The Harrington Group

Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) and Smokeview (SMV) – Bringing Fire Analysis to Life

Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Simple Fire Modeling SimulationIn the last 15 years, scientists and engineers have developed two powerful tools for fire modeling and visualizing the complex phenomenon that is fire: Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS) and Smokeview (SMV). Together, they can help answer questions, such as: would a resident or occupant have sufficient time to escape from a building in the event of a fire? What caused a fire to spread so rapidly?  What impact will changes to a building have on its safety?

Fire Dynamics Simulator (FDS)

FDS was not the first fire modeling simulator, but it is one of the most advanced. Originally created at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the mid-90s, it uses a computational fluid dynamics model – the same means of analysis used by meteorologists to model weather today.

The software breaks down a three-dimensional area, or domain, into tiny, rectangular grid cells. Navier-Stokes equations are solved in each cell, and the results track heat and mass transfers. The interactions between grid cells are computed over time. After each second of the simulation has been calculated for every individual cell, the data is ready for visualization. Smokeview brings the data to life.

Smokeview (SMV)

A separate software package, SMV takes FDS data and visualizes it in a versatile graphics interface. You can take a look at some of the features and views on youtube.
Both fire protection engineers and loss investigators use the various features of the software to explore and understand the fire simulation. SMV gives fire protection engineers a better understanding of how fire induced fluid dynamics work in specific structures.

Our Long History with FDS and SMV

We have been involved with these tools since the programs were being beta tested in the late 90s. Phil Friday, a team member at Harrington Group since 2002, compared FDS results to real fire-test data while working on his Master of Science degree at the University of Maryland. His validation analysis helped determine whether the software could be used for real-world applications.

As computer technology helps to improve fire modeling, Harrington Group uses these tools with increasing frequency to help our clients and reduce fire risks.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.

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