Tech Talk: Fire Suppression

In the world of fire suppression technology, the sophistication of fire detectors and control panels and the sustainability of fire extinguishing agents are currently topping the list of recent technological advancements.

"If a detector senses a fire and creates an alarm, the panel can not only tell that a potential fire exists, it can also indicate when, where and how big, and it also tracks the history of the event," explains Joseph Behnke, manager of technical services engineered systems for Tyco Safety Product's fire suppression business, Marinette, Wis.

Not only that, but the latest control panels are not only faster and smaller, but they offer increased monitoring ability with graphic displays and text messages, according to David N. Holst, department manager for plumbing and fire protection systems, Bala Consulting Engineers, Philadelphia.

"These panels offer more programming and connectivity options so that the extinguishing systems for multiple rooms, buildings or even locations can all report to one central panel," explains Holst.

With regards to clean agents, Jeff LaSalle, P.E., chief fire protection engineer for EwingCole, Philadelphia, explains that the phasing out of Halon 1301 has resulted in a significant increase in the number of viable alternatives.

"As a number of these agents are considered to be quite sustainable, this gives the facility owner or manager the peace of mind that he or she will only have to purchase the system once, eliminating a costly retrofit due to future environmental restrictions," says Behnke.

At the same time, LaSalle points out that the increased number of agents can sometimes be confusing, but it is a small price to pay for providing engineers, designers and owners with more options.

Elsewhere on the fire suppression new technology front, special purpose sprinkler heads and heads that provide greater coverage are being developed, says Holst. And while it is pretty hard to improve on the technology of pipe, there is a continuing attempt to make it stronger, lighter and cheaper, he adds.

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