Fire Suppression Takeaways From NFPA Expo 2017

This year’s NFPA Conference and Expo featured a smart sprinkler and full-featured pump controllers among the latest innovations from exhibitors.

This month’s dispatch comes from Boston, where I recently attended the annual Conference and Expo of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

I spent the afternoon and early evening on the show floor, where more than 300 companies were displaying their newest innovations.

While I explored a range of products, for now I’m going to focus on a few that addressed fire suppression. Several of these do have a detection component, or an interface to a fire alarm system.

Components Supporting Expanded Capabilities

A number of new fire pump controllers were showcased. While NPFA 72, The National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code only requires that three basic outputs be monitored, these controllers can now provide additional outputs, such as failure to start, low suction pressure, load shed and single phase running for an electric motor pump.

Additional outputs are available for an engine driven generator. Several of these controllers can also now send status reports directly from the controller to an email address.

To combat against corrosion within in dry pipe or preaction sprinkler system, nitrogen generators are now being offered. You may start to see these in the field attached to such suppression systems.

If you do come across one, check with the building owner or sprinkler contractor on how to bypass the nitrogen generator prior to any testing.

While not part of any codes yet, you may be requested to provide supervision of these systems.

Depending on your location, you may start to see small fire pumps connected to single-family residential fire sprinkler systems (NFPA 13D).

These would be associated with systems in which the available water pressure may require a boost. At the expo Darley was showing a self-contained pump and controller unit that is also capable of performing automatic tests of the system.

Applications may include installation in homes that are not occupied all of the time, and there may be a request to provide offsite supervision.

Minimax, a division of Viking, was demonstrating a product it is bringing into the United States from Germany — the OneU active suppression system for server racks.

This unit is self-contained including both the detection and suppression elements. The unit fits within a 19-inch rack and is designed to detect and suppress a fire that may occur within an enclosed server cabinet.

Detection comes via an onboard air aspiration system and suppression is handled by Novec, which is a clean agent suppression product from 3M.

This unit can protect up to 100 cubic feet of volume within an enclosed server, network, or telecommunications cabinet. Outputs are provided on the unit, which would be supervised by a building’s fire alarm system.

Smart Sprinkler Speeds Up Suppression Time

The final product I’m excited to highlight was being shown by Johnson Controls as developed by Tyco Fire Protection Products — a smart sprinkler.

This device interfaces directly with a heat detector that is installed in close proximity to the sprinkler. It is meant to be used within spaces that provide high-piled storage.

The sprinklers and detectors can be placed in an array above high-piled storage racks. The heat detectors are on an addressable loop back to a fire alarm control unit (FACU).

Each heat detector is also connected through a relay output from the detector to an input on the sprinkler. When a heat detector with the array is activated, it fires off not only the sprinkler that it is associated with, but through the FACU triggers the other sprinklers within the array.

This places a concentrated flow of water into the area of the fire and leads to a quicker suppression time. Once the fire is contained the sprinklers can be reset, as they are only acting as a valve.

The detection component is not part of the sprinkler itself. This is contained with the analog/addressable heat detector. The smart sprinkler has not been released to the market yet, but was being previewed at the NFPA event.

From what I saw it has great potential. Be sure to make accommodations early for next year’s NFPA Conference and Expo, which will be held in Las Vegas.

In addition to the product showcase, next year’s event agenda will include voting on the 2019 edition of NPFA 72 as well as NFPA 13.


FIRE SIDE CHAT: Click here for more Fire Side Chat With Shane Clary.


About the Author

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Shane Clary, Ph.D., is Security Sales & Integration’s “Fire Side Chat” columnist. He has more than 37 years of security and fire alarm industry experience. He serves on a number of NFPA technical committees, and is vice president of Codes and Standards Compliance for Pancheco, Calif.-based Bay Alarm Co.

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