Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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View All Project FAQs Study Investigators FAQs High-Rise FAQs

Project FAQs

To develop tools that will help local fire departments better assess the risks in their local communities and plan to respond to them more effectively and efficiently. The studies specifically address staffing and deployment as they relate to firefighter safety and matching resources to community risks.

The studies are funded with grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (the Fire Act).

The multi-phase project is conducted jointly by a coalition of the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI-Risk), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and the Urban Institute (UI).

At the completion of each phase of the study, results as well as products developed during the study will be released for use by local fire departments at no cost. These products/tools will help local fire departments better assess the risks in their local communities and plan to respond to them more effectively and efficiently.

The results from the Field Experiments were released on April 28, 2010. View results here.

The proceedings from the National Fire Service Data Summit were release in May 2011. View the proceedings here.

The results of the High-Rise Field experiments were released on April 10, 2013. Check back to see the released results.


Study Investigators FAQs

Principle Investigators for the studies:

Jason D. Averill


  • 1996: B.S. Civil Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • 1998: M.S. Fire Protection Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Recent Research Experience

  • “Evaluation of Bench-scale Toxicity Apparatus”; $300k, 2005 – Present
  • “Occupant Behavior and Egress”; $370k, 2002 - Present
  • “World Trade Center Investigation - Occupant Behavior, Egress, and Emergency Communications”; $1,950K; 2002 - 2004.
  • “Home Smoke Alarm Tests”; $1,000K; 2001- 2002.
  • “Room-Scale Smoke Component Yields for Validation of Bench-scale Smoke Toxicity Apparatus”; $600K; 2001 – 2002.


  • 2005: U.S. Department of Commerce, Gold Medal Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Federal Service. “For conducting the federal building and fire safety investigation of the World Trade Center disaster”
  • 2004: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bronze Medal Award for Superior Federal Service. “For research into the characterization of the performance of home smoke alarms”


Lori Moore-Merrell, DrPh, MPH, EMT-P

Lori Moore-Merrell is an Assistant to the General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) in charge of Technical Assistance for Labor Issues and Collective Bargaining, Fire and EMS Operations, and IAFF Field Services. Moore-Merrell’s expertise is in emergency response system design, staffing and deployment of mobile resources, system performance measurement and evaluation. She has managed emergency response system evaluation teams, including GIS assessment, for more than 300 fire departments in the United States and Canada. Likewise, she led the effort to develop the IAFF/IAFC fire-based EMS system performance measures and is now staffing the committee working to develop fire and rescue operational indicators and performance measures.

Moore-Merrell served as Principle Investigator on two USFA cooperative agreements to assess firefighter line-of-duty death and injury and to develop fire service risk management models and has managed multiple years of cooperative agreements with the USFA regarding fire-based EMS. She has served on 15 Federal Task Forces on Fire and EMS related subjects.

Moore-Merrell is well-published having written and published more than a dozen articles, book chapters and/or books on subjects related Fire and EMS Response Systems.

During her tenure with the IAFF, Moore-Merrell has held many positions and received numerous awards for her work including Commissioner for the Commission for Fire Service Accreditation (CFAI), Gubernatorial Appointee to the Commonwealth of Virginia Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board, Member of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Executive Board of Directors and receiving the James O. Page EMS Achievement award from the IAFC.

Moore-Merrell holds a B.S. in Health and Safety Education from the University of Memphis and an MPH in Epidemiology from The George Washington University School of Public Health. She also earned a DrPH in Health Policy from The George Washington University School of Public Health where she did her doctoral dissertation on ”Quality Performance Measures for Fire-Based EMS Systems”.


Kathy Notarianni, PhD., P.E.

Kathy A. Notarianni is the Head of the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Notarianni works with the university's fire protection engineering faculty to plan for the future of graduate studies and research in fire protection engineering, which incorporates elements of civil, structural, electrical and chemical engineering to make structures, vehicles, clothing and people safer from fire. She strives to build strong networks with agencies, laboratories, universities and companies having common interest in fire protection engineering education and research.

She has been awarded over $5M in research grants from multiple governmental sponsors such as NASA, NIH, and the U.S. Navy. She is a fellow in the Society of Fire Protection Engineers.

Prior to joining WPI, Notarianni managed a group of scientists and engineers in a technical program of integrated performance assessment and risk at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, MD. The program serves to produce tools to quantify fire events for fire hazard and risk assessment; fire fighting operations and training; fire investigations and performance evaluations of fire protection systems in buildings; and transportation networks and vehicles in response to fire.

Notarianni is well published, having authored or co-authored more than 30 publications, including chapters in two books, the ”Handbook of Fire Protection Engineering,” and ”Improving Regulations.” She has been recognized by the SFPE and U.S. Department of Commerce with awards for leadership and performance.

Notarianni holds a B.S. in chemical engineering and a M.S. in fire protection engineering, both from WPI. She later earned a Ph.D. in engineering and public policy from Carnegie Mellon University, where she did her doctoral dissertation on ”The Role of Uncertainty in Improving Regulation: A Case Study in Fire Protection.”


Rob Santos

Rob Santos has more than 25 years experience as a survey methodologist and sampling statistician, specializing in statistical and qualitative research design, multi-mode complex survey design, survey operations, and rare element sampling. He has been a leader in the design and implementation of sample surveys of minority populations, especially Hispanics.

During his career, Santos has been instrumental in designing a wide range of studies, including ones focused on former prisoners, access to health care, black colleges, pollution reduction, 9/11 behavior at the World Trade Center, minority science students, housing discrimination, managed health care, criminal defense systems, college admissions, mate availability and marital attitudes, high-risk health behaviors, and Latino political attitudes.

Santos, who holds a master's degree in statistics from the University of Michigan, is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and has held leadership positions with ASA and the American Association for Public Opinion Research. Earlier this month, ASA honored Santos with its 2006 Founder's Award ”for excellence in survey statistics, for distinguished leadership in section and committee activities, including a deep and enduring concern for ASA's open access to members of all races and cultures, and for effective impact in work with sister statistical organizations.”



Yes. The studies have enlisted experts, known as subject matter experts, in various fields related to the study. Subject matter experts on the studies include fire ground tacticians, EMS specialists, modeling experts, risk and hazard experts, Geographic Information System (GIS) experts, economists, mathematicians, fire engineers, and performance metric experts.

A list of these experts is below:

Chief Dennis Compton, IFSTA, National FallenFire Fighter Memorial
Expertise: Fire Department/Fire Ground Procedures/Tactics

William “Shorty” Bryson, Chief,Miami Fire Department
Expertise: Fire Department/Fire Ground Procedures/Tactics

Russ Sanders,NFPA
Expertise: Fire Department/Fire Ground Procedures/Tactics

Peter Van Dorpe, Training Chief Chicago, IL

David Rohr, Chief Fairfax City, VA, Fairfax County, VA Operations Chief, Retired

Vincent Dunn, Deputy Chief FDNY, Retired

Richard Bowers, Chief Montgomery County, MD

Richard Travers, Deputy Chief FDNY, Retired

Ben Klaene, Cincinnati, OH Training Chief, Retired

James Walsh, Deputy Chief, Fairfax County, VA

Phil Pommerening, Fairfax County Fire Department
Expertise: EMS

Mike McAdams, Montgomery County Fire Department
Expertise: EMS

William Guthrie, NIST
Expertise: Economics

Bob Chapman, NIST
Expertise: Fire Science

Dan Madrzykowski, NIST
Expertise: Fire Science

Chris Jelenewicz, P.E. Society of Fire Protection Engineers
Expertise: Fire Protection Engineering/Public Policy/Fire Service

John A. Granito
Expertise: Operational performance; deployment and staffing

Jonathan Moore, IAFF
Expertise: Fire & EMS Operations/GIS

Ronny J. Coleman
Expertise: Standards of Cover and Fire Department Risk Assessment

Dr. James J. Corbett, Jr., University of Delaware
Expertise: Technology Policy, Energy, Environment, Decision Analysis

Sanjay Kalasa, Fire House Software
Expertise: web-based software programming

High-Rise FAQs

High-rise fires pose unique and potentially catastrophic risks to Fire Departments. Because of their size and scope, high-rise fires test the limits of fire department manpower and resources. NIST conducted this study to provide Fire Departments with detailed quantitative data on high-rise fires so fire departments and local elected officials make informed decisions about funding resources before high-rise fires occur.

Seconds can mean the difference between life and death in any fire. Time becomes more precious in a high-rise fire with the potential for many more victims and exponentially greater property damage. The NIST study shows conclusively that responding with more fire fighters per fire apparatus makes a critical difference in the time it takes to put out a fire and save potential victims trapped in a high-rise building.

Fire Departments over the years have gathered valuable anecdotal data on how to respond to high-rise fires. But until now, there has been no formal examination of the impact of various deployment strategies on high-rise fires. The NIST high-rise study will most certainly help fire departments formulate the most effective method for responding to these emergencies. In 2010, NIST released a similar study that showed the size of fire-fighting crews has a substantial effect on the fire service’s ability to protect lives and property in low hazard residential fires.

High-rise buildings are no longer found only in major metropolitan areas; they are now sprinkled across the landscape in suburban, outer-suburban and even rural areas. Though high-rise fires occur less frequently than other types of fires, about 43 happen every day. On average 53 people die each year in high-rise fires, 546 people are injured and property damage amounts to $235 million annually.

The terror attacks of 9/11 continue to provide important lessons to fire departments on deploying crews and communications. The NIST high-rise fire study now provides essential quantitative data on crew sizes and apparatus deployment that will no doubt be considered when fire fighters are called to respond to the next domestic terror attack.

Unlike most house fires, high-rise fires are high-hazard situations that pose unique operational challenges. They require a coordinated response from multiple stations and various fire apparatuses to attack the fire and rescue civilians. In addition, high-rise fires test the very limits of the endurance of individual fire fighters who must carry heavily equipment up several stories.

Fire departments across the nation have undergone a difficult period of fiscal austerity in the years since the 2008 financial crisis. While some city officials have resisted the temptation to slash department budgets and staffing, far too many have not. As a result too many fire departments are now responding to emergencies without the industry recommended number of fire fighters on rigs.

The right level of staffing provides fire officers with the ability to make critical strategic decisions on the fire ground. The right level of staffing allows fire crews to split up into teams so that some fire fighters can begin work in the lobby of the building assisting evacuating occupants while others can quickly enter and begin search and rescue.

Image from a NIST High-Rise test experiement in June 2012 at Crystal City, VA.