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As Grenfell remains a chilling reminder of the importance of fire safety in construction, new digital methods are now being adopted to guarantee the safety of end users. But how is digitization helping and how will this further advance fire safety during the wider construction process? There’s no doubt that the past five years have had a profound effect on the construction industry. Events such as the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire disaster have forced the industry to sit-up and rethink the processes it currently has in place. Campaign for a complete system overhaul The result has been a campaign for a complete system overhaul. Advocates for change, such as Dame Judith Hackitt, are now speaking at length of a ‘broken industry’ and how without major reform, the construction industry will never reach acceptable levels of safety. Yet hope is on the horizon and as is often the case with such events, they can and must serve as a catalyst for major change. Hackitt’s inquiry into building regulations and fire safety, following Grenfell, revealed a need for greater fail safes and a requirement for what Hackitt termed as ‘The Golden Thread’ of information. This is an accurate record of a building, providing a timeline of what has gone into the structure, from design to occupation and its ongoing maintenance. By having this in place, the industry can then deliver full transparency and accountability to help keep end users safe. Introduction of new building safety regulator Hackitt’s inquiry into building regulations and fire safety, following Grenfell, revealed a need for greater fail safesA further response has been the introduction of a new building safety regulator and new construction product regulator, both of which represent a landmark moment not just in fire safety, but improved levels of safety across the board. The first, which is under the Health and Safety Executive, will oversee the safety and performance of all buildings with a new, more stringent framework for higher-risk builds. The latter, (the construction product regulator), will be aimed at manufacturers to ensure that their products are safe, before being sold and that they abide by pre-determined levels of industry safety. If products aren’t deemed fit for purpose, these stricter measures will grant the regulator the power to remove products, revoke building safety certifications, as well as prosecute those who attempt to side-step rules. Building Safety Bill Speaking at the Construction Leaders’ Summit in February 2020, Hackitt explained that the Building Safety Bill and the creation of the new regulators will help the sector to change both technically and culturally, moving away from decisions that result in the ‘cheapest solution’, to one where safety and quality become paramount. Hackitt also warned that the regulators will have real bite. She said, “It will not look to see you have merely followed the rules, but check the building is safe from planning to occupation and you’ve done everything in your power to ensure this.” New laws post building regulations and fire safety review New laws have also been introduced since Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety New laws have also been introduced since Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety. In April of 2020, UK Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick announced a series of measures comprising of what he called ‘the biggest change in building safety for a generation.’ These were changes that applied to multi-occupancy buildings of 18 meters and above, or six stories, whichever is reached first. For buildings in-scope, a duty holder regime will apply, with a Client, Principal Designer and Principal Contractor. The contractor and designers will have to demonstrate that the building is safe and the ability of the duty-holder to choose which building control body to oversee the removal of the construction/refurbishment. To make sure the regulation is followed, there are gateway points at various stages, requiring regulator sign-off before the project can move forward. The sign-off procedure can then only take place once the right evidence is in place. Before residents are allowed to occupy the building, a full digital documentation will have to be provided which includes drawings and datasets and any design changes will need to be amended, signed-off and recorded. The need for digital adoption It’s clear that with so many changes coming into play that a new way of working is needed, with the needle pointing towards digital adoption as an answer to these issues. One of its main benefits is that it gives specifiers, contractors and residents the ability to access extensive datasets on specific fire related products. This feature plays a huge role in guaranteeing the safety of buildings and end users, by supplying them with the most up-to-date information and the latest in industry laws and regulations. If the industry is to iron-out the risk of products being ‘mis-specified’, then architects must be given a vehicle to access this information as easily as possible. Rise in use of digital tools, 3D and data Another example is the recent changes to the RIBA Plan of Work – the industry blueprint for the process management of a build. While this still remains as the ‘go-to’ map for how a construction process should take place, digital innovation continues to transform many aspects of its project workflow. This can be seen in the likes of ‘Part 3 – Changing Processes’ where the use of digital tools is helping to shift the balance away from 2D information towards 3D and data. Digital site surveys are also becoming the norm, using cloud surveys, photogrammetry, lidar sensors and the ability to mount cameras on drones, to help with the success of projects. BIM (Building Information Modeling) BIM can be used to improve the design, construction and operation of buildings, making them safer for end users Feeding into this is also the greater use of BIM (Building Information Modeling). This digital approach can be used to improve the design, construction and operation of buildings, making them safer for end users. Again, it’s a concept that has been around for some time, but the recent shift in perceptions has allowed this way of working to flourish, with three quarters of specifiers now using BIM, compared to just one in ten a decade ago. Digitization – The only way forward It’s obvious to see that shifting to digital has an immeasurable benefit to the future of the construction industry. Not only do digital tools improve standards, reduce mistakes and improve record keeping and auditing at every stage, but it also keeps costs down and drives up quality. From previous history, we’ve seen that the construction industry is notorious for dragging its heels when it comes to change, but as we’ve seen so far, the quicker it adopts this way of thinking, the quicker improvements in fire safety and compliance can be achieved. ‘Build Back Better’ We’ve heard the government talk of ‘Build Back Better’ and the digitization of the industry will hold all the keys to ensuring this is possible. If nothing else, the construction industry owes it to the victims and survivors of the Grenfell fire tragedy to make sure that all is being done to eradicate the chances of future mistakes from happening again.
In any business, fire can cause significant damage and substantial loss of revenue, assets, or productivity due to a period of downtime. However, fires can be prevented through continuous temperature monitoring, as it can detect hot spots or rising temperatures that may lead to a fire. Temperature monitoring, in combination with effective suppression systems, can largely reduce fire risk and safeguard your teams, assets and the environment. How thermal imaging supports fire detection and suppression An effective method of monitoring temperature to aid fire detection and suppression is thermal imaging. Many thermal imaging cameras can work in conjunction with fire detection systems, by providing automatic alerts Thermal imaging cameras work by measuring infrared radiation. Invisible to the human eye, infrared radiation is detectable to thermal cameras, as it releases heat. Thermal imaging cameras measure the amount of heat (or infrared radiation) released from an object or in an area. The findings are then converted into images or videos, which show ‘hot spots’ as bright, orange-like markings, in comparison to cooler areas, which appear dark and blue-like. Thermal imaging cameras are described as ‘non-contact’, as they have the ability to monitor temperatures from a significant distance, providing view is not obstructed. Working In Conjunction Many thermal imaging cameras can work in conjunction with fire detection systems, by providing automatic alerts when the temperature reaches or exceeds a certain limit, or increases at a fast pace. These alerts then trigger an alarm, allowing for quick response and mitigation of high temperatures, reducing the risk of a fire breaking out or spreading. The ability to detect heat or hot spots that are invisible to the naked eye, and untraceable by traditional fire detection methods, such as smoke detectors, prove Temperature monitoring can largely reduce fire risk and safeguard your teamsthermal imaging cameras to be an incredibly effective addition to any business’ fire detection system. Thermal imaging cameras can be connected with fire suppression systems, allowing you to entirely automate your response to fires, meaning you can focus on the safe evacuation of your teams. Systems can be integrated to allow your suppression solution to be automatically released if high temperatures are detected, for example. The benefits of thermal imaging Using thermal imaging to support fire detection and suppression has a variety of benefits, including: Detecting high temperatures before a fire breaks out – the fundamental benefit of thermal imaging is the ability to detect heat or monitor rises in heat before a fire begins. This allows for appropriate measures to be carried out to lower temperatures to avoid risk of a fire breaking out. It can also help to identify shortfalls in existing fire prevention measures, which may have resulted in the increase in temperature, allowing for the rectification of these issues. Detecting smaller flames – due to the ability to monitor subtle temperature changes, thermal imaging has the capability to detect and alert to small fires in early stages, which conventional smoke detectors may not be able to detect. Monitoring even in low-light – as thermal imaging cameras do not require light to be able to capture an image, they are ideal for use in low-light environments. This allows for continuous monitoring at night when facilities are unoccupied, providing 24/7 protection. Protecting in multiple ways – thermal imaging can be used not only for fire detection and prevention, but also for security purposes and equipment monitoring. Their constant monitoring will record any trespassers on-site and can be connected with security alarms to notify facilities owners or managers of a break-in. In addition, the temperature of equipment can be consistently monitored, highlighting any faults that may occur when the facility is vacant Where is thermal imaging best used? Thermal imaging cameras can be an effective form of fire detection in a variety of settings. However, they are often most suitable for use in environments which work with combustible materials, have unconventional infrastructures or have operations involving open flames: Environments working with combustible materials – many businesses, such as construction, waste facilities, manufacturing and agriculture, work with combustible materials. This increases the risk of fire, as combustible materials can easily cause a fire to begin and spread if combined with heat or other ignition sources. Thermal imaging cameras can monitor these operations consistently, to quickly detect increases in heat that could result in spontaneous combustion. Facilities with unconventional infrastructures – across a facility, there are a number of components which can present fire risk. Often, these components are in areas that are difficult to monitor on an ongoing basis. Thermal imaging cameras can monitor specific areas or pieces of equipment, such as boilers or furnaces, to continuously monitor temperatures and alert to any abnormal increases in temperature. Operations working with open flames – in facilities where open flames are used in normal operations, such as on construction sites, thermal cameras can monitor existing flames. This ensures the active fire is effectively and safely contained to one area Thermal imaging cameras are an effective method of enhancing your fire detection and suppression systems, by monitoring temperatures 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to protect your teams, assets and the environment.
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