Fire system upgrade made easy with Apollo

Hughes Christensen Ltd, a company specialising in the manufacture of rockbits for the oil drilling and exploration industry, has had its ten-year-old fire detection system upgraded without any disruption to its operations.

This was achieved thanks to a unique detector addressing mechanism from Apollo Fire Detectors Limited and the project management skills of Ashdale Engineering Ltd – the company that designed, supplied, installed and commissioned the new fire detection system and which is also responsible for its maintenance.

The Hughes Christensen site is in Belfast, Northern Ireland and comprises a two-storey building incorporating a major manufacturing area with CNC machinery bays, furnaces and areas designated for quality control, maintenance and stock. In addition, there is an adjoining office block which houses the canteen, administrative offices, IT centre and staff changing facilities.

The facility had been equipped with Apollo manual call points, sounders and interfaces over nine years previously, but new insurance requirements meant that the automatic fire detection in the offices and non-production areas of the plant needed upgrading. Thanks to Apollo’s policy of using the same open digital protocol for all its intelligent devices, Ashdale Engineering had no difficulty in sourcing fire detectors that were compatible with the existing devices.

John Richardson, Ashdale’s Technical Sales Engineer, comments:

“In this case, forwards and backwards compatibility was a very important aspect of the system.

Being able to add to a system that had been installed for nearly ten years meant that the client could retain its existing breakglasses, sounders and interfaces. This saved money, time and disruption for the client.”

Over 125 XP95 devices, the majority of which are optical smoke detectors, were required to upgrade the system. Ashdale Engineering’s aim was to install the new fire detection equipment with as little disruption as possible to the customer’s operations. The unique addressing mechanism common to all Apollo intelligent product ranges was crucial to success.

The patented XPERT addressing system is simple, user-friendly and gives accurate identification of detector location. It consists of a simple plastic card that fits into the base and can be read by the detecting head. Setting the address simply involves the removal of ‘pips’ from the card using a screwdriver. The coded card is then inserted into the base where it locks into position. As the detecting head is rotated into the base the remaining pips on the card operate the address buttons on the base of the detector and the address is read by the detector electronics.

Because the XPERT card is purely mechanical, it is not susceptible to damage or power failure during installation and commissioning. There is no complicated computer program to run and no additional equipment to carry around site. With the address information held in the base, detecting heads can be swapped to meet changes in use or changed for maintenance reasons without the need for any reprogramming. Extending the fire detection system later is equally simple.

Apollo’s XPERT addressing system enabled Ashdale Engineering’s installation team to install the detector bases during the ‘first fix’ of the system. This not only helped to speed up installation time but also allowed commissioning to be carried out much faster.

John Richardson concludes:

“The end result was that Hughes Christensen was only without a working fire detection system for a few hours whilst the changeover to the new panel occurred. Throughout the whole process, the factory was able to keep operating with zero false alarms and minimal disruption to the factory’s day-to-day operations.”

The upgraded fire detection system has been designed to BS5839: Part 1 and interfaces with boiler and gas systems at the factory so they can be shut down in an emergency. It also links to the fire control panel in a separate warehouse on the site. A ‘one out, all out’ evacuation procedure is initiated in the event of an alarm.