Aerosol Fire Suppression Technology

Aerosol fire suppression technology
February 2011, Fire & Safety

Steve Jansen, Sr. VP of Sales at Fireaway discusses Stat-X.

Aerosol fire suppression technology was first pioneered in the Soviet Union over 20 years ago as a result of work done on the Soyuz rocket programme. Aerosol fire suppression technology based on a potassium compound was discovered to be a superior fire suppression technology versus gas or foam systems for many applications. The advantages of the potassium aerosol generators were significant, including large savings in weight and space, procurement costs, installation costs, ongoing maintenance costs and the potential for a safe, green and highly effective fire suppression agent. However, the technology was very young and many issues needed to be overcome to make the technology a solid commercial offering.

Over time, the technology spread to other institutes in Russia and after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the owners of the technology offered licences to interested parties to develop and resell the products. They also offered licensees the ability to continue to procure the potassium-based compound from various sources within Russia. A number of companies including Pyrogen and FirePro obtained a licence and began to market Russian sourced products based on the original Russian compound with little, if any refinement.

These products are commonly referred to as Generation 1 products and while offering many advantages over gas or foam systems, they had some drawbacks including the cleanliness and consistency of the agent, construction of the generators, high temperature created during a system activation and overall product quality due to the Russian manufacturing processes. To further complicate the issue, there was no recognised standard for aerosol fire suppression products within the industry for standards bodies to test and certify against and to guide the manufacturers in building quality products.

Next generation

Fireaway also recognised the potential of this technology and obtained a licence for the technology, but rather than developing and sourcing a product based on the early Soviet architecture, we decided to redo the technology from the ground up to offer a product that would address the issues of Generation 1 products.

This included a complete redesign of the generator, the device that contains the aerosol-forming compound and upon activation produces the aerosol agent to solve the issues of high heat and product longevity and integrity. Fireaway uses only stainless steel components and the highest quality materials, such as activated alumina for cooling, and controls the entire manufacturing process of our generators.

More importantly, Fireaway recognised that the quality of the aerosol produced was wholly dependent upon the quality of the chemicals that were used to create the compound, as well as, tight controls on the manufacturing process itself. Fireaway produces the compound using only reagent grade chemicals (>99,5% pure) with a patented, proprietary formulation and manufacturing process which ensure consistent production of a cleaner aerosol without the negative by-products associated with some of the early generation 1 products.

Fireaway calls its aerosol fire suppression products Stat-X. The company has been active in participating with these worldwide certification agencies and currently has more significant approvals than any other aerosol fire suppression product.

These agencies not only test the robustness and integrity of the products, the manufacturing process, related manufacturers documentation and installation processes but also ensure that they are able to extinguish numerous fire conditions in order to be certified. In addition, Fireaway has also submitted its products to various government agencies such as the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine where our aerosol products may be safely used. The US EPA has certified Stat-X as safe for use in normally unoccupied spaces.

Visibility restrictions

It is important to note that the reason Stat-X has been certified for what is known as normally unoccupied spaces and not for use in normally occupied spaces has nothing to do with toxicity issues but rather, issues of potential obscuration. Upon activation, the Stat-X generator produces a dense, white cloud of aerosol that is very buoyant and will hang in suspension for up to an hour with little if any residue.

While the agent is an extremely effective suppression agent, it also obscures visibility, making egress potentially difficult for anyone in a space during the activation. It is also important to note that the NFPA 2010 standard mandates a 30-second time delay for system activation upon fire detection for aerosols in normally unoccupied spaces such as a computer room to allow personnel to safely exit the space prior to system discharge. This is good fire protection policy and should be used regardless of the agent being used and is, in fact, also specified for gas agents covered under NFPA 2001.

As an integral part of the certification process, the certifying agency determines what is known as an agent application rate. This is a standard measure, which includes a 30% safety factor that is applied to all products of a certain type of extinguishing method. This determines the amount of agent that must be applied when proposing their products to end users. Aerosols, just like gases such as FM-200, are classified as Total Flooding Agents meaning they are designed to protect hazards in enclosed spaces with the agent completely flooding the space that contains the hazard.

The exact amount of the application rate is determined by comprehensive testing of the agent on actual fire conditions. Stat-X has consistently been awarded not only the lowest application rate of all tested and certified aerosol products but an application rate lower than any gas product available today. In fact, Stat-X has been proven to be 5-times more effective (by mass) than halon 1301 and 10 times more effective than halon alternatives such as FM-200.

Non-toxic suppression

As you know, halon gas was one of the most effective agents ever produced for fire suppression. Unlike agents such as FM-200, which works primarily by cooling a fire, or CO2, which removes oxygen from the environment, halon gas suppressed fire by breaking the chemical reaction created in a fire condition. This is widely recognised as the most effective means of fire suppression.

However, halon gas had numerous negative side effects such as thermal breakdown in a fire condition, which created toxic gases and acids, and halon gas was determined to destroy ozone and add to global warming and has thus been banned in most of the world. Stat-X aerosol works in the same manner as halon, chemical interruption of a fire, but unlike halon or other gas agents Stat-X does not breakdown in a fire and does not create any acidic by-products.

Also, unlike CO2, Stat-X does not remove oxygen from the environment that can be lethal to humans who may be present during a CO2 discharge. Stat-X aerosol is also discharged at very low pressure, <50 psi, making it much safer for discharge around sensitive equipment and even appropriate for discharge inside electrical cabinets, chemical storage lockers, etc.

Additionally, because the Stat-X aerosol generator is self-contained with the agent, discharge device and activation element all contained within the generator, no expensive piping is required for installation. This results in significant installation and ongoing maintenance savings over gas systems.

In summary, aerosol fire suppression technology has been around for quite some time but has only within the last five years begun to gain widespread market acceptance and customer adoption.

Stat-X® aerosol fire suppression offers solutions for various types of manholes and underground vaults.

Stat-X® condensed aerosol fire suppression solutions for various types of manholes and underground vaults. Our Stat-X solution will be designed to meet the size and condition based on the environment. We have three options available:

Stat-X First Responder® Emergency Fire Suppressor

Most utilities have service trucks on the road with a crew of two underground workers.

These workers are not active fire fighters but will respond to manhole fires to try to restore service. The Stat-X First Responder® is designed to be tossed into the burning manhole to suppress the fire and eventually restore service.

In the event the underground workers are on site when a fire breaks out and by chance one of the workers is in the manhole when this occurs and becomes incapacitated and trapped in the burning manhole, the partner worker will immediately deploy a Stat-X First Responder in the manhole.  The fire will be immediately suppressed and /or extinguished.  Since Stat-X aerosol is not harmful the trapped worker will not be harmed in the manhole while awaiting rescue.

Stat-X fixed fire suppression system for manholes and vaults NOT subject To Flooding

In the event of a fire in the vault, the Stat-X® thermal generators automatically activate by heat. The size of generator is determined by the cubic volume of the manhole/vault. The largest thermal generator is 1000 grams, covering a manhole or vault up to 565 cubic feet. The generator will be bracketed near or at the top of the vault aimed down to discharge and totally flood the manhole/vault, immediately extinguishing the fire.

Stat-X thermal series with brass or aluminum (shown on generators) thermal heads

Stat-X fixed fire suppression system for manholes and vaults subject to periodic flooding

This fixed Stat-X system utilizes the appropriately sized Stat-X electric aerosol generator, a self-powered control panel, a discharge circuit disable toggle switch with cover, a NEMA 6P enclosure for the panel, Fenwal heat detector, prefabricated uni strut support, and a seal tight conduit with fittings.

What is Stat X First Responder

What is Stat-X?

The Stat-X compound is the most effective fire extinguishing agent currently available… many times more effective than conventional agents by mass. The Stat-X First Responder contains the same compound used in our UL and ULC listed fixed fire extinguishing units.

The Stat-X First Responder works by interrupting the chain reaction of the fire. Potassium radicals are the main active component of the Stat-X aerosol. These potassium radicals react with the free radicals of the flame, which results in suppression. Stat-X does not deplete the oxygen level nor does it deplete the ozone layer or contribute to global warming!

 

When would Stat-X be used?

 

 

Military/Special Ops

Rescue Application

Energy Company Employee

Scenario A

The worst case – fire erupts in a manhole with worker stuck in the manhole and either incapac- itated or unable to escape though the flames. Co-worker immediately deploys Stat-X First Responder and tosses it into the manhole away from the trapped worker. It will suppress/extinguish the fire, buying valuable time for evacuation or power shutdown.

Scenario B

Underground transformer fire, or any below grade enclosed space fire. Just twist and pull the ring, toss Stat-X First Responder in. It will suppress/ extinguish the fire, buying valuable time for evacuation or power shutdown.

Fire Fighter

Scenario A

Firefighter arrives at the scene of an early stage fire. After evacuating people and before additional resources arrive at the scene, toss a Stat-X First Responder into the rooms which are involved with the fire. This will buy time for further rescue and for firefighters to lay hose.

Scenario B

Firefighters are concerned about potential flashover from a fire down a hall and water isn’t available yet. Toss a Stat-X First Responder ahead of the fire- fighters to eliminate many of the contributing factors of a flashover.

Scenario C

A firefighter is trapped or can’t get to a victim due to an intense area of fire. Toss a Stat-X First Responder into the flame area for immediate fire suppression.

Police

Scenario A

Police arrive at a vehicle fire as a result of an accident. There are occupants trapped in the burning vehicle and the fire department has not yet arrived. Break a window, toss the Stat-X First Responder into the vehicle to knock down the fire and remove the occupants.

Scenario B

SWAT arrives on site and must deploy “flash bangers” into an area to stun criminals. These flash bangers often ignite combustibles. Toss a Stat-X First Responder into the flame area for immediate fire suppression for entry or to suppress fire while awaiting the arrival of the fire department.

Scenario C

Police arrive on the site of a structure (house) fire, in advance of the fire department. Occupants can be seen or heard in the fire area. Deploy the Stat-X First Responder to possibly attempt rescue or at least suppress and hold the fire in check until the fire department arrives.