Understanding how gas fire suppression systems work

September 11, 2014

The world safety record for firefighting on an industrial scale is nothing short of exemplary. There's good reason for this, and all of those reasons stem from safety. Oil refineries and gas storage facilities handle many thousands of gallons of highly flammable substances, chemical compounds that have been pulled from the ground and carefully processed. They're bound for power stations and residential properties, heating systems and further refinement. The ignition of a leaking gas would present an unimaginable disaster, and safety engineers must account for these factors whenever putting pen to paper to design a new storage vessel or a ventilation system for expelling fumes from a mine. The same safety ethic applies to suppressing flames before they get out of control. A small window of opportunity exists when a fire firsts sparks into existence, and the 21st century solution to this time-sensitive situation has long since moved on from simple water hoses. Today's answer to fires, especially those fueled by electricity and chemical leakage, is to introduce a gaseous fire suppression system.

Applying a simple model of firefighting to a fuel tanker or an offshore oil rig, there's plenty of salt water around to provide abundant resources for killing the flames, but technology has moved on. While streams of pressurized water and a fine water-mist is still the standard way to fight smoke and fire in crew quarters and habitable areas, inert-gas extinguishing systems can cap the flames with non-toxic efficiency. The introduction of these systems has trickled down into everyday living, with FM-200 suppression agents being fitted for human protection and the defense of expensive electrical parts that would otherwise suffer if water was used. FM-200 is environmentally-friendly, a big plus in a society that has become increasingly aware of damage to our precious atmosphere, and the compound is non-conductive. The benefits don't end there, though. The features of the compound also include no residue, an attractive factor when cleaning up after a fire, and it's safe for humans.

FM200 and Novec 1230, a similar product formulated by chemical giant 3M, open up new doorways for gaseous flame suppression that go beyond industrial applications. Both solutions are found in critical areas where fire could cause incalculable damage in life and property. Museums use both substances, as do data archives, communications centers, any many other structures. Fighting fire without damaging our ozone layer, these highly respected avenues of fire control end the danger with modern efficiency. Their existence is proportionate to the dense proliferation of electronics we've populated our daily landscape with. There's no room for water, for destroying computer servers and critical data when there are better options. The aforementioned products will absorb the heat from the flames, discharging from nozzles in a room with a jet of gas.

It's worth noting that both of these gaseous products are designed as non-conductive options for protecting electronics during a spreading conflagration, but they're also fast killers of heat and smoke, meaning human life still always comes first.

Connor Pincus Group. Consulting Engineers.

Address: 1196 Toorak Road, CAMBERWELL, VIC 3124

Phone: (03) 9835 5000
Fax: (03) 9835 5050

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