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Jan. 19, 2022

034 - Fire safety as a human right, not a privilege with Danielle Antonellis

034 - Fire safety as a human right, not a privilege with Danielle Antonellis

There are topics in fire science that gain more attention than others. Timber in fire. Batteries. Facades. They are novel, complex, challenging and yet as engineers, we must handle them in our everyday job. But are they important? If we could create an unbiased measure of *importance* of a subject, would they get on top of the list? I'm sure they wouldn't, but I'm pretty sure the subject of today's episode would rank on the very top of that list.

Danielle Antonellis is a founder of a non-profit organization, Kindling, which aims to deliver fire safety to all who do not have access to it. Including societies in low-income countries, people living in informal settlements and socially excluded citizens of the western world.

Kindlings' mission statement is:
"(...) to connect fire safety knowledge with local and global humanitarian and development efforts aimed at reducing the unequal impact of fire on people, property and livelihoods in vulnerable communities around the world."

It is a powerful message and an episode filled with hope and willingness to help others. If you ever wondered how a fire safety engineer could change the world, stop for a while and listen to this conversation.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can connect with Danielle on her LinkedIn or Twitter and follow Kindling here.

Learn more about the Kindling mission and achievements in this report

Transcript
Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Hello and welcome to session 34 of the Fire Science Show. Happy to be here as usual. Today's going to be a really good one. So you want to listen to this. When we are dealing with our typical fire safety engineering problems, they're usually limited to like a building, maybe a district, but what if there were fire safety issues on levels of whole cities, societies or even countries and such challenges exist. And they're very difficult to solve. And most of them are not in Western countries where we are living good lives and, living in fire, safe buildings, not even thinking about the safety of our structures because it was delivered, But in many lower income countries, people don't have environment like we do. And they also don't have fire safety sometimes at all. Sometimes, maybe they don't even know they need fire safety because some other issues in the livelihoods are way more urgent than this. And it's quite hard to help them actually quite hard to really help them. It's not about, , sending tons of fireproofing boards and then. Things done, but you need to act at the societal level on a completely different scale with completely different actors. And this episode is all about this. I've met this fantastic person. Her name is Danielle Antonelli's. She previously worked in Arup , on projects related to low income countries and challenges related to firing informal settlements. And after being exposed to these tragedies she found a way of life of life in helping others to deliver, fire safety as, not as a privilege, but , as a human, right. She started on her own company can link, which is a nonprofit. It was one and a half year ago and already she's rocking. 20 plus people, some of the greatest minds of the fire, helping her out. And she really has a good grasp on how can we help in this part of the world where the fire safety is not yet the priority, but is a huge threat and the huge risk factor. I don't think this needs more introduction. It's really powerful discussion with Danielle and a very eye opening to me. And, I, I really like her approach a systematic approach. I think that's enough of an introduction because no one can tell you better about the topic thanDanielle. So yeah, let's not prolong this anymore. Let's be in the intro and jump into the episode. Hello. And welcome today. I'm here with Danielle Antonelli's from a company Kindling. Hello, Danielle. Great to have you here

Danielle Antonellis:

Thanks for having me.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Really happy to have you here. I was learning about, your work and, Kindling work in inclusive fire safety, and it really caught my attention a long time ago, actually. And I, I really appreciate what you guys are doing. And I would love to hear more about how this started and where it's going. So maybe let's start from the beginning. I know you were an engineer in Arup, and suddenly you're starting a company to solve, most urgent issues on the planet for the fire safety services. How, did that happen? That's like, that must be a hell of a story.

Danielle Antonellis:

yeah, thanks. So it's a story that I'm still learning as it goes. It certainly nothing that was planned. But yes, I worked at ARUP for six years. , And I was lucky to be able to work in a lot of projects all over the world from kind of agricultural colleges in Rwanda to Hyundai training centers in South Korea and cultural centers in India. So ARUP was this company that exposed me to all these amazing kind of cultures of fire safety and work around the world. So I got this really big interest and trying to understand what fire safety looks like in different places. In 2015, we started researching fire safety of informall settlements in Arup, in collaboration with the international development team and they basically came to the fire engineering team and said, You know, there's this huge problem with fire in informal settlements. And they were sharing samples, especially from Cape town, South Africa, but every time it comes up in their work, it just gets brushed aside and no one really addresses it. There's maybe some beliefs that it's, it's not easy to address or, some communities, maybe it's an act of God. It's, it's just something that's too difficult. , and no, one's there to help understand the issue. So they basically challenged the fire engineering team to try to see if we could better understand the problem and actually develop ways to tackle it.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Sorry, inside the commercial company,

Danielle Antonellis:

yeah.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

not as a business development, right.

Danielle Antonellis:

No, no, it was total internal research. I mean, the structure of Arup is pretty cool. , it's a company, an employee owned company, and they do a lot of internal research and exploration. so this was all internal and it still is there. They're continuing with this work today. and so we started, doing desktop research, went down to South Africa in 2017 and spent just a week down in Cape Town, engaging with, I think it was like 27 or 28 different stakeholders through interviews. And just trying to understand from NGOs perspectives, the fire services from different kind of academic groups that were involved with this issue, And could all sorts of different groups to say, okay, what are the kind of key issues here and how might fire safety be improved considering the local context? This trip personally changed my life completely because I, all of a sudden realized there were these huge issues that I never learned in college. We felt funny cause I had a fire engineering degree and I'd been in the industry for awhile. Right. So from then on, it became a really big passion of my own myself, personally, a lot of my other colleagues. And I know certainly not just within Arup but university of Edinburgh and syllabus university, and now much more larger groups are focusing on this issue. So I think it's one of those issues that once you learn about you, can't unlearn. And it's very visceral when you start to see images of these fires and see how extremely they affect people. So anyways, I could make this long story, but I'll try to shorten it. So yeah, over the years we did more and more work in informal settlement research. And then I started to understand more about urban resilience and trying to understand how fire is, and more importantly is not being addressed or urban resilience programming and disaster risk reduction, how fire is essentially being left out there. So starting to kind of identify all of these gaps within international development, the humanitarian sector and disaster management and risk reduction that were pretty glaring when you started to see them like there's institutions that are directly trying to tackle issues, that fire should be essential part of the conversation for, and it's just naturally not part of the conversation or if it, is it's because there was maybe an individual in that local place that was the advocate or champion for fire. And so those gaps became, again, unable to unsee and in Arup we are pushing things more and more and eventually got to the point where I realized that this is something that I'd really like to get a bit more serious about, , and tried to figure out what's the best mechanism to try to support more dialogue and work in this area. And the idea of a nonprofit was born. So a group that's not competing with anyone in the fire industry, that's there intentionally to support the fire industry and tackling these issues to connect the fire industry and academia to the other sectors and spaces where the conversations are happening, where fire is being left out. So kindling is all about that connection. Trying to get fire safety knowledge into the hands of local and global humanitarian and development efforts where differences can be made.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That definitely was, and probably still is a case of my own, that, you are not really sensitive towards problems as you described, like fires in informal settlements. That's it's not truly a. At least it was not at when I was trained a part of my training. I have never learned about these issues and actually have never considered them, like through an issue. You see a picture of, such a settlement, and. as trained fire safety engineering immediately realized the risks related to these urban concepts. But somehow you don't. consider that. I would be looking at it like as a, on a picture. I not as a subject of my professional judgment, because it's not a type of fire engineering that I do. I like fancy buildings, world record building technologies, preventing architects from doing stupid things and stuff like that. But I was never like considering, issues, like what you mentioned nor issues, like what Guillermo mentioned in my first interview about the, fires in Indonesia haze fires, where suddenly we're talking about the emission of CO2 comparable to Europe from an single fire in Indonesia. That's that's like, wow. And we were really battling about like batteries and vehicles and then wood in tall buildings, when we have issues like that, You cannot unsee that when you realize the scale of the problem. So I understand your pathway to that, and now being an independent company. And non-profit did that open the new pathways for you? Like how would you judge that move?

Danielle Antonellis:

It was terrifying at first.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay.

, Danielle Antonellis:

well it was, it's been amazing. I didn't know how long it would take before. I'd be able to say whether or not it was the right move. and it took me about two months to know. So that was pretty quick feedback, actually. I think at the time there was like, no one else in the organization, I was just talking to people and realized everyone was like, oh yeah, this is needed. And so that kind of was , quick feedback, but beyond kind of more of the personal, personal room, as an organization, we're getting a lot of interest and not just in organization, but I think in the problem, like we're getting more and more people to pay attention to the issues. There's a lot of engagement with groups that we didn't expect to engage with, that are reaching out and saying, Hey, this is an issue that we want to see if we can do something about. And that's pretty incredible. So I would say, yeah, it, it became a vacuum. And I, I knew that before, but it, you don't know until you get there fully. , and as soon as it kind of acceptance in basement, yeah. This is a massive vacuum and there's so much more work needed in this area. , and a lot of the work being done previously and continuing to be done is by academic institutions who are doing amazing things. and we work pretty closely with a lot of the different academic institutions. but there isn't any kind of non-profit organization that's really serious about this. ideally there'll be more, hopefully Kindling grows and hopefully other kind of groups emerge and other companies and organizations start to address this more seriously. So the ideal world we're being copied and, there's whole groups kind of going.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I've asked you because, you know, , for example, There was a pathway within the Arup within the commercial company to touch it. And there are pathways in academia where you touch issues like that. And, , notably the Iris project by University of Edinburgh and partners, which was amazing. And I think they've received all the awards they could from Bigglestone to IAFSS best paper, best poster. Because he's a great project in fact, it's award worthy project, but these opportunities have these constraints, like within a company, you're probably limited with, what the company wants to achieve with this project or whatever space it gives to you. Because in the end, you're still probably supposed to design buildings. And, in academia you have to win the golden grants, which we all know it's very hard and it, around 2017, we actually in ITB, my group had a grant, for wind driven damage to informal settlements in South Africa with a south African, people from, I think it was Stellenbosch as well. And, we didn't get. And now you're in your own space where you dictate the rules, you decide, what do you pursue in that? And actually you can be a connection between what's needed and the academia where it can go. So that's kind of amazing. Let's frame the problem a bit because we've mentioned informal settlements, but I guess this is not everything you want to do within Kindling, like from reading your prospects. I, feel the goal is not limited to that. So, maybe if you could tell me what the mission of your company is what's the main targets of your actions

Danielle Antonellis:

So we have really big goals. Um, we organization, or maybe not, maybe not even calling them goals, but our focus is really big. And we were very intentional about that and we continue to refine, but we don't want to kind of limit ourselves to something that's very small that we know we can systematically move through and addressed. We want to grapple with the big, messy complexity of fire safety and kind of vulnerability, , which means that we're not going to address it on our own. It means that, well, actually the name Kindling itself. Is the head nod to the humility needed to work in this space. So we're not catalyst or some explosive thing that's going to come in and

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah.

Danielle Antonellis:

we're Kindling, we're kind of the little pieces of wood that maybe help, get things started. But actually local actors are the ones that are the real fuel that take off and, make things happen.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

need to make a spin of company, call it firebrand and make it spreads the ideas over the world.

Danielle Antonellis:

yeah, it might have to take me up on that. Um, so yeah, so really we're all about supporting others and addressing work and that's the only way we believe you can actually make systemic change. So frame the problem. Okay. So if we think about this, there's a whole bunch of trying to frame it, but if we start globally, 95% of fire deaths occur in low income countries.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay.

Danielle Antonellis:

If you look at where's fire engineering, for example, as an indicator globally, and who is doing it right? So there might be fire engineering projects where maybe someone in London is working on a project in Rwanda, like I was at Arup, but are there actually local fire engineers and fire safety professionals in Rwanda developing systems of fire safety

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

But if you work as a fire engineer in London on a project in Rwanda, you're not developing informal settlement, you're probably building a skyscraper or something fancy there. Right. And that's not a part of the problem.

Danielle Antonellis:

Exactly. And that particular case I was working on a project within Shasha developments was a bit more about development, but generally yes, like we, I worked on a project in India and it's like this beautiful Hindu heritage site that is not the same as what we're talking about. And also I don't inherently understand the challenges in Rwanda and what just the local fire services have for their capacity and equipment. What are the kind of local building materials and construction? What does the industry look like? How does the regulatory system really work beyond what's written in the code? So there's this huge divide of kind of a lack of local understanding and really just like not being in a position where I can really make sure that what we do as fire engineers is going to work, uh, in the short term or the longterm. So when we talk about who's in the best position to think and address these issues, we're really talking about local stakeholders who locally is there. That is the champion for fire safety. How are the systems developed in order to address these issues? And when you look at a lot of low middle-income countries and not all there are certainly emerging examples of really exciting progress, but, , in many countries there's just a total gap in professionalization of fire safety engineering and the disciplines around it. So I did some mapping a few months ago and I was very generous in the way I mapped it. And 12% of low middle-income countries had any sort of fire engineering institution, if 12%, less than 12%. And that was including IFE, SFPE any undergrad grad kind of grad. And so we ended up seeing that there's this kind of transfer of knowledge and resources and approaches from, high income countries to low middle income countries, despite them not necessarily being. Locally appropriate. Of course there's value in that. And I think we'll have an opportunity hopefully to talk about what we can do in different parts of the world to support the, addressing these issues. But there's a real need to develop a local professionals. these are things that, Richard Walls at Stellenbosch university is addressing head on as the first post-graduate fire engineering program on the continent of Africa, creating links to different institutions, all over the continent. Um, people in India at the university of Penn, Hannah, Gar, doing amazing work on this. So there's some really exciting emerging groups, but we need to make sure as an industry we're supporting these groups and really trying to promote the kind of open access to knowledge and resources so that we can, really spread our discipline as we all know we need to do. and then beyond just thinking about fire engineering, we need to think. Okay, well, in cities in particular, which is our real focus, we focus on urban fire issues. , What are the kinds of challenges and how are they emerging? Not only in informal settlements, but in thinking about local infrastructure systems and how are complex urban systems being developed, how do they create fire risk in many cases? So fire risk, obviously doesn't just show up on day one. we don't say we want to create a high fire risk city, Cities develop over time. And as decisions are made, fire risk emerges, and we can see this all over the world. And so if decisions are being made that aren't kind of informed by fire safety, then we're going to see an accumulation of fire risk and especially places that are kind of informal or factories or other areas where there's likely to be high fire risks. You know, there won't necessarily even be that the capacity to respond to the fires, let alone to prevent the fire restaurant emerging in the first place. Those issues aren't unique to low middle-income. That happens all over the world. . we're also looking at issues like in the U S for example, around vulnerable and insecurely housed persons, trying to understand better, who's affected by fire in, at home at work and transport systems. I mean, this cross-cutting right. these fires inequity issues, good examples, would be a Grenfell, the obvious example in London. So maybe that's a starting point. I, the humanitarian sector is another area completely. We look as well, , how our displaced populations like refugees and internally displaced persons affected by fire disproportionately. Um, whether they're in refugee camps or in children, displaced persons camps, or perhaps living in informal settlements or, more dispersed even than that. And trying to understand how. The humanitarian system is designed. , and how might it address or not address fire risk issues? How are people supported when there is a fire?

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

In the R mission statement of Kindling, there's this, part of a sentence that, you target the vulnurable, communities around the world. And I wondered, like, how would you define who's vulnurable. Because you've already mentioned that in the U S probably there's a lot of people who. be under this category. I can imagine in Poland there's lot, because whenever I see a large fire in a television , that had many casualties, it's, not a fancy shopping mall or, a skyscraper that that's been built in the last five years. It's usually either, , some social housing or, very old buildings or socially excluded groups of people, uh, with the history of alcohol abuse or something. I don't also want to like frame people that okay. But in statistics show that these people are mostly under the risks. So how would you define vulnerabilities for your purposes? Like, is it a geographically grouped or like social construct? Where is it?

Danielle Antonellis:

All of the above. And so in some work we're doing in the USA, I mentioned we're looking at the intersection between human vulnerabilities to fire and shelter vulnerabilities to fire, for example, Fire. I do believe generally fires the social construct. and there are decisions made that the influence who is exposed to fire and who has access to fire safety. It's not, again, they're not top down decisions of, okay, you're going to get 50 and you're not. But when you start to look at the emergent nature of how fire risk comes about, it's true that certain groups are more exposed than others. And they're often related to systemic issues like you mentioned. it's not as simple question to answer actually. Um, I tend to use the term fire safety inequalities. Really just trying to point out the fact that people do experience fire differently and they're exposed to different fire risks. , like I personally had a fire actually, when I was coming out of college and of course any fire incident can be a very big part of someone's life. Right? It's a big deal. I lost all my belongings and, it was a impactful thing in my life, but within minutes while the fire was happening, I mean within like three minutes, the fire services. So there was an amazing response. My friends and family were surrounding me. The red cross was there very quickly. The local restaurant offers support to us. We had insurance that kicked in two months later, I was living in a beautiful apartment, working a fire engineering job in Rhode Island. I was fine.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

not the end of the life, right?

Danielle Antonellis:

it wasn't a disaster. This is a big question I often ask. No, it wasn't actually, because if you look at like the IFRC definition of disaster, it has to do with how well someone or a group can cope and we had coping capacity to deal with an incident, right?

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

So you're, you were resilient actually against that fire.

Danielle Antonellis:

Yeah. When you then look at, maybe communities living in informal settlements, for example, in Cape town, just as a contrast, people don't have insurance. People don't barely have even like banking systems, so their money might be in their actual house. We'll see, often that people are carrying their belongings outside during the fire. And there's a lot of re-entry which of course we can talk about how that relates to life safety risks during incidents. There's a lot of pressure on trying to. Make sure that their belongings are not all destroyed because they don't have the safety net and the financial, or the personal safety nets and kind of socialization. That's an oftentimes to be able to cope with that incident. So if the fire only affects one household, perhaps the neighborhood will support that household and they will have the capacity. But when we see these fires, displacing hundreds or thousands of people that coping capacity doesn't exist. And so they are disasters and that's one of the reasons it's so important to frame fire as disaster and the broader disaster risk reduction and urban resilience conversations because it's often left out. And I think it's because we often look at fire as these small frequency events. Um, and especially we're thinking about house home fires. , But actually they can be significant events on their own. And if you look at kind of disaster risk reduction, definitions, fire is always an extensive disaster risk there's intensive and extensive and intensive relates to the, big, high severity, low frequency events, which there are a fire. , but then the extensive are the kind of everyday risks, that expo society and fire is both. It's also an urban resilience, a shock and a stress. So it's this kind of interesting risk or hazard that straddles all these definitions,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

It's fascinating I'm doing risk analysis and stuff like that. And I wouldn't, consider the capacity to cope with the disaster as a part of the equation, while it fits so nicely in the risk equation, you know, probably the times consequences and, the capacity of the society, to cope with the effects of the fire, both in terms of economy, but also in, in social terms could be an interesting addition to this risk equation. so that's a, great definition of vulnerability actually that the capacity to cope with that with the disaster. And you've also mentioned that people have different levels of being exposed to fire and different levels of access to fire safety. And they, this is also very interesting because you hear define two platforms on which you can act. You can reduce the exposed to fire with proper. It's very difficult, actually, because it requires changes in people's lives, but you can also improve the access to fire safety, which your company actually can deliver. I will not say easily, but as you said, training local champions, this is something you can dissipate among communities. And what, what feedback do you receive? does it click locally? Do you find champions locally? Do you, do they want this how is it on the other side?

Danielle Antonellis:

Hmm. I think it depends. Right. And it's important that we're listening to that, right? That's the first question,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

like listening to, to them?

Danielle Antonellis:

Yeah. Like listened to, I mean, and they should be in the driver's seat when programs get going as well. But listening to, what are people challenged by? How does fire fit into their kind of hierarchy of hazards and issues that they're dealing with their lives? If security concerns are 10 times more important to someone. And then fire safety, then good luck trying to argue that they shouldn't have a lock on their door that might be increasing the fire risk or bars and their windows. . And so it's not to mean that we shouldn't be having these conversations and trying to support finding solutions that address both security, concerns and fire. But if we come in saying fires the most important thing, and you need to do this and coming in with solutions rather than listening to understand their problems in the wider framing of their lives and the way that communities function, then we're going to miss the most important information about how we can actually provide to poorish so yeah, I mean, that's number one, but in general, I would say that it varies so much, right? So in Cape town, in my engagement down there personally with communities, but also just through the. Collaboration with colleagues and people that we've interviewed over the years, I would say there's a very high awareness and not only awareness, but people have directly experienced fires, many cases. Some people I've met have experienced three, four fires in their lifetime. and so there's a very very high level of acceptance almost to say, yeah, this is an issue. How can we address this issue? Now it's highly political and there's all sorts of other challenges socially, but it's acknowledged and it's prioritized, That's different than my experience in Bangalore India in 2019, when we were engaging with, households in informal settlements and trying to understand their experiences with fire. And we essentially got laughed out of some of the rooms that we were in, because they were like, fire's not an issue here. What are you talking about? Right.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay.

Danielle Antonellis:

No, that's a very strange experience when you're a fire engineer looking around seeing fire hazards all around you,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And you know, the statistics

Danielle Antonellis:

Yes. And so you it's this very, important balance to strike between trying to say, okay, how might we support people and helping them understand the risks that they might be exposed to, even if they haven't manifested directly in front of them. but also respecting that they are ultimately the ones who the agency to decide what they want to do. And so we are outsiders. How can we provide that support and think about public education so that people can, decide for themselves what they want to prioritize.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

think in, um, fire safety engineering, as we know it, this issue, has been broken because we can usually put a economic value on the risk or we can, put the number to convince someone that this is the money you will need to pay to an insurer. If you don't have this, or it's just directly imposed by the law a framework that says that you need to have this type of walls in your buildings period. And it's based on, let's say a cumulative experience of the whole nation building that. And I assume this is something you don't have in, like if 12% of this countries have any fire engineering, I would assume it's even worse when it Codes and compliance with codes and, and stuff like that. And, sometimes I have a feeling these people could prioritize, more common, mildly annoying events like crime or, or I don't know some other aspects of their safety. They will be more concerned with them because they're common. And often than once a 25 year fire that can take everything of them. If I tell you that a massive fire will happen, then once every 25 years, you immediately know that it's a horrible thing and we need to stop it. But, if your house is going to get robbed twice a year, you're probably more worried about your belongings, because this is everything you have, as you mentioned, no banking systems, like very completely different perspective of wealth and being able to live in there. So is this risk perception also think that you target?

Danielle Antonellis:

I don't think we have any big answer for you on this. but we try to understand risk perception and often we're trying to understand risk perception of stakeholders that engage with informal settlemetns and influence them. So partly because Kendall is just such a young Kindling at this stage, and we were founded during a pandemic. we haven't, we haven't had as much opportunity to engage directly with the communities we work with local partners that have that direct engagement or with kind of stakeholders. We interview stakeholders to engage with them, to understand what is the perspective and experience of the fire services NGOs of different groups that kind of have those relationships sometimes. We look at perception at multiple different levels, right? What's the perception. , how was holding community levels? What's the perception of stakeholders in a position to support or sometimes get in the way of fire safety. So we work really closely with social scientists. and in general, we're very interdisciplinary group and looking to become more diverse in our disciplines and backgrounds, because these aren't technical problems, there are technical aspects of these problems, but these are societal problems and we need to look at them socially, politically, economically. Um, technically, way.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

if you had to weight them, which weight's more like the lack of technical solutions or the lack of social acceptance to use the solutions?

Danielle Antonellis:

It's both.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

it's both. Okay.

Danielle Antonellis:

It's both. And it's it's so integrated that leading with one edge, the other, I think will make you miss things that are. So it really is about integrated working. A lot of our teams in kindling we'll have a few social scientists or specialists of fire engineers, maybe some of that stronger fire science, maybe throw some other disciplines in there. So we're going and introduce my working can be hard, right? So we're clunkily working our way through problems together and challenging each other with our understanding of the models that we apply to things as we go. But on a bigger scale beyond our projects, I think, it's really important that these issues are framed as social political and economic issues. I think sometimes in the fire space, We forgot that, or we don't prioritize that enough because that's not what we're good at necessarily. It's not our area of expertise. So sometimes we'll say, oh yeah, yeah, we know that we'll put it in the backgrounds of a paper, but then we'll get really technical really fast and not necessarily contextualize what that means and how it's actually potentially going to make a difference if someone knew this knowledge. So like we did a literature review, for example, in Bangladesh, around fire and informal settlements. There's not been much work done in Bangladesh on this, , and everything that was published or most, I should say every single most things that were published were really technical. And didn't actually make any link out to how the problem is more widely? It was really difficult. because I mean, that's partly probably because of how publications work, where you have to have a certain depth of technical, kind of novelty, in order to get published. But how can we make sure that that's still transcending into the kind of wider issues? So there's an incredible amount that we can do, but we need to make sure that we're not doing it in isolation. So I really am a huge advocate of systems based thinking and approaches. And if you're really taking a systems based approach and you can't disconnect these kinds of social, political, economic, and technical issues,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And, , I was really devastated after a podcast with Richard Walls. He was on a, NFPA podcast, about informal settlement fires and the challenges around that. And he's giving a very, illustrative description of, a fire inside of informal settlements. The issues that local firefighters are going through the issues, the local community is going through the let's say abnormal things that are going around that I will I'll link that NFPA podcast in the show notes, it's really interesting and it really gives you this feeling of. You know, the solutions we have will not work there. I have the feeling that CFD would be the last thing that people need from me, maybe even it would be fun, fancy to, uh, simulate, such fires for my own ego boosting paper. And actually we're doing that with Antonio, but, I don't think it's the puzzle that's missing. when you switched from career in Arup that was part of the discovery of this new world, searching for the puzzles that we miss, in, in London or in Warsaw,

Danielle Antonellis:

I mean, I don't want to dismiss the value of fire engineering tools like CFD or others that might have through like reveal insights, the problems. And that's probably the most important thing that we stop obsessing about the solutions that we have in hands and start obsessing more about the problems that they exist and trying to understand them better and doing that in a way where we're not, like me as someone, a woman who's from Boston, Massachusetts, can't do a problem definition of something happening in Cape town on my own. I might be able to assist in trying to organize information and try to help reveal things, but that's through dialogue and engagement locally. But that being said, there was a huge transition for me when I stepped outside of my fire engineering role at Arup because I think before I had this idea that. We kind of had to have some fancy solution that would, kind of address things really well and had like five-year plans and, trying to be quite ambitious and think about how could we get funded and everything. And, and there are still needs to do that. And we're doing some of that stuff now trying to be really ambitious with programs. But when I started Kindling, I got this like really refreshing feeling that there's no pressure on time or kind of having certain traditional measures of success in the industry that we need to adhere to anymore. And so suddenly something that I felt like we had to bring all the pieces of the puzzle together and doing a very organized way. Maybe that's just because I'm an engineer and I

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

yeah,

Danielle Antonellis:

that.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

we'll do a project here.

Danielle Antonellis:

Yeah, like you have to work backwards. Like I want to get here and then we have to do all these steps. I started to see that there was actually a lot of value and letting things emerge on their own and being a bit more open-ended about what might be useful. So not coming with preordained solutions, but really coming with knowledge and resources and an open mind so that we can support the development of solutions locally, that make a difference. And that are really taking the best of the knowledge and the learning that we've had all over the world to these places, but not trying to force the solutions that we have developed from other parts of the world

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I once read a book about, how to be perceived smart by other people. I, that was not the title of the book, but the, the idea was that, , in conversations, when someone asks you about solutions, the most powerful thing you can ask is how would you solve that? And just keep asking them, how would they solve that? And then they eventually come to the solution and they thank you. And giving them answer straightforward is an act of being selfish , and, usually doesn't work and probably on your, institutional side, it's probably the same if you go to a third-world country and give them solutions that, okay, you need to run 30 CFDs and cast concrete this wide and stuff like that to really click there. But helping them find their own solutions, aiding them with your knowledge and your experience is something very, powerful in the green room before we started the, you've mentioned some interesting developments in Kindling. So where's this going? Your next steps in your project? That's not being planned.

Danielle Antonellis:

I have to say we have this funny thing. Kindling called the exploratory phase,

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah.

Danielle Antonellis:

From 2020 to 2024, essentially, we have freedom to just explore, without the traditional, KPIs of an organization. Same pressure. It's not that we're not strategic. Right. But it's kind of intentionally like institutionalized in our own organization. If we're serious about this, we need to be committed to it. And so we have, in our strategy, we have four pillars of work. We have research, education, training, advocacy, and pilot projects. And I can talk to all four of those. but it is pretty open-ended because we're looking for, who's really serious about doing work in this space, what local groups might be emerging that we can collaborate with. So I can share kind of some of our ambitions around some of these four pillars, if that's what you're looking for it. Yeah. Okay. So within research kind of, as I keep harping on about the importance of problem definition, that is a huge focus of ours. To give you some examples of projects, we've been working on our come doing a cross study comparison between Dhaka Bangladesh in Cape town, South Africa. In partnership with NFPA and Stallenbosh university, to look at how does fire risk emerge as a socially constructed hazard or issue. and how does it emerge through the root causes and dynamic pressures of society and ultimately presenting these unsafe conditions. And then how might you address fire safety by looking at tactical things that can be done at the community level, but also trying to look at opportunities for societal change, further up the food chain. We're doing research in the U S right now to try to define and conceptualize what are insecurely and vulnerably, shelter populations from a fire risk perspective, again, trying to scope out issues and try to identify ways to address them. So looking at developing research roadmap on that project, plans for action for further work. we're doing a project right now with the global shelter cluster, which is a humanitarian group. and this is funded by the, foreign Commonwealth and development office in the UK and USA, the bureau of humanitarian assistance, to map out the entire global humanitarian, shelter and settlement system, and look at how far safety is and is not addressed. What are the kind of current experiences and perceptions of humanitarian actors? How are they, dealing with fire and what are the gaps

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that's like, like a third huge project and you have three more pillars.

Danielle Antonellis:

and you can see that all these projects are very systems-based right. We're not really trying to say, this is how you solve something. We're looking at understanding kind of the baseline. the next pillar is around education and training. and this is something that we're building capacity to be able to do more of. So it's not something that Kindling has a bunch of programs in today. This focuses on fire safety education of communities and affected populations as well as of people that are in positions to support those populations. So it's two categories of it. Right. So how do you actually work on public education? How do you engage with a refugee communities in, I don't know, Northeast Nigeria around fire safety. It's a very different question than how do we engage with the humanitarian actors that are mostly international supporting the refugees in, or actually, I should say internally displaced persons are not refugees, , in Northeast Nigeria.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I have a question related to this education aspect. Is like language, a huge barrier in there because to my knowledge, most of the resources would be in English or maybe in high developed countries. They have their own resources, but I assume in low income countries, it would put enormous barriers between you and your local champions because people who are fluent in English are probably quite well in these areas.

Danielle Antonellis:

Um, there are definitely a lot of people, I think letting informal settlements that speak English, but language is a barrier. and.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Yeah.

Danielle Antonellis:

It's something that needs to be addressed very directly. So there are like for the humanitarian sector, for example, where you have a lot of international humanitarian agencies that are flying in, flying out into different emergencies. And I say, emergencies, not talking about fire emergencies, but like large-scale conflict based emergencies or disaster, like big flooding that just wasted hundreds of thousands of people kind of emergencies. they will often speak English. Um, so when you're engaging with kind of those professionals, English is generally, okay, you might need to use French or some other languages, but generally, you know, English is okay starting, when you're talking about more community-based fire safety education and training language is extremely important. And it's not just language. It's trying to understand culturally how people currently understand, how do they interact with fire? I mean, fire is wonderful in the fact that everyone knows what. Everyone has experience with it. We all cook for that. We all use it to like candles, right? People have different relationships with fire, positive and negative. And so how do we understand those relationships? How do we understand past experiences, but especially of negative events, because there are groups that have been ha experienced, quite traumatic events related to fire. And that's really important to understand how do they learn about fire in general? So there's a lot of questions that include language, but go beyond it. It's about more cultural and experience-based things that we need to think about. And so it's, it's complicated. It takes a lot of time we're working on how do we build capacity to be able to support this better. But often we are targeting kind of the agencies that are local and are supporting those groups rather than us going into actually, Kindling will never just have a. Um, relationship with a household of people without having a local partner. So we're always working with local vendors.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that's great. Yeah.

Danielle Antonellis:

and so, yeah, there's, there's kind of those two categories. We're just about to launch a fire safety education panel in Kindling. , and this is a group of. I'm so excited. It's amazing. It's a group of kind of education, disaster, risk reduction, fire safety, firefighting professionals. I'm sure I'm missing others development actors that work across the world and can all contribute unique insights and perspectives into how to support fire safety education. So we are establishing this group. I think there's about 12 of them that are coming together. They've just finished recruitment now. So we're kind of a bunch of kickoff. And that group will be supporting, Kindling and our wider partners and organizations that we're trying to support and to re-imagining fire safety education, and trying to think of new ways to support it. So it's an, it's a new emerging area for us.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay. And the advocacy pillar.

Danielle Antonellis:

Advocacy is what it's all about in the end, because we're about connection, right? So, connecting people to together across industries and across sectors and across countries and trying to bring these issues to the forefront and the different sectors that they needed to be addressed. So I almost think that everything we do is advocacy and.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Okay.

Danielle Antonellis:

but of course we'll have specific efforts around like communication strategies to try to get certain stakeholders, to listen to certain issues and things. And then pilot projects, again, are more of an emerging area for us where we're trying to bring theory into practice and actually put the research and learning that we've had in and into practice. So we're building up this year to do more pilot projects. , for example, one project we'd love to do is to build on the research, looking at Dhaka and Cape Town, informal settlements, and actually start to work with communities or actually in local partners to figure out how we could support fire risk reduction in specific communities. And the idea is to always do pilot projects in strategic ways where there's cross context learning. Like Dhaka and Cape Town and kind of specific committees. Those two are chosen on purpose because they're very different, although there's uniting similarities, so we're trying to figure out how can we learn in a way that then becomes more transferable later. And how do you figure out what's really locally appropriate only and what's transferable. So it was concepts of conceptualization as at the heart of what we do.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

So you're documenting, not only the solution, but also the process and all the social aspects of it, all, the, all the discussions being that they can, the questions that were asked and answered and so on. That's really cool. And, I assume it's like, open access and everything. Right. or is it like a proprietary knowledge? No, no, no. I like after an hour talking with you, I would not expect that. I guess it's open access. And, you would like to use this as a case studies that can be implemented elsewhere with this methodology is not, not necessarily solutions.

Danielle Antonellis:

It's all about process and methodologies really. I mean, ultimately, , as an organization, yes, you want to have as much impact as we can and everything that we do. And that's a huge measure of how we make choices for projects and how we support communities. But ultimately, the scale of these issues are so massive. I mean, a billion people living in informal settlements. So if we're just supporting one community and not making that information accessible and not doing the work with that one community in a way, that's actually going to create learning for others, implement solutions, other places, or not even solutions, but to implement the methodology, then. We're kind of kidding ourselves on impact, to be honest. So open access is really important. It's something that we kind of struggle with to figure out how do we strike certain balances with different kind of publishing and making sure that things are open access. And I'm sure you can speak to that more than I can really about the challenges of this. but it's, incredibly important. We're trying to look at how can we innovate to be more open, accurate, to open up the industry more, to be sharing knowledge as much as possible.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

I especially admired the process management part and this whole concept of developing a solution, not necessarily being a solution because, to me, it sounds like a powerful thing and it, goes very well with what the Brian Meacham has said in here that maybe this is the direction we need to pursue into So, for the end, maybe want to give a shout out to the team because there are a lot of amazing people working with and for Kindling and,

Danielle Antonellis:

Yeah, they're amazing. I'm super biased but I have to say like, , a year and a half ago it was alone in a basement as Kindling, and now we've grown to 20 plus people. And it's my favorite part of the whole thing. , Wojciech Wegrzynski: within a pandemic. Yes. So I mean, I can, I'd love to shout out some names if that's okay. I don't know. Um, yeah. All right. So our board of directors is growing. Um, so myself, Kathleen Almand who was a VP at NFPA until a couple of years ago. And she retired is our chair of the board. , Jim Quiter who worked at Arup until he retired last year is the treasurer of kindling. Christine Pongratz, , who works at Jensen Hughes and wildfire issues is our secretary. , Jim Kennedy, who is a amazing humanitarian with incredible experience all over the world is one of our directors. And, Boris Couteaux is someone who I met in India years ago. And he was working on social. The social enterprise looking at solar lighting and he is one of our directors as well. He does a lot with social impact financing. Guillermo Rei just joined her board. I'm so excited.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's cool.

Danielle Antonellis:

I don't think he needs an introduction, but I'm so excited. Um, as well as David Beal, who is in the insurance industry in the U S just joined our board of directors. And then in our staff, we currently have, , again, kind of myself Antonio Cicione, who of course, you know, you mentioned before, from Stallenbosch university and Antonio's doing lots of cool things. And South Africa was CFS consulting as new group and everything as well. Sandra is a senior fire safety researcher with us. She's based in Mexico city and also doing her post-doc at UNM university. Reasat is a staff member who's originally from Bangladesh, but currently in London doing his PhD. So we have a lot of staff who work. Wearing multiple hats, which is very cool because they bring different perspectives to Kindling from the other work that they're doing as well. And then I, maybe won't just for brevity, won't read all the adviser volunteer names. We have a wonderful group of volunteers and advisors, and it's constantly growing. And you can look on our website, please do to read the bios of our advisors because they're incredible.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

And what about your research partners and the shout-outs there?

Danielle Antonellis:

Yeah, absolutely. So we have been working a lot with academic institutions, like a York university, university of Edinburgh, Stallenbosch University. , university of Maryland is another great group, University of Lancashire has been looking at the. , so there's been a lot of groups, in fire engineering that are getting more serious about this and raising that next generation of fire engineers to be really socially aware and to be addressing, some of the world's most urgent fire problems. So what I said earlier about maybe not having known about this when I was in college a little over 10 years ago, I think that story is

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

that's fantastic.

Danielle Antonellis:

this is making its way

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

That's that's really good. , I will also lead link to the resources that were provided, , like the Costa Rica paper. I enjoyed the paper a lot. I actually regretted, we didn't go into technicalities , of that, but I think it was much more powerful to talk about the mission and the process of getting there. I think that was maybe we'll leave Costa Rica and we'll invite some other researchers. For some other episode, it would be actually quite an interesting, , twist. And, fire science show is also supportive to your mission. We're also open access. , maybe, uh, we can be a part of educating. At least maybe someone finds our work interesting and then gains an insight student to the. Probably it's not necessarily that knowledge that they need, but still, , as I've learned everything in fire science is relevant and everything is useful. So there is no irrelevant topics in fire science. Well, thank you so much for your time. , I'm a huge fan of what you are doing, and I am looking forward to learn more about what you have achieved. And so far it looks really inspiring and interesting and fantastic. Thank you so much.

Danielle Antonellis:

Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on here. It's a lot of fun.

Wojciech Wegrzynski:

Thanks. And that's it. that was really great, chat with Danielle and really eye opening in terms of what the issues are and how can we seek solutions. And it's not that easy to just tell them, okay, this is the way you do CFD, this is the way you fireproof your buildings. You need to find solutions that are applicable at the local level. You need to find characters that will deliver fire safety at the local level, you cannot send fire safety there from London or Warsaw you need to have local champions. You need to build them. You need to tell them how important fire safety is. . First, you need to measure the hat is it's really that important. Are there other aspects that may be more important to people you want to serve while it's really a complex issue. It's not a problem of finding a magical solution or a new engineering trick that will suddenly deliver safety to these people. It's about acting on all of these levels of technology, society, education, research, to promote and deliver solutions that will work and that people will want, and that people will be able to apply. And what, what a hell of a challenge that is? It brings me back to the episode with Brian Meacham where he said that fire safety is a social technical system. And here on this example, you truly can see this. So I hope you liked it. maybe. Some of you will be inspired to help Danielle or engage in some of this Kindling activities. Even if not, I hope it at least broadens your horizons. And as for me, you will not be able to unsee this problem anymore. So at least, making us, a little bit more sensitive to that. big picture issues in fire and, obviously I never thought that coming into fire science, you could actually change the world, but it seems you can. So that is kind of an amazing thing about our discipline. After 34, episodes still being surprised by how big fire science is. So thanks for being here with me and, as usual next Wednesday, next episode. So I'm looking forward to seeing. I would be very happy if you help me share about the podcast. So maybe take the link to this episode, send it to a friend or posted somewhere. It helps build up the audience, which is always great to reach more minds and yeah. Well, see you next Wednesday.