You’re convinced of the importance of heavy equipment fire suppression systems for mitigating the risks associated with fires. Your next step is to select a system manufacturer you’d like to work with. With so many choices, how do you ensure you’re choosing the best partner with the most reliable product?
Based on decades of experience interacting with end users, equipment dealers, and distributors, we’ve compiled a list of five questions to ask when evaluating a potential fire suppression system partner.
1 – What’s Your Experience and Expertise When it Comes to Systems for Heavy Equipment?
In such high-stakes industries that utilize heavy-duty mobile equipment worth millions of dollars, it’s critical that a fire suppression system manufacturer has proven experience with successful installations of equipment in the field. Only through experience does a company collect feedback to continuously improve system operation based on real-world needs.
Additionally, many fire suppression providers dabble in a variety of applications, ranging from commercial kitchens and buildings to small vehicles – all in addition to heavy-duty mobile equipment. Specialization is a differentiator among several manufacturers. A manufacturer that specializes in providing fire suppression systems for large mobile equipment, such as dozers and shovels, can fine-tune their solutions to meet the harsh and unique demands experienced only by these machines.
2 – How Knowledgeable and Responsive Is Your Distributor Network?
Fire suppression system manufacturers utilize a network of distributors to aid in sales, installation, and maintenance in a given local market. It is crucial that system providers partner with distributors who are trustworthy and have proven experience in heavy equipment environments. The system provider should also have a very hands-on relationship with their distributor network, specifically as it relates to communication, continuous training, and technical support.
Here are some additional questions you can ask your potential provider related to their distributor partners:
- Do your partners specialize in heavy-duty mobile equipment environments?
- How often do you communicate with your distributors?
- Do you provide on-site installation or maintenance support?
- What regular training opportunities do you provide for your distributors?
- How often do you require training renewals?
3 – What Components Contribute to Your System’s Reliability?
You’re protecting heavy equipment worth millions of dollars, so it’s critical the fire suppression systems you select have components that contribute to its reliability. A system with high-quality components has several benefits, including maximized performance and easier inspections, ultimately resulting in a lower total cost of ownership.
While not a complete list, here are some heavy equipment fire suppression system components that add to system reliability:
Unlike commonly used pressurized systems that house propellant inside the tank, side-cartridge tanks store propellant in separate, sealed cartridges. This side-cartridge setup is preferred on equipment used in heavy industries because of excessive vibration that can cause a less robust pressurized system to leak.
Stainless Steel Distribution Network
Stainless steel tubing is an upgrade from the typical hosing used to transport fire suppressing agent from the tanks to the nozzles. Stainless steel does not twist or tangle among the many hydraulic lines like hosing can. It provides a clean and organized appearance. And it’s nearly maintenance-free, reducing costly and timely hose replacements due to dry rot.
Hinged Nozzle Caps
A simple addition to the nozzles that spray the agent onto the machine components, hinged nozzle caps keep dust and debris from interfering with system operation. The hinged feature also prevents the caps from completely falling off which can lead to compliance citations
Control Panel Features
Panels are installed in the equipment cab, alerting an operator to a fire and automatically discharging the system. A panel should be durable, easy to understand, and provide access to data logs. Advanced panels also allow for telematics integration that enable asset managers to track the system’s status alongside other key operating metrics quickly and conveniently.
4 – Are Your Heavy Equipment Fire Suppression Systems Independently Tested and Approved?
Third-party testing by reputable compliance organizations is the only way to definitively measure a system’s dependability. Testing is a rigorous process that simulates years of field use, giving you peace of mind that a system will perform as expected.
Not all tests are created equal, though. Here are some industry approvals that a reputable fire suppression system manufacturer should hold:
- Factory Mutual – Heavy-Duty Mobile Equipment (FM HDME) is the industry’s most comprehensive and rigorous testing approval specifically for vehicle-mounted fire suppression systems. Approved systems undergo over 100 individual tests and evaluations, such as shock and vibration and pressure gauge accuracy testing. Note: There are several FM approvals in the “Fixed Extinguishing Systems” category, however, HDME is the only one created to evaluate systems specifically for use on heavy-duty off-road equipment.
- ActivFire – Australian Standard AS 5062:2016 is an approval that specifies the minimum requirements for fire protection system design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance for use on mobile and transportable equipment.
- A CE mark is required by the vast majority of Europe for any product being sold into the region. The CE mark is achieved by passing several tests and indicates the manufacturer takes responsibility for the compliance of a product with all applicable European health, safety, performance, and environmental requirements.
- ISO 9001:2015 is a standard used by organizations to demonstrate their ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and regulatory requirements, and to demonstrate continuous improvement.
5 – Can You Tell Me About Your Customer Service and Product Support Resources?
High-quality customer service is vital to a successful system installation. Ask your potential fire suppression system partner to walk you through their in-house support teams and how each is available to assist you and the distributor each step of the way, from the initial fire risk assessment and ordering to installation and service and maintenance.
It’s critical that the system provider shows a responsive attitude, answering questions and responding to concerns in a timely manner. And again, don’t be afraid to ask for customer references to get unbiased insight into the service level you can expect from the manufacturer, not just prior to the purchase but after as well.