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Safer Plants, Saving Lives – Industrial Fire Safety and IoT

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that between the years 2009 and 2014 there were approximately 37,000 industrial and manufacturing property fires in the United States. In addition to placing workers lives at risk, industrial fires represent a significant hit to the earning potential of each plant. Beyond the cost of repairs, lawsuits, and resuming business after a fire, OSHA fire safety violation fines can cost businesses hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident. Reuters reports that one petrochemical plant explosion last year cost $165,000 in fines and injured four workers. Aside from burns and broken limbs, industrial fires are emotionally taxing and leave workers feeling unsafe and uncertain of their environment, eroding trust in the company and trust in the chain of command.

Fortunately, the Internet of Things (ioT) can help mitigate these costs and fears through fire prevention, safer evacuations, and easier fire safety management.

Working with local fire marshals, safety teams for industrial facilities can create a comprehensive package of technologies that operates along a facility-wide network. This same network even can link with the rest of the facilitys safety system to provide enhanced, early warning for all crises situations, including fires. Because IoT enables massive data collection and at-a-glance reviews of entire facilities, it represents a great step forward for fire safety management at most plants and means circumventing the unexpected.

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Plant Fire Prevention and Detection

As the Society of Fire Protection Engineers points out, IoT facility safety management includes everything from improved alarms to temperature monitors and motion sensors. With such a robust variety of technology to pull from, IoT-based detection and suppression systems can act to prevent loss before it spreads too far. Even automated shutdown for flammable systems can be integrated within a linked network to prepare facilities for safe evacuation. Likewise, connected, automated fans can cool machines off when they overheat.

Ultimately, these automated systems speed up response. An automated safety network, complete with machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, ensures that in those crucial first moments of a fire, the spread of damage is controlled and suppressed.

IoT also can act as a perimeter control outside the plant to keep localized fires from spreading to other nearby facilities. An IoT perimeter can allow facility safety managers to monitor environmental safety hazards. These parameter reports can convey information on everything from lighting storms to combustion events and wildfires.

Automated systems even can alert both internal plant safety teams and fire departments when an incident begins, providing information about the fires origin point, the speed and strength with which fire and smoke are spreading, and any weather information needed to understand how the fire will react when it comes in contact with the environment outside the plant.

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Safer Evacuations through Wearables and IoT Headcounts

As with firefighters, employees can wear RFID-equipped ID tags to monitor their location within a facility. These monitors can be linked to mapping software that works with blueprints of a facility to give safety managers a real-time look at the occupants of a building at any given point. RFID and other tracking technology makes evacuation easier and can be turned over to fire response teams upon arrival to facilitate fast, effective rescue.

Auditory and tactile alert capabilities can be integrated with worker tracking systems so that each worker is notified to evacuate in a timely fashion despite factory noise that might interfere with regular fire alert systems. In the near future, the devices will be able to provide voice guided navigation of an escape route.

Mapping and Tracking Dangerous Materials

Hazmat clean-ups cost tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars, as Hazardous Materials Management writes. The costs of these clean-ups and the toll on human health increases exponentially when fire is added to the mix. Thankfully, hazardous materials can be tagged along a facilitys map to create safer navigation and rescue points that can be distinguished easily, even during hectic events. Tracking both hazardous production and waste chemicals provides greater security for both plant occupants and fire response teams, and can aid in prevention. Combustible, corrosive, and toxic materials can be tagged with RFID, motion sensors, or an identity verification device at delivery and tracked with a cellular network whenever they are transported across the factory. This allows the safety team to check details, such as chain of custody and container safety inspection results, to aid in fire prevention. Tagged containers can send alerts to the network if they are tipped, opened, or exposed to excessive heat.

Improving Team Safety with Aeris Solutions

Fire allows no room for failure, and Aeris is committed to creating the best possible network to preserve life and property in the event of emergencies. Aeris considers all factors of a clients unique work environment in order to determine the correct networking platform. We look at each plants size, scope, and inherent risks to develop customized solutions you can rely on even in an emergency. Whether that solution involves cellular, Wi-Fi, or LPWA connectivity or a combination of these options, Aeris is here to help. Contact us today to find out how IoT can make a difference for your safety team.