Keeping pace with fire detection and prevention technologies

March/April 2000 Fire & Safety

In line with the revised terms of the Montreal Protocol that banned the manufacture of halon, Chubb Electronic Security makes extensive use of two internationally acclaimed fire extinguishing products.

According to the company's systems sales manager Andre Morse, Argonite and FM200 based products offer the consumer the best available alternative.

As an inert gas Argonite, which comprises 50% argon and 50% nitrogen, has no effect on the ozone layer or global warming and is environmentally friendly. Similarly FM200, which is a halocarbon gas, has no ozone depletion factor and experts say its potential contribution to global warming is minimal.

Says Morse; 'These products have been extensively tested by regulatory bodies throughout the world and have been found to be extremely effective against all fires in almost all combustible materials and flammable liquids.

"Argonite is particularly suitable for use in large risk areas where water, foam or powder would be completely unacceptable."

Extinguishing method

Suitable for occupied areas, argonite works by reducing the oxygen concentration level from the normal 21 to 12,55% by volume – a level which is acceptable to humans over short periods but which is incapable of sustaining a fire.

A Vds calculation computer design program is used to determine the hydraulic equations and generate the necessary information. This includes the:

* Calculation of the required inert gas quantities (according to Vds guidelines).

* Optimum dimensioning of pipes, nozzles and restrictor plates, taking the maximum system press into account.

* Calculation of the discharge time of an already designed inert gas installation.

* Simulation of a discharge.

* Calculation of the required pressure relief opening.

* Calculation of the approximate values for the gas concentrations after the discharge.

* A graphic view of the pipe system.

The program also allows for the simultaneous calculation of 21 calculation zones, 450 pipe sections and 200 nozzles.

System actuation

Argonite systems are designed to operate at either 150 or 200 bar and the cylinders and system's components are tested to 1,5 times the normal working pressure in line with international standards,

The initial cylinder in the system is actuated by means of a reusable solenoid actuator, normally controlled via a smoke detection system, which in turn actuates the remaining valves in the system pneumatically.

A manual override actuator is usually fitted to the first cylinder in case the automatic detection system fails to operate for some reason.

Each argonite valve is fitted with an easily readable pressure gauge that enables maintenance personnel to see if any pressure has been lost in the cylinder. A pressure switch is also fitted to each valve to allow for remote monitoring of any pressure loss.

Chemical solution with FM200

Equally effective is FM200, a chemical gas which requires a relatively low concentration to extinguish fires as it attacks the bromides, which sustains fire.

Says Morse; "Both products are particularly effective when used to protect computers, telecommunications facilities, archive stores, petrochemical plants, offshore oil and gas installations, gas turbines and control centres."

"The FM200 system, in particular, is a boon when space is an issue as many computer installations can be protected by a single 'modular' type cylinder which is mounted within the risk area, requiring no pipework. The gas is also very safe for use in areas where humans may be exposed to it as it has already been tested for use in the inhalers regularly used by asthma sufferers."According to Morse, FM200 is a 'pure' material (ie not a blend of controlled gases) and lies outside the classification of ozone depleting substances. As the Montreal Protocol does not apply in this instance, and continuity of supply is assured, expensive change outs are eliminated.

Tried and tested CO2

Another alternative from the Chubb stable is the use of tried and tested CO2 in extinguishing systems in unmanned areas, such as electrical substations and the like.

Since the introduction of argonite onto the local market Chubb South Africa has secured several contracts, totalling in excess of R8 million, with large organisations including Iscor, Vodacom, Eskom and various departments of the Botswana government.

FM200 has also proven popular with established and respected organisations such as ABSA, Nedcor, MTN and several government departments, including the National Intelligence Agency, opting to install systems based on this gas in their buildings.

'Thanks to our overseas interests we have access to state-of-the-art fire detection and protection technologies which many South African companies have recognised and utilised. In particular, our easy access to the Kidde range of fire products ensures that we are able to offer the local market the most comprehensive range of fire detection and protection products available today, with various international approvals such as UL, FM, FOC and Vds,' says Morse.

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