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Why Fire Suppression Systems Keep Getting Better

Why Fire Suppression Systems Keep Getting Better

Posted 8/8/2022

Alt Title: How Fire Suppression Systems Keep Improving Over Time

Fire suppression systems have been around for more than a century, but it's only in the last couple of decades that they have become seriously impressive in their ability to control flames. Better still, fire suppression systems keep getting better with each passing year.

Why is this the case and what can we expect from fire suppression systems in the future?

A Brief History of Fire Suppression Systems

People have been attempting to control and combat fires for about as long as we’ve had access to fire as a resource. But it’s only in the last 150 years or so that we’ve had reasonable tools for the challenge. In 1872, inventor Philip Pratt created the world’s first automatic fire sprinkler system, presenting a marked improvement over the perforated, manually activated pipe systems used in textile mills since the 1850s. After this design was rolled out, it was quickly improved upon by Henry S. Parmalee, who created an even better sprinkler system for his piano factory in 1874.

Water-based sprinklers became the dominant form of preventing and mitigating fires, though they were almost exclusively used in commercial buildings until the 1940s. These days, sprinkler systems are still a requirement in many types of buildings, such as hospitals, schools, and hotels.

Sprinkler systems themselves have evolved in several key ways. The original sprinkler design relied on a solder-sealed sprinkler head with a brass cap. In the late 1800s, George E. Hibbard introduced new mechanisms relying on levers and a two-piece fusible component. In the early 1900s, these systems were often combined with heating systems during installation – which introduced the problem of false activations and excessively high pressure. It wasn’t long before this installation system was abandoned altogether.

By the 1970s, inventors and engineers were experimenting with dozens of different variables, attempting to find solutions for higher flow rates, more consistent activation mechanisms, cost efficiency, and lower maintenance requirements. Today’s sprinkler systems are much more sophisticated and reliable than those of the 1870s – or even those of the 1970s.

But water sprinkler systems are just one type of fire suppression – and there have been even more impressive developments in other areas.

Clean Agent and Dry Chemical Fire Suppression Advancements

“Clean agent” fire suppression systems are designed to extinguish fires and control the spread of flames without inflicting any unnecessary harm, damage, or inconvenience. These agents are called “clean” because they are electrically non-conductive, they’re non-volatile, and they’re non-gaseous. Additionally, they don’t leave any residue upon evaporation. Dry chemical fire suppression systems are similar, relying on a dry powder to extinguish flames.

These types of systems are in many ways, strictly superior to the water sprinkler systems of yesteryear. They’re extremely versatile, capable of extinguishing many different types of fires. They’re highly reliable, since they’re less prone to corrosion and damage than other types of systems. And they don’t present any risk of water damage; the worst-case scenario is that you have a bit of debris to clean up after initial suppression agent deployment.

Modular and Portable Fire Suppression Advancements

We’ve also seen many new developments in the fields of modular and portable fire suppression systems. Old-school water suppression systems generally require a significant and early investment; because they rely on internal structures and plumbing, they must be installed during construction – or else, they’ll be cost prohibitive to install.

By contrast, if you have a totally modular or portable system, you can install it almost anywhere, at any time. This has made fire suppression systems much more accessible, affordable, and convenient.

What Can We Expect From Fire Suppression Systems in the Future?

The main reason why fire suppression systems have consistently gotten better over the years is the constant need for fire suppression. No matter how advanced our civilization and technology become, fire remains a persistent hazard; we have always needed tools to help us respond to fires, and probably always will in the future.

Where there’s a need, there’s an inventor. Engineers and fire safety experts are constantly looking to refinements and improvements on old formulas.

So what improvements might we expect in the future?

·       Niche functions. One possibility is the development of fire suppression systems that are specifically designed for one application. Rather than being general purpose, they're focused on extinguishing one type of fire for one type of organization; this limits the system’s broad appeal, but increases relevance for the people who need it.

·       Lower maintenance requirements. Modular and portable fire suppression systems are already being designed with minimal maintenance requirements in mind. But tomorrow's fire suppression systems may be even less dependent on regular maintenance.

·       Better suppression agents. Could there be an even better agent for quick and clean fire suppression? Chemists and engineers are working hard to find out.

·       Easier installation. Nobody likes the idea of totally renovating a building just to install a traditional water sprinkler system. Modular and portable fire suppression systems present an easy solution for this, but there's still some room for improvement. Suppression systems of the future may be even easier to install.

·       Easier cleanup. Clean agents are so named because they're relatively easy to clean up – but again, there's still some room for improvement here.

·       More integrations. Existing fire suppression systems tend to integrate with fire alarms and other systems and resources to provide comprehensive fire protection coverage. Tomorrow’s systems could integrate with even more external systems, especially high-tech ones like surveillance systems.

·       Lower costs. Fire suppression is more affordable than it's ever been before, but that doesn't mean prices will stay here forever. Even a handful of small innovations could be enough to reduce the expense of buying and installing a new system.

It's hard to say exactly how fire suppression systems will advance in the future. But what we do know is today’s fire suppression systems are better than they've ever been before. Take a look at the best fire suppression systems we have to offer, or contact us for a free quote on your next fire suppression system today!