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Fire Protection For Steel Structures

By MSF MSF in 

Our office building is a steel structure, and because steel doesn’t burn I shouldn’t have to worry about fire protection, right?

That’s a common misconception. Damage can definitely be done to steel structures and the extent of damage depends on the size and temperature of the fire.

It is always best to prepare with a fire protection system for a steel structure that matches the overall structural design and purpose of the building.

Many structures, such as parking garages, may only require active sprinkler systems. Other steel structures that do not fit these specifications may require more extensive passive systems installed for optimum safety.

Boards and Blanket Systems

Where steel beams are fairly accessible with well-defined 90° angles, adding boards to cover the beams is the best solution.

Board content should be made from calcium silicate, gypsum plaster or mineral fiberboard with resin or gypsum for optimum fire protection. Where beams are exposed in tight spaces or non-symmetrical angles, Blankets containing the same materials can be used to fill in.

Intumescent Coatings 

These are thin chemical coatings that are typically sprayed directly onto steel beams and provide excellent fire protection. They appear as a paint covering after application and can be chosen because of their aesthetic appeal.

These coatings will aggressively expand up to as high as 50 times their original thickness of coating, providing additional protection as fires intensify.

Conventional Coatings (SFRMs)

This type of fire coating is sprayed onto steel structures where needed, to protect against quick-flashing fires and rapid temperature increases. Usually available in either cementitious or spray fiber coatings, these coatings are generally chosen if the steel is not exposed.

Exterior Intumescent Coatings

Coatings such as these are typically used in outdoor steel structure applications, where fire suppression is still a concern. They are also used in confined spaces such as lifts, where not so thick a coating is desired.

The prerequisites for fire safety that affect steel structures are dictated by three factors: the structure’s location, its intended use, and its occupancy.

Regarding location, the International Building Code’s fire protection requirements are based on a steel structure’s proximity to other property lines or buildings. The more distance between a structure and any other adjacent buildings, the lower the risk of fire spreading.

By the same token, requirements for fire-resistance ratings also decrease when a steel structure is farther away from any adjacent buildings. The strictest requirements are reserved for wood structures that are in close proximity to other buildings.

Do You Need A Fire Extinguisher Refill Or Relacement?

By MSF MSF in 

If you’ve recently used your fire extinguishers to put out a fire, you have two choices: to refill (recharge) or replace your equipment. So which option is the right one?

At MS Fire Systems we can provide expert guidance to help keep your building safe and prepared for any circumstances through our the country.

Should You Refill or Replace Your Fire Extinguisher?

The fire extinguishers you get from MS Fire Systems are designed to last a long time especially when you have us come out and inspect them once a year. What this means is that as long as the fire extinguisher shell stays in good shape (i.e. not cracked or dented), you will be able to recharge your fire extinguisher as many times as you need to.

That said, fire extinguisher replacement isn’t a bad idea either—especially for smaller fire extinguishers. If you’re not sure whether you should have fire extinguisher repair or fire extinguisher replacement, just call MS Fire Systems! We can inspect the used fire extinguishers and recommend fire extinguisher repair or fire extinguisher replacement.

Remember that you should call us any time you use any amount of extinguishant—even just a tiny bit. Releasing just a little bit of extinguishant could result in your fire extinguisher being unable to protect you the next time around.

Note: the above only applies to fire extinguishers that have been used. If you haven’t touched your fire extinguisher in a while and it’s slowly losing its charge, call MS Fire Systems to inspect it—you may have a leak or a small crack in the shell which would automatically require full-on fire extinguisher replacement.

When Does an Extinguisher Need to Be Replaced?

red fire extinguishers in a row

Obviously, you want to have your fire extinguisher recharged or replaced every time you use it. But when else should you replace your fire extinguishers?

A fire extinguisher should be replaced any time its charge has been compromised. This means fire extinguisher replacement if:

  • The hose or nozzle is cracked, ripped or clogged
  • The pin on the handle is broken or missing
  • The handle is wobbly
  • The inspection tag is missing
  • The shell is cracked or damaged

If you have fire extinguishers in your building that have been used recently and have lost some of their charge, call us! We can come take a look at your fire extinguisher and help you decide whether you need fire extinguisher recharge or fire extinguisher replacement. And if your fire extinguisher is damaged or malfunctioning in any way, we can replace it straight away!

Contact us online or by phone at +260 21 1244581 for a refill or a replacement

How Gas Leak Detectors Work

By MSF MSF in 

Gas Leak detectors, often called sniffers, are a class of instruments specially designed to find small leaks in enclosed gas systems.

The use of pressurized gases in pipelines and vessels is very common in industrial or commercial settings. Pipes carry LPG or natural gas to furnaces; any number of refrigerant gases to cooling systems; and caustic or toxic gases to and from the production floor as an ingredient or byproduct of an industrial process.

Long, complex piping runs with an assortment of valves, adapters and fittings provide a multitude of places leaks can develop. When those leaks do develop, they can lead to decreased performance or the failure of equipment and the release of dangerous gases.

The need for leak detectors is well established. Refrigerant leaks are the number one cause of poor HVAC cooling performance. Leaks in natural gas or LPG lines can create immediate fire/explosion hazards for workers and facilities. Many gases used in commercial or industrial processes have been identified as harmful to the environment and are therefore highly regulated and leaks can result in heavy fines. Having and knowing how to effectively use a leak detector is an important role for plant technicians.

Using a Gas Leak Detector

There was a time before gas leak detectors came into the market that finding a leak involved a lot of detective work. If the leak was large enough a technician could perhaps hear it, provided background noise didn’t drown out the sound. Sometimes pressure gauges would identify a leak and shut-offs could be used to isolate the area of the leak. Sometimes technicians, armed with spray bottles filled with soap and water, had to work their way down a pipe looking for bubbles to announce the location of the leak.

While all these methods are still used today, none of them provide the reliable means to identify and locate gas leaks in a closed pipeline.

Though leak detectors are closely related to personal gas detectors, they are designed to do different things. Personal gas detectors identify the presence of a gas in the environment while leak detectors are used to check for leaks and identify their source.

Aside from the sensor, gas leak detectors are generally equipped with features allowing them to easier pinpoint leaking pipelines. Flexible probes, for example, permit operators to closely trace pipeline routes checking for leaks along the way. These probes often extend several inches from the meter making it easier to extend into hard-to-reach areas.

Most gas leak detectors also include sensitivity adjustment. When gas leak detectors find evidence of an escaped gas and alarm is triggered. Many detectors do not include a display to show concentration readings. To find the location of the leak once the alarm has sounded involves lowering the sensitivity of the instrument and directing it until the alarm sounds again. This indicates increasingly high areas of concentration and point the direction towards the leak.

Having the right gas leak detector and checking its operation technique could mean the difference between finding a leak and missing it.

Leak Detector Technology

Since detecting gases leaking from closed systems is fundamentally different from identifying the presence of gases in the environment, leak detectors use different sensing technology than gas detectors.

Though there are some new technologies for detecting leaking gas, most leak detectors use one of the following sensing technologies:

Heated Diode

Heated diode gas leak detectors operate on the principle that a small electrical current is produced when halogenated gases—commonly used as refrigerants—come into contact with a heated ceramic diode. That current, in turn, triggers an alarm.

Heated diode sensors are very sensitive. They are capable of finding leaks as small as 0.1 ounce per year with the refrigerant R-134a. Also, because they only react with halogenated gases, are less prone to false alarms caused by the presence of other gases.

Heated diode sensors are susceptible to contamination via moisture and oils. They have a short service life, typically just 2-3 years though replacement sensors are inexpensive.

Solid State

Solid state sensors use a metal oxide (often tin oxide or aluminum oxide) formed into a bead-type sensor. A heating element is used to keep the sensor at an optimal temperature for the gas to be detected.

Since solid state sensors identify leaks by sensing changes in conductivity, a pair of biased electrodes are embedded into the sensor to measure the conductivity change. When the sensor comes in contact with gas escaping from a leak, that gas is adsorbed onto the sensor surface, changing the resistance of the sensor material. When the gas disappears, the sensor returns to its original condition.

What makes solid state sensors especially good for finding gas leaks is the strong signal they produce, which increases in the presence of high gas concentrations. This makes it easier to “point” the detector towards the area of highest concentration– the leak.

Solid state sensors are very versatile. They detect both low and high concentrations of gas and can be customized to detect many different gases by varying the sensor’s materials, construction and operating temperature.

The primary strength of solid state sensors is their long life expectancy. In clean conditions, the sensor can last up to 10 years, considerably longer than other sensor types. This is a big advantage for an instrument that is used only intermittently (unless you have a lot of gas leaks!).

Solid state sensors are, however, more susceptible to interference from background gases than other sensor types. In applications where background gases are present, solid state sensors can trigger false alarms. Sometimes, these background gases can be filtered out minimizing their adverse effect.


Ultrasonic leak detectors operate on a very different principle than other leak detectors. Whereas solid state and heated diode sensors look for traces of specific gases seeping from leaks, ultrasonic leak detectors identify the sound waves emitted when gas escapes through a leak.

When gas escapes a pressurized line, it generates a sound in the range of 25 kHz to 10 MHz, well above the frequencies the human ear is sensitive to but in a range easily identifiable to ultrasonic sensors. When the detector senses ultrasonic frequencies they are isolated from normal background noise, amplified, and converted to a frequency audible to humans.

Since ultrasonic gas detectors search for the sounds of leaks rather than escaping gases, they are able to detect leaks of any gas type. Though they are unable to measure gas concentration, the device is able to determine the leak rate of an escaping gas because the ultrasonic sound level depends on the gas pressure and size of the leak.

Ultrasonic gas detectors work in just about any environment but they are especially useful for remote sensing in outdoor environments where gases can quickly dissipate before reaching solid state or heated diode sensors which require contact with the gas escaping from a leak to identify the leak.

If you have any questions regarding gas leak detectors or would like purchase one please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Western Cape Woolworths Cold Storage Case Study

By MSF MSF in 

Woolworths is one of the top 100 companies listed on the JSE.

Its core business focus is the provision of retail products and services to upper and middle-income customers in the Southern Hemisphere.
All perishables are stored in a cold storage warehouses, thereby ensuring consumers are offered fresh produce at all times.

In 2013 the Woolworths Distribution Centre in Montague Gardens, Cape Town, extended their existing freezer store by converting an existing warehouse and South African fire safety company was tasked with providing a fire detection solution for their Cold Storage Warehouses.

It might not be easy to imagine a fire starting in a cold store, but if one considers the conveyer belts, forklifts, wooden pallets and highly combustible packaging materials in this area, it becomes more plausible that a fire could actually occur. Cold stores form part of the production and delivery processes and any fire damage could severely disrupt the business supply chain, not to mention the loss in revenue.

After careful investigation, a Vesda Aspirating Smoke Detection System (ASD) was deemed to be the most effective solution for this unique environment. ASD consists of a central detection unit that continuously draws and samples the air through a network of pipes in order to detect smoke. The air in the space being monitored is sucked in for precise analysis by the scattered-light smoke detector located in the sampling chamber. If it detects smoke particles beyond a pre-set threshold, it triggers an immediate alarm, allowing the time needed to deal with the fire before it has time to break out and spread.

Despite the harsh environmental conditions, ASD provides reliable and efficient detection. The ASD units are a central point of maintenance and offer the lowest cost of total ownership. When servicing the ASD units there is no need for additional hosting equipment, and service and maintenance does not interrupt client operations.

A total of 11 Vesda Aspirating Smoke Detection units, connected with over 460 metres of sampling pipe, now protect the cold storage facilities that span more than 4,200 m2. Further phases and expansions are being planned, since the Vesda ASD System has become a Woolworths standard for all their Cold Storage Facilities.

Contact MS Fire Systems now to order ASD units for enhanced fire safety of your premises.

7 Important Components of Life Safety Systems

By MSF MSF in 

Life safety systems are made up of elements that are designed to protect your building and its occupants during a fire or emergency situation. There are many components that make up life safety systems. Having an integrated and fully functioning life safety system can improve the safety of your business. Here are some things elements that should be considered when designing a building’s life safety system:

  1. Fire Sprinklers or Suppression

Sprinklers and suppression systems are critical to the safety of the people in your building. These systems are designed to react to a fire by extinguishing or suppressing a fire before it causes extensive damage to the building or harms the people inside.

2. Fire Alarm & Detection System

These systems detect the presence of a fire and alert the people within the building. This allows people to evacuate the building safely before the fire becomes too large.

3. CCTV Security Cameras

Having security cameras installed in your facility can help to deter crime and monitor the activities of your facility. CCTV cameras provide peace of mind by recording videos of your property.

  • Access Control Systems

An access control system helps to secure your building by controlling who can enter your facility. This prevents unauthorized personnel from entering your property and causing damage or harm.

  • Alarm & Security Monitoring

Monitoring your alarm and security systems provides 24-hour protection for your building in emergency situations. When an alarm in your building activates, authorities will be alerted immediately to make sure that your building is attended to as quickly as possible.

4. Emergency and Exit Lighting

It is important to have emergency and exit lighting in your facility to allow occupants to safely find their way to an exit. These emergency lighting systems work when the power is out in a facility.

5. Fire Extinguishers

A fire extinguisher can be used to extinguish small fires before they grow into larger uncontrollable fires. Having fire extinguishers throughout your building and along with personnel who are trained to operate them can help save lives.

Life Safety Systems from MS Fire Systems

MS Fire Systems can install components of a life safety system in your facility. We have the capability of designing and installing fire sprinklers, suppression, and alarms. We also can provide your building with extra security through the installation of access control systems and CCTV cameras. Our team also provides fire alarm and security monitoring for 24 hour protection for your facility. We have experienced technicians who can inspect and test your life safety systems to help keep them running smoothly and working together to provide the highest level of protection for your property. Contact us now to get the best bargain.