When it comes to fire ventilation, there’s no one-size-fits-all tactic — simply because there’s no one-size-fits-all fire. Every fire ground is different. Compound that with the ever-changing dynamics of the structures being protected — building size, room geometry, interior contents and construction materials — and it’s no wonder organizations like UL, NIST and others continue to devote resources to enhance firefighters’ ongoing understanding of fire ventilation. But this article isn’t about tactics. Remember … there’s no one size-fits-all remedy. So that’s why we’re going to fill your tactical toolbox with some ventilation options, so that you’re ready to act when the situation demands it. Here’s a look at some of the most versatile tools …
Picking the perfect fan
It’s fair to say that choosing the right fan can be daunting because there are SO many fan variations, paired with differing fire scenes. Do you want to pull smoke from a structure using a negative pressure smoke ejector, or does your department prefer positive pressure tactics? What size of fan do you need? Even that varies greatly, from the smallest 20cm confined space fan to the industry’s largest PPV — a 200cm behemoth that produces more than 1,250,000 cubic meter of airflow per hour, ideal for ventilating tunnels, airports and other large structures. How do you want to power your fan? Petrol, electric, water or battery? Do you need the fan to be rated for Class 1 Group D hazardous locations?
These are all good questions to ask yourself. The best way to answer these questions is to look at the majority of structures you need to protect and consider how you may need to ventilate them. And while it all starts with evaluating the structures within your jurisdiction, you’ll also want to weigh in setup because it will impact your crew’s response time. Remember, fan size and power source can play a big part in whether it’s the right fan for that specific scene.
Factoring in battery technology
So, let’s talk about power source. The latest innovations in PPVs have come in the form of battery-powered fans with the technology becoming growingly reliable in recent years. Not only have runtimes increased to more than 30 minutes, but the output of these fans continues to improve with these PPVs pushing more than 15,000 cmh. For a consistent comparison of airflows, we recommend looking at manufacturers who back their numbers with independently certified airflows. AMCA, the Air Movement Control Association, is one of these third-party resources. In fact, AMCA publishes a list of certified products and airflows at bit.ly/PPV-AMCA-certification.
But let’s get back to that tactical toolbox. Many departments are beginning to equip their first-response units with battery fans because these PPVs allow for rapid deployment. Not only are many of these fans lightweight (some weighing as little as 15 kg.), but select models are equipped with rubber wheels and ergonomic handles that make it easier to maneuver these fans, and with 180-degree tilt, crews can vary their angle of attack, even directing airflow at an attic or a manhole.
But that’s not the only thing that excites departments about these PPVs. This year, Super Vac introduced its new variable-speed battery fan, powered by a DeWalt or Milwaukee platform. Not only do these new fans help simplify battery purchasing within departments, but these fans run off the same batteries as DeWalt’s FLEXVOLT lineup of 180-plus tools, while the Milwaukee platform pairs with a wide array of M18 tools. This battery interchangeability allows departments to stock their tactical toolbox with rescue tools that literally work together. And it’s this shift that has departments rethinking compartment organization when they’re spec’ing a new truck, devoting entire cargo slides and poly boxes to these battery tools.
Tack on the fact that battery fans produce less airborne cancer-causing agents while rapidly ventilating structures of airborne toxins during post knockdown, and you can see why battery technology is growing in popularity. Even the International Firefighter Cancer Foundation has begun to make a push to combine PPV + PPE to help prevent cancer in fire departments.
Adding in tactical accessories
Fans are variable for all the reasons above, but when you add in the many accessories that complement this diverse lineup, ventilation can get even more versatile. For instance, some accessories can help you further direct the airflow when the fire ground calls for it. For instance, different fan guard options give crews the ability to adjust fan-entryway setback, while a door bar / hanger kit allows the fan to be mounted in a doorway to elevate airflow. Meanwhile, smoke curtains, like the Smoke BlockAid, can be used to help control oxygen while maintaining door control and mitigating smoke damage, and spiral ducts are perfect for helping move large quantities of air into hard-to-reach places, like confined spaces.
Meanwhile, other fan accessories convert airflow into other products, like mist or foam. Consider buying a mister, which attaches to the outlet guard, often by industrial magnets, to convert any fan into a rehabilitation cooling unit. Need high-expansion foam for tough extinguishments found at a mining operations, ship-hold areas or scenes with flammable liquids? You can find attachments for that, too.
In the end, it’s these variables that will help you fill your tactical toolbox. You may not need all of these tools, but the options are definitely there for when the situation demands it.
For more information, go to www.supervac.com