WHY AU­TO­MATIC FIRE SUP­PRES­SION IS CRIT­I­CAL TO HEAVY EQUIP­MENT AND VE­HI­CLE SAFETY

By Ed Chivers, global prod­uct and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion di­rec­tor, Re­ac­ton Fire Sup­pres­sion

PMV Middle East - - COMMENT -

An au­to­matic fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem is a me­chan­i­cal or elec­tri­cal sys­tem that can de­tect and ex­tin­guish, or con­tain, a fire with­out hav­ing to rely on hu­man in­ter­ven­tion. In their sim­plest form, th­ese sys­tems have a means of de­tec­tion, ac­tu­a­tion and de­liv­ery. If a fire oc­curs, the fire sup­pres­sion equip­ment de­tects the heat from the flames, au­to­mat­i­cally ac­tu­ates the sys­tem and de­liv­ers an ex­tin­guish­ing agent straight into the heart of the fire. It takes only a few sec­onds for the fire to be de­tected and sup­pressed, thus sav­ing lives, as­sets and busi­nesses.

Ev­ery year in the UK alone, an av­er­age of £2,669 mil­lion is paid out by in­sur­ers for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle claims1. And in the US, 8,760 in­dus­trial or agri­cul­tural ve­hi­cle fires oc­cur2 an­nu­ally, re­sult­ing in $225 mil­lion worth of prop­erty dam­age.

De­spite th­ese alarm­ing fig­ures, in­stal­la­tion of fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems on heavy equip­ment and com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles is not a stan­dard prac­tice among man­u­fac­tur­ers and fleet op­er­a­tors.

Some man­u­fac­tur­ers of­fer au­to­matic fire sup­pres­sion as fac­tory-fit­ted sys­tems, but they are not pri­ori­tised as much as other add-on equip­ment such as lights, opening win­dows, ride con­trol, and air con­di­tion­ing.

With the global con­struc­tion mar­ket fore­cast to grow by $8 tril­lion in the next ten years3, pay-outs by in­sur­ers and down­time for op­er­a­tors will in­crease un­less fire sup­pres­sion is taken se­ri­ously by the in­dus­try. This is pos­si­ble only if there’s aware­ness about the ne­ces­sity and dif­fer­ent types of fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems and their com­pli­ance with fire safety stan­dards.

FIRE EXTINGUISH­ERS, ALONE, WON’T DO THE JOB

Giv­ing fire­fight­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to ve­hi­cle

op­er­a­tors or nearby per­son­nel comes with some risks; the sup­pres­sion of fire will de­pend on the com­pe­tency of the per­son, his or her abil­ity to de­ter­mine the early stages of a fire and how to op­er­ate the fire pro­tec­tion de­vice cor­rectly. In some in­stances, a fire starts slowly in a con­fined area that may not be ac­ces­si­ble, let alone vis­i­ble. Even if the fire is de­tected promptly, the ap­pli­ca­tion of the cor­rect fire pro­tec­tion de­vice and choice of ex­tin­guish­ing medium is re­liant on the per­son present at that time.

More com­monly, such events erupt into a high load fire in­stan­ta­neously, and the heat out­put and by-prod­ucts of com­bus­tion make it al­most im­pos­si­ble to get close enough to tackle the fire. To use a fire ex­tin­guisher, en­gine cov­ers and pan­els would need to be re­moved to get ac­cess to the location of the fire, which would not safe while the fire in­ten­sity con­tin­ues to in­crease.

ALL FIRE SUP­PRES­SION SYS­TEMS ARE NOT EQUAL

Just as no two fires are the same, not all fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems are equal. Choos­ing an in­ad­e­quate sup­pres­sion sys­tems could have a cat­a­strophic im­pact on busi­ness.

As­sum­ing all fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems are the same would be sim­i­lar to think­ing all ve­hi­cle per­for­mance is equal, re­gard­less of the make and model. It’s im­por­tant to en­sure that the sys­tem you choose is de­signed specif­i­cally for the as­set it is pro­tect­ing.

When se­lect­ing a fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem, ac­cred­i­ta­tions should do the talk­ing. Make sure that the sys­tem you are con­sid­er­ing has been rig­or­ously tested to meet, or ex­ceed, the de­mands of the en­vi­ron­ment and as­set. A fire sup­pres­sion sys­tem in heavy equip­ment and ve­hi­cles should be able to with­stand ex­treme vi­bra­tion, age­ing and cor­ro­sion.

UN­DER­STAND FIRE SAFETY STAN­DARDS AND LOOK FOR AC­CRED­I­TA­TIONS

Would you have peace of mind hav­ing a non­ap­proved sys­tem pro­tect­ing your op­er­a­tors, work­force and crit­i­cal as­sets?

Many au­to­matic fire sup­pres­sion man­u­fac­tur­ers and in­stall­ers will ad­vise their own de­sign cri­te­ria, but for a sys­tem to re­ally have any value it should be tested to in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised stan­dards.

A fully in­de­pen­dent and ac­cred­ited test­ing lab­o­ra­tory should be used to carry out test­ing and the test must be rel­e­vant to the ap­pli­ca­tion.

The test­ing cri­te­ria in th­ese stan­dards repli­cate what could be ex­pe­ri­enced in real life. With­out it, you can­not guar­an­tee the per­for­mance of a sys­tem and whether it will work in the con­di­tions your ve­hi­cle may be sub­jected to.

Hav­ing an ap­proved sys­tem to an in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised stan­dard such as P-mark SPCR 199 (Fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems in en­gine com­part­ments of heavy ve­hi­cles) means that you have made a com­mit­ment to pro­vid­ing a sys­tem of qual­ity, safety and per­for­mance that can be proven. It also pro­vides the bench­mark for sys­tems to be judged against, with­out this how can you be sure your sys­tem will work when it is called upon.

ONE EX­TIN­GUISH­ING AGENT’S GOOD, TWO IS BET­TER

A dual agent sys­tem com­bines the rapid flame knock­down fea­ture of dry pow­der and the cool­ing and blan­ket­ing prop­er­ties of wet chem­i­cal (liq­uid sys­tem) to pro­vide a more ef­fec­tive and eco­nom­i­cal so­lu­tion than just one type of ex­tin­guish­ing medium.

when com­pared to a liq­uid based sys­tem, a dual agent sys­tem of­fers a 40% re­duc­tion in sys­tem size.

A dual agent sys­tem can re­peat­ably score the high­est rat­ing on the SPCR 199 test. This need not re­quire sys­tems with large sizes or more noz­zles; Re­ac­ton has achieved the high­est rat­ings with only 8 kg of agent and 6 noz­zles.

It is also im­por­tant to note that the Na­tional Fire Pro­tec­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (NFPA), in par­tic­u­lar NFPA 122 - 12.3.6.1.1, state that hy­draulic/ diesel ex­ca­va­tors with hy­draulic sys­tems above 567.8L (150 gal) should be fit­ted with dual agent fire sup­pres­sion sys­tems.

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