Water that thinks it's a Gas

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LUL Escalator Test Protocol

London Underground Limited commissioned Chiltern International Fire (CIF) to provide a test protocol against which manufacturers of water mist systems could test their equipment for efficacy in fighting fires in escalators. The protocol is titled "Escalator Water Suppression System Standard LUL EWSS TS1" and CIF constructed a purpose-built rig for carrying out the test fires. Details of the procedure are shown below.

Simulated underground escalator test enclosureThe enclosure used for the evaluation of water mist extinguishing systems is a purpose built structure mounted at 30 degrees to the horizontal. The test rig is designed to show one zone of an escalator with timber cribs used to represent the fire load of a modern escalator.


The finished Scotchmist system ready for testingThe test rig is designed to conduct large scale fire tests on inclined chamber escalator water suppression systems in a physical environment representative of those found in the general working environment of a sub-surface London Underground Limited escalator.

The test engineer instals the simulated fire loadsThe fire load consists of four 3m long timber cribs made from kiln dried soft wood timber with a 9-12% moisture content. Running along the upper open space in the timber crib is a 20mm wide filled with general purpose grease along its length. The cribs run along the same lines as the flammable parts, the wheels and chains, of an escalator mechanism. The test rig is designed to give the levels of shielding to water spray found in practice and the crib structure of the timber simulates the uneven surfaces of wheels and chain links.

A manometer is used to check that air movement simulates real life conditionsWind velocity through the rig has been matched to the maximum found in the machinery spaces under the escalators. Air is forced into the test rig using a fan fixed at 30 degrees to the vertical in the purpose built housing. The fan speed is adjusted so that a hot wire anemometer reads a minimum 1m/s along the length of the test bed at all levels and at the exhaust opening. The increasing oxygen flow into the fire encourages the spread of flame up the cribs.

The ignition fire pads are soaked with fuelA total of 500ml of petrol is used to soak four 12mm thick, 140mm square pieces of low density fibreboard on both sides. These pieces of fibreboard are attached to the lower end of each crib using 20mm wide metal 'L' brackets so the fibreboard does not fall away on burning.

One litre of petrol is used as the ignition source in two horizontal trays with 20mm sides and baffles at each end to stop the flame peaking at the centre. The petrol is lit using a 1.5m long rod with a blowtorch taped to the end, by a competent person in fire fighting personal protective equipment.

The fire is ready for suppressionThe main outcome of the testing is visual inspection during and after testing. During testing the length of crib burning, not length of flame, indicates the size of fire in the rig. This relates to the pass-fail criteria, which is to suppress or control the fire to prevent it increasing.

Seconds after the Scotchmist system is activated, the fire is extinguishedThe suppression system will run for 30 minute duration or until the fire is judged to have been completely extinguished. Scotch Mist was able to extinguish the fire and therefore obtained a better-than-pass result in only a matter of minutes.

Test Protocols