Why rapid response combined with mobile water mist applications is the way forward

Published:  06 March, 2013

A rapid response to any fire is vital, but this is especially so at a motor racing or rally circuit where fuel and speed create a highly dangerous scenario. For this, the rapid deployment of firefighters and equipment is of paramount importance,  writes Olaf Hempel, Sales Director, Advanced Firefighting Technology (AFT).

These circuits mix sweeping open spaces alongside confined areas, such as the pit lanes and garages, and there can be a good distance between track fires and the firefighting units. Although the highest fire safety standards are adhered to, the harsh reality is that the combination of flammable material, fuel and power sources, plus the speed involved, means a fire could break out at anytime.

In Formula 1 the cars are fully fuelled before a race and have a 700V battery on board – a combination with the flammable potential of a small bomb. As oxygen enters the tank during the race, the risk of danger only increases. Collisions or pit lane accidents add to the fire hazard and although refuelling in the pit lane is now forbidden, flammable liquids and materials are still present.

Water mist technology

A recent breakthrough in fire suppression technology has significantly raised standards in fire safety, and not just for motor racing. By utilising water mist technology with compressed air foam systems, these units combine portability with the ability to handle both petrol and electric fires and suppress fires rapidly.

These systems work effectively on all class A and B fires and can be transported quickly by compact pick-up trucks and adapted motorbikes to the scene of a fire or on foot as a backpack.

Water mist utilises a combination of water and compressed air, providing the optimum droplet size to effectively cool and blanket a fire. Put simply, regular extinguisher nozzles can produce droplets which are too big and do not attack the flame across a large enough surface area. Too small droplets (think of the fine spray produced by sprinklers) do not attack flames with enough water to break them down. Using water mist technology, you can achieve a consistent droplet size that spreads across the whole flame and suppresses it effectively.

Another advantage is that the ‘atomisation’ process, whereby compressed air is mixed in the tank with water or other extinguishing agents, such as foam. This means applications can support dual-mode firefighting, allowing firefighters to control both the lancing distance and pressure levels. This is particularly useful for two reasons:

Firefighters can switch between spray and jet mode at any time. This makes it easy to blanket and cool fires at close quarters using a fine spray or to blast fires from distances, using jet mode, with lancing distances of 16-19 metres - ideal at motor racing circuits with people, products or machinery in the equation.

These appliances operate at low-pressure levels, meaning there is little recoil, giving firefighters near-total control of the direction of the extinguisher.

Portability is key

In congested areas, fire appliances need to be very mobile. Backpacks and trolley units that are small, manoeuvrable and easy to handle are ideal around the circuit or pit lane. They are easily portable and take up far less space than traditional firefighting applications - the days of bulky semi-fixed fire extinguishers should be over.

For higher class fires or instances around the large track circuit, heavy fire trucks are not ideal due to their lack of speed and mobility. There is also the complication of the fixed heavy hoses on fire trucks and the time it takes to deploy them.

A more effective solution is to use portable modular units fitted onto different types of multi–purpose vehicles, including in vans or on the back of pick-up trucks. Using water mist technology, these modular units can carry enough extinguishing agent (approximately 200L up to 1000L of water / 25L of foam) to deal with larger fires.

Due to cost and space restraints, having heavily manned firefighting units on every corner of a track is unrealistic. However, providing a rapid response with mobile, ergonomically designed and low pressure water mist applications means that fires at motor racing and rally circuits can be responded to in seconds, buying valuable time and potentially saving lives.

All in all, motor racing circuits bring all kinds of simultaneous challenges to fire safety units and the speed of first response time is crucial in an environment where fires spread rapidly. Using light, portable, mobile water mist applications means firefighters are equipped to respond quickly and effectively to fires at their very outbreak, providing an alternative to large fire engines with heavy equipment that are time consuming to deploy.

  • Operation Florian

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