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«Just in case of fire»: how to save lives and property using devices for preventing fires

«Just in case of fire»: how to save lives and property using devices for preventing fires
Every day, several "hot spots" flash up on the map of Russia. Many apartment buildings and private cottages, production workshops and warehouses, offices, schools and universities, hospitals and nursing homes, shopping centers and cinemas are burning. 
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Every day, several "hot spots" flash up on the map of Russia. Many apartment buildings and private cottages, production workshops and warehouses, offices, schools and universities, hospitals and nursing homes, shopping centers and cinemas are burning. According to Emercom of Russia, only in 2019, 471,357 fires were registered on the territory of the Russian Federation, in which 8567 people were killed and 9477 were injured, direct material damage was estimated at 18,170.4 million rubles (about $250 M) . The emergency services rescued 226,319 people and material assets worth more than 62.2 billion rubles (about $860 M).

Behind the dry statistics, there are injuries and broken lives, loss of acquired property, disrupted production plans and medical procedures, a huge expenditure of the state budget on organizing rescue operations and maintaining relevant services, unplanned business spending on restoring its activities, millions of payments from insurance companies. If we take into account that until 2019, the method of accounting for fire incidents of the Ministry of Emergency Situations proceeded only from direct damage reported to insurance organizations, and the picture is even more deplorable. The insurance market in the country covers only 25% of the housing stock – 8% of apartments and 17% of suburban housing. There are no open statistics for legal entities, but even there, according to experts, the figure is far from 100%. The size of the unaccounted damage is measured in billions.

"Who is to blame"?

The main cause of fires (up to 80%) is malfunctions in the electrical circuits. 
The vast majority of malfunctions in the power circuits are associated with a violation of the normal electrical contact in the conductor. Arcing occurs in the damaged areas, which is accompanied by increased heat generation. The process does not develop as quickly and "effectively" as a short circuit, so users may not notice it for a long time. For example, the wheel of an office chair periodically runs over a cable – its shell remains intact, but the veins are frayed. A pet "hunts" for external wires. Its owner does not fully insert the plug into the socket or drives a nail into the wall, slightly damaging the internal wiring. The office tenant voluntarily lays additional temporary wiring to connect the necessary equipment. An unscrupulous electrician directly connects a copper cable with an aluminum one – and the difference in their thermal conductivity eventually leads to a violation of the contact at the junction and the appearance of arc gaps.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the electrical wiring in the residential and non-residential fund of the USSR was designed without relying on modern equipment – powerful and numerous. With its intensive use, the threshold of the permissible network load is exceeded. Protective disconnection devices (RCD) installed in electrical panels de-energize the network. However, not wanting to sacrifice comfort, users replace them with devices with a large threshold of permissible load. The wiring overheats; the connections between the wires are destroyed, leading to fires. This was the reason for the infamous fire in the «Winter Cherry»

On a national scale, the problem of" electric " fires has taken such a large scale that it was taken care of at the highest level. Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No. 501 of October 16, 2019 "On the Strategy for the development of civil defense, protection of the population and territories from emergency situations, ensuring fire safety and human safety on water bodies for the period up to 2030" provides, in particular, the introduction of new technologies to ensure fire safety of the population.

"What to do"?
The task of preventing most "electric" fires can be fixed by installing specialized Arc Fault Detection Device (AFDD). This class of devices appeared relatively recently, in contrast to the commonly used protective shutdown devices (RCD). AFDD are able to recognize the electrical impulses characteristic of arcing, and immediately signal the danger that has arisen. RCD is powerless in these situations: it is not designed to recognize signals that occur during a spark and prevent a fire.

RCD and protective automata in most cases are not able to recognize the arc.

The Russian AFDD market is at the stage of formation, but domestic devices are already confidently competing with the products of such multinational giants as Siemens, Schneider Electric, ABB, Hager, Eaton. Moreover, the functionality of Russian devices is ahead of foreign ones in a number of parameters. So, the company "Ecolight", based on its own scientific research, was the first to create an UPD with functions that no analogue in the world has yet been equipped with.

Full version of article in Russian available here.  

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