By Aaron Paterson, flame product line manager, Det-Tronics
Editor's Note: This article is adapted from a white paper, "Best practices for fire protection in hazardous locations." Download the full technical white paper to get details about 10 procedures for detecting combustible gas, smoke and flames.
The danger of fire in processing and manufacturing facilities often stems from the very production processes taking place, which frequently involve volatile and potentially flammable materials. Industrial facilities need to know and follow best practices for life-safety fire systems.
Best practices are defined as professional procedures that have been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results. A number of organizations such as the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA®) prescribe specific procedures in their standards related to fire and gas detection, and some best practices can be affirmed through years of practical experience.
So, let’s examine three best practices that can help you reduce fire-related risks to personnel, processes and facilities.
Best Practice #1: Be Aware of Standards and Certifications
An important preliminary step is reviewing applicable standards, such as the fire standards from the NFPA. In particular, plant operators should review NFPA 70® (also known as the NFPA 70® National Electrical Code®, or NEC®) and NFPA 72®: National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code®.
Chapter 5 of the NEC addresses “special occupancies.” Within that chapter, Article 500 stipulates that locations be classified based on flammables that could be present, as well as their concentration or quantity.
Hazardous-area classifications specific to electrical equipment are considered in this section. Class I areas are those in which flammable gases, flammable liquid-produced vapors, or combustible liquid-produced vapors are or may be present in the air in quantities sufficient to produce explosive or ignitable mixtures.
Many NFPA codes and standards for specific processes reference NFPA 72, the National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. Chapter 17 of NFPA 72 provides requirements for various types of devices that can be used to detect indications of fire. The surest way to know that detectors meet safety standards is to specify equipment with third-party approval certifications by an accredited certification agency. Performance testing and certification verify that a device will operate as specified by the manufacturer under a range of conditions — and that it is compliant with applicable standards.