Sat, 29 Mar 2003

Fire extinguisher options offered at expo

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A fire engulfed a two-by-three-meter room in front of a convention center in Jakarta for almost two minutes before an explosion was heard from within the room. Strangely, the fire quickly died down seconds after the explosion, leaving nothing but thin, white smoke.

The scene was witnessed on Wednesday in a simulation conducted by a Japanese company that produces a state-of-the-art fire extinguisher named "Bonpet".

"Bonpet" is one among a variety of fire safety products offered for public use in a fire safety industrial exhibition at the Jakarta Convention Center in Senayan, Central Jakarta, from Tuesday to Thursday.

The patent holder of the product, Hiromitsu Niizuma, said that in the event that a fire broke out in a room and the temperature inside the room rose, the bottle of Bonpet chemical substance placed inside would explode. The released chemical substance would then kill the fire.

He said that the fire extinguisher would automatically be activated when the air temperature surrounding "Bonpet" heated to above 400 degrees Celsius.

The sole agent of Bonpet in Indonesia, Muhammad Sohid, added that given the effectiveness of the substance, a number of major state institutions had chosen it to augment their fire safety system.

"The Indonesian Army and Navy, a number of airports, and national currency printer PT Peruri are among those who use our products," he said.

Bonpet, priced at Rp 1.5 million (US$168), is also recommended for household use.

For those who are in need of an environmentally and human- friendly fire extinguisher, the preferred choice would be a chemical substance called Inergen.

Effective in extinguishing fires, Inergen is also environmentally friendly, as it is composed entirely of natural gases -- nitrogen, argon and carbon dioxide -- that are found in the earth's atmosphere.

Most fire extinguishers available on the market make use of a substance called halon. This substance is similar to cholorofluorocarbons (CFCs) that is known to contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer.

Effendy Tantoso, an engineer from the company developing Inergen, PT ODG Worldmad Indonesia, told The Jakarta Post that the product extinguished fires by removing oxygen from the air.

He added that despite the low level of oxygen, people would not suffocate because Inergen interacted well with the human body.

"The level of carbon dioxide in the substance stimulates the rate of respiration and increases the efficiency of the body's use of oxygen," he said, and that it was safe for humans.

In a simulation observed by the Post, the substance was pumped into a glass chamber until the flame of a candle died out -- showing that there was not enough oxygen to keep the flame alit -- but a man who was inside the chamber was breathing normally.

Inergen, developed in the U.S., offers another advantage. It does not produce fog the way other extinguishing agents do, so when a fire breaks out, escape routes will remain visible, pointed out a leaflet from its developer.