As featured in SWANA Florida's Summer 2017 edition of Talking Trash.
Four Things to Consider Before Buying a Vehicle Fire Suppression System
Fire puts operators in danger, leads to costly machine repairs or replacement, and lost productivity due to downtime. The vehicle fire suppression industry is based on these simple facts, but how do you choose the best solution for your unique needs?
The following considerations are a good starting point for anyone looking to protect heavy equipment.
- Side-cartridge vs. pressurized tanks
Pressurized tanks are filled with propellant, similar to fire extinguishers like you may have at home. In situations where the physical demands on a vehicle are minimal, this type of system is sufficient. They are common in public transportation, as an example.
On the other hand, a side-cartridge system contains the propellant in separate, sealed cartridges. This type of system is generally preferred on equipment used in heavy industries like waste and mining where machine vibration can cause pressurized tanks to leak over time.
- Manual actuation vs. automatic actuation
Automatic systems use a detection circuit to monitor temperatures and discharge the system when a fire is detected. These systems do not rely on an operator, and provide a quick response time even if the fire occurs out of sight.
Manual systems require the operator to discharge them. They do not include a detection network, and are therefore less costly than automatic systems. As a result, they are popular on smaller pieces of equipment.
- Firefighting agent type
The most commonly used agent is A:B:C dry chemical, a multi-purpose agent that protects against debris, fuel, and electrical fires. Dry chemical provides fast flame knockdown, space efficiency, and suppresses fire in 3D space, making it especially effective in enclosed areas like engine compartments.
A:B liquid agent has recently gained popularity in light of Tier 4 engines. In addition to debris and fuel fire protection, its cooling properties reduce engine surface temperatures and reduce the chances of a fire reflash.
Dual agent systems use both agents together to maximize protection by focusing on the strengths of each agent.
Certifications by third-party testing organizations are the best way to confirm that a system is built for withstanding the conditions of your working environment. For example, systems certified for off-road use by Factory Mutual are subject to shock and vibration testing to simulate years in the field. Other systems may not have passed this critical test so it’s important to clarify with a potential vendor which specific certifications have been earned, and ensure that the system is certified for off-road use.
No matter the machine’s application, having a fire suppression system on board is critical. They protect operators and work environments from the threat of fire, help you avoid costly equipment replacement, and protect your bottom line from financial losses. By doing your due diligence you can identify the right system for you.