Sustainable suppression with Britannia Fire

Share this content


Exploring Britannia Fire’s innovative strategies in fire safety, from eco-friendly solutions to smart technology integration

Established in 1970, Britannia Fire has been in the midst the transformation in fire extinguisher technology.

Through its journey, the UK manufacturer has become synonymous with advancements in fire safety, integrating new materials and eco-friendly solutions, while embracing the latest in smart technologies.

IFSJ Editor Iain Hoey speaks to Andy Spence, Joint Managing Director at Britannia, to delve into the intricacies of its pioneering journey.

Spence, a key figure in the company since 2010, offers insights into Britannia’s evolution over its 52-year history.

From its beginnings on an industrial estate under the guidance of company co-founder Roger Carr, to the launch of the revolutionary P50 composite fire extinguisher, Britannia’s tale is one of growth, resilience, and forward-thinking.

BS 5306-8

When asked his views on the new voluntary code of practice for fire extinguishers, BS 5306-8, Spence’s response was forthright and reflective of a deep understanding of the industry’s dynamics.

Spence believes that BS 5306-8, despite being a voluntary code of practice, tends to stifle innovation.

“It might be strong word, but the code doesn’t allow for innovation.

“Whenever you look at the fire alarm side of the fire industry, they’re always innovating, striving for the next product and the next innovation.

“In the fire extinguisher world there seems to be a reluctance to do that.”

This disparity, he suggests, may be rooted in the fire extinguisher sector’s reluctance to embrace change, possibly due to the generation of service income.

He further argues for the need for advancement in the fire extinguisher industry, especially in light of modern technologies and materials like composites, are effective and even superior to, traditional metal.

PFAS-free fire extinguishers

In the quest for environmental responsibility within the fire safety industry, Britannia Fire has taken a significant step with the introduction of its PFAS-free foam P-50 fire extinguisher.

This innovation underlines the critical importance of eliminating PFAS chemicals, often referred to as ‘forever chemicals’.

“Forever chemicals are bad for the environment. Absolutely. They should be outlawed,” Spence asserts.

He proudly notes that Britannia has been an early adopter in finding alternatives to these harmful substances.

Its commitment to this cause culminated in the launch of the PFAS-free foam fire extinguisher this year, a solution that has quickly become its ‘hero product’.

Spence also discussed the introduction of a water-mist extinguisher alongside the foam variant, offering a broader range of fire-fighting capabilities.

While acknowledging the debate surrounding the use of foam extinguishers inside buildings due to potential damage, he offers a different perspective: “I want the best firefighting capability.

“I want to be able to put the fire out quickly and efficiently and safely. And the foam allows you to do have a better firefighting capability in my opinion.”

This innovation, however, isn’t just about the extinguishing agent.

The PFAS-free P-50 extinguisher, according to Spence, is also a win in terms of maintenance: it is a service-free products doesn’t require annual servicing, only a 10-year overhaul.

Any maintenance can be carried out in-house, facilitated by Britannia’s training portal, which includes an app and instructional videos.

Extinguisher scrappage scheme

In a bid to enhance environmental responsibility, Britannia Fire has initiated a pioneering scrappage scheme to phase out PFAS-containing units.

Spence notes that while official guidelines are anticipated by 2025, Britannia has chosen to proactively lead the change: “We’re saying to customers, ‘you’re going to have to swap these products out anyway, so to enable you to do that we’ve launched a scrappage scheme.”

This scheme offers those looking to replace their current extinguishers a trade in incentive with money off its environmentally friendly replacement model.

The scheme also ensures responsible disposal of the old units: “When we take these units away, we’re recycling what can be recycled and dispose of the chemicals as is legally required in a responsible way,” Spence tells.

New markets

Initially, Britannia Fire established its reputation in the oil and gas industry, a sector where it continues to have a substantial presence.

However, Spence recognises the need for change: “Oil is changing, we need to diversify our business as well.

“We need to move away from traditional methods and look at which target areas we can move into.”

This diversification strategy has already borne fruit in several key areas.

Universities have emerged as a major success story, with around 20 institutions switching to Britannia’s P50 fire extinguishers.

Furthermore, the NHS Trusts across the UK and major entities like Heathrow Airport have adopted the new principle and the P50s.

Spence confidently states, “We’re now offering our P50 to everybody. There’s nowhere it’s not suitable.”

Cutting carbon and costs

Fire extinguisher servicing is an annual event, primarily to check for corrosion, both external and internal.

Spence explains Britannia’s innovative approach in developing the P50: “When we developed the P50, we looked at the corrosion issues and we decided to manufacture using modern materials which won’t corrode in the same way as metal, which removes the necessity of checking the cylinder to make sure it’s integrity.”

This development was about both creating a corrosion-resistant product but also about adding value and functionality.

However, Spence acknowledges the initial resistance from the fire trade, which preferred the ongoing revenue from servicing traditional extinguishers: “It was a real hard slog to begin with because the fire trade don’t want to sell it – they want to continue servicing your extinguishers and maintaining them.”

Britannia’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond product design.

Spence highlights its focus on reducing the carbon footprint in manufacturing processes: “We’ve just invested over 150,000 pounds on solar panels for our production plants to ensure that this is generating less emissions as well.”

He laments the decrease in British manufacturing of fire safety products, emphasizing the environmental benefits of sourcing locally.

He also stresses the need for a more sustainable mindset within the industry: “We can’t keep throwing things away.

“We can’t keep manufacturing just for the sake of manufacturing. It’s got to be a sustainable approach that we all adopt.”

Intersec 2024

As Intersec approaches, Spence shares his excitement for the international show: “Intersec is always, always a great show for us as a business because it allows us to meet our partners. There seems to be a buzz around Dubai – it is the middle of the world.”

The key focus for Britannia this year at Intersec is diversification.

Spence emphasises the company’s aim to broaden its market reach beyond traditional sectors like oil, gas, or marine: “This year, we really want to diversify our partners and get their focus and attention on promoting our products for the whole market, not just oil or gas or marine.”

Its efforts have already seen success, particularly with its partner in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, a company called Concord, which has rolled out Britannia’s P50s across various sectors.

The overarching message Britannia intends to convey to its distributors and partners at Intersec is one of long-term collaboration and growth.

“That message to all our distributors and partners is that we want to work with you and help you grow your business for the next 20-30 years.”

He adds: “As we move beyond the oil and gas market, we need that diversification into other industries, such as hotels and shopping malls.”

Looking ahead

Spence highlights that developing new products is a cornerstone of Britannia’s strategy, crediting much of their innovative spirit to Roger Carr: “If we have a particular product or an idea, we give it to Roger, leave him alone, give him a few days and he puts out these fantastic ideas.”

This approach has led to a steady stream of innovative products tested and manufactured with the help of its in-house fire testing facility.

However, introducing new innovations to the market presents its own set of challenges.

Spence returns to the difficulty in navigating industry standards that, despite claims to the contrary, often stifle innovation: “New innovation gets stifled again – standards need to be open to innovation.

“And although they claim to be open to innovation, I’m yet to see it.”

Britannia’s vision is centred around empowering customers.

Spence envisions a future where customers have the skills, training, and products to take control of their fire safety needs.

He mentions the P50 as an example, offering security and autonomy to clients, especially in high-risk environments like secure units and prisons, where external maintenance is a security concern.

In sum, Britannia Fire is not just navigating the challenges of today’s fire safety landscape but actively shaping the future with innovative products, a focus on customer empowerment, and a keen eye on the evolving needs of a diverse range of environments.

This approach underscores Britannia’s commitment to being at the forefront of fire safety technology and solutions.

Intersec Dubai will take place between the 16th and 18th of January at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai. Britannia Fire’s Stand Number is Stand 4.E39

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

Receive the latest breaking news straight to your inbox