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New government legislation due to come into force in the United Kingdom on July 1st will require electrical installations in privately rented properties to be tested and inspected at least once every 5 years. The Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector Regulations (2020) will require landlords to enlist qualified electricians to complete inspections and provide certification to tenants – or face fines of up to £30,000. While the risk of fire can never be entirely eliminated, the new legislation will introduce higher levels of safety and ensure that one of the primary causes of fire – electrical malfunctions – is regularly tested for. There are a number of procedures and regulations in place for when a fire has already started, but this new law will help to reduce the chances of it getting to that point. After all, prevention is the best form of protection. No safety procedure or response plan will ever fully prepare someone for the reality of a fire. However, a comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce the potential risk to both life and property. Defensive detection A fire can spring from many sources. Current standards do a good job of ensuring properties are well equipped to defend against fires created by overcurrent caused by overloads and short circuits. A comprehensive prevention strategy and use of the latest technologies to quickly detect and respond to a fire can at least reduce potential risk However, electrical fires can also result from mistakes made during the installation process, namely loose cabling or aging circuits that will not be detected by overcurrent protection. Indeed, a defective or worn insulation is the cause of 14% of all electrical fires in buildings. The danger of landlords only performing the bare minimum to protect their buildings is that, should a fire start from a source they haven’t accounted for, the loss and disruption to property could be devastating. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting in the first place. The pending legislation will add to this safety from the start. It will require landlords to use qualified electricians when installing, repairing and maintaining systems, benefitting both landlords and tenants by mitigating electrical issues and instilling greater confidence. Protection against insulation faults The risk of cable insulation faults grows over time and the consequences can be severe. Low-intensity arc faults are more likely to occur in humid, dusty environments, causing injury and deadly fires if precautions aren’t taken. Protection against insulation faults within cables can be assured by residual current devices (RCD), which are triggered by earth leakage currents exceeding 300mA. For maximum protection, individuals need reliable, innovative products that excel beyond the minimum standards to prevent a fire from starting Additionally, final circuits in critical locations (as recommended in IEC 60364), should be protected by an arc fault detection device (AFDD). This is a circuit breaker that automatically cuts off the electricity supply when it detects an arc fault in the circuit. By immediately stopping the supply, AFDDs stop arc faults from reaching temperatures where fires can break out. As well as ensuring that private tenants feel more safe and secure, the new legislation represents an opportunity for electricians to secure more work and develop their skills. Going forward, as the demand for electricians in the private rented sector rises, we expect to see greater opportunity for electrical engineers to win long running contracts with landlords and property managers. Fire may be a risk, but it is not unavoidable. This new legislation promises greater peace of mind for private tenants by ensuring that electrical standards are met and hazards reduced. With expert knowledge and the correct approach to electrical fire prevention, a fire can be extinguished before any damage is done.
There have been challenges with completing fire safety maintenance and installation projects during the current Covid-19 crisis, most notably as a result of the difficulties for installers in safely accessing sites. Many construction projects halted for lockdown and this resulted in approximately 50% of the British installers we work with having to furlough staff. The challenges, however, are not just restricted to the UK. With Kentec panels sold in more than 90 countries across the world, we have seen varying challenges on a global scale. Throughout this crisis, fire safety continues to be paramount and as such key players, such as Kentec, are rightly considered essential businesses. We have continued manufacturing life safety systems throughout the current difficulties and it has been our mission to ensure that where new installations can take place, our panels are readily available to installers, as well as the expertise and technical support that goes with it for ongoing maintenance. Orders for spare parts have also, in fact, been consistently high during this period, as installers have been able to complete minor upgrades safely and end users have taken advantage of the period to do so. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines so that customers have not experienced any supply issues with any life safety systems or parts has been a major success. Critical Infrastructure We’ve personally seen an increase in sales for our industry-leading Sigma XT extinguishant panels during this crisis as it is widely used within critical infrastructure, in sectors such as telecommunications, data centres and healthcare. Adapting manufacturing processes to align with government guidelines has been a major success During lockdown, with a vast proportion of the population working from home and relying on the internet to conduct their business and virtual meetings, it has been more important than ever that there is no loss in service in broadband and telephone services. This means that highly reliable and robust fire extinguishing systems are essential to protect essential workers and vital equipment – not only from the risk of fire, but also from the catastrophic damage that false alarms and the release of extinguishant could have, for example, on server room equipment. Understandably, this has resulted in considerable investment in fire systems in these sectors. Glasgow’s Louisa Jordan NHS Facility The recent fire safety installation at the Louisa Jordan NHS Facility Glasgow – located at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC) which provides more than 500 COVID-19 beds – is just one example of essential fire safety work being completed during lockdown. Vipond Fire Protection Ltd installed a total of seven Sigma XT gas suppression panels, and 32 detectors located within the electrical room that serves the 10,000m2 facility. The project was completed in what was an extremely tight seven-day turnaround, delivering proven reliability within a crucial healthcare facility. Kentec's Experience Operating Through Covid-19 We have learned that operating through this crisis and supporting installations that are going ahead is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration. For example, we’re supporting our distributors by shipping directly to their customers, when it is not safe or feasible to open their warehouses. Operating through this crisis is best achieved through detailed planning, communication and collaboration Our own workforce is also adapting to changing work patterns and demands. In the factory, at a practical level, this has meant implementing new shifts schedules starting from six o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night to ensure there are never too many people on site at one time. We have staggered arrival, leaving and break times to mitigate any risks involved at entrances, and we were lucky that space allowed us to make the canteen area bigger and increase the number of toilets from three to ten. We have moved work benches to ensure a safe distance between each employee, and where workflows make two-metre distancing impossible we have installed six- and eight-foot screens. Face masks have been provided to all staff and we are also trialling face shields for further comfort and protection. Our office staff have worked from home, and where going to the office has been necessary, they have similarly adhered to staggered arrival times. Internal communication has been essential and I’m immensely proud and extremely thankful for the positivity, proactivity and support that employees have shown through this process. We have also adapted our Kentec Installation Partner (KIP) scheme to be fully remote to ensure training and support is there when it is needed for our installers. We are hosting webinars as another forum to solve installer queries remotely, and our new range of Taktis panels have highly advanced networking capabilities and a vast suite of communication tools that support remote monitoring. It is therefore critical that our installers fully understand how to help end users realise the benefits such panels can deliver and to ensure their installations are completed successfully. Looking Ahead To The New Normal Remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis We feel that remote monitoring will become increasingly important beyond this crisis and the advanced communication capabilities of panels will be essential for both installers and end users alike. For installers it reduces the amount of time required on site, because they can access the system remotely to find out what equipment or parts they need to take with them. Similarly, for end users they can access systems remotely to check any alerts or queries off site if necessary. It remains to be seen how the rest of 2020 will pan out, but where projects have been necessarily put on hold, because of the essential nature of our industry we are confident that installers will be able to quickly and easily return to these projects when it is safe and feasible to do so. Communication, collaboration and support will continue to be essential in mitigating the challenges in our future ‘new normal.’
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.