What are the different types of fire suppression?
Broadly speaking, there are five main types of fire suppression systems – all of which have unique properties and benefits based on the respective space in need of protection:
Gas suppression systems store fire-suppressing liquids, which are pressurized with nitrogen. These liquids contain a chemical agent called FM200, which is quickly released to immediately suppress flames. Since these systems don’t use any water, they’re particularly beneficial for rooms with large amounts of electrical equipment such as switchboards or server rooms. The gaseous agent is initially condensed in liquid form and stored in compact cylinders, making these systems easy to transport and store.
Wet chemical foam systems for kitchens
Wet chemical foam systems are specifically designed for suppressing fires in kitchens. These kitchen fire suppression systems work by quickly emitting a water-based chemical foam agent directly into a small, localised area. They are usually placed under the canopies of cookers and are activated by either a manual switch or a heat link (a link attached to a wire that breaks when exposed to heat, triggering the foam release valve).
Water mist systems
Water mist systems pose a viable fire suppression solution for spaces that cannot be exposed to large amounts of water. They work by producing droplets that are much smaller than conventional sprinkler systems. This creates a layer of steam that starves fires of oxygen, quickly reducing the temperature of the affected area. Since they use much less water than traditional sprinklers, they can to some extent be considered a more sustainable fire suppression method. We explore water mist systems in more detail in our article on emerging fire protection technologies.
Foam deluge systems
One of the biggest challenges in fire suppression is effectively safeguarding areas that contain flammable liquids. Foam deluge systems are the most effective means of controlling the spread of these environments. For this reason, they are commonly installed in refineries, aircraft hangers and industrial warehouses. A fire in these types of environments can accelerate tremendously quickly. Therefore, foam deluge systems are designed for the quick widespread application of suppressive materials.
Foam deluge systems use a mixture of foam and water to quickly control burning flammable liquids, cooling the surface area. The consistency of the foam causes a thick blanket to starve fires of oxygen and inhibit the release of flammable gases, effectively smothering the blaze. In this sense, they are not unlike conventional fire extinguishers.
Pneumatic heat detection tubes
Pneumatic heat detection tubes are designed in a way that makes them very similar to fire extinguishers. Therefore, they can be considered the most compact and mobile fire suppression system. These tubes have two primary components: a pipe and a valve. The pipe is installed around the potential source of fire; when it reaches a certain temperature it emits a suppressive agent directly onto the flames via the valve.
Pneumatic heat detection tubes tackle fires in their beginning stages, located in small areas with little room. Therefore, they are ideal for tackling fires in cabinets and cupboards, as well as boats and vehicles. This does mean, however, that they are unsuitable for suppressing large fires and therefore are not recommended for rooms or areas with a high ceiling.