Every improvement in fire protection systems is of vital importance, because this is a technology that can save lives. Fortunately, fire safety equipment is becoming increasingly sophisticated and effective at rapidly detecting, containing, extinguishing and suppressing fires. Most importantly, new technology is creating more time to evacuate people at risk from buildings.
A distinction needs to be made between passive fire protection, such as fire doors and smoke alarms, and active methods of suppression, such as fire sprinklers or water mist and gaseous systems. Passive fire protection is a critical safety element but in areas where the public, and particularly the elderly and vulnerable, could be at risk, it is not enough on its own. For instance, if a fire door is left wide open by mistake, it has no safety value whatsoever.
The increasing diversity of high performance active fire suppression products and intelligent warning systems has allowed building owners and facilities managers to take a strategic approach to both the installation and maintenance of fire safety equipment. More often than not, particularly on larger projects, a bespoke solution will be required and there are now numerous ways that this demand can be met.
Furthermore, as with our installation of a water mist system at the new Bloc Hotel at Gatwick, fire protection installations are increasingly configured into the building design at an early stage. This is an excellent and laudable approach to health & safety.
Ultra Surefire is able to provide customers with a fully comprehensive range of fire protection products and fire alarm systems and, importantly, with fire engineering specialists and technicians that have exceptional experience and skill in servicing and maintaining every mechanical and electrical element involved. All our engineers work for the company, so we can assure customers of an integrated, reliable and best in class response to their requirements.
It is also worth emphasising here that, for us as with other committed professionals in our sector, supplying fire suppression solutions is not only a business but a vocation. As previously mentioned, our work is about potentially saving lives so we genuinely believe in quality without compromise and our customers can be assured that we don’t cut corners in the interests of cutting costs!
Fire sprinkler systems are amongst the most common forms of active fire protection and have been tried, tested and proven highly effective over time. It is also worth considering that the volume of water used to control a fire by an automatic fire sprinkler system, as long as it is properly designed, installed and maintained, will be significantly less than that used by the fire service to control and extinguish the same fire.
Nevertheless, using fire sprinklers will lead to some unavoidable water damage and this can be a serious problem, especially when assets of value are in the vicinity. The advent of water mist fire protection technology has therefore been a huge leap forward. Its significant reduction in water usage and corresponding damage has made it a natural choice for a range of locations where valuable items are located, from historic buildings to data centres. Its gentle action also significantly reduces the traumatic effect on people in the fire’s vicinity, so hotels and residential care homes are increasingly opting for water mist system installations.
Additionally, there are a number of advantages in using water mist fire protection over traditional sprinkler systems. These include ease of installation, low maintenance of suppression systems, reduced water tank storage space and the opportunity to use narrow diameter pipework and concealed water mist spray nozzles for a discreet presence within a building’s interior environment.
Fire consists of a triangle of elements: fuel, oxygen and heat. By removing any of these elements a fire can be controlled. Water mist fire safety equipment will provide rapid and effective fire suppression by utilising the thermal energy generated by the fire and converting it to steam. 1 litre of water will use in excess of 2MJ of energy to change from its liquid phase at 99oC to a vapour base at 100oC. With a Class B fire, such as a fat or oil fire in a fried food outlet or oil or diesel in a machinery space, water mist will create a layer of steam between the fuel and its oxygen supply.
The secret of success of firefighting equipment based on the water mist principle lies in the size of droplets. Conventional fire sprinklers create 1mm droplets, one litre of which will take 6.2 seconds to convert to steam. Water mist’s 100 micron droplets will make the conversion in 0.0006 seconds. So, with a fire in a fat fryer, while conventional water droplets will sink into the oil pan, expanding the oil so that it erupts and ignites, water mist will remain on the surface of the oil, effectively smothering the fire.
Water mist vapour provides all-pervasive fire protection and can travel everywhere and extinguish hidden fires. Water mist systems will also create a coating of water on the walls of a room to prevent the fire from spreading. Furthermore, smoke damage is reduced because of smoke particles binding to water particles. Most importantly, this binding action significantly reduces the chance of smoke inhalation, which is one of the main causes of death from fire incidents.
For many years, water mist technology was hampered by the inability of standards authorities to allow it full recognition within the range of fire protection equipment. This was because writers of technical standards could not rate its performance against existing firefighting equipment because there was nothing comparable on the market.
Back in 2010, Ultra Surefire made history by being the first fire protection company to test its products under the new draft British Standard DD8458-1:2010 for water mist appliances. This involved a series of rigorous tests at the BRE (Building Research Establishment) for the fast response low pressure LPR water mist nozzle from Ultramist, designed for fire safety equipment requirements in domestic and residential applications including multiple private accommodation blocks, student accommodation blocks, private dwellings and care homes.
We conducted also a live test and presentation day at the BRE, for an invited audience of fire engineers, Health & Safety officers, architects, consultants and other specialists, who were able to see the action unfold in the test chamber. This realistically depicted fire suppression events in three typical room locations, with real-time temperature readings shown via monitor screens. Participants in the day-long event were also able to view our UltraGuard portable low pressure water mist solution performing in tests.
Through our test and demonstration programmes, Ultra Surefire has promoted water mist and other important innovations in fire protection technology. We have done our bit in proving the acceptability of leading edge solutions to H&S professionals and have therefore been able to provide customers with widely increased choice.
Every type of fire safety equipment is undergoing continual improvements in performance. Fire alarms and smoke detectors are becoming more accurate and less likely to create false alarms. For areas where water damage is a particular risk, such as IT and data centres, there is a range of sophisticated gaseous systems based on inert gases, clean chemical gases and CO2.
From complex installations requiring critically precise design configurations to reliable and easy-to-use fire extinguishers, Ultra Surefire has solutions that meet and exceed all the required regulations and standards. Our highly qualified engineers also have the skills and experience to support our customers in all areas of technical support, from the service of fire alarms to the maintenance of fire suppression systems, regardless of scale and complexity.
Of course, every one of our customers very much hope that our solutions never have to be used, but we ensure that if they do need to perform in real-life fire incidents, they are manufactured and maintained to the very highest standards. After all, fire protection technology is one of the most essential forms of life insurance that money can buy!