New tools aid farm fire prevention

Automated tracking and new fire extinguishing technology could reduce barn fires

The PrevTech unit being installed in a barn.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

New electrical fault detection and fire extinguishing technologies are giving farmers new options to prevent fires.

Alarm systems and other technology designed to prevent or extinguish fires have had limited availability for on-farm use.

Why it matters: Farms, especially barns, are becoming more valuable so fires have become more costly.

Two new technologies recently introduced in Ontario may help farmers reduce common fire risks.

“A fire affects everything on a farm — animals, humans and buildings. It can cause serious losses, business and genetic setbacks and long-term distress,” says Ken Worsley, vice-president agri-commercial with Cowan Insurance Group. “We’re always looking for new ways to prevent or mitigate the impact of fires.”

New to the Canadian market are PrevTech and Tungus, two fire prevention technology companies offering farmers, and insurance companies, fire prevention strategies.

“Technology is no stranger to farm operations, so why not consider adding fire prevention to a farm’s business or risk management plan?” says Worsley.

PrevTech Innovations Inc. is a Quebec-based company that offers a new electrical monitoring system for farms.

“By monitoring the overall health of the electrical system, we can detect early signs of electrical and equipment malfunction,” says Pierre-André Meunier, PrevTech founder and president. “It’s hard to question what goes on behind a wall when you can’t see it.”

PrevTech monitoring units are CSA certified and easily installed by a licensed electrician at the main electrical service area of the farm building. Meunier recommends farmers focus on monitoring select farm buildings and those with higher value and animals.

“Electrical faults are blamed for an estimated one-third of farm fires,” says Meunier. “The environment within the barns is harsh, often causing motors, breakers and wiring to decay quickly, especially in livestock barns.”

The PrevTech 24/7 system monitors the electrical current and will detect leakage or faults in the system.

“That means that if electricity flows into the farm, the same amount should exit at the same rate. If not, there is a leak that should be addressed to return the system to full health,” explains Meunier.

The monitoring system runs on a dashboard, available to the farmer, their electrician and to the company, in real-time from any electronic device, like a phone, computer or tablet.

If electrical discrepancies or concerns are detected, PrevTech will notify the farmer and electrician through email or text messaging. Beyond the monitoring capabilities of the technology, PrevTech provides the needed support and assistance through the diagnostic process.

By measuring fault currents and overheating panels, the system can identify breakdowns and wear and tear on equipment. The farmer is then guided to take corrective measures.

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“A fire extinguisher is often the first line of defence, but it’s only good if someone is there to use it,” said Igor Marek, president and owner of Tungus Corp., based in Ottawa.

Fire extinguishers also require regular testing, inspection and maintenance to remain in operating order.

“That’s what sets Tungus fire extinguishers apart from anything else in North America, because our systems do not contain constant pressure and do not require maintenance,” said Marek.

Tungus offers a range of self-contained extinguishers (no batteries or external power source required). These extinguishing systems can be installed in any barn, home, building or on heavy farm equipment, even in unheated areas and are equipped with heat detecting sensors that trigger the extinguisher automatically in the presence of a fire.

The Tungus system can be installed throughout the barn, waiting to put out fires. photo: Tungus

“The use of extinguishing powder is proven in Canada, but this type of pressure-free technology is still new here,” said Marek.

The systems are manufactured in Russia and imported to Canada for distribution.

“Our goal is to save lives — people and livestock — assets and livelihoods using Tungus technology,” says Marek.

Using non-pressurized dry powder, the fully-automatic, waterless systems are available in sizes ranging from 0.65 to 24 kilograms. “The extinguisher sizes are based on potential fire hazard, with the largest covering up to 850 sq. feet, and can put out the starting fire within 15 seconds,” said Marek. Farmers can install the systems themselves if they choose, positioning them in areas prone to fire, such as above electrical panels, motors, fans and heat units.

The heat sensor-triggering device reacts to an increase in surrounding temperature. Fully customizable to each farm’s situation, the triggering temperature can be set at 45 C, 72 C, 93 C or 110 C.

“Once the system is triggered, the powder discharges. The thrust of the discharge creates a vortex of extinguishing powder, which forcefully fills the coverage area. In combination with the composition of the powder, this promptly and effectively attacks the fire hazard,” said Marek.

The extinguishing system can be connected to any security or fire alarm system, or simply to just a siren and flashing light or just to a siren to alert a farmer when it is activated.

“We believe there is an unserved need for fire protection and extinguishers on farms and in rural areas, and Tungus and can fill that void without the use and additional costs of installing water tanks, pumps or piping.”

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This article was produced as part of the Farm & Food Care Ontario: Livestock Emergency Preparedness Project and the Reducing the Risk of Barn Fires Advisory Panel (2016), a group of concerned Ontario farm commodity groups, fire prevention officers, electrical safety professionals and Government of Ontario staff.

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