The benefits of PPV, both for active and passive purposes have been well known to fire services for some time, but recent advances in PPV technology have led to a rewriting of the rule book in this critical area of effective firefighting. In addition to the general risks associated with confined-space rescues there are additional factors to consider due to the dangers of asphyxiation, poisoning and explosion. A significant proportion of injuries and fatalities in confined-space operations are as a result of atmospheric hazards which can be largely combatted by the correct use of PPV fans.
It’s fair to say that choosing the right PPV can be something of a minefield, particularly given the number of options available in today’s marketplace. Perhaps the most important issue lies firstly in convincing potential users that there is a need for them at all. Thankfully there is a growing acceptance by the industry that there is an intrinsically important role for PPV to play in modern firefighting. The questions then follow: which brand, what size and what drive?
There are a number of PPV manufacturers to choose from, all offering a range of options of varying performance and costs. From a performance perspective it is perhaps always advisable to consider the manufacturers that back up their claims with independently certified airflows. AMCA (the Air Movement and Control Association) provides independent third-party airflow certifications held by some leading PPV manufacturers.
From a drive perspective PPV fans are generally available in four options: fuel driven, electrically powered, water driven, or battery powered. The new era of lithium-battery-powered PPVs has had a big impact on the market over the last year, providing enhanced operational flexibility and rapid deployment. Whilst there is unquestionably still a place for the more widely known petrol, electric and water-driven fans, there are a number of key advantages offered by the new battery-powered alternatives.
There is a perception that battery-powered PPV can have limitations where runtimes are concerned. This may be the case in some instances but certainly not all. As manufacturers have progressed development of this new technology there are now battery-powered PPV fans on the market that boast unlimited runtimes thanks to the ability to swap out batteries during use, thereby providing uninterrupted performance beyond the capabilities of older technologies. The progress in this area lies largely in the advancements in battery technology. The move to high-energy, high-density 40V lithium-ion batteries has enabled manufacturers to meet the high draw and sustained runtime demanded by PPV fans.
Further advancements have been integrated into this new breed of PPVs such as high-powered LED floodlights, providing crews with good entry reference points in smoke-impaired, low-light conditions. Another clear advantage of battery PPVs is the compact nature of these units, which minimises on-board stowage issues and aids fast, uninhibited deployment. The obvious concerns over carrying fuel or the potential trip hazards of hardwired alternatives are fully negated by the use of battery fans. As mentioned previously, performance is often questioned when discussing battery PPV fans, but in reality they punch well above their weight with some manufacturers’ models achieving AMCA-certified airflows befitting far larger alternatives.
A relatively unknown secondary benefit of PPV is its ability to be integrated with misting systems for firefighter rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation in the fire service is very important to maintain. Firefighters are always up against extreme conditions which have the potential to adversely affect their health. Rehabilitation on the fire ground can help prevent on-site injury, or indeed death. Protective measures need to be taken to keep firefighters safe.
According to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members during Emergency Operations and Training Exercises, ‘This standard establishes the minimum criteria for developing and implementing a rehabilitation process for fire department members at incident scene operations and training exercises.’
NFPA 1584 explains the requirements to maintain health and safety for firefighters, which includes rest and recovery, EMS treatment, rehydration, medical monitoring and active cooling, which is where rehabilitation misting comes in.
Rehabilitation misting is important for lowering the body temperature of firefighters after superheated interior operations, or wildfire operations. Climate conditions play a big role in how firefighters’ body temperatures are affected, which is a huge health factor for the firefighters themselves.
During and after interior operations, it is well documented that firefighters can suffer from heat-related stress and illnesses. A ‘rehab’ area should be set up for them to rehydrate, cool down and lower their core body temperature into normal range – firefighters have been known to spike body temperatures over 100°F (37.8°C) after completing a mission. Ventilation fans that include misters provide an effective and efficient way to bring down body temperatures to a healthy level.
Thankfully, there are many PPV misters available on the market today, but whichever mister is chosen, the fan can fulfil multiple applications throughout the operation: firstly as a tactical ventilator during or immediately following the firefighting operations, and secondly as a rehab mister for recovering firefighter health. The combination of gentle airflow (significantly decreased from its tactical use at the incident) and the misters creates a comfortable cooling atmosphere to facilitate recovery.
In addition, there are an increasing number of firefighters who actively use misting during tactical ventilation operations to help cool the interior atmosphere, which can assist in preventing rapid fire spread if employed properly.
The most effective PPV misters available are those that incorporate nozzles to create a much finer mist – the smaller the water droplet, the more surface area there is to absorb heat, thus better cooling of the local atmosphere. In fact, some of the more popular fans available have a dedicated ‘rehab’ setting on the speed control, which is optimised for rehab-misting operations, creating a low-noise, low-velocity airflow that helps lower the air temperature without getting the firefighters too wet.
Maintaining firefighter health is vital when going out on calls. Often, emergencies are back-to-back, so monitoring and addressing their well-being is part of the job. With proper equipment, such as ventilation and misting options, firefighters will have the strength and energy to continue with the job, significantly minimising operator downtime.
Without question the developments in PPV over recent times have had an extremely positive impact on improving firefighters’ operational health and safety, and the introduction of battery-powered units leads the field in this regard. The addition of well-thought-out practical ranges of PPV accessories, such as misting systems, door bars for smoke-ejection operations, on-appliance chargers and integrated scene lighting, has provided fire services with the ability to help safeguard areas of high-risk operation.
Although most commonly used by Fire & Rescue Services, there is now an increasing use of PPV across a wide range of industry sectors. PPV fans have been used for many years by global Naval fleets, but the benefits are now appreciated by a far wider marine-based audience, including the off-shore oil and gas sectors, merchant shipping and cruise lines. The industrial sector offers multiple applications such as vapour clearance, dust suppression, cooling and smoke removal. Specialist fans are available for use in manholes or confined spaces to create improved atmospheres pre-entry and a range of explosion-proof ATEX-rated fans provide solutions for use on high-risk sites.
All in all, the PPV market is in a very good place, offering users a vast choice to meet their specific requirements and budgets. Price will no doubt play a big part in the decision-making process, but care should be taken in making sure the right PPV fan is selected for the specific application. Without question the new lithium-ion battery fans are set to dominate the industry over the coming years, and for good reason given their high-performance capabilities, unlimited runtimes and the exceptional versatility offered by some brands. Most importantly, the innovative work that PPV manufacturers have carried out in this field over recent years can only have a positive effect in improving firefighter health and safety.
For more information, go to www.deltafire.co.uk