The Last Word with Mandy Bowden, Fire Manager at Comelit-PAC

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Mandy Bowden, Fire Manager Comelit-PAC talks compliance and wireless fire detection

Can you share some highlights of your journey with Comelit-PAC so far?

My journey with Comelit-PAC has been filled with growth opportunities.

What I cherish is the chance to contribute to the development of new products.

 This is not only through my sector expertise but also the level of listening to customer requirements, both from an installation perspective and end users looking for simple solutions.

Could you introduce us to Comelit-PAC’s latest product offering?

The key to success has been having the solutions available to deliver essential requirements.

 This is in line with the increasing demand for systems such as wireless fire detection and to allow for remote monitoring in the new hybrid working environment.

Comelit-PAC’s new wireless devices have been designed with LogiFire aesthetics in mind and to be placed in a building, connecting to the main system.

We believe we are one of the few to offer as standard an addressable wireless solution that can benefit from remote monitoring via cloud integration, especially useful to reduce reliance on waking watch facilities and associated costs.

 And one that can enable an integrated new build or retrofit solution for both residential and commercial applications.

How does this new product fit into Comelit-PAC’s existing portfolio?

Comelit-PAC’s new range of wireless fire detection devices seamlessly integrates with our popular LogiFire system, enhancing our robust alarm systems portfolio.

Ideal for situations where a wired solution may not be feasible, these wireless devices prioritise ease of installation and flexibility, eliminating the need for extensive cabling and reducing installation time and cost significantly.

With options for addressable and conventional transceivers available, our wireless addressable devices offer cloud and remote monitoring capabilities via our MyComelit app.

Our conventional transceivers can be installed as standalone units or alongside conventional wired devices, offering versatility in system configuration.

With a range of up to 1500m and a ten-year battery life expectancy, our wireless alarm devices ensure reliable and long-lasting performance.

Certified to EN54-25, EN54-17, and EN54-18 standards, they meet stringent safety requirements while providing smart and compliant solutions for early detection and prevention.

What are Comelit-PAC’s primary goals in the fire and safety industry?

Our primary goals revolve around innovation, integration, expansion, sustainability and continued commitment to excellence.

 We plan to expand our market reach, targeting new customers with our comprehensive range of products and services.

This includes exploring opportunities in emerging markets and forming strategic partnerships to enhance our presence.

The best way we can achieve this is to continue to prioritise the needs of our customers, offering exceptional service, tailored solutions, and ongoing support to ensure their safety and peace of mind.

We have a duty of care and responsibility to stay abreast of the latest regulations and ensure our products and practices maintain full compliance.

Bringing this all together, Comelit-PAC is renowned for its commitment to continuous investment in research and development, exploring futureproof technologies and methodologies to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and reliability of our life safety systems.

This includes exploring advancements in areas such as IoT, AI, and machine learning.

By staying agile, proactive, and customer-focused, we are confident in our ability to lead the way in the fire safety industry.

Structural fire fighting response to marine incidents (part 2) By Paul E. Calderwood, Calderwood Consulting International

[Part 1 can be found here]

In February 1989 there was a vessel fire in Wilmington Delaware on the MV Centaurus and the following issues and problems were identified by the fire department:

  • Inability to communicate with the crew
  • Lack of knowledge of vessel systems and arrangement
  • Lack of knowledge of the fire control plan
  • Logistic of managing large amounts of foam concentrate, including protecting the foam from freezing temperatures
  • Difficulty in recharging large numbers of radios and flashlights during a prolonged operation
  • Difficulty in dewatering and controlling pollution from contaminated runoff

These and many other issues and problems will be faced by fire fighters and the command staff at a vessel fire and with proper pre-fire planning many of these can be eliminated or reduced.

All fires to a fire fighter can be a life and death situation, but with shipboard firefighting there is a heightened level of risk due to the unknowns.

Use of 30-minute air tanks may be only enough to get you to the fire but not able to exit from a lower deck or engine room.

There are a number of MIRT (Marine Incident Response Teams) Teams formed in the US today.

The make-up of these teams includes port area fire departments, USCG, special experts like marine architects and marine chemist and other agencies and departments that would be called upon to respond to a vessel fire.

These teams are used also to provide training and drills prior to actual events but it gives the responders the opportunity to meet each other and iron out any problems in a non-emergency situation.

Mutual aid training of fire fighters is an area of planning that will need extensive work to accomplish.

Every fire department is faced with legally mandated training, much of which is required to be repeated annually.

Finding the time, the vessels, competent instructors and a safe location to hold training is needed and not easy to do.

The basic training of fire fighters for responding to a shipboard fire is roughly 16 – 24 hours.

Now you have to factor in the typical day in the life of a fire fighter, shift starts at 8am, equipment checks and housework until 9am, training from 9-9:30 until lunch.

After lunch class could start around 1:30 until 5 pm, so in one day with breaks and lunch you will get about 6 hours’ worth of training in; unless there is a fire or a medical call.

Depending on fire department work schedules, vacation schedules, sick days and injuries it could take months to get everyone through just the basic training.

The hands-on training can be organized through multi-departmental drills with assistance from the shipping companies and the US Coast Guard.

The one item that can be pointed to as a problem at every fire that has not gone right is communications.

The command staff of a vessel fire should already be aware that they will have communications problems, especially trying to communicate with the fire attack teams below deck.

The comment about being able to communicate in any type of building can also be any type of vessel.

The steel construction of a vessel is going to cause problems on many levels but especially with communications.

During practical drills in Everett we have found that a standard portable radio can reach 2-3 decks below the main deck near a stairwell.

The use of radio relays or using the ship’s communications systems may be the only way to get messages back and forth.

A secondary issue of communications comes from the ability of the OIC to communicate in a common language.

The terminology of the marine environment and ships system is complicated; if an OIC has no idea what a ship’s crew member is talking about it is doubtful that he will go along with it.

During port calls, many of the ship’s crewmembers may be on shore leave and will be unavailable to assist in the emergency and with a language barrier it will be difficult to ascertain who is accounted for or missing.

A M.I.R.T. is a group of training individuals from the many different agencies and departments in the area that have practiced together and responded to actual incidents.

Special experts like marine architects, marine chemists and vessel stability are vital to have on scene throughout the event.

The M.I.R.T. team concept can help bridge the gaps that are left from the lack of training.

These experts can help OIC’s in developing attack plans that can actually keep fire fighters above deck and not have to enter spaces that can be attacked using ship systems.

The use of some indirect attack methods, like flooding a space with CO2, can help buy time for the OIC to arrange for further support and resources.

There are similarities in the basic construction and layouts but being familiar with a vessel will make a difference when an actual event occurs.

Training can be upgraded to practice drills where fire fighters board a vessel in turnout gear and simulate fire conditions, advance lines, do search and rescue, patient removals and systems operations.

Through the use of drills on actual vessels fire fighters will gain a working knowledge of how to operate on a vessel, how to find their way around the different decks and how to communicate.

The simple task of walking onto the ship, across the main deck and then down 4-5 decks to a smoke-filled engine room is not something an average fire fighter can physically do.

The command staff needs to know how to organize the attack on a fire and how to set up an accountability system to track all fire fighters and crew members.

The pre-fire planning that is needed in a port community needs to address all the different types of vessels that dock there.

Based on the different types of vessel the plan can be generic for all vessels or it may have to be specific to each type of vessel due to the size or hazards associated with the vessel.

In the back of the NFPA 1405 Guide there are generic forms that can be used to start your planning; the intent of the forms is to have a memory jogger that will assist the incident commander that is first assigned to the vessel fire to gather important information that can and will change during the course of the fire.

These changes need to be monitored but without a good base line to start with the changes may not seem to be as serious as they really are.

Things like the depth of the vessel in the water and any listing of the vessel to one side are important to note.

Accountability was one area that needs to be assigned to an officer at the beginning of the incident.

When coordinating the efforts of hundreds of fire fighters and the alphabet soup of local, state and federal agencies, there has to be a detailed method of accounting for everyone, especially those entering into the hot zones.

Control and check points need to be established at the vessel entrances and members need to check in when boarding and check out when leaving the vessel.

A secondary check point is also needed at the point where fire fighters are actually entering into the vessel to attack the fire.

The time they enter, and their air bottle pressure should be written down and an estimated time of return and their destination.

If the crew does not return within the given time period and is unable to be contacted the rapid intervention team should be sent in to search for them.

Crews can easily become disorientated below deck and travel to another exit point, but they should always contact the checkpoint where they entered to notify them that the team has exited the interior of the vessel safely.

If your department could be called on to respond to any type of vessel fire, please take the time and get the proper training to be able to safely and professionally respond and mitigate the situations.

I dedicate this article to Firefighter Augusto Acabou and Firefighter Wayne Brooks Jr., may they both Rest In Peace.

Contact me regarding available training programs in the US and International locations: [email protected]

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

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