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21. Fire Research Management - Nifty 50

Firefighters at work

The number of annual deaths from house and other home-unit dwelling fires has dropped from approximately 12,000 in the late 1960s and early 1970s to about 4,000 deaths per year since the early 1990s. That figure has held steady for nearly 10 years.

NSF-funded research and further research from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), have played a large role in developing new materials and construction standards that have contributed to the reduction in fire deaths.

Specifically, this research has led to new materials standards in drapery and construction that have been put into place in newly constructed and more recently refurbished buildings.

NSF's work included defining a motel/hotel room so that "flash overs" would not happen, or their occurrence could be greatly reduced. "Flash overs" are fast-action incidents along the lines of what happened at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in the late 1980s. In that incident, many people were killed in a flash fire that firefighters could not get to and could not control quickly.

Original publication date: April 2000

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