During the latest conference organized by ItalianYachtMasters and the Associazione Marittimi Argentario, we met with Alberto Palazzo, Sole Director of Polytechno Engineering, and took the opportunity to address a crucial aspect as far as safety at sea is concerned: the extinguishing of fires on board, through the most innovative technologies, such as Aerosol AerPro.
In fact, on a boat, as well as on land, multiple possible triggers for a fire can develop in an unexpected and uncontrollable manner, unless effective extinguishing and containment systems are on board.
“The most complex points and situations in a boat where fires can happen are the engine rooms, the galley, and the electrical and battery systems Alberto Palazzo tells us – In the galley a concrete example is the galley hood, which fills with grease and it only takes a little to have a point of fuel that reaches the outside through a pipe and comes into contact with oxygen, igniting.
Talking about the engine room, it is obvious it is very risky; keep in mind that the bilge, which is not well controlled, can be a big problem; therefore, my first advice is to keep it clean. Electrical systems and batteries are another very sensitive point; there are several ignitable elements that are at risk obviously, one of them being the transformer“.
In the face of so many risks, what is important to do?
“Prevention first and foremost – continues the Sole Administrator of Polytechno Engineering – Take the galley for example. Keeping fire blankets at hand is essential; moreover, anyone new on the boat needs to know all the devices so as not to be a weak link; then maintenance, onboard systems need to be serviced, and then of course extinguishing.
We have created Secure 4 Sea, a portal where different companies are represented, a reference point where you can find answers on all kinds of issues for safety on board: firefighting devices, personal protection, counseling. Another important aspect to consider is that when dealing with a fire extinguishing mechanism there are rules to follow that lead to the classification of vessels, in terms of the use of extinguishing elements
Another important aspect to consider is that when dealing with a fire extinguishing mechanism there are rules to follow that lead to the classification of vessels, in terms of the use of extinguishing elements”.
Prevention is always better than cure, isn’t it?
“Absolutely. It has been studied that a fire costs about 10 thousand euros per minute. Another study says that it takes an average of 20/25 min before firefighters are able to be at the scene of the fire. In short, a fire really costs a lot of money. So, when we think about a fire suppression system, we don’t just think about economics, we think about its effectiveness. It is the most important system we have on board“.
Speaking of systems, there are many options available, but times change and so do the proposals; what are your most cutting-edge ones?
“There can be gas systems of course, many of which however are going out of use for different reasons, or the ones we are proposing lately: Water Mist and Aerosol AERPRO.
With the water mist systems – explains Alberto Palazzo – we have a product related to smaller volumes: microscopic droplets of water get between the material and the flame causing a very effective extinguishing.
Aerosol AerPro is the most innovative system, based on a special chemical reaction. Where a fire exists, in fact, many complex particles develop. Aerosol AerPro has condensed potassium salts that develop a chemical reaction and extinguish the fire through potassium that changes state, at a certain temperature that is obtained electrically, becomes a vapor, and triggers a chemical reaction that leads to more effective extinguishing than any other type of system.
It has important features: it is small (30x30x12, 30x30x30) and is easy to install. We also have smaller systems, for example for the electrical panel, which can be dangerous: with these systems they can be protected with minimal cost and zero maintenance.
Last but not least, this system is the only certified one that puts out fires on lithium batteries. These batteries reach a certain temperature, which if it is exceeded (around 100 degrees) leads to the explosion of the battery, with a release of hydrogen from which the flame starts. Every other type of agent works only on extinguishing the flame, but our Aerosol also promotes the cooling of the battery, and as long as it remains in a gaseous state, it is impossible for the fire to resume.
AerPro Aerosol is totally non-toxic, so it is recommended in spaces frequented by humans, even remaining inside the discharge does not cause problems. As for the residue most of it is consumed in the fire, if the fire is extinguished immediately we get the biggest part out with some aeration”.
In conclusion, what can we recommend to those who could potentially face a fire on board?
“Fire equals panic – concludes Alberto Palazzo, Sole Director of Polytechno Engineering – Firefighting systems and courses are crucial to be ready in the moment of an emergency, in those first few minutes of turmoil is the most important aspect, besides, of course, being prepared with the right technology, for its extinguishment. So don’t underestimate this problem and be prepared for it”.
This article is also available in: German