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The value of electronic activation in fire suppression systems

Testing for the research included reporting on two enclosed experiments, replicating scenarios that would enable the researchers to report on the hazards that are not currently captured by existing standard test methods

New research finds that concealed fire sprinklers activate two to 13 times slower than electronically-controlled automatic watermist fire suppression systems (AWFSS).

Due to be published next month (June 2022) the research undertaken by Plumis, Ashton Fire and OFR Consultants has been partially funded by an Innovate UK Smart Grant. 

The research is part of a wider project that is examining the performance of electronically controlled nozzle watermist suppression systems in comparison to traditional sprinkler systems to reduce the number of fire-related fatalities and injuries.

Testing for the research included reporting on two enclosed experiments, replicating scenarios that would enable the researchers to report on the hazards that are not currently captured by existing standard test methods. 

For example, one of the scenarios assessed the suppression systems’ ability to tackle a smouldering and slow-burning refrigerator fire, which produces a high volume of toxic smoke but limited heat. This type of fire is more representative of a typical domestic fire as most do not spread beyond the room of origin.

Traditional sprinklers depend on heat for activation, but in this experiment the research team was able to identify whether alternative systems and technology can offer reliable, early detection and suitable intervention – supporting the recommendations made by the BRE in 2019 to reduce fire fatalities.

Yusuf Muhammad, co-founder at Plumis and co-author of the research, said: “Being overcome by gas or smoke remains one of the biggest killers in domestic fires. 

“Electronic activation, as shown from this research, can significantly improve the time it takes for a fire suppression system to start to tackle a fire compared to existing sprinkler systems. The earlier operation, combined with activation at a much lower temperature than that required to burst the glass bulb of a sprinkler, helps reduce smoke and maintain survivable conditions.

“The findings of the research provide fire engineers with the input parameters and assumptions necessary to represent these systems in performance-based assessments – ensuring the best fire suppression solution is chosen for the fire safety requirement they are making recommendations for.”

Charlie Hopkin, CFD Lead/Associate at Ashton Fire and another research co-author, said: “The capability of watermist solutions as an alternative to sprinklers is an area of interest that I have wanted to explore for a while, so the opportunity to support Plumis with various research items over the last few years has been a valuable experience. In my interactions with the Plumis team, I’ve seen an enthusiasm to engage industry third parties in receiving important feedback, as well as a willingness to fund research and experiments to explore common industry questions around the performance of their systems.”

The research has been published in the Fire Safety Journal and is free to download until 1st June – view the full paper, HERE.  

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