Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Fire

ColtracoAs today's world becomes ever more interconnected and globalised, a number of important challenges are presented to  the fire protection industry. As the developing world  quicklycatches up with the industrialised West, this puts pressure on critical infrastructure. As witnessed in places such as China, this industrialisation requires new power plants, oil refineries, data centres, factories and offices.

By their very nature 2 or 3 of these types of facilities are particularly at risk from fire. Both power plants, conventional fossil fuelled plants and nuclear plants present unique challenges. Refineries and data centres also present a unique set of challenges. In this article we will examine the key business continuity issues with these facilities and how we can better protect them.

Power plants are a high risk area when it comes to fire. Conventional plants deal with combustible material such as coal and gas in order to power the globalised world. Generally speaking Power Plants have 3 levels of protection starting with prevention, then detection and if need be, suppression. Developments in technology have allowed both prevention and detection techniques to develop.

When it comes to Nuclear power plants there is even greater care taken over fire protection. Nobody wants to see another Chernobyl.,Much of the technology used in conventional power plants is also used in Nuclear plants. There are however more fails safes and standards built in.

One of the historical issues with fire suppression systems is slow seepage and accidental discharge.  This meant that if a fire did occur the system may not have had full integrity leading to suppression issues. Coltraco Ultrasonic Ltd,aleading UK OEM of ultrasonic measuring equipment for fire suppression systems have developed a system that helps with both the prevention and detection elements of fire protection within a power plant. Permalevel ™ Multiplex allows an operator to monitor up to 700 cylinder points in real time.

One of the first organisations to see the benefit of this system was the UK Atomic Energy Agency. Permalevel™ allows them to monitor the integrity of the fire suppression system in real time. If the system detects that a cylinder hasn't got full integrity it will set of an alarm alerting the maintenance and safety teams. Due to the level of sophistication with the system's ability to monitor in real time, Coltraco had to develop a much more in depth data-logging system. This allows users to go back and check on individual cylinder points.

Permalevel™ Multiplex has been well received by companies who are responsible for protecting Data Centres. Organisations such as Google require large data processing facilities. So much interaction both in a business sense and also socially is done via the internet;thus, protecting that data is critical. If a large Data Centre was to catch fire, it would have the potential to affect every aspect of everyday life. Banking and Retail are just 2 of the industries that would suffer.

One of the issues with Data Centres is that due to the nature of the equipment within the facility some suppressant agents are not suitable. Permalevel™ Multiplex solves this problem by providingthe ability to monitor the liquid level of suppression gases that are suitable for use in data centres.

Many of the world's leading organisations such as Chubb Fire & Security, who are responsible for equipping these facilities, are specifying Permalevel™ Multiplex as standard.

One of the key drivers during the development of Permalevel™ Multiplex came from the development of high rise office buildings particularly in the UAE. As construction has boomed in the Gulf States they have increasingly looked toward Western standards. Due to the scale of a large number of these office buildings, Permalevel™ Multiplex is the only viable solution. Many of the land developers we spoke to in the Gulf States needed a product that they could have full trust in to protect their assets.

In conclusion,all of these critical infrastructure facilities affect our ability to go about our day to day lives on a daily basis. If one facility were to fail then it would have a huge knock on impact, in particular in certain areas of the industry such as banking.

Our main aim with Coltraco as a business is to educate the industry that an annual check is not adequate when individuals'lives  are on the line. In addition, the capital investment involved in many of these projects is so vast that any downtime has a huge impact on the business involved. One of the main topics of feedback has been that operator and owners appreciate the ability to monitor their fire suppression systems in real time.

Permalevel™ Multiplex is primarily aimed at organisations that own and operate high value at risk facilities such as power plants and refineries. As an organisation we understand this system is not suitable for every provider. The idea is that by protecting critical infrastructure such as data centres and refineries for example, this will further educate the industry.

In our experience where industries such as Oil & Gas develop and implement fire protection technologies other industries follow. If we can educate the Oil & Gas industry to develop 24/7 365 days fire protection solutions then other industries will follow.

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