Innovation and determination join forces against the dangers of fire

Tyndale has several clients who specialise in various aspects of fire protection, and so its director, Robert Pallant, took the opportunity to visit this year’s Firex show in London’s Docklands to catch up with the latest developments in the industry.

It’s been a tumultuous year following the horrific Grenfell Tower fire almost exactly 12 months ago, and the exhibition reflected that with a separate event focussing exclusively on protection of high-rise buildings. Several delegates and exhibitors stated that they had seen increased interest in issues such as intelligent PA systems that allow a phased evacuation depending on the location of a fire, and protection of escape routes with either passive or forced ventilation (which also supports the sustainable heating of buildings, an increasingly important topic for environmental reasons). However, while these measures are being introduced in workplaces and, increasingly, student halls of residence, the uptake in other residential buildings is still low. Whether the Hackitt report into the current fire regulations, published only a month ago, will cause this to change is as yet unknown, but ongoing demand for the industry’s products seems assured.

Among the other factors driving growth is the massive infrastructure investment going on in Qatar in preparation for the 2022 World Cup – appropriate as this year’s event in Russia was in progress while Firex was on. One exhibitor, from a company in Cornwall that provides seals to prevent flames passing along cable ducts, reported a growth of 70% last year, largely driven by exports to the Middle East.

There were some terrific examples of innovations on display too, including: a fire door retainer that can be “trained” to only close the door in response to the sound of your fire alarm; a low-cost network of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that sends status updates to an online application using a single mobile phone SIM card; and sheets of glass containing a liquid layer which swells and expands on the action of heat, reducing the temperature on the other side of the glass to allow time for escape. Perhaps most unusual was a backpack containing a winch that can lower the wearer 15 storeys to the ground on a thin steel cable, before winching itself back up for the next person! The trials for that product must have been nerve-wracking…

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Fire safety glass containing liquid intumescent layers that react when heated to insulate the far side of the window

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