Vehicle fire suppression systems are different from other fire protection systems in that there is not a code that dictates exactly what size suppression system is required for each piece of heavy equipment or hazard. This means there must be other criteria for choosing the appropriate size system/tank for each vehicle.
Application & hazard type
How and where a vehicle is used is important in determining the size of the suppression system necessary to protect that vehicle. A system that is too small won’t be able to provide adequate protection.
Heavy machinery can be used in a variety of applications that include mining, landfills, forestry, and steel mills. Each of these applications come with their own specific hazards and differences in general usage requirements of vehicles.
For example, a hydraulic mining shovel used for above ground mining is intended for hauling and moving heavy materials in rugged environments whereas a track loader is used in landfills for collecting and disposing of highly flammable waste. In each of these scenarios, the application and hazard type vary, as does the size of the machine.
These differences will determine the system type (wet, dry, or dual agent) as well as the size.
Engine type & size
All heavy machinery is equipped with turbocharged engines. Turbocharged engines take in air at higher atmospheric pressures, meaning they can burn more fuel and produce more power than regular engines.
These engines also run very hot and can easily catch fire given the use. Machines that run all day, or machines that run in a landfill full of flammable trash, are at exceptionally high risk of engine fires.
To extinguish fires originating from the engine, most fire protection professionals will recommend a wet vehicle suppression system. These systems provide rapid cooling capabilities dry agent can’t offer. This type of system can also reach areas dry chemical cannot. The wet chemical agent of these systems is typically stored in tanks connected to expellant nitrogen cartridges.
Both dry and wet agent is stored in tanks. Dry chemical is stored by the pound (30-pound tank, 50-pound tank, etc.), whereas wet chemical is stored by the gallon (typically by 5, 10, or 15-gallon tanks). The amount of chemical will also determine the number of nozzles. The more nozzles there are, the more extensive the coverage area. The larger the system, the longer the nozzle discharge time as well.
Machine type & size
The size of your machine matters, as does the type, when it comes to choosing the right size vehicle suppression system. Vehicle suppression systems are mounted on machines per the manufacturer recommendations, machine type, and size.
For example, if it’s been determined that your vehicle needs a 15-gallon wet chemical system, but a 15-gallon tank won’t fit, you may have to do a combination of smaller tanks (two 10-gallon, and one 5- gallon for example).
Most manufacturers have recommendations for specific makes and models of the machines they manufacture. The problem with following exact manufacturer recommendations is that design changes happen so frequently that the system type or even placement may need to change year to year. Your fire protection company should have you complete a hazard survey of every machine each year.
This is where understanding how to install the best suppression system for a vehicle based on actual knowledge and experience come into play.
It’s important to use a fire protection company that understands the hazards associated with every type of machine. For example, machines used in quarries may require a different hazard analysis than a machine being used in a landfill or forestry application.
Fire Suppression System Initiative
In 2018, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) released an initiative in response to fatalities due to heavy machinery fires. Because there is no code for system type, this organization released a checklist and set of “best practices” for fire protection professionals installing and servicing these vehicles.
Within the initiative is a fire hazard evaluation that helps miners and fire protection professionals assess the best vehicle suppression system. The considerations include ignition/heat source, the size of tank and number of nozzles, and the choice between manual and automatic actuation.
MSHA also notes that fully compliant systems adhere to the requirements outlined in NFPA 17 and NFPA 17A, the system manufacturer recommendations, as well as 30 CFR.
When you request a vehicle suppression system, it’s critical to provide a specification to the equipment manufacturer or dealer to ensure you get a system that is adequately sized for the machine you’re purchasing. Fire Systems, Inc. can assist in providing a spec for your next vehicle purchase.
Because sizing a fire suppression system requires years of experience and training, you should always make sure the company you choose has the experience and resources to provide an adequately sized system.
Fire Systems, Inc. has been installing, inspecting, and repairing vehicle suppression systems for over 30 years. Our technicians have the expertise necessary to help you determine what size suppression system would be the best fit for your needs. Visit our website today or contact us at 770-333-7979.