Protecting the recycling infrastructure
Fire safety and fire prevention are, quite literally, a hot topic. More and more people are talking about the potential danger of both lithium ion batteries and contaminants such as aerosol cans and tins of paint as they considerably increase the risk of a fire breaking out. One of REMONDIS’ top priorities is to protect its recycling infrastructure against fires – and not just since the number of fires faced by the industry has increased so significantly. Working closely with TSR, REMONDIS’ regional Rhineland branch has now brought out a fire safety catalogue for the whole of the REMONDIS Group in order to make fire prevention easier for the staff and managers across the whole of the network.
A great responsibility
Efficient fire prevention and firefighting equipment is particularly important at industrial businesses handling flammable substances. With the recycling sector treating a whole range of materials, from paper to plastics and metals, to liquid industrial residue, it has a responsibility to ensure the country’s recycling infrastructure remains intact – for its own sake as well as for others. All too often, however, recycling plants find themselves having to tackle fires.
It is essential to have the right firefighting equipment if a fire is to be put out quickly.
“Every fire is small when it starts,” explained Carsten Koch, head of fire safety at REMONDIS Rhineland. “The first steps that are taken to tackle a fire are absolutely crucial. And these can only be effective if you have the right equipment.” Being an experienced firefighter and long-standing member of the Lippe Plant’s fire station in Lünen, he knows all about this subject. “You have to look at the specific requirements of the business you’re running to be able to decide what equipment you need to buy and these are often very different to the equipment used by local fire brigades.”
“The first steps that are taken to tackle a fire are absolutely crucial. And these can only be effective if you have the right equipment.”
Carsten Koch, Head of Fire Safety at REMONDIS Rhineland
Conventional fire extinguishers not enough for the industry
He decided, therefore, to take a closer look at this subject to make it easier for REMONDIS’ different business locations to get hold of the right equipment. Cooperating closely with TSR, he has put together a catalogue containing all modern – and in some cases very specialised – firefighting equipment. This catalogue not only includes fire extinguishers, foam extinguishers, fire hoses, couplings and jet and spray branch pipes but also a wide range of devices for protecting the environment during a fire. “Capturing the water used to fight the flames both during and after a fire is always a sensitive subject,” Carsten Koch continued.
Which is why the catalogue also offers a selection of binding agents, covers, mobile firewater barriers, collection tanks and water pumps that can handle foreign objects up to 65mm in size. One item in the catalogue has already caught the attention of many people because of its amusing name: the famous GullyEi [drain egg] – a standard piece of equipment used by many businesses in the Rhineland region for sealing drains in the event of a fire or emergency. “By offering such a wide range of specialist equipment, this easy-to-use catalogue provides the managers in charge with a large selection of tools, enabling them to react quickly and effectively should a fire break out,” Carsten Koch concluded with a confident smile. “It goes without saying that it also contains personal protective equipment.”
The REMONDIS Group’s own fire safety catalogue
All of the articles have been tried and tested in the field. Anything that was unable to cope with the high standards was excluded from the catalogue. “I’ve personally tested all of the equipment at least once,” Carsten Koch said proudly. “In some cases, several tests had to be carried out on the different kinds of firefighting foam and fire extinguishers.” The catalogue is going to be regularly updated and adapted to REMONDIS’ changing needs. “We will always find ourselves having to tackle new challenges – such as the droughts and high temperatures we’ve had over the last few years. Last year, for example, we put together a water mist system for cooling screening material and containers. And let’s not forget the growing problem we’re having to face with lithium batteries being thrown away into the wrong bin,” he added. Tests are currently being carried out on a water mist-gel extinguisher – an idea thought up by Carsten Koch – and the results have been promising so far. There is no other extinguisher like it on the market for lithium batteries.
“The water mist stifles the acid fumes and gases caused by the fire and extinguishes the flames. The gel cools the cells preventing the fire from spreading.” Fire blankets for stackers and containers are also being tested at the moment. Electric stackers are covered with the blanket during the loading process to extinguish the flames should a fire break out as well as to prevent them from spreading. “Tests are currently being carried out in the lab to confirm the effectiveness of the blanket in putting out fires caused by lithium ion batteries independent of any particular manufacturer. Such a product could be used in a whole host of situations. Containers used for storing highly flammable substances or materials prone to self-ignite could, for example, be covered with such a blanket to prevent fires breaking out or spreading,” Carsten Koch commented, looking ahead into the future. Other bigger tests are being conducted as well.
The catalogue provides all of REMONDIS’ branches with the best possible overview and maximum cost control.
Over the last few months, a variety of tests have been performed on an “extinguisher turbine” that has a system similar to that of a snow cannon. Equipped with infrared technology for early fire detection and a mixing system for extinguishing foam, this “turbine” is a perfect fire extinguisher that can discharge a wide range of extinguishing materials (from water mist to a solid stream) and, if necessary, from a great distance.
A special water mist-gel extinguisher is currently being developed to combat the growing problems the industry is having to face with lithium batteries
Optimised costs included
Fire prevention also involves getting work groups together to take a close look at the subject of safety, something the team around Carsten Koch are more than happy to do. “It’s really important that we get to hear people’s feedback, suggestions and wishes. For the catalogue to be a success, we need our colleagues to pass on their first-hand experiences with the equipment and to let us know their exact requirements,” he stressed. What’s more, the catalogue is a good business tool. The purchasing department regularly holds price negotiations with the manufacturers and analyses the sales figures. The catalogue, therefore, offers two major advantages: it increases safety standards in the area of fire prevention and improves cost control at the same time.
Image credits: © REMONDIS