How Fume Hood Fire Protection Works

Firetrace International manufactures a fast-acting and reliable automatic fire detection and suppression system designed to protect against laboratory fume hood fires.

By Firetrace International

Problem: Due to the many volatile chemicals and compounds used in laboratories, a fume hood fire can release toxic and/or corrosive vapors and soot into the air. In addition to the fire destroying the fume hood itself, these vapors can destroy chemical or biological research material, damage sensitive instruments and their calibration, and destroy data on laboratory computer hard drives.

In some labs, personnel are trained to fight a fume hood fire using portable extinguishers. However, this is risky as a fume hood fire can grow quickly out of control due to the large volume of air feeding through the sash. Traditional in-cabinet sprinkler-head detection and dispersal systems provide limited effectiveness, as the airflow pattern in the hood can prevent the heat and flames from reaching the top-mounted detection device in time to avoid a major disaster.

To be effective, fume hood fire detection and suppression needs to: provide fast around-the-clock protection; suppress a fire with absolute reliability, even if the sash is open; and prevent the release of fumes. It should not be susceptible to false alarm or interfere with the operation of the hood or its maintenance.

Solution: Firetrace International manufactures a fast-acting and reliable automatic fire detection and suppression system designed to protect against laboratory fume hood fires. The FIRETRACE ® system utilizes unique, proprietary pressurized polymer fire detection tubing that is linked to an extinguishing agent cylinder.

The tubing functions as a linear pneumatic heat and flame detector that ruptures or “bursts” at any point along its length where a fire is detected, triggering the release of the extinguishing agent. The flexibility of the detection tubing is such that it allows it to be routed throughout the path that heat and flame will follow—behind the fume hood’s baffles and across the exhaust duct openings—ensuring that a fire is suppressed where it starts, and before it can cause major damage.

The operation of the system is unaffected by the sash being open, and the speed of suppression helps prevent the release of fumes that can damage instruments or equipment. The system activates only in the event of a fire, so there is no potential for false alarms or unwarranted suppression activation due to smoke or fumes.

The system is intrinsically safe and requires neither electricity nor external power, and does not demand manual intervention—although a manual release option is available— and so provides constant, unsupervised protection of the fume hood. Firetrace systems are compatible with most commercially available extinguishing agents including CO2, AFFF foam, dry powder, and the latest clean agents such as 3M™ Novec™ 1230 Fire Suppression Fluid and DuPont™ FM- 200® that leave no reside and require no clean-up.

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Categories: How it Works

Published In

Managing Crisis Magazine Issue Cover
Managing Crisis

Published: December 1, 2010

Cover Story

Managing Crisis

Taking a look at the recent Gulf of Mexico oil well blowoutthe greatest industrial accident in historylab managers can find useful examples of similar decision-making failures that can occur in laboratory environments.
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