CO2 fixed fire fighting system is the last resort available on board ships for fighting major engine room or compartment space fires. The requirement for CO2 fire extinguishing is to discharge 85% of CO2 gas in the fire affected space within 2 minutes in the engine room and 10 minutes in the cargo holds. This means that there is no time to refer to the manuals or understand the CO2 system during emergency situations. Needless to say, any mistake while operating the CO2 system can lead to devastating situation.
It is the duty of ship management officers to ensure that all crew members know the exact location of the system and correct procedure for operation of the CO2 System.
Following are the most common mistakes that take place while operating CO2 system and those which mariners should never make:
1. Unfamiliar with the System: The CO2 room comprises of CO2 bottle banks segregated for engine room and cargo holds. Not knowing which bank is dedicated to which area may cause confusions and delay during emergency.
2. Wrong Operating Procedure: The Co2 system comprises of many valves and levers which need to be operated in a sequential manner. The crew must know the correct order of operating the valves which includes activation of alarm , operation of pilot bottle and opening of the correct location for discharge of CO2 gas.
3. Not Checking the Pipes for Corrosion: The CO2 gas is carried to various compartments of the ship via small pipelines. These pipelines must be checked for corrosion and damage, for in emergency if the correct quantity of gas is not reached due to leakage, the fire will not be suppressed.
4. Improper Tightening After Maintenance: If the pipe connections, bottle connections or links which operates the CO2 bottles are not tightened properly after maintenance, CO2 system will not operate or will not be effective for suppressing the fire.
5. Not Performing Leak Test and Level Measurement: Leak test of the complete system to be performed at designated interval by responsible ship officer. Any detection of leak to be immediately rectified. Level measurement is another important procedure to be performed at regular intervals with CO2 bottle level measuring instrument. Avoidance of these procedure will lead to less amount of CO2 reaching the affected compartment which will not suppress the fire.
6. Not Blowing Out Water from the Line: As the ship sails in varying temperature zones, the pipes tend to accumulate condensed water which leads to blockage of the line and corrosion. It is important to clear the lines by blowing it with pressurized air at regular intervals of time.
7. Failure of Sealing the Concerned Compartment: The CO2 gas suppresses the oxygen in the compartment. The system can work very effectively when the compartment is properly sealed. It is important to find time to properly seal the compartment before releasing the CO2 gas as failure to do so will lead to improper fire suppression and once CO2 is released, the system cannot be stopped until fully discharged.
8. Not Informing Fellow Crew While Testing/Operating the System: Fatal Incidents have been reported of crew members getting trapped in the compartment while CO2 has been released, leading to suffocation and death. Before testing or operating the CO2 system, all crew members must be informed of the same and remove all from the compartment.
These are some of the important points to remember while handling CO2 fire fighting system. Do you know of any other important points? Let us know in the comments below.