Author Archives: denmark

CFPA-E Chairman appointed Vice-Chairman of CFPA-I

Jesper Ditlev Administrerende direktør, DBI Jernholmen, Hvidovre

The Confederation of Fire Protection Associations – International (CFPA-I) convened earlier this month for their triennial General Assembly. During the proceedings, representatives from over a dozen nations unanimously elected Mr. Jesper Ditlev of Denmark as Vice-Chairman. Mr. Ditlev had previously served as Treasurer of CFPA-I, and he looks to help lead the organization through a strategic transformation slated to take place during his three year term.

CFPA-I is a leading global fire protection organization bringing together associations from around the world to address the myriad issues in fire and life safety. Mr. Ditlev brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in this area, having spent over twenty years in the industry. Graduating from University of Aalborg in 1990 with a Masters in Civil Engineering, he has become an expert in building technologies, risk assessment, and business development. Mr. Ditlev has risen through the ranks of the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology (DBI), and was promoted to CEO in 2009. He has since overseen the continued expansion of the institute, which stands as one of the most important life safety bodies in Europe.

Chairman of CFPA Europe
Mr. Ditlev has played an essential role in CFPA-I for years, while also leading its partner organization CFPA-E. He spearheaded a multi-year transformation of CFPA-E, expanding its membership and streamlining its administration. As CFPA-I Vice-Chairman, he will surely leverage the experience gained through his time at the helm of DBI, and as leader of CFPA-E.

During this year’s General Assembly, Mr. Ditlev helped to unveil the strategic plan for the future of CFPA-I. With a renewed focus on outreach and research, CFPA-I’s administrative operations to Cairo and begin bolstering the organization’s social media presence. The members of CFPA-I welcome Mr. Ditlev’s vision in this time of transition and look forward to reaping the rewards of his leadership in the months to come.

On behalf of CFPA-I, congratulations, Mr. Ditlev. Best of luck in your endeavors.

 

Artificial intelligence for tomorrow’s firefighters

Brand i hus

Artificial Intelligence is more than SIRI on your iPhone and computers that can win at Jeopardy. A project where artificial intelligence assists firefighters during a call-out is running in the USA, and offers huge potential.

A firefighter enters a burning building. In addition to his fire-resistant clothing, boots, gloves and helmet, he also has a head-up-display (HUD), which presents key data in his field of vision. Moreover, his clothing is fitted with various sensors that feed the artificial intelligence that follows the firefighter with the firefighter’s position, temperature data, toxic gases and other hazard warnings. The artificial intelligence analyses the data, simultaneously collecting information from different sensors in the building and from databases with technical drawings of the structure. Based on all the data, the artificial intelligence sends instructions to the firefighter via his HUD, enabling him to navigate safely through the building.

Moreover, if there is a group of firefighters who, for example, need to fight the blaze or locate trapped occupants, the artificial intelligence can suggest ways in which the firefighters can work together to successfully perform their task.

AUDREY is here
The above example could actually become reality within a few years, as artificial intelligence is already under development. It – or should we say ‘she’ – is called AUDREY, which is an acronym for ‘Assistant for Understanding Data through Reasoning, Extraction, and sYnthesis’. And the above scenarios are just some examples of where AUDREY can be employed.

AUDREY is the result of a joint project between Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), which is a part of NASA and administered by the California Institute of Technology (CALTECH), and the Department of Homeland Security in the USA. It is part of a larger project called Next Generation First Responders (NGFR), which will enhance safety for emergency services in the field through supporting and improving their focus and communication.

AUDREY is still at an early stage of development, and was tested last summer when it was fed data from various sensors and delivered recommendations to a mobile unit. And within the next year, AUDREY will be tested in real-life situations.

Firefighters’s guardian angel
AUDREY is based on a range of technological breakthroughs which will make it a possible assistant for tomorrow’s firefighters. For example, it is designed to integrate with the ‘internet of things’, where more and more everyday objects are connected to the internet, for example bathroom scales, underfloor heating systems, lighting, fridges and TVs. Even now, AUDREY is able to find the objects, gather data from their sensors and combine this data with data from the sensors which the firefighters carry as part of their equipment.

– When the firefighters are connected to all the sensors, AUDREY will in effect become their guardian angel. Thanks to the data which the sensors are registering, the firefighters will not, for example, run into a room where the floor is collapsing, says Edward Chow, manager at the JPL Civil Program Office and program manager for AUDREY.

Can observe and learn
Before data can be used, it must be filtered and processed.

– The prevalence of minisensors and ‘the internet of things’ can make a huge difference to first responder safety, how they are connected to one another and their understanding of the situation. However, the huge volumes of data are incomprehensible in their raw form and must be synthesised to usable, targeted information, says John Merrill, project manager for NGFR.

AUDREY can do this as well. It knows the different roles in connection with an emergency operation, and can thus provide relevant information to the right people without drowning all the firefighters connected to AUDREY in information. At the same time, AUDREY observes and learns during a call-out. And once it has acquired enough experience, it will predict which resources will be needed later in the call-out based on how previous incidents have progressed. Like all artificial intelligence, AUDREY is only as good as the data it receives. And the more data there is, the greater the likelihood of it being able to supply useful advice and instructions.

– Most artificial intelligence is rule-based: if x happens, then it does y. But what happens if it only receives some of the information? We use complex reasoning to simulate how people think. This makes it possible for us to provide more useful information to the firefighters than with conventional artificial intelligence, says Edward Chow.

 

06.09.17

Protection against both fire and theft

window-brake

Protecting a building against both fire and theft can be a challenge. Security consultants recommend prioritising both types of security, depending on whether or not people are located inside the building.

Fire safety and theft protection are two safety and security objectives that, unfortunately, often work against one another. As safety consultant Maiken Skriver Poulsen explains, when it comes to residential buildings, fire safety is primarily about getting people out of the building, while theft protection involves keeping burglars out.

-If there is a fire, people need to be able to get out without worrying about locks, keys and codes. If a burglar breaks in, on the other hand, we don’t want him to be able to slip out of the front door with all of our property, and that is why it is not easy to protect a building against both fire and theft. If you consider the full picture and make clear choices, though, it is actually possible to do both, says Maiken Skriver Poulsen from the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, DBI.

Are there people in the building or not?
One of the traditional pieces of anti-theft advice is to have a lock on the door that cannot be opened from the inside without a key. It is therefore recommended to avoid thumb-turn locks, as these allow a potential burglar to let himself out with all the stolen goods. If a lock requires a key – and even if the key is left in the lock – it can slow down or create added stress for residents attempting to flee in the event of a fire. That is why Maiken Skriver Poulsen recommends always considering theft protection based on two scenarios: In one scenario, there are people inside the house who may be fast asleep, and in the other scenario the entire family is away from home.

– If the house is empty, there is no reason for having a key in the lock on the inside of the door. Besides, if there is nobody home, it needs to be as difficult as possible for a thief to empty the abode. On the other hand, if there are people inside the house, we recommend leaving the key in the lock on the inside of the door and installing an alarm, Maiken Skriver Poulsen explains, referring to a burglar alarm with motion sensors or a video surveillance system with an alarm.

For businesses, the safety consultant recommends separate security systems depending on whether or not people are found in the building.

Prevention is the best protection
According to Maiken Skriver Poulsen, companies and private citizens should, however, generally implement the most effective means of burglary protection – namely, prevention.

– A survey conducted by the Danish Insurance Association shows that burglars most often break in at the ground level through a window, so this is naturally an area that requires extra attention. The good, old-fashioned tricks are also still effective, such as keeping laundry on the clothes line and rubbish in the bin, says Maiken Skriver Poulsen, and concludes:

– All experiences show that the thief will select houses where it looks like nobody is home. You should therefore always be sure to turn on a light, have cars parked nearby, keep a free line of sight to the house from the street and neighbouring houses, and post clearly visible signs to let people know the alarm is on.

Mobile detectors to prevent construction site fires

mobile-detektorer

Expensive fires at construction sites may become a thing of the past with mobile, wireless detectors.  The technology is already on the British market and is now on its way to the Danish market, too.   

When renovating a building such as an old mansion, one of the first steps is to remove all of the fire safety installations. Next, a group of workers comes in and maybe alters the old electrical installations and often performs hot work. It is almost as if one is actively seeking to start a fire.

In the future, however, it will be possible to protect renovation and construction work with a fire-safety system that uses mobile detectors to pick up heat, smoke or gas to protect a building from fire while the project is underway. In Denmark, several companies have introduced new solutions to the market, and GearTeam is one of them.

– The product comes from England, where, just like Denmark, they have had problems with fires and accidents at construction sites, says Jesper Løvbo, the CEO of GearTeam.

A simple and effective solution
The solution was developed in a collaboration between an English construction company and an electronics producer, and it was therefore designed to address the challenges found at construction sites.

– The system consists of a call point and detectors that are connected wirelessly and can be mounted with two screws. This means that they are easy to use and move around at the construction site, which is always expanding and transforming. The design is simple and is focused on user-friendliness, so that the people at the building site can set them up on their own and connect them to the basic unit located in the foreman’s office. The units run on batteries that have a lifetime of three years, explains Jesper Løvbo.

The call point and detectors can be separated and connected by the hundreds. The basic unit controls the various secondary units, sends messages to the foreman and developer in the event of the alarm, and it can also indicate exactly where in the building an alarm is triggered so that the fire department knows where to go. The individual units detect both smoke and heat.

– In this way, they are better than the fire guards that are required the day after hot work, because the guards cannot see a smouldering fire in the underlying construction. By pressing a button on the detectors, the people at the site can also issue an evacuation alarm, Jesper Løvbo says.

Furthermore, the detectors are able to function with other systems. For example, when building out or on, they can communicate with the ABA system in the existing building so that people inside can also be evacuated in the event of a fire. The system can also communicate with access-control systems at the building site so that barriers automatically go down in the event of an evacuation.

Huge potential in the technology
The hope is that the new solutions are able to improve safety at Denmark’s construction sites, which have traditionally been plagued by fire and accidents.

– We have had big fires at construction and renovation sites here in Denmark. Not only do they delay the project, but they also result in huge damage costs that we naturally would like to avoid. We believe the mobile detectors may be able to prevent some of the damage, says Peter Dræbye, a risk engineer for the Danish insurance company, Codan Forsikring.

London Fire Statement from the CFPA-I

Upper_Grenfell_Tower

The Confederation of Fire Associations-International (CFPA-I) extends its deepest sympathies to the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire and expresses high praise for the work of the emergency services who have been working extremely hard and tirelessly to manage this terrible situation.

This was a devastating fire. As details emerge, we understand there was a refurbishment including exterior cladding and a communal heating system. We are hopeful that the pending investigation will reveal all of the factors that led to this tragic and avoidable loss of life.

The quick fire spread seen in the Grenfell Tower fire is eerily similar to that seen in other similar high-rise fires that have occurred throughout the world, including Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Although the details of the construction of the building are not yet known, reports have indicated that a composite metal cladding with foam insulation was used in the recent refurbishment. At this time, it is not known whether the external cladding had been tested and approved in accordance with the most current fire safety standards.

CFPA-I remains deeply concerned that there are many high-rise buildings around the world that have flammable materials installed with the potential for external fire spread.

It is the view of CFPA-I that building regulations and associated guidance in many locations have not always included safeguards to prevent the use of materials and methods that have poor fire performance capabilities. Even in the absence of strong governmental oversight, architects, engineers, contractors and building owners must embrace fire protection as a fundamental and essential consideration. This includes the proper balance of active and passive fire protection measures, and the on-going inspection, testing and maintenance of all fire and life safety systems.

Many insulating materials are available for use in building construction and their fire performance characteristics can range from being non-combustible to very flammable – it is a matter of choice, and clearly some choices are safer than others.

While we must wait for a full investigation into the cause of the fire and the reasons for such rapid fire spread in this tragic incident, CFPA-I and its member organisations will continue to campaign for improvements in fire safety legislation and in ensuring the safety of the public and our built environment.

This includes:

  • Appropriate alarms, training and evacuation procedures
  • Smoke detection and alarm systems in all residential buildings
  • Controls on the use of flammable façades
  • Proper design, installation and maintenance of fire doors
  • Proper design, installation and maintenance of fire and smoke barriers and the protection of structural components
  • Fire sprinkler protection for all residential and high risk buildings
  • Regular updates of building regulations
  • Initiatives to ensure full compliance with fire and life safety regulations
  • Robust programs for the inspection, testing and maintenance of fire protection systems.

For further information, contact:
Steven Ooi, Chairman:  stevenooi@jayasarana.com
Hatem Kheir, Vice-Chairman: kheir@link.net

A rare self-ignited fire

Røjdrupvej 6 Hobro hus brændt ned foto: Hans RavnIn December 2016, a pyrophoric fire broke out in a house in the Danish town of Hobro – something you only see every few years. According to a researcher in timber, we know very little about pyrophoric fires, because it is an extremely difficult subject to research.    

It was a tragic and extremely rare event that befell the Olesen family in December 2016. Their house was burned to the ground as a result of a self-igniting fire, or pyrophoric fire, to use its scientific name.

– In the burnt-out house in Hobro, we investigated all other possible causes of the fire, but in the end we had to conclude that it was a pyrophoric fire, explains DBI fire investigator Søren B. Mortensen, who investigated the cause of the fire in question.

Normally, pyrophoric fires are something you only see every few years in Denmark.

Long-time effects
Researcher in Timber, Emil Engelund Thybring from the University of Copenhagen explains that pyrophoric fires start when timber is converted into coal after having been exposed to a heat source, for example, a wood-burning stove or hot-water pipes, over an extended period of time.

– Through the effect of heat over many years, the timber dries out and the polymers break down causing chemical changes in the timber which is then converted into a kind of coal. In the presence of oxygen, the chemical reactions generate heat, which can raise the temperature. This can result in a self-perpetuating rise in temperature, causing the timber to smoulder, says Emil Engelund Thybring.

He explains that the lowest documented temperature that is able to cause this chemical change is 77 degrees. By way of comparison, the temperature of hot water in a water pipe is typically around 80 degrees.

Rarely happens
However, according to Emil Engelund Thybring, there has not been much research carried out into pyrophoric fires. The term has been in existence for more than 100 years but, back in the 1990s, many people still believed that pyrophoric fires were a myth.

– It is a difficult subject to research because it can take many years for the timber to be affected so much that there is a risk of it catching fire. It has been documented that the chemical changes in the timber can occur as a result of the timber being affected by heat for anything between three months and 15 years, and there has never been any thorough research over such a long period of time. Furthermore, pyrophoric fires require the ideal combination of oxygen and low humidity, says Emil Engelund Thybring.

A pyrophoric fire, whereby timber self-ignites, occurs very seldom. Over the last 20 years, fire investigator Søren B. Mortensen has investigated between 2,000 and 3,000 fires, and only a few times has he concluded that the cause of the fire was a pyrophoric fire. Prior to the fire in Hobro in December, the last time DBI had come across a case in which timber had self-ignited in this way was five years ago.

Many fire protection systems are faulty

sprinkler

Approximately 70% of automatic fire alarm systems and more than 50% of sprinkler systems in Danish companies and public institutions are faulty when they are inspected. That is the result of an analysis conducted by the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, DBI, on the basis of figures from 2015 and 2016.

DBI inspects fire protection systems once a year and finds many different types of faults in the process. A new analysis conducted by DBI shows that only a very small percentage of the faults are so critical that the systems have to be discarded. However, less critical faults can also be serious enough in themselves. For example, faults in automatic fire alarm systems can lead to false alarms and delays in raising the alert, while faults in sprinkler systems can result in a fire spreading to areas not protected by a sprinkler system much more ferociously.

– The faults seldom mean that a system fails completely in the event of a fire, but delays can have serious consequences and false alarms contribute to undermining users’ confidence in alarm systems, says Anders Frost-Jensen, Director of Infrastructure & Quality in DBI.

Errors in orientation plans
Around half of the faults are actually administrative errors, DBI’s analysis shows, and it is orientation plans of the building and the system in particular that are lagging behind.

– If the orientation plans are wrong, it could take the fire brigade quite a long time to find the right room or area when the alarm goes off. Time is the crucial factor when it comes to the development of a fire and the safety risk. And if you have forgotten to fit detectors in a room following a refurbishment, the fire will be detected much later than it should be, explains Anders Frost-Jensen.

Work pressure and increased complexity
The 70% is the highest number of faults and errors that DBI has recorded in its statistics up to now, and the figure has been rising sharply in recent years. However, a third of the faults can be classed as installation faults which, according to the DBI Director, are partly due to work pressure on the part of the installers and partly due to increased complexity in the buildings.

– Buildings are constructed differently nowadays and different systems often have to be integrated with one another. That makes it difficult to assess whether the systems have been installed correctly, says Anders Frost-Jensen.

Bullet-resistant glass rarely the best security solution

Bulletproof glas

Demand for bullet-resistant glass is rising, but in most cases it is an unnecessary investment. Instead the focus should be on general security and more appropriate measures. 

Bullet-resistant glass has become popular in recent years. There are no overall figures for demand, but the sector is in no doubt. Glassmakers report higher demand, and even smaller companies are experiencing a rising interest in security glass, i.e. bullet and blast-resistant glass.

– We are seeing it more and more. A few years ago, we had an average of three to four inquiries per year for bullet-resistant glass. Today, we get 15-20 inquiries, with a preference for the heavier and larger solutions, explains Henrik Torp, a glazier at Glarmestre Snoer & Sønner A/S in Copenhagen.

– Part of the rise is probably due to the significant price falls for this type of glass over the last few years, he says.

The customers seeking more secure solutions are extremely diverse. For example, they include religious congregations, large public offices, hotels and even the odd private individual.

Other and better solutions
There may be good reasons for selecting glass which has been protected in some way. If a bomb goes off near glass, the glass splinters apart and the pieces are ejected like missiles.

– In this case, the glass will become a weapon. The shock wave combined with glass can cause massive injury, explains Per Frost, emergency management and risks advisor at the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology (DBI).

– But for by far the majority of customers, protection against explosion and terrorism is setting the bar too high. If a business is subjected to terror, it will typically be the employees who can provide access to particular systems or areas who will be threatened. In these cases, bullet-resistant glass will not be the right solution. Access control management and area zoning will be far more effective in protecting personnel at the workplace, Frost states.

If a company, against all odds, really is a potential terror target, pre-detection is also a better way of ensuring protection.

– All attacks require preparation. Pre-detection uses surveillance systems to check whether there is anyone inside the building perimeter, or to see whether anyone is repeatedly observing the building. These people are detected before an incident takes place. A security guard can then be dispatched, or the authorities can be contacted regarding a justified suspicion about a coming attack, and in this way the incident can hopefully be avoided, Frost says.

Only necessary if the police say so
There are relatively few locations where bullet and blast-resistant glass is necessary.

– But there may be a good business case for it in buildings which have frequently and repeatedly been subjected to vandalism – for instance, schools. Often the same panes of glass are destroyed each time, and in this case, the higher cost of the security glass could be quickly recouped, Frost explains.

Generally, however, bullet-resistant glass is mainly necessary when required as part of a security evaluation by the police.

– Or if you are handling high-value items – e.g. at currency exchange locations or in connection with security transport. In these cases, bullet-resistant glass may make sense, though, even here, it is not always the right solution. For watchmakers and goldsmiths, it will often be enough to have showcases of strengthened glass, able to withstand blows and tools, while securing the valuables in a safe at night, Frost says, and continues:

– The best thing is to look at the total security picture and make an overall assessment. This will show you other security options.

Tendering is expanding the use of bullet-resistant glass
So, if it’s not specific needs, what’s the reason for this trend?

– There is a tendency for bullet-resistant glass to become a competitive parameter in today’s new build projects. If two identical buildings cost the same and one has bullet-resistant glass, that’s the one you go for. It sends a signal that you are keeping up with trends, even if in reality the glass will rarely solve a security problem, because there is no day-to-day threat where bullet-resistant glass would be a help. But even so, the glass can be a sales argument, Frost says, and explains it in this way:

– It’s like needing a new car where one has a top speed of 100 km/h and another 200 km/h. If you never drive above 100 km/h, which one do you actually need? The same goes for bullet-resistant glass. It’s often unnecessary, and there are many other solutions.

 

 

Denmark’s most fireproof battery

Lüders - Credit By & Havn / Peter Sørensen

Batteries in buildings ­– the so-called powerpacks – have arrived in Denmark. In 2017, a 460 kWh battery will be installed in the ground floor of Lüders multi-storey car park at Nordhavn in Copenhagen. Here, it will be encased in its own fire cell and secured by means of inert gas and sprinkler system and an automatic fire alarm system.

Battery technology is part of the solution to the energy issues of the future. These issues, which include how we are going to get more sustainable energy from the sun and wind into our electrical grids, and, at the same time, have energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing. Better and more cost-effective battery technology means that, in the USA and some places in Europe are already well underway with installing batteries in buildings that charge when the price of electricity is low and contribute to the building’s electricity consumption when the price is high.

And, the same technology is now coming to Denmark. Initially, it won’t provide electricity to buildings but provide it to the local electrical grid instead. Specifically, Lüders multi-storey car park in Copenhagen’s Nordhavn area, electricity network operator Radius is installing a 460 kWh battery – the equivalent of the daily electricity consumption of 32 average families.

– When the energy requirement is greatest, the battery will slice the top off the strain on the electrical grid. The grid is dimensioned to handle the peak loads that only arise a few times a year. If the battery can help ensure a power supply when the load is at its highest, we can reduce our plant and operating costs in the electrical grid, explains Ole Pedersen, Technical Asset Analyst with Radius.

The battery is one of several trials in an overall project entitled EnergyLab Nordhavn, which is testing the interplay between a number of energy solutions in the new neighbourhood in the capital.

– We anticipate that the battery, which is a lithium-ion battery supplied by ABB, will be operational in February 2017. The EnergyLab Nordhavn project will finish in 2019, but the battery’s service life is 10-12 years, Ole Pedersen explains.

Prepared for the worst
Battery technology of this type and size in a building is new and is associated with various other fire technical challenges. For example, lithium-ion batteries can overheat and burst into flames or emit explosive gases and oxygen, even though the battery’s BMS (Battery Management System) minimizes the risk.

Also, knowledge of how the batteries react to fire, extinguishing and whether or not they constitute a risk in the event of a fire, is limited. The fire safety properties of the battery have to be taken into account.

– The building’s electrical installations and the battery are kept separate from each other. The five racks of battery cells, which together make up the actual battery, are located in their own battery cell constructed with a minimum of 150 mm of reinforced concrete. In each rack there are sensors which constantly monitor each cell and register heat and fire, Ole Pedersen tells us.

If there are problems with the generation of heat, the system automatically sends an alarm to the fire brigade. In addition, an inert gas device, connected to each individual rack, has been installed. That way, the system can reduce the oxygen content in the specific rack in which the heat is being generated, thus preventing it from bursting into flames.

– There is also a sprinkler system with no water installed in the room with a sprinkler head located above each rack. When the fire brigade arrive, they will make an assessment as to whether they will go into the room containing the battery to take a closer look at it. If they don’t want to do that, they can attach a fire hose to the sprinkler system from the outside and inundate the room, explains Ole Pedersen, adding:

– We hope that it never comes to that, because the water would destroy everything in the room. But we need to have a plan for the worst case scenario.

A good place to start
The fire technical solution has come to fruition through a collaboration with ABB (who have previously installed similar batteries abroad) and DBI. The Copenhagen Fire Brigade was also involved. But, how do you actually assess fire safety when the technology is brand new and there are no rules governing it.

– There is nothing in Denmark we could compare it with. Instead, we looked to the USA, where the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has also been considering the same issue. Previously, we were used to dealing with acid and lead batteries whereby, according to NFPA’s rules, you could have up to 600 kWh in the same room. We have only just started looking at lithium batteries and whether they behave differently to the other batteries, says René Ruusunen, who is Senior Fire Engineer with Copenhagen Fire Brigade. He continues:

– On the basis of the NFPA’s 600 kWh rule, we came to the conclusion that the battery was adequately protected and that we would not have to lay down any specific requirements with regard to their installation in order to ensure safe extinguishing and rescue conditions. However, it doesn’t mean that you will be able to freely install all batteries under 600 kWh in future. The things that require approval will change as we learn more about the fire properties of the batteries. If you want to install a battery, you must contact the local fire authorities in all cases.

– At the same time, the battery has been installed in a multi-storey car park where the footfall is low and there is direct access from the open air so that we can get to it easily in the event of a fire. In that sense, it is a good place to install the first battery of its type, says Morten Valkvist, fire engineer with Copenhagen Fire Brigade.

More electricity for your money
If the technology lives up to expectations, the battery in Nordhavn could quickly become the first of many.

– We expect that it will make good economic sense. They can help us reduce construction costs and get the optimal return from the money we invest. In future, with less expensive batteries they could become an alternative to the traditional ways of supplying the electrical grid in peripheral areas. At the same time, the batteries can be used for spectrum regulation of the electrical grid, which will become more pertinent as energy production becomes less centralized due to solar cells and wind turbines, says Ole Pedersen.

Even though the level of fire safety is high, it won’t be the related costs that stand in the way of the technology. The fact is that fire safety only accounts for 3-5% of the total cost of the battery.

Hot work starts fires costing millions

Varmt-arbejde-gnistgivende-værktøj-3

Despite numerous campaigns, the statistics for fires caused by hot work in Denmark are still far too high. In other Nordic countries, there are stringent requirements regarding training and certification and this has reduced the number of costly fires.

One completely normal Monday morning in April last year, a group of workmen laid asphalt roofing on a temporary roof at ’Experimentarium’ in northern Copenhagen. As a result of the hot work being carried out, the roof caught fire. The fire spread so quickly that a roofer had to jump from the roof to save his life. A total of 19 fire engines attended the scene before the fire was brought under control. Once the fire had been extinguished, most of the old buildings had been destroyed by smoke and water damage. The fire had also spread to a neighbouring listed building from 1929, resulting in serious damage.  In all, the fire caused damage running to tens of millions.

The fire was just one of the recent major fires that was caused as a result of hot work. Hot work is work that produces sparks or flames and is common in, for example, roofing or welding work. These are fires that can be avoided because, with the right measures in place, there is no doubt that hot work can be safe work. At the same time, the fires cost vast amounts of money.

Costly fires
The Danish Insurance Association regularly compiles statistics on fires in Denmark. The industry organization’s statistics on fire causing damage running to millions show that hot work accounts for 4% of them. The same fires account for 10% of insurance payouts. In other words, these fires are costly.

– As the fire at ‘Experimentarium’ shows, fires caused by hot work usually spread very quickly and the damage is devastating. Admittedly, the number of fires of this kind is not overwhelming but they cost vast amounts of money, says Christina Christensen, an engineer with the Danish Insurance Association.

However, ironically enough, it is often not the hot work in itself that starts the fire, she explains.

– The workman has the actual flame under control but often it catches on to something else. In roofing, for example, it is the material that lies beneath the asphalt roofing that the workman doesn’t know is flammable. Or, in some cases, the sparks catch on to rubbish lying on the floor when you are cutting metal, explains Christina Christensen.

Huge difference between Denmark and its neighbours
If we look at our Nordic neighbours, the payouts resulting from accidents related to hot work are significantly lower. According to Anders Frost-Jensen, Director of Infrastructure & Quality at DBI, this is because in Norway, Sweden and Finland they have gone much further in terms of training and certification.

– There is a vast difference between Denmark and the other countries in these areas. In the other countries, it is an implicit requirement for hot work that it has to be carried out by workmen who have been trained by certified instructors in the country’s rules for hot work. Moreover, the work site must be made secure by both the developer and the person carrying out the work going through a checklist before hot work is commenced. This is a requirement stipulated by the insurance companies, explains Anders Frost-Jensen.

In Denmark, there is not the same uniform practice within the industry, even though, in Denmark we have described the same rules in DBI Guideline 10. The point is simply that if the insurance companies required everyone who performs hot work to have undergone training in accordance with DBI Guideline 10 and also to complete checklists etc. it would be hinder competition between the insurance companies.

– In the other Nordic countries, they have prioritized safety, whereas in Denmark competitiveness is the priority, explains Anders Frost-Jensen.

Recommend trained workmen
Thus, one insurance company’s policy may be to increase the excess if non-certified employees carry out the work. Another company could perhaps retain the original excess as long as the workmen follow the insurance company’s checklist for what measures have to be in place before, during and after the work. As a policy holder, you could then choose the company you think offers the best solution.

The Danish Insurance Association is urging members to ensure that employees have been trained and that checklists are followed when they are performing hot work. And, in fact, many members are following their recommendation, even though it is not standard practice in the industry.

– The insurance companies are aware of the increased risk with hot work and know that it will be minimized with the use of fire guards and trained personnel. Many of them set out requirements relating to the training of workmen and use their own variation orders which have to be filled out on site, thus ensuring that the proper conditions for the work are in place before it starts, says Christina Christensen.

More concrete practices required
DBI would like to see the recommendation become a more concrete agreement within the industry that that is how it should be. For the sake of safety.

– If these practices are adopted to a greater degree in Denmark, over time we will see a reduction in the number of fires and compensation payouts, as is the cases in the other Nordic countries. The more developers and workmen learn about hot work, the safer it will be for them to carry out the work. Therefore, from a fire safety point of view, DBI recommends that workmen should be trained by certified instructors and they must be able to prove that they have undergone such training by presenting a certificate before commencing hot work, says Anders Frost-Jensen, adding:

– The best example we have seen from our neighbouring countries is in Finland. The insurance industry asked for certifications and that has had a significant effect. The industry in Denmark should do the same. It simply isn’t ambitious enough for society and the insurance industry to continue accepting that hot work accounts for 10% of the total of the millions paid out in compensation for fire, he says.