Industry professionals will be acutely aware of the importance of good information when preventing and tackling fires. To coordinate safe and appropriate responses, we will become increasingly reliant on data-harvesting technologies to give better insights into the challenges of fire prediction and mitigation. In this special report Dave Martin, Head of WeMaintain’s UK Fire Division explores how this will ultimately lead to enhanced firefighter safety.
Take, for example, Samsung’s new safety wearables for public service professionals, giving firefighting teams shared timely access to data on the heart rate, location and movement of their colleagues – a relatively understated solution that will save lives and make fire suppression easier and safer.
Perhaps the most valuable solution with wide application today would be the fire sprinkler, a sensor-powered device installed across the world at a rate of 40 million units per year, ensuring that 96% of covered buildings can handle fires without the need for fire service call outs.
By capturing information about the environment in real time and automating a response, fire sprinklers halve the likelihood of somebody getting injured in a fire – a testament to the value of both reliable and timely information.
These relatively simple solutions have empowered industry professionals to make better decisions about how to approach a fire, and to automate some of the early-stage processes of suppression.
The next step is a wider application of sensor-driven pre-emptive technology. The Internet of Things – which connects discrete sensors over a given space, then exchanges and analyses the data gathered – has already found applications in city planning and maintenance, hospitality and health – essentially anything that requires round-the-clock information to deliver safe, responsible care.
IoT sensors can continuously monitor electrical systems and identify smokeless, invisible heat sources. Once an increase in temperature is detected, safety and inspection teams can be alerted immediately. IoT temperature sensors can be an important addition to traditional smoke detectors by detecting fires faster.
Smart devices can not only monitor buildings to detect fires, they can also provide fire stations with enhanced computer-aided dispatch and improved situational awareness for firefighters and activate sprinklers.
Crucially, simple sensor-based systems can also attach and detach from existing builds without fundamentally changing the physical infrastructure. Rigging the hardware to capture information about everyday items, building managers gain a wealth of new knowledge about the internal dynamics of their property and how it is used. For example, the right people will know which fire doors are open and for how long, where a fire started and what caused it, which extinguishers are spent or missing, and so on.
The untapped potential of these solutions for suppression only follows from lack of general awareness. Beyond efficiency, it is estimated that intelligent fire systems, wired up with IoT technology, would save their owners 30% on maintenance, cutting out false-alarm call-outs – currently valued at £1bn per year – and reassuring tenants with the stability of a tried and tested system. The hardware itself is relatively cheap and requires minimal modification of the environment; for this reason, some forests prone to wildfire around the world have already had sensors deployed precisely because it is the most inexpensive solution with the least amount of interference for a complex project.
By far the most convincing argument, though, is that this technology already works. IoT solutions are already in place, saving costs and lives in buildings around the world. It is a very minor step from using IoT to capture complex temperature data to regulate office HVAC systems to regulating sprinkler systems or automatically contacting the authorities.
Quality and timely information is what separates a good response from a poor one, and what allows us to put measures in place to avoid accidents altogether. Historically, technology has helped us make sense of isolated and often incomplete information as we plan suppression. But new solutions are today enough to move past this, to shift towards a primarily predictive approach that guarantees safe and reliable outcomes when it counts.
For more information, go to www.wemaintain.co.uk