Minimal/Non-Compliance with Regulations Cannot Go On

Would you enter a building if you were told as you stepped in that in the event of a fire there was a chance that the extinguishing system wouldn’t put it out? No! People expect, and rightfully so, that in the event of a fire the extinguishing systems would be in full working order to do just that – extinguish. Why have a fire extinguishing system if you cannot be 100% sure it is going to work? This is not a game of chance. The lives of people depend upon it. So why is this haphazard and dangerous attitude to maintenance continuing? Enough is enough. The technology exists right now to ensure that the fixed fire systems are in a constant state of operational readiness.

After a year of Coltraco Ultrasonics’ continued efforts to make the ‘ungoverned space’ in the fire industry heard, understood and actioned upon, the problem is starting to be recognised by some, but not all. Some have finally realised that minimal compliance with regulations is just not enough, and that the need to go above and beyond the standards exists for safety critical environments and high value assets. But simply identifying the problems with the regulations is not enough. This haphazard approach is dangerous and often unknown to the users of the infrastructure. The ungoverned space in the fire industry must end now. Change must happen and faster than it has been. Action must be taken and people must be kept safe from the danger of fire. The regulations and the attitude towards them must change. The technology exists to go above and beyond them.

What is the ungoverned space?

Simply put, the ‘ungoverned space’ is the area in the fire industry where either the regulations or the protecting systems of the critical infrastructure are not effectively providing consistent and reliable safety. Coltraco repeatedly push for this life-threatening issue to be dealt with, with specific regard to loss of contents in fixed fire extinguishing systems and need for improvements to room integrity testing.

  • Regulations mandate that gaseous systems are checked for contents once annually. The facts and the knowledge are out there: gaseous systems leak. i.e. the very part of the installation which puts out the fire. This is because they are dynamic systems: the contents are pressurised , which is why one annual check comes short in dealing with the probability of discharge or leakage for the other 364 days per annum between certification checks.
  • Coupled with this, as buildings age, undergo development and refurbishments, leak sites develop. This destroys the room integrity. Protected space integrity is essential for fire safety: the room must be able to hold the gas once released in order to suppress the fire, and the room must be able to withstand the pressure of its release.

Despite consistent efforts from us all within the fire industry to improve the standards, we can all learn from the two aspects of the Ungoverned Space, which is unnecessarily risky. In their experience, Coltraco have numerous concerning anecdotes of non-compliance: systems portrayed and installed by contractors as NOVEC™ 1230 but filled with sand or water… room integrity testing with questionable results and with the room integrity remaining un-monitored after testing… liquefied extinguishants being confused by installers with Inert gas systems… service engineers asking how to test the liquid level in powder… the list goes on.

“Meeting minimum fire standards is not enough”

In response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy, June 2017, Council Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan said “The fire in Kensington has made one thing clear – just meeting minimum fire standards is not enough. The regulations are clearly not good enough so we will be going above and beyond what is required.” Quite clearly Coltraco are not the only ones who think this either. The regulations need to be promoting maintenance so that the systems are always ready to perform, the actuality of their purpose, not intermittent and unreliable annual checks.

The technology exists right now to solve this problem.  

For contents verification, there are inspection tools currently in use – and a nod to the future of constant monitoring remotely 24/7 365: Coltraco manufacture the portable liquid level indicator Portalevel™ used by fire technicians for the contents checking of CO2, old Halons, FM-200™ and NOVEC™ 1230. Portalevel™ liquid level readings are then converted to agent weight readings via the Portasteele™ Calculator - the world’s first.
Constant monitoring of the contents of gaseous systems is now enabled via the 24/7 system Permalevel™ Multiplex, but the fire industry is highly resistant to using technology to constantly monitor the pressurised systems which it installs. The Permalevel® Multiplex is the first system worldwide that is capable of monitoring the liquid level indicator of critical fire suppression cylinder systems on a constant basis. It gives a facility total visibility on the real-time status of all their critical fire systems. Continuous monitoring must be implemented, in 2018, this is expected.  

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