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How Intrinsically Safe Products Improve Firefighter Safety

Taylor Thomas Mar 04, 2020

According to Statistica.com, in 2018, there were 58,250 firefighters injured in fires in the United States. Ensuring proper safety requirements is important to ensuring firefighters across the world are safe while on duty.

Firefighters risk their lives everyday helping their community against fires and other emergency services and the last thing they should worry about is if their two-way radio and accessories are able to stand the heat. Literally.

Many times, firefighters must go into the blaze for a rescue or to extinguish a fire and have to still be able to communicate with the crew while in a dangerous area. Your radios and accessories are electrical devices that are used in hazardous or explosive environments and can potentially generate spark or heat leaving the area open to more of a hazard. Preventing such things from occurring requires only using products labeled and tested as intrinsically safe.

We'll cover some most commonly asked questions about intrinsic safety.

Let’s get into how intrinsically safe radio accessories can help keep yourself and other firefighters safe.

What does intrinsically safe mean?

Intrinsically safe (IS) is defined as communication equipment that does not release sufficient electrical or thermal energy under certain operating conditions that can cause ignition of a specific hazardous mixture of air. An IS rating is required for equipment to be used in Division 1 environments.

The certification process for intrinsically safe falls into classes, divisions, and zones. A Division 1 environment is an area where ignitable gases, vapors, or liquids can exist all the time under normal operating conditions. A Division 2 environment is an area where flammable gases, vapors, or liquids are not likely to exist.

Intrinsically safe means it is required for you to process communication equipment (like two-way radios and accessories) wherever there is an area where flammable gasses, vapors or liquids exist, like a fire. Just because an accessory may be waterproof, or gas-proof does not mean it is intrinsically safe.

Testing is done by independent laboratories to ensure communications equipment is certified intrinsically safe.

 

What is the certification process for intrinsically safe?

There are many laboratories that test various products to be labeled intrinsically safe. Tests are carried out to analyze if each circuit, that may cause a spark or any thermal effect, some in which are stored in normal conditions or fault conditions, can cause ignition or not. Most of these first tests can be completed at a desk by knowledgeable experts of intrinsically safe standards.

The next part of the test is known as a spark test. These explosive gases are mixed and put into the product and wires are connected to cadmium disks. It must “make or break” the circuit 1600 times to check if the energy in the circuit can cause an ignition or not.

Other tests may be applied to ensure a product is intrinsically safe including, thermal endurance to heat and cold, drop test, IP test, battery short circuit test, small component ignition test and more.

Companies can apply to have their products certified intrinsically safe by various laboratories and agencies. Waveband Communications, for example, has its two-way radio batteries certified intrinsically safe by FM Approvals and SGS Labs. Each certification involves a different process and steps required to follow.

 

Who certifies intrinsically safe?

Many laboratories across the world develop standards that test a product to determine if it meets intrinsically safe. Certifying agencies will allow manufacturers to use a label on their products that show they follow these certain standards. This makes it easier to determine if a product is intrinsically safe. Here is a list of companies that will test your products for intrinsically safe.

  • FM Approvals: for radios, accessories and more.
  • MET Labs
  • SGS Labs
  • Underwriters Laboratories (UL): for mobile phones.

In Canada, the Canadian Standards Association, certified 

intrinsically safe as well as CENELEC, in the EU. The certification process in the United States is different than that in Europe but the two mostly have the same results.

The IS approval rating, in the United States and Canada organize hazardous areas by classes, divisions, and groups. For example, Land Mobile Radios (LMRs) fall under FM 3610 or 3640. The EU (European Union) applies a classification system based on zones known as ATEX certifications.

Standards agencies all across the world work together so that if an intrinsically safe equipment manufactured in one county can later be approved for use in another county without the need for duplicate testing and documentation.

Image result for met labs        Image result for FM approvals

What types of intrinsically safe communication equipment are there?

Typically, intrinsically safe two-way radio accessories include batteries, two-way radios, chargers, audio accessories, and speaker microphones. Certain flashlights and other apparatuses can be designed for IS. Equipment with an IS certification is more expensive than equipment without. This is due to obtaining and maintaining the approval process of the certification rather than the components.

You are able to see if a product, such as a radio, is intrinsically safe by looking to a specific label, usually from the laboratory who completed the testing. This can be found on the backside of the radio unit or accessory. Just look for a logo from the certification laboratories, like FM (Factory Mutual) or MET (Met Labs).

Image result for firefighter using two way radio free

Only using accessories that are Intrinsically Safe ensures you a safe work environment and protects against explosions that could cause injuries or fatalities. Having an intrinsically safe accessory or radio doesn’t affect its performance compared to a non-certified one. They are just designed to withstand heat and not cause spark.

It is important for firefighters to use intrinsically safe equipment to limit the risk of explosion while around fire or hazardous areas. This improves the safety of you and your department, giving you one less thing to worry about during emergencies.

 


Waveband Communications offers two-way radio batteries that are certified intrinsically safe by Factory Manual and SGS Laboratories. Our batteries are frequently purchased and trusted by fire departments, law enforcement, military and miners across the nation.

To find an intrinsically safe battery for your two-way radio please contact us at 800-806-1076 or sales@wvbandcoms.com to request a quote today. Shop Intrinsically Safe Products


 

Are you using intrinsically safe accessories in your department? Let us know in the comments below.

Topics:  intrinsically safe, two-way radio, battery, Intrinsically safe testing, FM Approvals, MET Labs, what is an intrinsically safe battery, intrinsically safe battery powered equipment, firefighter safety, intrinsically safe battery pack, intrinsically safe battery, intrinsically safe rechargeable battery

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