An Analysis of Vehicle Fires and Potential Methods to Reduce Their Severity Through More Stringent Material Standards
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In the United States, more than 1 in every 12 fire fatalities occurs in a passenger road vehicle; vehicle fires claim roughly 1200 injuries, $1.3 billion in property loss, and 490 lives annually. Very little progress has been made over the last several decades to confront the hazards of vehicle fires, but recently researchers and standards organizations have begun addressing these challenges. A literature review of the progress made and methods of reducing fire severity through technologies and standards was conducted. NFPA 556 is one proposed standard aimed at mitigating the hazards to occupants of vehicle fires; it was used to analyze the fire retardancy of a new, fire-resistant acoustic insulation material through small, bench, and large-scale testing. The feasibility of the use of this material in new vehicles for the reduction of losses was assessed through a cost-benefit analysis. Upon review of the results, it was determined that the new insulation did not pass all the requirements of NFPA 556. However, the standard does include stringent requirements, so the improved performance of the material should not be underappreciated. Based on the literature search and experiments, this standard, in combination with other fire protection technologies, provides a basis for improved vehicle fire safety.