IFSJ Exclusive: New kid on the block

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The story of Ryan Fogelman and Fire Rover: the solution that is revolutionising firefighting in the waste and recycling industry and beyond. By Duncan J. White

Ryan Fogelman is a man with a distinctive expertise in guiding inventors through the process of bringing their products to market. Despite not having a background in the fire industry, he has successfully collaborated with inventors to launch an array of safety products and consumer goods, including the Stick Grip, which has achieved extraordinary popularity, amassing approximately a billion views on the TikTok platform and COhatch, community-oriented coworking spaces that helps entrepreneurs bring their inventions to market.

Fogelman’s educational background includes a law degree and an MBA, which, coupled with his extensive focus on data analysis, reflects his dedication to rigorous analysis and strategic decision-making. While he possesses a wealth of knowledge in these areas, Fogelman primarily identifies as a business development professional.

It was through this professional network that Fogelman was approached in 2015 by a childhood friend, Brad Gladstone, who sought his assistance with their innovation known as Fire Rover, a remotely operated fire detection and suppression solution. Intrigued by the opportunity to work on ground-breaking technology, he joined the endeavour as part of Fire Rover’s first official employee.

Understanding the problem

Upon visiting his first trade show to present the product to the market, Fogelman was confronted by an issue: there was no solid information around the problem Fire Rover was looking to solve and so was unable to answer the customer’s fundamental question ‘why should I buy it?’.

Fires at waste and recycling centres were common, and their prevalence was something that he had researched extensively, but at that time there was no benchmark for the scale of the issue.

Seeking to understand the problem and identify the necessary solutions, Fogelman reached out to various industry professionals, but none of them had concrete data or knowledge about the prevalence of these fires. The industry was operating in a closed loop, with opinions and information kept in-house.

Driven by his curiosity, Fogelman decided to take matters into his own hands. Utilising his experience with Google Alerts, he started tracking fire incidents and began reporting the data. Gradually, he collected benchmark data and continued to monitor and analyse the information.

“I became an expert on waste and recycling facility fires and early detection solutions,” says Fogelman. “When you’re starting a company, you need to be an expert if you plan on being taken seriously in the market.” Additionally, Fogelman began to create a group of fire experts focused on problems in other occupancies to bring a new understanding to the growing threat of fires.

The scale of the problem

Traditional hazards combined with the onslaught of batteries in waste and recycling streams, worsening heat and dryness across the globe, and many other factors continue to make operating waste and recycling facilities more dangerous. As the world seeks to become more environmentally conscious, more stress is being placed on the waste industry’s infrastructure through increased recycling. The resulting rise in fires partially results from the increased sorting steps required in waste diversion, which whilst this may be classed as a good problem is one which can have dangerous consequences. In 2022, the waste and recycling industry experienced two fatalities and 56 direct and indirect injuries due to fire incidents. Uncontrolled waste fires also emit chemicals, such as acid vapours, dioxins, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, and chromium, among many other toxic substances. The more proximate to uncontrolled waste burning, the higher the risk of exposure to these hazards and pollutants. “Through my years of analysing the waste and recycling industry, I now strongly believe that waste and recycling facility operators are the unintended victims of combustible materials, such as lithium-ion batteries, placed by the public in the waste streams,” says Fogelman. “It is only fair that some of the costs of these fire hazards, which, in my estimation, cost more than $1.2 billion dollars in the US and Canada, should be borne by the manufacturers of the batteries as opposed to the operators, insurance companies, and municipal fire departments.”

The solution

Fire Rover is a fully patented remotely operated fire detection and suppression solution that works 24/7/365 to protect facilities worldwide by detecting and extinguishing fires during their earliest stages. Fire Rover achieves early detection of fire incidents using military-grade thermal detection equipment, smoke analytics, optical flame detectors, and high-definition video to facilitate final verification by human agents and targeted fire suppression using onsite, PFAS-free firefighting agents.

Equipped with military grade thermal cameras paired with listed optical flame detectors and smoke detectors to satisfy code compliance, the Fire Rover detects early heat abnormality sometimes before visible smoke or flames are present.

Once a heat abnormality is detected, alarms received from the detectors are transmitted to a UL central station. A Fire Rover agent verifies if it is a false positive or a threat and action must be taken.

If action must be taken, the Fire Rover agent alerts the facility, the fire department, and authorities and then shoots an environmentally friendly cooling agent from the Fire Rover’s nozzles onto the hotspot to eliminate a fire before or after it starts. This allows ample time for the facility operator and fire professionals to respond appropriately to the hazard level.

The Fire Rover is capable of superior suppression, partially due to the elevated water density a monitor delivers compared to the design densities of a typical sprinkler system and partially due to the targeted suppression from controlling the monitor from the central station.

By detecting early when the fire is small, targeting the fire, and putting large amounts of water in this initial growth stage, the total water usage is significantly reduced.

“We focus on those initial 10 minutes between a breakdown in prevention and the fire professionals arrival on the scene. We are always trying to set the tripwire as early in the process as possible,” says Fogelman. “We’ve developed what we call the pre-incipient stage, which is basically when I catch a fire before there’s a flame just based on a heat abnormality. We look at it, we verify it, and we activate Fire Rover to safely deal with the situation.”

Reducing the risk

Fogelman spent his first few years in the market trying to understand the problem and being cautious about saying that the patented product is the solution to the problem: “Sometimes you need to call a spade a spade. I am now 100% confident that our solution is the only solution on the market today that can lower the risk profile of a good operator to levels seen before the lithium-ion hazards hit our industry.”

In 2022, Fire Rover successfully responded to 2,880 incidents and dispatched fire professionals 146 times, while remotely responding to active fire incidents with our targeted suppression solution 137 times. The solution currently safeguards nine of the country’s top 10 waste and recycling companies and family-owned operations, municipalities, and corporations in the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Australia. It has successfully fought against any major incident with minimal damage to the clients’ facilities.

“To prevent and eliminate fire incidents, you must invest in solutions that work for your facility type,” says Fogelman. “This means that traditional fire suppression methods such as water sprinkler systems and smoke alarms may not be the best option to stop a fire at a facility where there is a lot of activity, high ceilings and open doors to the elements, such as an MRF, scrap metal facility, transfer station, or waste-to-energy facility. The Fire Rover is the only real protection to outdoor storage or operations as well.”

The future of Fire Rover

Fire Rover has been working on FM certification since its inception, but now believes it is less than a year away. In recent years, Fogelman says the company has been looking at other occupancies where the system could be effective such as refineries, construction sites, demolition sites, historical structures, airplane hangars, and garages, specifically housing lithium-powered electronic vehicles. “Since the changes in 409, we believe that for hanger protection, there is no better solution, as we have never had a false alarm or a false deluge,” he says.

Fogelman’s message to the industry is this: “There is a system out there that will catch fires early. If you catch fires early you have less damage, less fire water, and less environmental effects. You have all these issues that are alleviated. But the reality is that just like anything else we need the support. We need the NFPA, we need the market to get behind our solution and results because as we all know, the industry typically works slowly when it comes to adopting and approving new technology.

“We have a proven technology. This isn’t a new technology, it’s proven technology that we have installed and protecting over 400 sites across the globe. The question is how do we get everybody on board with it now that we have proven it, and determining what industries can it work for outside of waste recycling.

“The major hurdle is that even though there is a different, better way to put out fire, people are going back to the same old method: water, water, water. Fire water is harmful to people, the environment, and property, and all the different pieces that go with it. Fire Rover negates that. We have had less than 30 incidents since 2015 where we needed the fire department to come on scene and add additional power to put a fire out successfully.”

 When it first started out Fire Rover, potential customers would question the amount of water Fire Rover had in its tanks. The team at Fire Rover has since determined that, most of the time, 1,000 gallons (3,785 L) are more than enough to deal with the hazards faced especially when the fires are caught so early. It has since added a continuous flow option, where the Fire Rover solution connects directly to the water supply and can be used as a primary solution versus a supplemental solution. This approach has allowed Fire Rover to cover more significant hazards across various occupancies.

Fogelman adds: “When we commit to working with a customer, we enter a long-term partnership to protect them from the danger of fire incidents inherent in their operations. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the frontlines, detecting, reacting, and fighting fire hazards together.

“The fire hazards we face today will continue to evolve as the world changes. Having an agile, ready, and capable response plan built on industry best practices, supported by tested equipment and qualified personnel, and tailor-made for your operation are your keys to maintaining a safe and healthy infrastructure for you, your employees, your neighbours, the environment, and the waste and recycling industry.”

This exclusive article was originally published in the June 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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