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Clean Agent Systems - Expert Commentary

Fire Suppression Fluids And Gases, The Future Of Marine Fire Safety
Fire Suppression Fluids And Gases, The Future Of Marine Fire Safety

The original fire suppression agent has always been, of course, water. In the age of sail, it was ideal. Not so with the advent of the combustion engine, however. When applied to burning petroleum, the fire spreads. It also simply destroys electronics. Carbon dioxide (CO2) and Halon derivatives were the first widely used commercial fire suppression solutions, gaining popularity in the 1950s and '60s. Unlike water, they were highly effective, electrically non-conductive and didn't leave any residue. As compressed gases, storage wasn't a major issue. Unfortunately, Halon was found to be a high ozone depleting chemical; as a result, production was banned in 1990. Evolution Of Fire Suppression Systems Ideal for marine applications, HFC227 is fast, effective and clean With the sunsetting of Halon and the search for alternatives, CO2 gained prominence. However, it has three significant drawbacks: it's a greenhouse gas, requires a large number of cylinders and is potentially fatal if breathed at design concentrations. In the 1990s, HFCs rose to dominance as a fire suppression solution. Ideal for marine applications, HFC227 is fast, effective and clean. Like Halon and CO2, however, it's a greenhouse gas and contributes to global warming. Discharging an average-sized cylinder of HFC227 has the same CO2 equivalent as driving a car 268,760 kilometers. This is why it is being eliminated as part of a phased-down mandate from the EU, and restricted or taxed by various countries such as Australia and Norway. It is expected that similar legislation will begin to affect Canada and US-flagged vessels. Environmental Profile Of HFCs In 2002, 3M introduced Novec™ 1230 Fire Protection Fluid. It offers a number of important advantages over other clean agents in marine fire suppression applications. It has low acute toxicity and high extinguishing efficiency. This gives it a wide margin of safety compared to other chemical clean agents such as HFC227. A fluid, it vaporizes rapidly during discharge, is non-corrosive, non-conductive and leaves no residue. It is, importantly, a long-term, sustainable solution with virtually zero global warming potential, e.g., it has an atmospheric life of about a week versus HFC227's 34 years. So confident is 3M of its product, it offers its BlueSkySM Warranty; if it is ever banned or restricted from use due to its environmental properties, the company will refund the cost of the fluid. Unlike CO2, a gas, Novec 1230 fluid can be flown to the vessel or platform allowing less downtime waiting for supplies to arrive by ground For the marine and offshore oil and gas industries, Novec 1230 fluid offers distinct advantages. Because it's a fluid, recharging is simple. Unlike CO2, a gas, it can be flown to the vessel or platform. This means less downtime waiting for supplies to arrive by ground. It also takes up significantly less space. Recently, Sea-Fire Europe ceased distribution of HFC227. The move was strategic and ethical, given the environmental profile of HFCs. Novec 1230 Fluid For Recreational Marine Market With the phase-down of HFCs, supplies are running out. This means in the immediate future there will be a serious inability to service systems. Also, with shortages beginning, costs are rising, making the switch to Novec 1230 fluid a smart move financially. While 3M will obviously benefit from this, the real winner here is our planet and the people we share it with" Sea-Fire recognizes that it may lose business in the short term as boat and shipbuilders continue to choose HFC-based fire systems strictly based on cost alone. But, ultimately, eliminating the use of hydrofluorocarbons is the right thing to do for the marine industry as a whole. As the first manufacturer to introduce Novec 1230 fluid into the recreational marine market in 2012, Sea-Fire is fully prepared for the phase-out of HFCs. Benefitting The Marine Industry "As a corporation, 3M is committed to improving every life," said David Olds, 3M account executive for fire suppression applications. "Sea-Fire Europe made a difficult decision when announcing it would cease distribution of HFC227. While 3M will obviously benefit from this, the real winner here is our planet and the people we share it with." Sea-Fire Marine has long held the belief that it is in the business of protecting people and property at sea. With its recent declaration that its master European distributor Sea-Fire Europe is ending distribution of HFC-based fire suppression fluids, it can add the environment to its list.

How Targeted Suppression Stops Fires At The Source
How Targeted Suppression Stops Fires At The Source

While whole room protection – sprinklers or gas systems – is a common choice, there is an argument for thinking smaller; taking fire detection and suppression down to the equipment, enclosures and even the components where a fire is most likely to start. Traditional Fire Suppression Methods A traditional water-based sprinkler system is the most common form of fire protection found in commercial and industrial buildings. They offer reasonable cost, large area protection for entire facilities, safeguarding the structure and personnel by limiting the spread and impact of a fire. Every square foot of the protected area is covered equally regardless of the contents of the space, whether it’s an empty floor or an object with an increased risk of fire. Sprinklers aren’t always the most appropriate choice. Not all fires are extinguished by water of course, and in some cases, water damage can be just as harmful or even more so than the fire. They are an impractical choice for instance for facilities housing anything electrical, such as data centres and server rooms. There is also the risk of accidental activation, with an estimated cost of up to $1,000 for every minute they are left running. Water damage can be just as harmful or even more so than any fire, so sprinklers may not be appropriate Targeted Supplementary Fire Suppression An alternative method to protect whole server rooms and data centres is gas fire suppression, which either suppresses the fire by displacing oxygen (inert) or by using a form of cooling mechanism (chemical/synthetic). These aren’t without risk; in the case of inert gas, oxygen is reduced to less than 15% to suffocate the fire, but must be kept above 12% to avoid endangering the lives of personnel. Similarly, clean agent gas can be toxic in high doses. There are smaller, focused systems that give the option of highly targeted supplementary fire suppression within fire risk areas. Installing a system directly into the areas most at risk, means that fires can be put out before they take hold and cause serious damage. Both sprinkler and gas systems can contain a fire, but micro-environment or closed space systems are completely automatic, detecting and suppressing the fire so rapidly that activating a sprinkler or gas total flooding system often isn’t necessary. The most popular enclosure fire suppression systems achieve this though the use of a flexible and durable polymer tubing that is routed easily through the tightest spaces. The tubing is extremely sensitive to heat and, because it can be placed so close to potential failure points, detects it and releases the fire suppression agent up to ten times faster than traditional systems. An airline was forced to cancel over 2,000 flights after a “small fire” in one of its data centers Cost-Effective Fire Protection Highly customizable, small enclosure fire suppression is specifically designed to protect business critical spaces and equipment. It is typically used inside machinery like CNC machines, mobile equipment like forklifts and inside server rooms and electrical cabinetry but is suitable for any hazard that’s considered to have an elevated fire risk. Some may question the need or cost-effectiveness of protecting micro-environments. However, examples abound of where fires that have started at component level have gone on to cause damage of the highest magnitude, and the cost of downtime can be crippling to many time-sensitive facilities and processes. An airline was forced to cancel over 2,000 flights in August 2016 when what was described as a “small fire” in one of its data centers ultimately led to a computer outage. The cost of that small fire, and the domino effect that quickly escalated from it, has since been announced as $150m. Admittedly that number is unusually high - the average cost of a data centre outage today is estimated at a more conservative $730,000 – but this is still an expense businesses can ill afford. Preventing Major Losses Staying with the transport industry, newer metros systems have redundant systems in place to prevent interruptions. However, older metro lines, such as the one in New York City, have experienced electrical fires that started small, but grew to such a magnitude that service was affected for months.Older metro lines, such as New York City's, have experience electrical fires that start small but grew exponentially A wind energy customer experienced a fire in a turbine converter cabinet. The loss of the cabinet was valued at over $200,000 and disabled the turbine for six weeks. Following investment in fire suppression systems inside the electrical cabinet, a subsequent fire was detected and suppressed before major damage could be caused. The cost on this occasion was therefore limited to a $25,000 component and downtime was less than two days.Equally - happily - there are also many instances where the installation of small enclosure fire suppression has prevented disaster. In the manufacturing world, CNC machines are valued at hundreds of thousands of dollars and need to be constantly operational to justify the investment. Oil coolant used in the machines can create a flash fire in an instant due to failed components or programming errors. The fact that many of these facilities are run ‘lights out’ with no personnel present further exacerbates the risk. If a fire is not dealt with immediately, the machine will be destroyed; sprinklers don’t react quickly enough for this scenario and would be ineffective. Ensuring Business Continuity One such flash fire occurred inside a protected CNC machine at a machine shop in Iowa. The polymer tubing ruptured within a fraction of a second, releasing the suppression agent and extinguishing the flames. The machine was undamaged and was operational again with a few hours. Contrast this to a previous fire at the same facility in an unprotected machine; it was out of operation for 4 days, costing the business thousands of dollars in downtime In short, fire protection is an essential element of our industrial and commercial environments to ensure both safety and business continuity. However, the nature of that protection is changing, as capacity increases to cost-effectively protect specific areas where fires are most likely to start. Risk mitigation analysis needs to look beyond what has been accepted in the past and find ways to further limit the impact of a small fire using this next level of protection. The benefits can really have a positive effect on the bottom line in the event of fire.

Latest Amerex Corp. news

Amerex Announces Z-Series Line Of High-Performance Fire Extinguishers
Amerex Announces Z-Series Line Of High-Performance Fire Extinguishers

Since 1971, Amerex has provided the highest quality fire protection products. Deep relationships with customers give the insight to innovate and provide end users with the solutions they need. Every extinguisher, no matter how well manufactured, is vulnerable to corrosive elements, such as salt air in coastal installations over a long period of time. These environments can cause significant structural damage to a regular fire extinguisher, impairing its functionality and potentially making its use hazardous to the operator. It’s the only unit on the market that’s been UL verified to withstand 12 years of simulated severe salt corrosion Corrosion Resistant Paint Amerex is pleased to introduce an exciting innovation to the High-Performance line — the new Z-Series featuring corrosion resistant paint that employs an advanced zinc rich primer. Z-Series meets the challenge presented by corrosive environments like those found on oil and gas platforms and in refineries, mines or waste management facilities. It’s Amerex’s most resilient unit yet, capable of withstanding harsh industrial environments where traditional extinguisher cylinder integrity could be compromised by corrosion, and it meets the standard set by Amerex’s High-Performance product line over 20 years ago. In fact, it’s the only unit on the market that’s been UL verified to withstand 12 years of simulated severe salt corrosion. Design, Testing And Implementation Our Research and Development team devoted thousands of hours to the design, testing and implementation of the new zinc rich paint process. Thanks to their exemplary work, the Z-Series line boasts: Best-in-class corrosion resistance and improved longevity. Improved environmental impact compared to galvanized units. Shorter lead times. Smoother finish than galvanized units. The highest achievable UL rating, comparable to our other High-Performance extinguishers. Severe corrosion tested in accordance with ISO 21207. The only UL verified extinguisher to withstand 12 years of simulated exposure to severely corrosive chloride ions, which are present in the salt air of marine environments, winter road de-icing salt and corrosive gases commonly produced from industrial or traffic air pollution. Choice of ABC, Regular and Purple K chemicals. Simple operation and maintenance. Compliance Flow or Fast Flow discharge available. A 15% price reduction from comparable High-Performance galvanized units. Harsh Industrial Settings We’re excited to provide this outstanding combination of features and value for our distributor partners to showcase to their customers. As the significant efforts made by our entire company to introduce this new product attest, Amerex is invested in providing the top solution on the market for harsh industrial settings.

Three Members From Amerex To Become Special Government Employees To Work Alongside OSHA
Three Members From Amerex To Become Special Government Employees To Work Alongside OSHA

Amerex team members Robert Fisher, Kaleigh Fleming and Stephani Riley are now Special Government Employees. The Special Government Employee (SGE) Program was established to allow industry employees to work alongside the Occupational Health and Safety administration (OSHA), particularly during Voluntary Protection Program site evaluations. This innovative program benefits OSHA by supplementing its on-site evaluation teams, and gives industry and government an opportunity to work together and share views and ideas. From time to time, SGEs may also have the opportunity to participate in other OSHA outreach and compliance assistance activities. Completing The Required Training Qualified volunteers from VPP sites, like Amerex, are eligible to participate in the SGE program. These volunteers must be approved by OSHA and funded by their companies to participate. After submitting an application and completing the required training, these volunteers are sworn in as SGEs and are approved to assist OSHA. The three Amerex team members recently completed the SGE course and were sworn in at the Region 4 VPPPA Conference in Chattanooga. They will serve a three year term and assist with onsite assessments, application reviews and annual self-evaluation reviews. Amerex became a VPP Star site in 2017. It’s the seventh and most recent VPP site in the McWane family of companies.

Amerex Member Craig Voelkert Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award From National Association Of Fire Equipment Distributors
Amerex Member Craig Voelkert Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award From National Association Of Fire Equipment Distributors

The National Association of Fire Equipment Distributors (NAFED) recently honored longtime Amerex team member and industry icon, Craig Voelkert, with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Craig exemplified this significant honor through his dedication to progressing the fire suppression industry. His commitment to innovation and industry engagement led to product advancements that are critical elements of life safety. In the early 1990s, Amerex founder Ned Paine discovered Craig at a Nevada fire school, where he was leading fire-training courses. Ned promptly offered him a position at Amerex. Craig’s responsibilities would include advancing key product innovations, engaging with technical committees and leading interactions with local and federal governments. Since accepting Ned’s offer, he successfully fulfilled these duties and accomplished much more before he retired at the end of 2018. Pre-Engineered Fire Systems Craig utilized his expertise and inventive personality to shepherd Amerex into new markets, such as pre-engineered fire systems for commercial restaurants and vehicles. In addition to his involvement with NAFED, Craig served as the Fire Equipment Manufacturers’ Association (FEMA) president and had various roles on National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) technical committees. Craig and his peers continuously pioneered new code and code improvements, which led to inventions like the K-Class Extinguishers for cooking operations. With his leadership and vision, Craig leaves a lasting legacy on Amerex and the fire suppression industry. Amerex thanks Craig, for his meaningful impact. Amerex and the entire industry appreciates his many contributions over the years.

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