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Planit Safe - A Clean Approach to Fire System Service

Introduction

Vector Fire Technology, Inc. is a Fire System Service Company committed to the inspection and testing of Foam Fire Protection Systems in an environmentally friendly manner.  To support this effort, we have developed our Planit Safe concept, which encompasses all aspects of our business.  As a Planit Safe company we offer a unique package of services developed with environmental compatibility in mind.

Planit Safe involves a new concept for testing foam systems without releasing any foam concentrate to the environment.  An alternative non-foaming environmentally benign test liquid is used in place of the foam concentrate stored in the system.  This substitute liquid is specifically formulated to mimic the physical properties of the actual foam concentrate while having characteristics that enable its injection rate to be monitored by refractive index or preferably conductivity measurement.  These are the two industry accepted methods of determining proportioning system injection rate as described in NFPA Standards 11, 16, 16A and 409.  Since the proportioned solution from a Planit Safe test is non-foaming and contains no environmentally harmful chemicals, it is usually acceptable for direct release to storm drains leading to municipal waste water treatment facilities.  Detailed information relative to the effluent released must be provided to local authorities having jurisdiction prior to the system test.  MSDS documentation containing detailed environmental information such as BOD and COD are available for most test liquids from Vector Fire Technology, Inc.  The Planit Safe testing procedure is applicable to bladder tank and pump type balanced pressure proportioning systems.  This method can save considerable time and expense while preventing possible environmental and effluent discharge issues related to foam solution discharge.

Planit Safe has proven to be an invaluable tool in troubleshooting foam system problems.  High speed data acquisition records multiple foam system input signals such as flow rate, injection rate, water and foam system pressures, and foam pump pressure.  These results are recorded at an incredible 6 to 8 input readings per second and are useful in determining foam system performance.  Flow readings are available in pipe sizes from 2 1/2 inch to 24 inch diameter pipes.

 

Injection of Alternate Test Liquid

Direct Substitution Method

In some cases, the alternate test liquid can be used by simply substituting it for actual foam concentrate in the foam system.  This can be done for some initial system startup tests by placing the test liquid in the foam tank and performing proportioning tests as if actual foam concentrate was being used.  Although this sounds like a simple solution, it can add some complication due to problems involved in cleaning the residual test liquid out of the tank after testing.

Most pump type balanced pressure proportioning systems are easier to test with alternate test liquids since they usually have some type of auxiliary foam pump suction and return connections that are normally used as flush in and out points.  These points can normally be used to connect a container of alternate test liquid to the proportioning system and conduct a proportioning test.  The foam tank suction and return valves on the system would be closed to isolate the test liquid from the actual foam in the system.  Foam concentrate contained in the foam pump and piping would be drained and placed in the foam storage tank or disposed of.

 

Interface Device for Bladder Tank Systems

When installed bladder tank systems are involved an additional component is required to act as a separator to isolate the foam concentrate or water and alternate test liquid.  In this case injection of the alternative test liquid is accomplished by means of a portable isolation/injection device that stores the liquid and then expels the contents into the system proportioner.  The device is capable of withstanding at least 200 psi operating pressure and provides a means to positively separate the test liquid from the foam concentrate used to force it out of the device and into the proportioner.  Alternately, water pressure can also be used to expel the test liquid thereby saving the complication of forcing the foam concentrate back into the foam tank after testing.  Typically 2-1/2 inch fire hose is used to interconnect the injection device to the foam system.  Hose connection points are added to the foam concentrate or water feed piping to enable the device to be temporarily tied into the foam system for testing.  Vector Fire Technology, Inc. supplies interface device and interconnecting hoses for this type of testing.  Usually the test connection points required for Planit Safe tests are added by the system owner or contractor.

 

Instrumentation for Proportioning Measurement of Alternate Test Liquid

Several measurements of proportioning system performance can be monitored and recorded by laptop computer simultaneously during a Planit Safe test procedure. Typically measurements include conductivity of the proportioned solution, system flow rate, and pressures at various points on the system.  Conductivity and flow are measured by means of on line sensors installed downstream of the proportioner.  Pressure transducers are placed wherever system pressure readings are desired.  All system monitoring instrumentation is connected by shielded waterproof cables to a data acquisition package and laptop computer that monitors and records system performance in real time.  The laptop computer is programmed to reflect percent injection rate by comparing the measured conductivity of the test solution stream to the conductivity of various percentages of precisely pre-measured solutions made with the alternate test liquid and on site water.  Once the instrumentation is installed, on line real time data can be monitored and recorded very quickly thus reducing the total volume of solution discharged.  System performance data can usually be gathered in less than one minute from start of system operation.  Since all data is recorded electronically at high speed it is possible to generate graphs and charts showing system performance from start to finish of test.  This enables much better analysis of system performance than the current test procedures that depend on grab samples of the proportioned solution stream.

 

Qualified Technical Personnel

As is true with all technical procedures, qualified, well trained personnel are critical to assure that testing is done with proper care and attention to detail.  With over fifty years experience involving design, test, and maintenance of foam systems, Vector Fire Technology, Inc. is uniquely qualified to provide the services required.  We have spent over two years developing the Planit Safe equipment, alternate test liquids, and procedures and are well qualified and prepared to perform this work.

 

Where Has This Procedure Been Accepted?

The concept of using an alternative liquid in place of foam has been used in the industry for many years.  In fact the appendix of NFPA 11 describes alternate means for testing system proportioning rate by using direct drop flow measurements from a calibrated tank, refractive index, and conductivity.  Both Underwriters Laboratories and FM Global have accepted proportioning systems for Listing purposes based on using alternative test liquids in conjunction with conductivity measurements.  A recent presentation to the U.S. Navy at Hughes Associates in Baltimore MD demonstrated the Planit Safe procedure in actual use.  Both the Navy and Hughes agreed that the Planit Safe test method is a viable alternative to foam discharge testing.  Planit Safe testing has been conducted at dozens of US Navy Facility hangars.

 

Following is a list of places where the Planit Safe system testing concept has been used or accepted for future use with tests pending.

 

Planit Safe Test Sites

Bayer Pharmaceutical Waste Storage Building #46, West Haven, CT

BPXA Process Module, Northstar Island, AK (test conducted in Anchorage)

Cherry Point Marine Corp Air Station Hangar, Cherry Point, NC

Chrysler Corp. Warehouse, Morrow, GA

Cox Enterprises Hangar, Atlanta, GA

Delta Airlines Maintenance Hangar, Atlanta, GA

Dupont Facility, Cooper River, SC (approved, test is pending)

Fermenich, Port Newark, NJ

Fisher Diagnostics Distribution Center, Middletown, VA

Fisher Scientific Distribution Center, Suwanee, GA

Fort Eustis, VA US Army Aviation Support Hangar, Newport News, VA

Gelest, USX Park, Fairless Hills, PA

Greater Toronto Airport Authority, 3 Bay Hangar, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Lockheed Martin Test Cell facility, Marietta, GA

Norfolk Naval Air Station Hangar (multiple hangars), Norfolk, VA

Oceana Naval Air Station Hangar (multiple hangars), Virginia Beach, VA

Purdue Pharma, Ardsley, NY

Sherwin Williams Paint Distribution Center, multiple locations

Sherwin Williams Paint Manufacturing Facility, multiple locations

The Kerite Co., Seymour, CT

Transport Canada T-58 Maintenance Hangar, Ottawa, Canada

TVA Combustion Turbine Facility, Multiple Facilities

Willow Grove Naval Air Station, Willow Grove, PA

Takasago Int'l, Teterboro, NJ

Rohm and Haas, Bristol, PA

 

Water Equivalency Testing??

Some companies are promoting the use of water equivalency testing to determine acceptable performance of foam proportioning systems.  While this practice may work on some systems, water cannot duplicate the viscosity or specific gravity of foam concentrates.  Alcohol Resistant AFFF (AR-AFFF) foam concentrates present even greater technical barriers due to their varying viscosity characteristics, known as pseudoplastic behavior.  In short, this means that most AR-AFFF foam concentrates will not behave like water in a proportioning system making it nearly impossible to accurately duplicate system performance by substituting water in place of an AR-AFFF.

This is because viscosity differences cause a major flow rate change through the foam metering orifice within a proportioner.  Under some flow conditions water will flow through a metering orifice at a rate that is 15-20% higher than an AR-AFFF foam concentrate.  In other conditions water will flow at about the same rate as foam concentrate.  Therefore, an accurate water/foam equivalent factor is not readily predictable since the AR-AFFF's viscosity changes with flow while the viscosity of water does not.  There are additional problems related to water equivalency due to widely differing viscosity characteristics of AR-AFFF's depending on the manufacturer and product used in the system.

By substituting test liquid with viscosity behavior identical to the foam concentrate in the foam system, our Planit Safe method can produce true, accurate results regardless of system flow.

Ask the question if this process is proposed for your facility.  How can I be assured that proper proportioning will occur if testing was done with water?


Last modified: 06/14/10