An alternative to having portable fire extinguishers in a premises is the installation of hydraulic hose reels connected to the building’s water supply. The comparative lightness and lack of jet reaction from the nozzle make the hose reel a suitable item of equipment for staff with minimal training.
Each hose reel can provide a substantial volume of water, equivalent to using several extinguishers at once with continuous replenishment and can be highly effective in extinguishing fires in the early stages. And since only the amount of hose reel tubing required needs to be pulled off the reel before it can be used (unlike the flaked flat hose systems commonly used in North America), another benefit is that only one person is needed to operate it.
Hose reels comprise a reel of rigid hose mounted on a hollow rotating shaft, the centre of which is fed through a stuffing box gland; the tubing being connected to an outlet on this shaft.
Usually up to 30m of hose is provided, either of 19mm or 25mm diameter, terminating in a nozzle which is generally the multipurpose type allowing a jet, spray, or combined jet/wide spray.
One hose reel can typically cover 800 sq. m. (equivalent to a 52A Class A rating) and in jet mode will ordinarily throw a jet up to 6m.
The choice of hose diameter should be based on a combination of available water supply pressure, pump boosted if required (a reel must deliver 30l/min flow) and the risk protected. Higher risk areas may require the delivery of greater amounts of water from the larger reel.
Types of hose reel
Fixed: The reel is mounted on a wall with its axis at right angles to the plane of the wall and has a hose guide to prevent kinking or jamming on hose removal.
Pivoted/Swinging: The reel is mounted on a swinging arm allowing the whole reel to pivot in the direction the hose is pulled – useful for large open areas where it allows faster deployment.
Recessed: Ideal where space is at a premium the reel can be part recessed or fully recessed (and inside a cabinet). When required the reel pivots out of the recess into the direction of use.
Types of operation*
Manual valve: The simplest type of reel operation this requires a main valve to be opened on the water supply piping before the tubing is withdrawn. Whilst cheaper to buy, install and maintain these do require a higher degree of familiarity and training as a result.
Automatic valve: A supply valve inside the reel is turned on automatically simply by unwinding the reel and is common on recessed reels in particular. Whilst slightly more expensive and complex to install and maintain these reels are far more operator friendly.
Water hose reels can also be turned into powerful foam units as they can be fitted with adapters to connect a foam concentrate unit with low expansion branch pipe giving the equivalent foam supply of 40 standard extinguishers.
Hose reels remain a useful piece of equipment, particularly where a site has trained teams for fighting fires and a wide range of options are available to suit all environments.
*Suitable for emergency use only.
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