Canadian Consulting Engineer

Sightseeing on the Internet

May 1, 2000
By Elaine Laprairie, Morrison Hershfield

Fire protection engineers can find ever-increasing amounts of resource materials on the Internet. Web sites, e-zines, discussion lists and newsgroups are just some of the sources of fire and life safe...

Fire protection engineers can find ever-increasing amounts of resource materials on the Internet. Web sites, e-zines, discussion lists and newsgroups are just some of the sources of fire and life safety information. Web sites, the most popular internet research tool, are a quick source of reference.

Sites vary broadly in their design and function, and in the reliability of their content. The best sites are compatible with the main internet browsers, load quickly, are easy to navigate, offer pleasing design, and most importantly, have accurate and reliable information. A few fire-related web sites warrant a closer look.


The WWW Virtual Library for Engineering (formerly known as EEVL, the Edinburgh Engineering Virtual Library) is a subject-based gateway for engineering material. This award-winning site endeavours to bring order to the chaotic explosion of internet resources. While the emphasis is on U.K. sites, others from all around the world are indexed. Fire protection engineers can find links to associations, code developers and manufacturers of fire extinguishing systems and materials. All references are carefully reviewed to ensure that only current, high quality and useful resources are added.

The site search engine offers advanced searching. Keywords can be refined by Boolean operators (“and,” “or,” “not”), truncation, wild carding or phrase searching. These features enable users to zero in quickly on the topic of their choice. Fire protection engineers can specify automatic sprinkler design, for example, and omit references to installation.

It was the great fires of the past that led us to realize the need for fire protection engineering and life safety studies. The Chicago Historical Society and Academic Technologies of Northwestern University created The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory Online Exhibition. The history of the great Chicago fire (1871) is told from the period before the fire through to the city rebuilding process. The Web of Memory pages contain historical essays, image galleries and a library of primary source readings. The combination of historical documentation with detailed narrative makes this an elaborate, comprehensive and moving account of the appalling effects of fire.


The Building and Fire Research Laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, is the national U.S. laboratory dedicated to improving the productivity of construction industries and reducing human and economic losses from fires, earthquakes, winds and other hazards. The laboratory is part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The web site documents laboratory research of building materials; computer-integrated construction practices; fire science and fire safety engineering; as well as structural, mechanical, and environmental engineering.

Of particular note is the Fire Research Information Services (FRIS) section of the web site. FRIS offers free online access to FIREDOC, the bibliographic database of 55,000 holdings on fire-related subjects. A search for information on containers used for the transporting of flammable liquids results in over 600 references, including 280 journal articles. irccontents.html

The National Research Council of Canada’s Institute for Research in Construction has dedicated a portion of their web site to fire risk management. Their interest lies primarily in active fire protection, fire resistant construction, and fire protection tools for residential, commercial and industrial buildings. The web site includes a description of the Institute’s fire research facilities.

Fire protection engineers visiting the site will find estimates of Canada’s annual fire costs.

The site has a link to the NRC’s Canadian Construction Materials Centre, the national evaluation service for all types of building materials, products and services. An online register provides evaluation listings and reports for over 600 products. Information is updated every three months. Adobe Acrobat reader is required. The software is free and can be downloaded easily from the site.

Before you leave the NRC web site, check your watch against Canada’s official millennium clock ( You’ll find a variety of tools at your disposal to ensure your timepiece is set to one tenth of a second.

The Office of the Fire Marshal (OFM), part of the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General, has a mandate to provide leadership and expertise in reducing and eliminating fire and public safety hazards for Ontario residents. The web site outlines the office’s activities, and provides links to full text versions of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act and the Ontario Fire Code. Municipal Fire Protection Guidelines are included as an objective reference source for municipalities developing fire protection programs for their communities.

Included in the resources section is access to ONFIRE, the central library database for the Office of the Fire Marshal libraries. The site has extensive links with other fire information sources.


The National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) site is noteworthy for its inclusion of full-text technical articles. Abstracts are not included. The articles, accessible through the Technical Library page, cover the production and use of halons, the development of substitute agents for fire suppression, and explosion protection.

The NAFED site is well designed, makes good use of white space in its graphics, and is easy to navigate.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is an international, non-profit organization with over 66,000 members. Founded in 1896, the association’s mandate is to protect people, their property and the environment from destructive fire. While the NFPA is recognized throughout the world as an authoritative source of technical data, research and advice, its mainstay is the development and updating of codes and standards covering all areas of fire safety. More than 300 NFPA codes and standards are used internationally.

Visitors to the web site have their choice of English, French and Spanish languages. The site offers details about the organization and information on publications, seminars and courses.

The NFPA Newsletter, Standards Council Information (including Technical Interim Amendments and Errata) and appeal decisions are viewable. Researchers can access abstracts of articles published in the Fire Technology Journal and purchase codes and standards online.

A new addition to the site is the NFPA Manual of Style 2000, available for free downloading. The manual provides technical guidance and requirements for the writing, editing and publishing of NFPA standards and codes.



The Emergency Services WWW Site List is a compilation of over 2,000 known fire, rescue and emergency services internet sites. The Emergency Services Database features a search engine structured to locate information, organizations or specific people in the emergency services community. For example, you could find the names and e-mail addresses of the deputy and division chiefs of the city of Lethbridge Fire Department. Annotated links are provided for further information. While 61 countries are represented, Canadian content is high because the site is hosted by North Vancouver Fire Services.

The Fire and EMS Information Network bills itself as offering the most complete collection of fire and emergency services links on the web. The site is sponsored by 14 companies and is currently averaging 1,100,000 pages per month. It is a portal to message boards, live chats and an event calendar. Over 8,000 fire departments have taken advantage of the offer of a free home page or a link to their home site.

The Resource Centre offers numerous links to associations, unions, organizations, government agencies, an on
line library, fire-related products and services, schools and training, and emergency services sites. Links range from the esoteric Machu Picchu International Fire Protection Project to the authoritative National Response Center and Emergency Medical Service Bureaus.

This is a good site to try if you are looking for a portal to fire protection and emergency service information. Be prepared to wait, as the sheer size of the site makes some of the pages slow to load.

Firenet has its roots as a special interest network for the United Kingdom Fire Service. The site has grown to contain international as well as British information. Offerings include information on fire investigation and safety, hazardous materials, legislation, and community fire safety. Fire engineering related calculations are provided. Kids Corner teaches and keeps young visitors amused by offering quizzes and related links.

The Expert Witness section provides clarification on the provision of expert opinions, reports, admissibility of expert opinion and other evidence from the courts.

Over 30 full-text fire investigation papers from around the world are available, along with papers covering fire safety, risk assessment, and fire debris.


The Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland at College Park offers access to university programs and resources, in addition to links to fire-related sites. The site is crisp, colourful and easy to navigate.

The site is typical of others established by universities and colleges offering programs in fire protection engineering, fire safety and related fields. Institutions with useful sites include Seneca College in Toronto, University of British Columbia, Oklahoma State University and the Science University of Tokyo.

The Research Center for Fire Safety Studies at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts augments its 2,000-s.f. bricks and mortar presence with one of the best-known fire protection sites. In addition to finding theses and dissertations, searchers can use the site as a springboard to colleges and universities with fire protection programs, fire laboratories, professional societies and organizations, equipment manufacturers, and fire magazines and services. Cone calorimeter test data and three smoke density calculation tools are included.CCE

Elaine Laprairie is director of communications with Morrison Hershfield in Toronto.

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