Keeping Pace with fire detection and prevention technologies

Dec '99 Fire & Safety

For many years Chubb Electronic Security has worked at the forefront of fire detection and protection technologies, making full use of its extensive links with its various worldwide partners including the UK-based Williams PLC stable.

In line with the revised terms of the Montreal Protocol which banned the manufacture of Halon, Chubb makes extensive use of two internationally acclaimed fire extinguishing products which, according to the company's Systems Sales Manager Andre Morse, offer the consumer the best available alternative gases, namely argonite and FM200.

Environmentally friendly argonite

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.

Says Morse; "This product has been extensively tested by regulatory bodies throughout the world and has 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."

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

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

The system comprises one or more pressure cylinders which are connected via a common manifold that can be activated either manually or automatically via a fire detection system. The gas is then discharged through a pipe network and enters the protected area via a nozzle.

A unique valve design, the size and pressure of the cylinders and computer calculated pipe and nozzle dimension ensures that the correct amount of argonite is released into the risk area. An easy-to-read gauge on each cylinder enables convenient inspection of the agent pressure and a pressure switch is also fitted on each cylinder to allow remote monitoring of the system's integrity.

FM200, effective chemical solution

Another alternative, and equally effective, gas is FM200, a chemical gas which requires a relatively low concentration to extinguish fires.

It is suited for use in occupied areas such as control rooms, computer rooms and telecoms rooms and comes into its own where space to store the cylinders is at a premium and ease of installation is a must.

"The FM200 system 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," says Morse, adding that the gas is so safe to humans that it is already being 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 C02

Another alternative from the Chubb stable is the use of tried and tested C02 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, Escom 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 instal 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.

For details contact Andre Morse of Chubb Electronic Security on tel: (011) 653 2500.

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