Company name: Commonwealth Science
and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO)
Position: Graduate Fire Safety
Dates: From May 29 / 2017 to Current employee
I was hired by Commonwealth Science and
Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) as a Jp1 Graduate Fire Safety engineer to
carry out large fire tests since May 29th of 2017 for 4 months,
while I was finishing my post-studies in “Building Fire Safety and Risk
Management”. Then my contract was extended to continue fire testing to perform fire
safety assessments for future buildings; and emit reports regarding the fire related
properties of materials which are used in construction. Now I am still working
Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research
Organization (CSIRO), founded in 1916, is a Jp2 worldwide
well-recognized company with 5000 employees. CSIRO collaborates with
universities, industry and other parties to carry out research on varied
industry areas such environmental, sound, geology, resources and energy,
agriculture, mining, food technology, health, fire, material, among others.
These findings are published in the most recognized journals, and have had an
important impact on industry, science, and people’s life. Additionally, CSIRO
provides services to the industry, through consulting and laboratory services,
as CSIRO receives founds from the government and the private sector.
I am part of the group which provides fire engineering
advice and services to the industry, as Jp3 the organizational
chart describes below (Figure 1). My first project was to carry out large fire
tests in North Ride facilities in Sydney, these tests were bigger as usual (e.g. test ISO 9705, fire
in a ventilated room) and required us to adapt the current facilities to assure
safety and reliable results. Afterwards, I was transferred to Melbourne, to Clayton
branch, to perform fire safety assessments for future buildings (e. g. shopping
malls), which will be constructed soon in different countries. Finally, I also
emited reports regarding the components and the properties of materials which
are used in construction, especially facades materials due to the potential
fire risk they represent. These materials are analysed with Thermogravimetric
Analysis (TGA) to study how materials degrade, and with Fourier-transform
Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) to analyse the composition.
Personal Work Place
First, the fire large tests meant to simulate a small
room made of Cross Laminated Timber Jp4 (CLT), a new material
applied in construction of internal walls in buildings due to its low weigh.
The tests had different quantity of fuel load and varied plasterboard lining
configurations, in order to identify the performance of CLT under different
conditions, that way the CLT company would be able to provide information to
Fire Protection and Fire Safety Engineers regarding the risks of having CLT into
a building, and show CLT is suitable for construction of buildings. I joined to
this project when the designing phase finished, however, there were construction
details which had to be completed in the setting up phase before testing. I and
my colleague performed six tests.
Figure 1. CSIRO’s Organizational Chart.
A contractor gave us the CLT rooms. They were 3 x 3 x
3m approximately with an entrance of 0.8 x 2m. I read the drawings of the
design of the test and I carried out the following tasks:Jp5
Made 2mm holes to install the thermocouples.
Made 35 mm holes to install the radiometers.
Insulated a 100H beam with plasterboard layers and a joining
compound to cover the gaps. Its intention was to determine the time equivalent
fire exposure according to the AS 1530.4 test.
Installed the thermocouples in all the walls and roof of
the room as detailed in the drawings, at varied deepness to calculate later the
charring speed. Afterwards I made the cable extensions towards the control
Installed the radiometers and made the cable
extensions towards the control desk. The radiometers also required a cooling
system water based.
Installed the load cells, to measure the mass loss
ratio of the fuel.
While I did the above, my colleague installed the
chimney calorimeter (i.e. a large type of cone calorimeter), and other
instruments, like the transducers in the entrance of the room to measure the
air and smoke flow through the door when the room is on fire. There were a few
activities in these processes where we collaborated with each other to do our
tasks safely. Jp6
We brought all the instruments’ cables towards a
control desk where we could monitor all Jp7 signals. Then I
connected all the instruments to the data-takers. I read the manual and decided
how to use all the data-takers effectively, as we had a few data-takers for
more than 200 signals. When I finished it, I programed each signal in the
data-taker software according to the manual and specifications of the
When all the experiment set up was ready, it was
necessary to make sure all instruments were working correctly. The procedure
was as follows:Jp8
I measured the temperature of boiling water with the
thermocouples. The measure should be proper of the simulation.
We tested the chimney calorimeter with propane. A
burner with a controlled fuel flow was set under the chimney to measure the
heat release rate (HR), which had to be the same as the calculated by hand with
the propane’s properties which are already known (i.e. propane flow and
The load cells were tested and their readings were
compared with a known mass.
Transducers measured a pressure difference.
Subsequently all instruments were tested and people in
safe positions, my colleague started the Jp9 test with the
ignition of a crib with methylated spirit. Then I wrote down all important
events and the time they happened. Some events included the growth of fire,
ignition of other cribs (there were 4 cribs), collapse of the cribs, flashover
time, delamination, plasterboard falling, fire movement, and smoke production.
My colleague was checking the instruments in the control desk.
Finally, we collected the data from the software and I
made videos in Movie Maker for each Jp10 test. To do the report I analysed the data and the
sequence of events, so I could link all the input variables (e.g. fuel load,
linings), output variables (e.g. temperatures, oxygen consumption, CO2
concentration, heat release rate, mass loss, radiant heat), and sequence of
events, to find proper conclusions. Additionally, I had to do some
calculations, such as the opening factor of the room, heat release rate,
charring speed, and match the readings of the test with the properties of with
propane. Finally, I could apply my engineering knowledge where I linked
physical and chemical processes, for example the process when wood dehydrate
because of high temperature, shrinks and cracks.
We always made sure we were complying the safety
rules, such us wearing all the personal Jp11 protective equipment (PPE), and wearing the harness
when we had to work at heights. When we were doing the test, we also followed a
safety procedure. I gave the PPE to the witness/stakeholders and showed to them
the safe walking and watching areas where they could stay to prevent high heat
exposure. Moreover, we also protected the facilities. I protected the exposed
structural framework with Rockwool, reflective insulation and thermocouples to
control its temperature, because some beams had the risk to fail structurally,
because its yield stress would decrease significantly when the heat exposure
increases its temperature. Finally, I also installed additional protective
measures for some of the exposed instruments, which could have been damaged
during the test due to heat exposure.
Second, I developed Fire Engineering Briefs (FEB) and
Fire Engineering Reports (FER) to perform the Risk Assessments for new construction
projects, considering the clients enquiries, the International Fire Engineering
Guidelines (IFEG), and applicable Australian Standards (AS). The projects
included new Shopping Malls in Malaysia, Train Networks and Energy Storage
The FEB and FER contained all the information concerning
the project, such as the performance requirements, evacuation management plan,
smoke management strategy, drawings of the facilities and their exits, selected
fire scenarios and its properties, quantity of people in the riskiest areas,
simulation conditions (e.g. mesh size), among others. Given this information I
proceeded to run simulations in Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS), through PyroSim (i.e.
a software to draw a fire scenario); FDS helped me to predict how fires would
develop in the buildings and what the environmental conditions (e.g.
temperature, visibility, radiant heat, smoke) would be for the occupants in a
timeframe. At the same time, I also run simulations in Pathfinder to simulate
the time the occupants take to leave a building or smoke area. Jp13
Then, I gathered the information from the simulations,
statistics, and the performance criteria to calculate the Available Safe Egress
Time (ASET) and the Required Safe Egress Time (RSET). ASET tells the time the
occupants have to leave a building/area safely and depends on the fire, in
contrast, RSET shows the time the occupants actually need to leave a
I had to make sure ASET was higher than RSET in all
possible fire scenarios to increase Jp15 the likelihood people would leave safely the area when
a fire takes place. To do that, sometimes I had to repeat the simulations in
Pathfinder with new inputs, using the feedback from the first simulations. I changed
some of the evacuation routes due to untenable conditions (i.e. when there are
high temperatures, low visibility, high radiant heat u other hazards that can
hurt or kill occupants). After all
conditions were achieved, I used MS Word to emit the final FER and give it to
the client with all the conclusions and suggestions. Sometimes it was an
iterative process, as the client had to do new arrangements to their designs in
order to achieve safer conditions in the risk assessments. Something
interesting I found in this process, is that I had the chance to learn about
regulations from different countries; some countries manage different
performance requirements from Australia and Colombia.
The project that consisted on building an Energy Store
Facility, was meant to be in a bushfire prone area in South Australia.
Therefore, one of the potential risks was a bushfire attack. To analyse this
risk, I carried out a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) assessment, according to the
procedure established in AS 3959:2009, and suggested in the FEB what were the minimum
construction performance requirements to mitigate the consequences of a
bushfire attack. Jp16
Finally, sometimes the projects also included material
assessments to predict how the Jp17 materials would perform when ignited. I received the
samples from the customer and sent them to the lab to perform Thermogravimetric
Analysis (TGA) and Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FITR). I analysed
the results and wrote a report in Ms Word where I concluded if the materials
could be classified as a Fire Retardant (FR) Material or not. If needed, I gave
further advice to the customer regarding additional fire tests, such as
AS1530.1, AS 1530.2, AS/NZS 1530.3, AS ISO 9705 to assess the performance of
the materials they intended to use. These reports and advise were always
protected with copyright and disclaimers clauses in order to protect the
information, the client and CSIRO itself.
All the experience I have gained in CSIRO improved
considerably my technical knowledge. Now I can recognize physically many fire
related variables which are hard to quantify without witnessing and measuring
by ourselves, I know better varied large fire tests, recognize project
management practices that are applied in Australia, improved my observation
skills, learnt software modelling (i.e. FDS, Pyro-Sim and Pathfinder), and
safety procedures. Furthermore, my project management knowledge was reinforced
thanks to the leadership skills of my immediate chiefs, and organizational procedures
and policies of CSIRO.
Something else I would like to stand out along the
whole period, is that I learnt and experienced some of the policies and human
behaviour the companies have towards their employees. They include flexible
work arrangements, leadership styles, control quality, quality assurance among
other organizational procedures, which contributes to a quality work
environment and a quality customer service. For example, I took short trainings
in safety measures and quality assurance, which were compulsory. Thanks to my
project management background I analysed and reinforced many of the management
concepts and their application.Jp18