Wesco is a leading provider of recycled and virgin fire suppression gases (clean agents) serving the commercial fire suppression, aviation, defense, petrochemical and marine industries. A name synonymous with responsible halon management, Wesco has met the continuing fire suppression needs of more companies in more industries than anyone else in the business.
By Johnson Controls International plc Cision PR Newswire
CORK, Ireland — Johnson Controls, the global leader for smart, healthy and sustainable buildings, today details multi-year SG&A actions designed to further optimize the overall cost structure, enhance operational efficiency and deliver meaningful margin expansion. These actions will deliver annualized savings of $300 million by fiscal year-end 2023 and are incremental to ongoing improvements in underlying fundamentals.
The one-time pretax costs associated with these actions are estimated at $240 million, a majority of which is expected to be recorded in fiscal 2021. These costs will be excluded from the Company’s non-GAAP (adjusted) financial results. The cash impact associated with these costs is estimated to be $200 million and will be absorbed as part of reported free cash flow conversion.
As a result of these actions, the Company is raising its outlook for fiscal 2021 adjusted EPS, to a range of $2.50 to $2.60, compared to the prior range of $2.45 to $2.55. Adjusted Segment EBITA margin is now expected to expand by 60 to 90 basis points, versus an expansion of 40 to 60 basis points previously. Full year organic revenue growth of up low-to-mid single digits, and FCF conversion of 100% remain unchanged. Fiscal Q2 guidance is also unchanged.
“After four years of significant integration and transformation-related activities, today’s announcement builds upon the success of those actions and represents a critical step forward in further enhancing profitability at Johnson Controls,” said George Oliver, Chairman and CEO. “We have a number of attractive growth opportunities in front of us, and these actions will ensure that our cost structure is effectively optimized to deliver strong operating margin expansion as we continue to execute on our strategic growth priorities.”
As previously announced, Johnson Controls Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, George Oliver and Chief Financial Officer, Olivier Leonetti are scheduled to participate in both the Barclays Industrial Select Conference and Citi 2021 Global Industrials Conference today. Messrs. Oliver and Leonetti will comment on the cost actions and the impact to Fiscal 2021 guidance during these presentations. A slide presentation with additional details, as well as a link to the live webcast for each conference, is available on the “Events” section of the company’s website at: http://investors.johnsoncontrols.com/news-and-events/events-and-presentations.
The latest addition strengthens Summit Fire & Security’s presence in Southwestern U.S. with expansion in New Mexico
MENDOTA HEIGHTS, MINNESOTA – SFP Holding, Inc. (Summit Companies) announced that Summit Fire & Security LLC, a subsidiary of SFP Holding, has completed the purchase of Sound & Signal Systems of NM, Inc. located in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Sound & Signal Systems has been proudly serving New Mexico since 1974, specializing in the low voltage field—including fire alarm, security, access control, card access, CCTV, intercom, nurse call, paging, and voice/data. They take pride in providing the highest quality in the design and installation of these systems while assuring that each system meets the performance and reliability demanded by customers. Sound & Signal Systems strives for excellent customer service and, because of this dedication, has remained an industry leader in New Mexico and the greater Southwest.
As Summit Fire & Security and Sound & Signal Systems join forces, there is powerful alignment with the commitment to excellent customer service and quality work. The Sound & Signal Systems team will be an excellent addition to existing operations in the Southwest.
“Ted has built a company centered around technical excellence in their field. The team he has put together has an incredibly high level of expertise to tackle the most complex of projects. This partnership solidifies our presence in New Mexico and poises us to be the market leader here,” states Nic Brown, President of Summit Fire & Security.
For the past 47 years, Sound & Signal Systems has made a mark as a well-known, highly respected business that believes in offering excellent customer service and giving back to the community. “Throughout our history, Sound & Signal Systems has remained committed to providing first-class service customers and communities. Additionally, our commitment to give back to our communities through philanthropic efforts is a source of pride for our entire team,” states Ted Jorgensen, Owner of Sound & Signal Systems.
The Sound & Signal Systems leadership team, with special recognition to Ted and Margaret Jorgensen, take pride in their philanthropic community efforts. With involvement in many foundations, along with funding the “Ted and Margaret Jorgensen Cancer Center” at the Presbyterian Rust Medical Center, Sound & Signal Systems is well-known for generosity and community involvement.
“Sound & Signal was built on a culture of hard work and excellence, and we’re proud to be a leader in this industry. I believe Summit will not only strengthen our ability to serve our customers with expanded services, but also offer our employees a successful future as they join the Summit team. We look forward to the future with Summit Fire & Security as we expand our presence across New Mexico,” states Jorgensen.
Summit Companies subsidiaries have grown quickly over the past two years through acquisitions with the addition of 14 new companies. Summit is a financially strong and healthy company, as evident from these acquisitions. As we look to the future, we are excited about our growth opportunities with the Summit Fire & Security subsidiary.
About Summit Companies SFP Holding, Inc. (Summit Companies), through its subsidiaries, provides premier fire and life safety services with an expanding national presence. Since 1999, Summit has been a leader in the fire and life safety space with experience and capabilities that create a one-stop-shop solution for fire detection and fire suppression on a local and national scale. Summit Companies’ subsidiaries meet all of a customer’s requirements for fire protection, fire security, consulting and engineering services. SFP Holding, Inc., the parent company of the Summit Companies subsidiaries, is owned by management and CI Capital Partners, a leading North American private equity investment firm with approximately $1.3 billion in assets under management. Learn more at: https://www.SummitCompanies.com.
The aerospace giant Airbus announced a 1.1 billion euro loss for 2020 and warned that the industry might not recover from the disruption caused by the pandemic for two to four years, as new virus variants delay a resumption of worldwide air travel.
The world’s largest planemaker eliminated its dividend for a second straight year and predicted a leveling off in deliveries of its popular commercial jets, the company’s chief executive, Guillaume Faury, said.
“As of today we only expect the market to recover between 2023 and 2025,” Mr. Faury said. “The pace of recovery will depend not only on the pandemic and the rate of vaccinations, but also on the decision of governments, if they choose to tighten pandemic conditions or, as I hope, restore freedom,” he said.
The aircraft manufacturer, based in Toulouse, France, said revenue fell by 29 percent to 49.9 billion euros (about $60 billion). Still, the company is outperforming its rival Boeing, which suffered a $11.9 billion loss in 2020, weighed down by the setbacks from the 737 Max, which was grounded after 346 people were killed in two crashes involving the plane, and delays of the first deliveries of the 777X.
Airbus delivered 566 aircraft to airlines in 2020, 40 percent less than expected before the pandemic. In a sign of how badly air travel has been hit, some airlines avoided answering Airbus’s calls to alert them that the new aircraft they had ordered before the pandemic hit was ready, Mr. Faury said.
Given the uncertain outlook, Airbus won’t ramp up aircraft deliveries this year, but will instead plan to deliver about the same number of aircraft as it did in 2020. The fall in demand has left around 100 finished jets sitting parked at Airbus factories, down from a peak of around 145 last year.
Investors were not pleased with the update. Shares in Airbus fell over 3 percent in early trading.
Despite the gloomy short-term forecast, Mr. Faury said the company would continue to ramp up for a substantial change in future business, based on a new generation of carbon neutral airlines that it is designing and expects to unveil sometime this decade.
Weighing on the company’s finances were a 1.2 billion euro charge linked to more than 11,000 layoffs carried out last year, as well as another 385 million euros in costs associated with the ending of its A380 super jumbo jet.
Liz Alderman is the Paris-based chief European business correspondent, covering economic and inequality challenges around Europe. She was previously an assistant business editor, and spent five years as the business editor of what was The International Herald Tribune. @LizAldermanNYT
After one of the biggest recalls in government history, a new Consumer Reports investigation finds reports of serious problems with Kidde-brand fire extinguishers.
“We sifted through years of lawsuits and public reported complaints and found allegations that Kidde knew of the problems with its fire extinguishers for years before they finally issued a recall in 2015 and again in 2017,” said Ryan Felton, Consumer Reports Investigative Reporter.
A judge recently ordered Kidde to pay a $12 million fine as part of a consent decree settling allegations by the Department of Justice that the company knowingly misled the government about the extent and scope of the problems with some of its products. Kidde did not admit that it violated federal law as part of the settlement.
But Consumer Reports also found reports on the CPSC website of consumers saying, “Kidde bungled the recall.” In some cases, replacing a recalled fire extinguisher with another recalled extinguisher.
Kidde says, they learned some of the replacement units were “damaged in transit”, adding that the company has since taken steps to provide working extinguishers to customers who received damaged devices.
So what can you do to make sure your fire extinguisher will work when you need it? First, make sure it hasn’t been recalled. You can head online to cpsc.gov to check the model number.
“If you have a recalled Kidde fire extinguisher, contact the company to have it replaced as soon as possible,” said Felton.
And here are some helpful tips about storing and using a fire extinguisher:
Store it where you think a fire is most likely to occur like the kitchen and garage.
Check the dial on the pressure gauge — it should always be within the green zone.
Check the manufacture date on your extinguisher, if it’s older than 12 years, replace it.
Make sure you and everyone in your family knows how to properly use it!
By Brad Plumer and Christopher Flavelle The New York Times
Using technology to suck carbon dioxide out of the sky has long been dismissed as an impractical way to fight climate change — physically possible, but far too expensive to be of much use.
But as global warming accelerates and society continues to emit greenhouse gases at a dangerous rate, the idea is gaining support from a surprising source: large companies facing pressure to act on climate.
A growing number of corporations are pouring money into so-called engineered carbon removal — for example, using giant fans to pull carbon dioxide from the air and trap it. The companies say these techniques, by offsetting emissions they can’t otherwise cut, may be the only way to fulfill lofty “net zero” pledges.
Occidental Petroleum and United Airlines are investing in a large “direct air capture” plant in Texas that will use fans and chemical agents to scrub carbon dioxide from the sky and inject it underground. Stripe and Shopify, two e-commerce companies, have each begun spending at least $1 million per year on start-ups working on carbon removal techniques, such as sequestering the gas in concrete for buildings. Microsoft will soon announce detailed plans to pay to remove one million tons of carbon dioxide.
The United Nations-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said nations may need to remove between 100 billion and 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere this century to avert the worst effects of climate change — far more than can be absorbed by simply planting more trees. But many carbon removal technologies remain too expensive for widespread use, often costing $600 or more per ton of carbon.
The hope, companies say, is that early investments can help drive down prices to something more palatable — say, $100 per ton or less — much as investments in wind and solar have made those energy sources cheaper over time.
But there are risks, too. As more companies pledge to zero out their emissions by 2050, some experts warn that they could hide behind the uncertain promise of removing carbon later to avoid cutting emissions deeply today.
“Carbon removal shouldn’t be seen as a get-out-of-jail-free card,” said Jennifer Wilcox, a leading expert on the technology at the University of Pennsylvania. “It has a role to play, particularly for sectors that are very difficult to decarbonize, but it shouldn’t be an excuse for everyone to keep emitting greenhouse gases indefinitely.”
‘We have to try’
There’s widespread agreement that companies pledging to address climate change should first do everything possible to slash their emissions — say, by using more renewable power or improving energy efficiency. Most of the time, it’s easier to prevent emissions in the first place than it is to pull back carbon dioxide after it’s diffused into the atmosphere.
But that still leaves significant sources of emissions that have no easy solutions, like cement manufacturing, long-distance shipping or air travel.
United Airlines, for instance, has vowed to become carbon-neutral by 2050 and is exploring ways to cut emissions, such as more efficient aircraft and sustainable biofuels. Yet those strategies may not be enough, the airline says, which is why it also investing in direct air capture.
“If we want to make aviation sustainable, everything has to be on the table,” said Lauren Riley, managing director of global environmental affairs at United. “Carbon removal might not be a silver bullet, but we have to try.”
Traditionally, many corporations have sought to offset their hard-to-cut emissions with natural solutions, such as paying landowners to protect forests or plant trees, which absorb carbon from the air. But trees have drawbacks: there’s only so much land available and forests can burn in wildfires, releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. Scientists have warned that nature-based offsets are an imperfect fix that can be tricky to verify.
Those drawbacks have spurred interest in engineered carbon removal, using technologies to pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and lock it away underground or turn it into minerals, where it is likely to remain for tens of thousands of years.
There are working prototypes of such devices. But for years, engineers developing carbon removal struggled to find investors.
“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem,” said Nan Ransohoff, head of climate at Stripe, an online payments company based in San Francisco. “The best way to bring down the cost is to start deploying these technologies at scale. But until there are actual customers, no one’s going to build them.”
To help break the impasse, Stripe announced in 2019 that it would begin spending at least $1 million annually on carbon removal, without worrying about the price per ton initially. The goal was to evaluate companies working on promising technologies and offer them a reliable stream of income.
After convening outside experts to review applications, Stripe announced its first round of payments last May. That included an agreement with Climeworks, a Swiss start-up that has already built several small direct air capture plants in Europe. Stripe also paid $250,000 to Project Vesta, a nonprofit planning to sprinkle volcanic minerals on beaches, testing to see how much carbon dioxide they absorb as the waves break them down, through a process known as enhanced weathering.
The companies receiving Stripe’s funding say the money has been crucial.
“It’s existential for us,” said Peter Reinhardt, co-founder of Charm Industrial, a start-up that Stripe is paying to remove 416 tons of carbon dioxide at $600 per ton. His company will take crop waste and convert it into an oil that can be injected underground, rather than letting the waste decay and release carbon back into the atmosphere.
Other companies are similarly investing. The German automaker Audi is paying Climeworks to capture and remove 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide from a new direct air capture facility in Iceland, scheduled to come online this year. Climeworks has also signed an agreement with Swiss Re, the insurance giant, which this month created a dedicated funding stream for carbon removal. Shopify, a Canadian e-commerce company, has already committed $1.6 million to various carbon-removal start-ups.
Christoph Gebald, Climeworks’ co-director, said his company now had more than 50 corporate clients paying to capture and store carbon dioxide. His goal is to build enough facilities to remove 30 million to 50 million tons a year from the atmosphere by 2030.
Dr. Gebald said the burst of interest reflected companies’ realization that demands for climate action will soon outstrip what can be achieved through cutting emissions and planting trees. If businesses hope to remove large amounts of carbon in 10 years, he said, they need to spend now to make sure groups like Climeworks can scale up fast enough.
“There’s no chance biological solutions will do that alone,” Dr. Gebald said.
‘A steep learning curve’
It remains to be seen, however, whether carbon removal companies can lower their prices to a level that’s attractive to the average buyer. Carbon Engineering, a Canadian company supplying the technology for the direct air capture plant in Texas, thinks it can eventually get prices down to $94 to $232 a ton.
“To finance a first plant is expensive,” said Steve Oldham, Carbon Engineering’s chief executive. The Texas facility, part of Occidental Petroleum’s strategy to use direct air capture to offset emissions even as it continues extracting oil, is scheduled to come online by 2025 and remove up to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. “But as we build more plants, I have confidence those costs will come down.”
For some potential customers, price remains an issue. Boston Consulting Group, the management consulting firm, plans to purchase carbon removal to offset any emissions it can’t cut by 2030. But it has set a price target of $80 per ton, on average, and will rely more on cheaper natural solutions, at least initially.
The company plans to invest in engineered removal, said Rich Lesser, Boston Consulting Group’s chief executive, “but it will be a small portion of the mix for awhile because the technology is still nascent.”
For now, most large companies vowing to pursue carbon removal have been vague about what that actually entails, according to an analysis of corporate pledges from American University. Some talk about investing in forests and wetlands, while others are still exploring their options.
Experts say the advantages of engineered carbon removal are often poorly understood. Companies can generally earn as much good will by cheaply planting trees to offset emissions as they can by spending large sums on direct air capture — even if the latter presents a more durable solution.
“The price difference between those two options in the marketplace is enormous,” said Sasha Mackler, director of the energy project at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a research organization in Washington. But as far as most of the public can tell, “it sort of looks like the same thing.”
So persuading companies to pay that extra cost will require educating investors, activists and consumers about why engineered removal can take more carbon dioxide out of the air, and sequester it more reliably, than just planting trees, Mr. Mackler said.
Ultimately, experts say, policymakers may have to step in. In December, Congress authorized $447 million to research and demonstrate large-scale carbon removal. But many companies are unlikely to use it without legal requirements to slash emissions.
“If companies are serious about putting money into carbon removal now and investigating their options, that’s fantastic,” said Simon Nicholson, co-director of American University’s Institute for Carbon Removal Law and Policy. “But if this doesn’t work, or if carbon removal at scale isn’t as cheap as everyone hopes, then what’s Plan B?”
A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court’s ruling in favor of a Markel Corp. unit, stating restaurant owners were not entitled to coverage for a fire at their Seattle restaurant because of false statements they had made in their policy application.
Markel Corp. unit United Specialty Insurance Co. issued a policy covering Michelle and Scott Simpson’s family business, the Roosevelt Ale House, according to Wednesday’s ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in United Specialty Insurance Co. v. Shot Shakers Inc.; Scott Simpson; Michelle Simpson.
The policy included a “Concealment, Misrepresentation or Fraud” condition that voided coverage in any case of fraud relating to coverage, the covered property, interest in the covered property or a claim, according to the ruling.
Following a fire at the restaurant, United Special denied coverage based on this condition in the policy.
The restaurant and Simpsons filed suit in U.S. District Court in Seattle, which ruled in the insurer’s favor, and was upheld by a unanimous three-judge appeals court panel.
The Simpsons had represented in their insurance application that their fire extinguishing system covered all cooking surfaces and deep fryers and that their hoods, ducts and filters were cleaned at least every six months or more frequently.
“However, appellants were aware that these statements were false,” the 9th Circuit ruling said. “Their hoods, ducts, and filters were not cleaned at least every six months, and their system did not protect all cooking areas and deep fryers,” it said.
United Specialty also denied coverage under a “protective safeguards” policy endorsement that required the insureds to maintain an automatic sprinkler system and fire alarm in conformity with a defined schedule.
This in turn required a fully functional fire extinguishing system over the entire cooking area with an automatic shut-off, the ruling said.
“Appellant failed to raise a material issue of fact regarding coverage denial under this exclusion because the fire suppression system did not cover the broiler that was the source of the fire,” the ruling said.
“In addition, Appellants had ample notice through inspection reports to make the necessary adjustments to the fire suppression system,” the ruling said, in affirming the lower court’s decision.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.
By Mike Willson, Fire Protection Consultant International Airport Review
How well are we being protected when we travel? Are we facing a false ‘sense of security’ from approval standards which may not seem focused on addressing worst-case scenarios? Could a post-COVID-19 world encourage more transparency, with approval modifications to improve fire safety, by addressing these issues?
Fear of continuing PFAS contamination seems unjustified
Regulatory pressures and fear of historic Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) contamination principally derived from legacy long-chain C8 foams discharged during repeated extensive firefighter training at specific locations, seem to be driving a change. Even though firefighter training is now generally tightly controlled, it often uses Fluorine Free Foams (F3s) with all discharges normally regulated to be contained, collected, treated and disposed of safely. It seems primarily designed to prevent environmental discharges, not necessarily to prevent life loss. Are we driving these decisions down a specific F3 path, despite concerns it may not be in the long-term safety interests of travelers, flight crews, firefighters, airlines, airport reputations, or indeed regulators themselves? International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Level B and C fire tests were extended from 60 seconds to 120 seconds extinguishment in 2014. But why? When every second counts in saving lives.
Evidence is building to suggest more caution may be necessary to better protect lives, critical infrastructure and our environment from potential unintentional harm, as significant differences are being highlighted between F3s and C6 foams by extensive comparative research testing and major incidents. Testing is focused at small-scale, not the large-scale verification fire tests essential to validate fire performance under more challenging and realistic conditions. Could this prevent substitution regrets from hasty changes away from proven C6 reliability? Perhaps major incidents are exposing weaknesses not seen since before aqueous film forming foams (AFFF) development.
Surprising outcomes from two major incidents
A dramatic contrast was evident after a major 2016 Boeing 777 engine detachment fire in Dubai under severe 48°C wind shear conditions. The air crash investigation report confirmed F3 was used but gave no explanation why the plane burned for 16 hours.
Remarkably all 282 passengers were evacuated six minutes after the crash. Three minutes later a fuel tank exploded tragically killing a brave firefighter. Seconds count to save lives, but this could so easily have been a much greater tragedy.
Might faster C6 fluorinated foams have saved this life? Absence of PFAS in the foam also seems to have failed to prevent aircraft destruction and significant PFAS escaping to the environment from seating, carpets, screens, computer systems etc. as the plane burnt out.
In Singapore six weeks earlier a Boeing 777 with major engine and wing fire, crashed in typical 32°C heat and was fully extinguished within five minutes – not 16 hours. All 241 passengers and crew disembarked the aircraft 15 minutes later and the plane was repairable. Only fluorinated foams were used. Isn’t that more sustainable and environmentally acceptable? Countless full-scale major incidents validate proven performances of fluorinated foams, seemingly not F3s as other major incidents similarly testify.
Rigorous research helps explain these outcomes
2019 U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) testing recognized “the unique properties of these AFFF surfactants (low surface tension, hydrophobicity, oleophobicity, thermal stability) enable their formulations to form aqueous films and foams that spread very rapidly on burning hydrocarbon fuel surfaces, function as a very stable and excellent barrier to permeating hydrocarbon fuel vapours and thermally insulate the fuel surface from the combustion above.” NRL identified aromatic components in gasoline also found in Jet A1 at lower quantities, attacked F3 alternatives, but not C6 fluorinated foams.
In January 2020, the NFPA Research Foundation (NFPA-RF) reported fire testing had confirmed lower F3 expansion ratios of 3-4:1 (more typical of airport crash truck turrets and handlines) failed their gasoline testing. To pass required 25 to 50 per cent more F3 usage than at 7-8:1 expansion (more typical of approval test nozzles), which also required double the C6AFFF application rate. Such significant extra foam capacity is not available on aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) trucks. Expansion ratios of 7-8:1 represent approval fire test nozzles used in ICAO Level B and C, EN1568‑3, and other firefighting foam standards, which may not adequately qualify products for real‑life fire challenges. Why do ICAO fire tests not better represent tough ‘real-life’ conditions? US Mil Spec (Military Specification PRF-24385F [SH] Amendment 4, April 2020) seems to. Overall F3s failed 76 per cent of these burnback tests during NFPA‑RF independently conducted fire testing. C6 fluorinated foams worked equally effectively across all foam quality ranges, within established flows and safety factors.
EN1568‑3, UL162, FM5130, ISO 7203-1, Lastfire, IMO Marine specifications all use heptane as a claimed “viable alternative” to gasoline that is probably amongst the most commonly used fuels including in parking lots in and around most airports. Fluorinated foams are similarly effective on Jet A1, heptane and gasoline, but not F3s.
Extensive comparative evidence from NFPA-RF testing confirmed F3s require three to four times more on gasoline fires and six to seven times more on E10 (gasoline with 10 per cent Ethanol added), than C6AFFF. Heptane required two to three times more F3 than C6AFFF. These tests also confirmed “the baseline C6 AR-AFFF included in this assessment demonstrated superior firefighting capabilities through the entire test program under all test conditions. AR-AFFF was also least affected by the range in variables included in this assessment.”
NRL research confirmed extinguishing MilSpec gasoline pool fires in 60 secs required 2.5 times more F3 than C6AFFF from the best F3 tested. Second-best F3 required 3.75 times more foam, third-best F3 required five times more and the least effective F3 required 6.25 times more foam agent than C6 AFFF-3 to extinguish this gasoline pool fire. These differences increased further with faster extinguishment requirements.
How could foam users accommodate such significant extra requirements in real fire incidents? Might over-reliance on small scale approval test certificates be part of this problem? Perhaps suggesting a false sense of security with F3s, which really isn’t there?
High ambient temperatures expose Fluorine Free Foams
Testing under best-case conditions, i.e. best quality foam, low ambient, fuel and foam solution temperatures of 15-20°C (59-68°F) evident in most approval tests including ICAO Level B and C, benefits no one. It ignores more severe conditions frequently experienced during summer, routinely a factor at many airports and usually faced during emergency fire incidents.
Some countries like Australia have a single government-owned agency responsible for 11 per cent of world airspace and operates ARFF services across all 27 busiest airports around the country. Including Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, each capable of handling the largest commercial Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft, commonly used by most airlines. Yet 2019 temperatures ranged from -4 to +47°C (24.8 to 116.6°F) across these 27 Australian airports. All are using the same F3 irrespective of prevailing conditions. Could it be effective in another major summer incident, like Dubai?
The Australian government’s November 2019 Report accepted the majority of its Senate Inquiry recommendations into the Provision of Rescue, Firefighting and Emergency Response at Australian airports (ARFF), including recommendation three on firefighting foams. “The committee was alarmed by the evidence regarding firefighting foams, and the fact that the foams in use at Australian airports may not have been tested to Australian standards.”
The government’s response concluded the need to “…include a full range of performance tests which will better simulate Australian conditions, due to the varied environmental conditions that may exceed the minimum test criteria specified by ICAO.” ICAO’s fire tests are routinely conducted at 15°C (59°F), which does not reflect summer temperatures in Australia, nor most places, yet no action seems to have been taken or planned. A detailed evidence-based dossier raising these issues and possible solutions to fix ICAO’s Level B and C approval test standard was presented to ICAO’s Director of Safety and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority CEO but there has been no response. While the fire performance of all firefighting foams decreases at high temperatures, increasing data reveals that F3 performance is especially diminished.
2019 comparative fire test results became sharply differentiated when F3s were tested against the ICAO Level B fire test. All five F3s and an AR-F3 failed to extinguish the ICAO Level B fire test at both these relatively low (26-31°C [79-88°F]) and high (35-40°C [95-104°F]) ambient temperatures. This was not the case with C6AFFFs.
Are we facing two-tier fire protection at airports?
This provokes a big question: are we facing a two‑tier fire protection system between airports? Is this being masked by current approval fire test standards requiring ICAO extinction in 120 seconds, instead of the more rigorous pre-2014 60 second extinguishment, or MilSpec’s 30 seconds. Why allow inferior AFFFs to now pass ICAO, when previously they failed? Is this in the public interest?
Flight crews, passengers and emergency responders within the U.S. appear to receive superior MilSpec fire protection in the event of a major fire incident occurring. Canada like the U.S. required compliance with the MilSpec standard for all military and civil aviation, until recently. The U.S. is also under pressure to change but no equivalent product has been found, despite massive investments in targeted research. To date, the U.S. is standing firm that performance cannot be sacrificed. NRL’s key firefighting foam researcher confirmed: “Fluorinated foams outperform fluorine-free foams (F3) by a factor of four to five, by containing a fire and suppressing vapours that can reignite. Fluorine‑free foams are stable for three minutes, while the fluorosurfactant kind can last 30 minutes.”
Canada has recently accepted alternative ICAO Level C fire approval testing as somehow ‘equivalent’ to MilSpec, seemingly based only on similarity of application rates. The ICAO Level C standard falls far short of the rigorous requirements defined in MilSpec across many areas1.
Outside the U.S., most other countries’ ARFF Services are regulated under the less demanding ICAO Level B fire approval (occasionally more challenging Level C), excluding China and Russia (which have their own specific aviation firefighting foam standards). Both ICAO Level B and C are less onerous and therefore probably offer less fire protection for flight crews, passengers, emergency responders, airlines and insurers, than airports using MilSpec qualified C6 foams.
This has become particularly relevant as more airports, some major ones like Dubai, London Heathrow/Gatwick, Manchester, Paris Charles de Gaulle/Orly, Copenhagen and others seem to be bending to environmental regulatory pressures by choosing F3s. Perhaps they aim to avoid potentially punitive penalties from some jurisdictions, should PFAS-based foams be dispersed across the airport either from use in an emergency fire incident, or from accidental discharge in an aircraft hangar fixed foam system overflow, for example. Perhaps some are claiming more environmentally sustainable practices, but F3s may be unintentionally undermining that intention, as Dubai’s Boeing 777 incident demonstrated.
Regulators and users alike seem unable to see past the fire approval as a key “piece of paper”, rather than a realistic proven ability to control and extinguish likely fire scenarios, ensuring protection of lives, aircraft, airlines’ and airports’ reputations, under worst-case conditions. Just because F3s are being used, does not mean that PFAS is absent from aviation firewater run-off entering the environment, as witnessed in Dubai. So, what’s the point?
Are we unintentionally increasing fire risks?
Most airports are transitioning from C8AFFFs to more environmentally benign C6AFFF or F3 alternatives. C8 and C6 foams have similar fire performance functionality but have very different legacy and environmental impacts. This justifies different regulatory treatments. But what about F3s passing current approval standards with seeming “equivalency” perhaps reinforcing that false “sense of security”?
Persistence and mobility are intrinsic properties but not intrinsic hazards, so do not by themselves imply adverse effects. Bioaccumulation, toxicity and fuel pick-up are intrinsic hazards which can and do create adverse effects.
C8AFFFs are persistent, mobile, bio accumulative and toxic with a half-life in humans of many years, potential build up with increased exposure, therefore able to create adverse effects, in some cases severe. C8s are therefore worthy of severe restriction and phase out – but there is a viable alternative – C6 foams.
C6AFFFs are persistent and mobile, categorised not bio accumulative, not toxic, with a human half‑life averaging 32 days excreted via urine without build-up in the body. So it has limited ability to create adverse effects, therefore is of much lower concern. This creates a fundamental distinction – a basis upon which restriction and phase out of C8AFFF is justified, but probably not justified for C6AFFFs, particularly without viable alternatives or ‘drop-in’ replacements for major flammable fuel fires.
Many talk of “essential use”. The concept derived from products with unique and specific functionality delivering performance benefits, often becoming practically “essential” in specific applications because of their value in-use. They often deliver irreplaceable characteristics and abilities including speed, effectiveness, efficiency and reliability.
Restriction to essential use for C6 is justified where F3 alternatives can be effective for training, testing and smaller fires. But there are no proven viable alternatives that could similarly protect life safety, critical infrastructure and our environment from major fires effectively, while also minimising adverse impacts to life, society’s values and our environment. Current comparative testing and incidents confirm that.
Fast action limits fire incident growth, minimises smoke and noxious breakdown products, preventing more environmental harm, than would otherwise result from destruction – evidenced in Dubai. Is this a future we want to embrace? Or do we see speed as a continuing essential intervention, minimising adverse impacts from major aircraft fire incidents as the UK Environment Agency recommended in 2017?
Allowing the continued responsible use of high purity short-chain C6 foams on large aviation fires, with all reasonable and practicable measures taken to minimise environmental harm is probably essential to achieving society’s goals of moving towards safer foam choices. It protects life safety, prevents fuel pick-up, decreases environmental harm and reduces public health risks due to minimal firefighting foam use. Surely these are key objectives of most passengers, flight crews, emergency responders, airlines, airports, insurers, and aviation regulators even including ICAO?
Reference: International Airport Review, Volume 22, Issue 6, December 2018.
The largest fine ever issued under Australia’s strict ozone protection laws has been handed down to a Victorian-based fire protection company for the unlawful importation of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC).
Following a civil prosecution from the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment, this week the Federal Court of Australia, found ACN 089 171 415 Pty Ltd, formerly known as Fire Protection Technologies Pty Ltd, to be in contravention of section 13(1) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989.
The company has been ordered to pay a civil penalty of $500,000.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said the Department’s prosecution against the company commenced in July 2019 after an investigation into the importing of bulk HFC without a controlled substances licence.
“During our investigation, department officers seized several one-tonne capacity cylinders containing HFC-227ea, a widely used extinguishing agent, from the company’s premises in Melbourne and Perth,” Ley said.
“This amount of HFC had the potential to create emissions equivalent to the annual emissions of 6600 cars or 2300 households.
“The company was aware of their obligations and import licensing requirements but proceeded to import a significant quantity of HFC-227ea anyway.
“The work of the Department in pursuing this issue and the Federal Court ruling demonstrate that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated and the significant penalty imposed should send a clear message to any company thinking about working outside their obligations under the Act.”
Importing HFC without a licence is a breach of the Act and the maximum penalty for each contravention of unlicensed importation is $2,100,000. The court noted that the company has also undertaken to pay clean-up costs for the remaining amount of HFC-227ea.
HFC is a type of synthetic greenhouse gas which traps heat in the atmosphere and is measured by its global warming potential. HFC-227ea is the fifth most potent of the 18 scheduled HFCs under the Act, and the most potent HFC that is commonly imported into Australia.
A priority compliance focus for the department is to reduce emissions of synthetic greenhouse gases and ozone depleting substances.
APi Group is making four acquisitions worth $300 million that will extend its reach in both the U.S. and Europe.
The largest purchase is the SK FireSafety Group, a Netherlands-based company that provides fire and life safety services to a variety of industries in northern Europe.
New Brighton-based APi Group provides safety, specialty and industrial services through 40 different businesses that have more than 200 locations, mostly in North America.
The acquisition of SK FireSafety adds a complementary business to APi and establishes an operational base for further expansion in Europe. Since 2011, SK FireSafety has made 25 acquisitions of its own to build its presence in northern and western Europe.
“These acquisitions help expand our geographical reach in the important U.S. market and establish a beach head for expansion on the continent in Europe,” said APi’s president and chief executive, Russ Becker, in a news release.
SK FireSafety Group operates in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. It has annual revenue of about $146 million and about 650 employees. SK FireSafety Group had been owned by a Paris-based private-equity group, APAX Partners, since 2014.
The three other companies being acquired are two safety-service companies, in Georgia and Massachusetts, and a specialty-services company in Wisconsin.
Names of those companies were not disclosed, and those three deals are expected to close by the end of the year.
The four new companies have healthy profit margins, APi said, and combined are expected to contribute nearly $200 million to APi’s annual revenue in 2021.
Analysts covering APi Group expect the company to reach annual revenue of $3.5 billion this year.
APi Group last year was acquired by a “blank check” investment company for $2.9 billion and in April its shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
The deal gave the company more ability to make acquisitions and in an investor presentation earlier this summer APi said it would seek opportunistic investments that added to its bottom line.
The company said in its news release that it is paying for its recent acquisitions with available cash on hand and indicated more deals are likely.
“Our pipeline of incremental M&A opportunities is robust, and we expect to continue to explore opportunistic acquisitions as we move through the balance of the year and into 2021,” Becker said.
The company said it would discuss its acquisitions in more detail at a third-quarter earnings conference call scheduled for Nov. 11.
Shares of APi closed at $14.85 per share, up 4% in trading Monday. Share are up more than 40% this year.
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