It’s Time for Fire Suppression to Get Smart

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( — June 12, 2020) — The methods we have employed to suppress structure fires haven’t changed much in the last few decades. We rely heavily on techniques and equipment developed as far back as the 1950s and 60s. It is better than nothing, but isn’t it time we introduce modern technology to the equation? Absolutely. It is time for fire suppression to get smart.

The Home Office reported more than 184,000 fire incidents in England for the 12 months ending March 2019. That represents an 18% increase over the year before. Some of the increase has been attributed to the excessively hot and dry summer of 2018. Nonetheless, an increase is an increase.

Equally important as the numbers themselves is how we go about suppressing so many fires. Knowing what we know about artificial intelligence, deep learning, and advanced sensor technology, it seems that there’s plenty of room to improve current fire suppression systems.

  1. Smart Fire Extinguishers a Start

This post will not mention any specific companies in an effort to avoid unintended endorsements. However, it will discuss some products that are already in the pipeline, beginning with the smart fire extinguisher. There is the company currently working on a fire extinguisher capable of identifying the location of a fire and then concentrating suppression actions in that direction.

This amazing device has been promoted as a fire suppression tool for the blind. It is a great idea. But it can be deployed in all sorts of residential and commercial structures regardless of occupant sight abilities. The smart fire extinguisher automatically reacts at the first sign of a fire, thus attacking the problem more quickly and with greater accuracy.

How does it work? Onboard sensors detect the presence of fire much the same way smoke and fire detectors do. Because the sensors are directional, they can also pinpoint the location of a fire in progress. The extinguisher automatically discharges to that location.

The stumbling block right now is producing smart fire extinguishers at an affordable price. The average fire extinguisher price for a manual unit is comparably less than a smart unit, so manufacturers would have to figure out how to bring prices down to encourage people to buy them.

    1. Self-Monitoring Systems

Another technology currently being worked on is the self-monitoring fire suppression system. As you probably know, fire safety regulations require regular inspections of all fire suppression equipment in commercial settings. The inspections are designed to ensure that everything is in working order.

Unfortunately, inspections do not always go off as planned. They are also not foolproof. Whenever you have human beings involved, there is room for error. A self-monitoring fire suppression system would fill in the gaps created by the current system.

Self-monitoring is accomplished with a series of sensors that measure everything from holding tank pressure to whether or not distribution lines are clear. Smart systems can also be programmed to alert owners when physical inspections are due. They can notify property owners of maintenance requirements and small problems that could become major issues down the road.

    1. Rapid Warning Systems

Smart fire extinguishers and self-monitoring suppression systems are just the start. Yet another technology now being developed revolves around rapid warning. To understand what this means, picture an employee in an industrial environment grabbing a fire extinguisher to put out what appears to be a minor equipment fire.

With current technology, there is nothing linking that fire extinguisher to the building’s fire alarm. The property owner relies on smoke detectors to alert to the presence of fire. That means the employee could spend several minutes trying to combat the fire before an alarm ever goes off. By that time, it could be too late.

Linking fire extinguishers to warning systems seems like a no-brainer. Through a series of sensors, a connection between a fire extinguisher and alarm could be easily maintained. In the event the fire extinguisher is used, that connection is broken. The alarm is immediately sounded and everyone in the building is warned.

    1. Many Technologies to Choose From

The three technologies described in this post are currently being developed. Yet smart fire suppression doesn’t end with them. There are so many technologies to choose from that it is likely we haven’t even begun to think of the full potential here.

Imagine a smart fire suppression system that covers every grade of recognised fire. It can dispense water, foam, or powder. Imagine the system being able to identify the type of fire it is dealing with so as to deploy the proper suppressant. We already have the technology to do it. Now we just need a manufacturer to invest in it.

Smart technology can do a lot of amazing things these days. From voice-controlled lighting to remotely monitoring video cameras with a mobile phone, smart technology has put a lot of raw power into our hands. It is time to introduce that power to fire suppression. It’s time that fire suppression got smart.