By warning earlier on the pathway to ignition, operators of waste facilities avert costly and potentially life-threatening fires before they are permitted to start and spread.
By David Bursell
Waste facilities are finding ways to mitigate and prevent fire damage by implementing the Internet of Things (IoT) with early fire detection technologies, like infrared cameras. Waste facilities receive flammable materials like lubricants, paints, grease, oil, propane, gas tanks, and batteries mingled with waste. As waste materials are crushed, compacted, or shredded, any traces of flammable substances can ignite when pressure is applied, or sparks from friction are present.
An additional cause for fires within the waste facility is spontaneous combustion. Organic materials stored in piles or bunkers become prone to self-heating as they naturally decompose. The decomposition process is accelerated as moisture is introduced from rain and humidity, generating even more heat. As most organic materials are good insulators, the internal pile heat is not allowed to escape, further increasing temperatures.
Eventually, the material begins to smolder and ignite. In recent years, waste facilities have experienced increased fire activity from lithium batteries. With more lithium-ion batteries in consumer goods, more batteries are making it into the waste stream. Lithium-ion batteries can experience thermal runaway and catch fire if broken or crushed, thereby magnifying an already hazardous condition to the waste management process.
Early Fire Detection Devices and Infrared (IR)
Various fire detection sensors are available today that alert waste facility managers of fire formation with varying detection timing during fire progression. Figure 1 shows the relative detectability of fire detection devices at different stages of fire development with corresponding damage levels.
IR cameras operate on the heat transfer principle of radiation. The infrared camera has a focal plane array (FPA) of detector elements that sense infrared light from an object’s surface. The radiation captured by the FPA is digitized, converted to data, and displayed as a viewable image. Calibrated IR cameras can report temperature measurements from specific spots, lines, and areas on live or recorded images.
IR camera systems are the first to alert before a fire develops. They “see” a warming-up of material early in the fire development process before forming smoke particles or flames. These warming materials appear as hot spots in a thermal image and are quantified with regions of interest (ROI) that report temperature values. Applying multiple ROIs to an image and setting temperature thresholds per ROI allows monitoring and alarming multiple locations within the camera’s view. When threshold conditions are met, alarms trigger alerts to the appropriate personnel.
IoT (Internet of Things) and Early Fire Detection (EFD)
The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked into software applications that use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These connected networks create systems that can monitor, collect, exchange, analyze, and deliver valuable insights into a system or process. IoT revolutionizes automation by using cloud computing to simplify integration and enhance system control. Figure 2 shows a sample map view display from a cloud-based IoT early fire detection program.
Fire safety is an area that realizes the benefits of IoT when combined with thermal imaging and other fire detection sensors. By connecting sensors that alert at different stages of fire development and varying conditions, potential fires can be more readily detected and prevented. With IoT, safety alerts are sent to hundreds of people quickly. Communication options include voice calls, texts, and e-mails to targeted recipients to establish awareness. Another advantage to IoT EFD is scalability. Facility managers can connect multiple facilities into a central monitoring and alarming dashboard. Understanding the situation at all facilities improves the oversight and management of multiple systems from a single control point.
IoT EFD systems can improve emergency planning by using algorithms and analytics to prepare better evacuation plans quickly. For example, analytics can consider the number of people in the facility, facility maps, the location of the fire, and the rate at which the fire is spreading. Analytics-based evacuation plans can prevent congestion by guiding workers to different locations for optimum evacuation routing.
IoT EFD systems are less expensive to install and maintain than traditional detection systems. As the EFD software resides in the cloud, there is no need for a dedicated facility computer server.
Additionally, any potential for operating system software conflicts are eliminated as access to the cloud-based application only requires an internet connection. Users access the EFD system anywhere and anytime with any internet-connected device. And with the appropriate credentials, control and alarm settings can be modified remotely to optimize performance.
Another key advantage to a cloud-based EFD system is sharing dashboards with map views. For example, sharing a live map view with first responders on route allows for scene assessment before arrival, saving time and optimizing safety. These map views identify the alarm sensor location, monitored area, alarm conditions, facility entry, and exit points.
IOT EFD in Waste Facilities
IoT EFD systems in waste facilities integrate multiple detection technologies to track temperatures and detect smoke particles at critical locations. The most common detection sensors for waste EFD include:
• Infrared cameras for quantitative and qualitative monitoring of hot spots.
• Visible cameras for identification of smoke or flame.
• Aspirating smoke detectors for detection of smoke particles
Correct sensor selection and placement within a waste facility are critical to ensure optimum detection performance. For example, infrared cameras require a direct line of sight to the area of interest to provide detection. Critical areas obscured from the camera’s field of view could be monitored by smoke detectors, thereby augmenting the camera’s detection. For outdoor or high airflow installations, infrared sensors are best for detection as dilution effects may limit the performance of smoke detectors.
Another critical consideration for waste EFD is the early warning notification to individuals responsible for material handling. Before EFD, material handlers would unknowingly spread hot materials, increasing the size of the fire hazard. With EFD and early alert notifications, informed heavy machine operators can avoid problem spots and prevent the spreading of potential fire hazards. Figure 3 shows an example of an IoT early fire detection configuration for waste facilities.
Early Warning Systems
It is important to note that IoT EFD systems do not replace waste facilities’ existing detection and response protocols. Instead, the system functions as an early warning system—detecting areas in the facility where ignition may occur. New detection methods for heat, smoke, and fire are continually developing. Many new detection devices include wireless capabilities that make integrating IoT EFD a straightforward exercise. Beyond alarms and notifications, IoT EFD systems can provide automation controls like initiating and directing an extinguishing system. Because IoT EFD systems leverage cloud computing, they require less hardware with a reduced installation
burden. Available communication technology can be added to existing detectors, making IoT retrofitting existing systems easy. By warning earlier on the pathway to ignition, operators of waste facilities avert costly and potentially life-threatening fires before they are permitted to start and spread. These installations include coal, biomass, industrial laundry, wood processing, metal recycling, battery monitoring, and more. In addition, because
IoT EFD systems are easily configurable, they operate in settings beyond waste facilities that benefit from early fire detection. | WA
David Bursell is passionate about imaging technologies and solutions. For more than 23 years, he has been extensively involved with infrared imaging science. He has worked for imaging companies, including Inframetrics, FLIR Systems, and MoviTHERM, where he is currently the Vice President of Business Development. His education includes a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University and an MBA from Boston University. He has also studied Digital Marketing Analytics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. David can be reached at (949) 699-6600, ext. 121 or e-mail [email protected].