Fire Prevention magazine Spain, 10/2014
Translation of an article published in “Prevención de INCENDIOS”(Fire Prevention), Spain, n°63, Q3/2014
The present article is a summary of the meeting between APTB, Tecnifuego-Aespi and PINFA (Phosphorous, Inorganic compounds and Nitrogen Flame Retardants Association) on the use of flame retardant additives to improve fire behavior of materials.
Inspector — Fire Department of the Generalitat of Catalonia
PINFA (Phosphorous, Inorganic compounds and Nitrogen Flame retardants Association) is the European association of manufacturers of halogen-free flame retardant products, flame retardants based on phosphorus, nitrogen and inorganic materials, currently working on a project, which aims at improving education and knowledge on the fire behavior of materials and at understanding the concerns of stakeholders in this field.
The project is led in Spain by Tecnifuego-AESPI, who asked for APTB collaboration to carry out an interview on this initiative, which addresses the use of flame retardants to improve fire behaviour.
In this respect, Miquel Rejat, fire department inspector of the Generalitat of Catalonia, former chief of prevention, currently coordinating the system of investigation of casualties, was appointed. The meeting took place in late June with Elena Artigas from Clariant (commercial director of the additive line) and Vicente Mans from Budenheim (general director of the Wildfire line, and current president of Tecnifuego-AESPI and EAPFP) in representation of PINFA.
After the appropriate presentations, it was pointed out that the knowledge area relates to the moment when the fire is declared. Emphasis was put in expressing strong concern for the increased potential of fires frequently detected in buildings, which led to discussions on interior fire attack operations and how to improve fire brigades´ strategies.
Such fires are characterised by more energy, and higher intensity compared to previous decades, owing to the composition of the construction finishing materials used in furniture, fixtures and stocked in homes, offices or shops, as well as the widespread incorporation of plastics and organic derivatives, and low voltage electronic devices consisting of a high number of small transformers made of different parts connected to each other by electrical tension with no interruption, where overheating problems or failures cause the fires.
In any case, recent fires show more rapid growth on and beyond the capacity of extinction of the first team of firefighters arrived on the scene, both in modest homes and in high-comfort households. It is clear that the flammability of plastics in materials and building fixtures should be corrected, but this should apply to the whole consumer sector, from major brands to low-quality products. It should not be possible distribute anything on the “free market” which has not passed a flammability test.
Public education and information can contribute to the achievement of this goal. For instance, a visible label could be created, highlighting the fire behaviour classification also in the furniture sector — similar to the energetic efficiency label of electrical appliances.
Fire services can provide the reason for this need:
- The fire-fighters always get to the place where the incident has happened after receiving the call (never before) and in a period of time that is related to the displacement — which in large urban areas is between 5 and 15 minutes. This — added to the delays in discovering the fire and contacting the fire brigades — generates a disaster which is avoidable only if the materials come in contact with the fire later and do not bring an excessive charge of toxicity.
- We need to collect systematically the details of the fire upon arrival, what we see from the street and what we found when entering the building. This information is announced by the radio stations, but is never collected in a quantifiable format, so that it can be mathematically transformed, allowing to build statistics and carry out sectoral analyses.
I suggest three lines of actions:
- To create indicators on plastics consumption per population and geographical region.
- To improve the quality of the information generated during fire brigades’ operations with the explanatory details (encountered incident, characteristics of the place, protections against fire, materials and propagation, obstacles to the intervention, damages, etc.)
- To promote an extension of home fire safety regulations applying to homes’ contents.
By clicking on www.pinfa.eu you can access specialised information on products (basic chemical structures, proprieties and applications) and news. On the home page, it is mentioned that: “Flame retardants are an essential element for the safety of products around us. Fires are far less likely to start from small flames or electrical faults, if materials resist these ignition sources.”
Source document : Prevención de INCENDIOS Número 63 – 3er Trimestre de 2014