s University Engineering and Science Library in Canada was relied upon heavily for obtaining these articles. For example, this library houses all early ASTM meeting minutes from the conception of the curve to present, definitively establishing elements of the narrative. These were digitized for this project in 2014. This new paper in Fire Technology now presents these firsthand accounts, meeting minutes, and literature to really explore origins as well as contemporary discussions to the future. It has been a fascinating hobby to study since, and a joy to work with our co-authors and share with the greater community (finally). The full reference of this paper, including a supporting paper that covers the 18th century fire testing technologies can be found here:

Future Research Projects

Our upcoming research work includes various institutional collaborations, including Queen’s University Canada and ETS in Montreal. Sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction we have multi-year funding for a study of steel connectors. Our team was very fortunate to have also procured funding for pedestrian modelling technology and structural fire tests with our colleagues from Arup UK Fire Engineering and the local Toronto office. Lastly, we will be undertaking a large-scale wood technology related research program. These projects have resulted in funding support for 12 new graduate student projects over the next 3 years.

Team Growth

The Canadian Standards Association Group has awarded Chloe Jeanneret with its first Graduate Scholarship to help her studies in the area of steel construction. Team members were very successful in scholarship generation and our team received its 70th large scholarship for our members in the last 6 years. Our team welcomes seven graduate level students this year (many continuing from our undergrad research program): Aurora Wang, Sara Arce, Hannah Carton, Anne Davidson, Seth Gatien, Luming Huang, and Ethan Phillion. Anne, Aurora, and Ethan will work on our structure research project portfolios while Hannah, Luming, Seth and Sara will work on our Human Behaviour in Emergency and Transportation research portfolios. Chloe Jeanneret and Tim Young begin their doctoral studies with us this year.  Ben Nicoletta and Bronwyn Chorlton will have graduated from their studies by Fall 2021. Dr. Kotsovinos and Dr. Genikomsou have also joined us as visiting (adjunct) professors to support our research team.

Recent Workshops

Team members Bronwyn Chorlton and Neir (Natalie) Mazur, and collaborators at Waterloo Jennifer Ellingham, presented their research with their second organized Equity Diversity and Inclusion workshop. This one was on “Gender Differences in Graduate Engineering Student Experiences”, which followed an earlier workshop they organized on industry and academic experiences. Team members have been investigating the leaky career pipeline and following their study of undergraduate experiences last year. They are now considering those experiences of graduate students (not just fire students). Team members surveyed graduate students at multiple universities in Canada between 2019 and 2020. The key findings indicate issues pertaining to funding resources for graduate students and very significant disparity in supervisory support between genders. In the coming months, more of their work will be made available.

Course Offerings and Development

In education, we are also pleased to convey that we (with help from team members Danielle Alberga and Ben Nicoletta) worked with the Canadian Wood Council to produce a national curriculum and requisite resources for undergraduate students in Canada. This course will include detailing for fire safety engineering to help facilitate this topic area into more universities in Canada. These lecture modules and resources are now available and should greatly support those undertaking designs in this subject in Canada.

Team lead Dr. John Gales will be offering his 6th version of Human Behaviour in Fire at the University of Waterloo and York University in October of 2021. The course will be taught via online video series once again. The course was also offered at WPI in the US last fall. In all, total yearly enrollment has been steady with approximately 20-30 participants on average each year with the majority of students coming from industry. The curriculum used was originally developed by the late Guylène Proulx and modernized with contemporary findings and research. The course focus is on industry applicability. Therefore, the course conveys fundamental and important psychological and sociological concepts in a format that can be accessible and applied by engineers and practitioners within their designs assuming this is their first exposure to the topic area. The course has directly led to the establishment of this discipline as a service in multiple Canadian based consultancies in the last few years. We are quite excited to continue offering this class to grow this important field in North America.