Fire Detection and Control Technologies can help reduce Injury and Damage

By HSE East Africa | Monday Jan 7, 2019

The fire at Ngara Girls High school in Nairobi on Saturday evening caused anxiety and panic among parents and the country at large. The fire which happened while students were attending their preps caused massive damage to property but no serious injuries were reported. 

The fire brings memories of other incidents that have happened in the past including a fire at the Moi Girls High School in on 2nd September, 2017 where nine students died. 

According to reports, the fire at Ngara Girls School was reported by the matron who noticed smoke coming from the Emerald dormitory which accommodates 80 students. The fire was eventually contained by Nairobi Fire Services but not before it had destroyed property of unknown value. Two students were treated for shock.

The damage caused by this incident and others that have occurred in the past could have been greatly reduced if the dormitory was equipped with an automatic fire prevention and detection systems.  The field of fire detection has advanced to where smoke detectors and alarm devices have combined to become life-safety systems. The purpose of an automatic fire-alarm system is to detect an occurrence, alert the control panel and proper authorities, and notify the occupants to take action.

Modern Fire detection systems consist of a fire alarm control panel (FACP) which acts as the system’s brain. It runs the gamut, from smoke detectors and heat detectors to multi-capability detectors, which contain a number of functions in one detector. Many of the modern detectors today have addressable switches contained in the detector that allow the detector to tell the FACP exactly where the fire is located. The detection devices detect the presence of smoke or particles of combustion and then alert the FACP which then decides  on what action to take.

The following are some advanced technologies that can be employed in facilities rapidly detect, raise alarms and control fires.

Preaction sprinkler system

With a preaction sprinkler system, water (held back by a preaction valve) is prevented from actually filling the pipes until an event occurs, such as the activation of a heat or smoke detector. Preaction sprinkler systems provide an added level of protection against inadvertent water release and are used primarily in water-sensitive environments such as computer/data centers.

Waterflow detectors 

Waterflow detectors are also extremely useful safety tools because they eliminate the possibility of sprinkler malfunction. Specifically, waterflow detectors monitor the flow of water to sprinkler heads with a specially designed paddle.

Supervisory switches 

If someone turns part of a fire detection system off (such as the sprinkler), the entire system is compromised. Supervisory switches help ensure the maximum protection by proactively monitoring the operational effectiveness of the fire protection device. Supervisory switches can monitor the open position of fire sprinkler control valves and can detect the accidental or intentional closing of the water supply.

Laser smoke detection system

Laser smoke detection systems have become increasingly popular in recent years because they are significantly more sensitive than traditional detectors; they can pinpoint fire and smoke early on, which can significantly reduce the time it takes to extinguish them. Laser smoke detection systems are also reliable, stable, cost-effective, easy to install and maintain, and can be seamlessly integrated with a variety of other security systems.

Networkable fire alarms

Fire alarms are an integral component of effective security management. Used to announce the outbreak of a fire, fire alarms can produce varying sounds and can be triggered automatically or manually. Many advanced control panels on the market today are fully networkable fire alarms, which means these systems can be programmed and controlled via a Web browser.

Waterless suppression systems

In some cases, water or foam fire suppression systems can cause serious building damage - even more so than the fire itself. In response, a number of security technology companies have introduced systems that use clean fire suppression agents to combat fire. Not only do these waterless suppression systems minimize damage, but they also quickly extinguish fires and reduce harmful combustion by products.

Integrated pull alarms 

Although manual pull stations provide an added layer of protection for any building facility, integrated pull alarms can take it further. Imagine integrating with other security systems, such as CCTV; as soon as the pull station is activated, the event can also be recorded.

Voice evacuation

Voice evacuation, a critical component of a public address system, provides clear yet compelling commands that quickly guide people to safety. For increased safety and security, voice evacuation/public address systems can be integrated with fire detection systems; when a fire alarm sounds, an emergency announcement can be made simultaneously.


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