Insights from a seasoned Professional

1Mr. Shami is currently fire advisor to DG Civil Defence and Fire, Ministry of home affairs.  In a recent interview to a popular tabloid, he had spoken at length on the issue of safety and security in the present day. Some of the views expressed by him are as under:

On smart cities, Mr. Shami said that there was no clear definition of what a smart city is and it meant different things to different people. But he said that CPS-Cyber Physical Systems, ought to be adopted as an integral part of Smart City safety and security protocols. He stressed upon strong communication links among the fire firefighting fraternity and other concerned civic authorities to ensure effective and optimum safety preparedness at all times in proposed smart cities.

In India, there is no organized or structured body or mechanism like fire brigade for non-fire accidents. Therefore, the fire brigade doubles up to deal with bridge crashes, road cave-ins, floods etc. and this meant that people doing the job were not necessarily adequately trained.

Mr. Shami said that the Fire Brigade today, remains a throwback from the British days. The development of fire service in India was influenced greatly by the British raj, Regular fire services in India first came up in Bombay and Calcutta (original city names). The first great fire of Bombay happened in 1803 and police doubled up as fire fighters then. The Fire Brigade in India was officially formed in 1822 when the fire service in Calcutta was organized. The Bombay fire brigade was formed in 1855.

In 1872, the Calcutta Municipal Corporation began funding the fire brigade and Insurance companies stepped in in 1878 to contribute to fire brigade. The Bombay Municipal Corporation Act of 1888, made fire protection obligatory. The Madras city was established 1908 after a huge fire occurred in Madras.

In reply to a question, Shami said that Fire sevices were a state subject under article 243 (W) Schedule XII. 24 states have enacted their Act but only 12 have fire rules. Since states often do not have adequate funds to equip personnel with required paraphernalia and incorporate updated fire combat protocols, fire services remain handicapped. Shami also said that fire services are often restricted to Municipal jurisdictions and there are virtually no fire stations outside those boundaries. Ministry of home affairs plays only an advisory role via Standing Fire Advisory Council (SFAC).

He listed some of the most modern global firefighting equipment/systems as below:

Sound Wave Fire Extinguisher: Two engineering students invented a new generation fire extinguisher that puts out flames by only playing heavy bass. And now, we don't have to rely on water or chemicals anymore. It might sound like an amazing party-toy but this sonic fire extinguisher actually can put out a fire with sound waves spread through a mobile subwoofer gun. The tech was so genius that the project soon went viral the and duo started appearing on local TV and in other media.

After an extensive period of research and prototyping, two final-year undergraduate engineering students, Seth Robertson and Viet Tran, came up with a nearly non-destructive way to control fires. Although their innovation only works on small fires yet, the method works perfectly. They started with a wide range of frequencies; while high frequency doesn't do much, low frequency of sound is pretty decent for extinguishing a flame.

  • Water Mist Systems- A water mist system is a fire protection system which uses very fine water sprays (i.e. water mist). The small water droplets allow the water mist to control, suppress or extinguish fires by:
  • Cooling both the flame and surrounding gases by evaporation
  • Displacing oxygen by evaporation
  • Attenuating radiant heat by the small droplets themselves

The effectiveness of a water mist system in fire suppression depends on its spray characteristics, which include the droplet size distribution, flux density and spray dynamics, with respect to the fire scenario, such as the shielding of the fuel, fire size and ventilation conditions.

The use of water mist fire suppression, when compared to the use of gaseous agents and traditional sprinkler systems, has revealed advantages such as:

  • Immediate activation
  • High efficiency in the suppression of a wide variety of fires
  • Minimized water damage
  • Environmentally sound characteristics
  • No toxic problems

ESFR- ESFR (Early Suppression Fast Response FireSprinkler Systems) ESFR (Early Suppression, Fast Response) ceiling mounted sprinklers can be used in warehouses in place of in-rack fire sprinkler systems.ESFR provides protection that exceeds that of in-rack systems.

He also spoke of early warning systems that have come a long way with technology. He spoke about personalized voice alarms, communicable stand alone detectors, drone technology and others that are evolved due to regular R&D efforts worldwide.

He also spoke of safety of firefighters. He said that the safety provided to firefighters needed to go beyond PPE

He spoke of using Thermal imaging cameras, a Halligan etc.  “Experiments with personal strobe lights, chemical light sticks, light emitting diodes all offer some degree of visibility in smoke”, he said.

A PASS device can help locate downed firefighters. The current audible PASS device helps in identifying that there is a problem. He advocated Optically Enhanced Illumination which pinpoint fallen firefighters in dense smog or fire situations using a technology called EL or Electroluminescence.

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