Despite the steady decline in the Oil price over the last year or so the major economies of the Gulf region are expected by analysts to avoid recession comfortably and in the case of the UAE 3% growth is forecast. The UAE, when compared to the other members of the GCC and regional economies, is much less dependent on oil having diversified into other sectors such as logistics, tourism and high-tech and healthcare for example.
This continued economic growth is combined with an expanding population with increasing expectations in regards to lifestyle and the availability of technology and certain commodities. With the region’s population expected to double from 30 million by 2050 significant investments into infrastructure have had to be made.
From power plants, data centres, malls, to the metro network and high rise buildings, the region has seen a rapid period of growth in the development of these projects. These projects come with a significant price tag. As such, securing them from fire and security risks is a top priority for local governments and authorities.
With recent events at the Address Hotel in Dubai, the spotlight has been cast back onto the region in regard to fire safety with this the latest incident in a number of high rise fires in Dubai over the last 5 years. Historically the region has utilised BSI standards for historical reasons, however in regard to fire codes they have been based on the US NFPA codes. With the NFPA’s stated aim of promoting fire safety internationally and developing standards globally, this fits nicely into the development of fire infrastructure within the Gulf region.
Critical infrastructure is typically protected from the risk of fire in three main ways. The first is detection which includes alarms, smoke detectors and other early warning systems. The second phase is suppression systems which are activated once a fire is detected, the idea being to extinguish the fire before it takes hold. The third and final stage is firefighters responding to an incident once the fire takes hold and needing a human response. For business continuity reasons it’s clearly preferable to avoid the second and particularly third stages.
For example every day a data centre is out of action the operator loses in the region of $480,000, (according to a recent Ponemon Institute report) clearly this is a significant amount of revenue lost and will soon impact upon a business’s profitability. With business continuity in mind significant technological developments have been made over the last twenty years. Improvements in detection equipment and systems mean fires are detected as quickly as possible and dealt with more effectively.
Until relatively recently, once a suppression system had been installed into a facility, the approach with regard to maintenance was to check the cylinder points and sprinkler systems once a year. Historically this was done by weighing each individual cylinder point which was both time consuming and led to downtime for a facility. This downtime is expensive. For this reason some companies took a rather laisse faire attitude to the monitoring of fire suppression systems.
Clearly, as infrastructure developments have grown bigger and more expensive, a change in attitude has been required. The solution to this problem, pioneered by a British company Coltraco Ultrasonics, has been to use ultrasonic technology to continuously monitor suppression systems.
For a number of reasons, this is a much more effective method of maintaining and monitoring a suppression system. First, rather than scheduling an annual check of the cylinder points they can either be monitored in real time remotely or via a portable hand held device. This allows a complete picture to be developed of each individual cylinder point so issues can be quickly identified and rectified.
Depending on the size of the suppression system either a portable or fixed solution would be suitable. For smaller systems the handheld Portalevel™ MAX would be suitable. UL approved and with an accuracy of +/-1.5mm, it can instantly monitor the liquid level of the suppressant agent in a cylinder. With the ability to monitor FM-200®, Novec™ 1230 and Halons among many other suppressant agents, it immediately provides the user with an a precise measurement: if the liquid level is below the required level then action can be taken to remedy the situation and restore the suppression system’s integrity.
For larger systems high rise building such as the Address hotel a fixed system Permalevel™ Multiplex would be more appropriate. The ultrasonic technology is used in the same way, the difference being that sensors are mounted onto the cylinder points and monitor the liquid level 24/7 365 days a year. The ability to monitor up to 700 cylinder points with one system are what make this so attractive to the owners of high rise buildings for example. If the liquid level drops below the required level an alarm is sounded and the issue can be fixed.
For the owners of high value high risk assets this continuous monitoring provides them with added business continuity in the knowledge their suppression system is effective at all times. This continuous monitoring compliments the advances in detection equipment and helps to reduce fire brigade call outs and significant fire incidents.
As a business, Coltraco Ultrasonics’ core aim is to utilise science to further life safety within the industry verticals such as Oil & Gas, Shipping and Marine, Data Centres, Pharmaceuticals, Power Plants, Railways among others.
By educating the industry about the benefits of continuous monitoring, we hope to be part of the movement improving fire safety standards globally. The Gulf region has been quick to see the benefits of ultrasonic technology and embrace its specification on new projects. The commitment to both the Safesite™ and Safeship™ concepts is about making the key stakeholders aware there is a more effective way of monitoring suppressions systems than weighing cylinders or chalk/hose testing water tight doors at sea. Historically, the Oil & Gas industry as a sector has been quick to adapt and implement new regulations after incidents such as Deepwater Horizon and Alfa Piper. We believe that other similarly high risk industries are now changing their thinking when it comes to adopting new fire protection technology. The previous attitude of an annual or even biannual check being sufficient is being challenged by companies such as Coltraco, and fire service companies are taking note.
Moving forward, as the Gulf continues to develop its infrastructure and buildings get taller and projects get bigger, ultrasonic continuous monitoring solutions with remote relay and remote diagnostics options from Coltraco can help to protect investment, business continuity and most importantly, life safety, within the region.
For more information, go to www.coltraco.com