WARRENVILLE, Ill. — School transportation provider National Express LLC will begin adding Fogmaker fire suppression to its fleet, company officials confirmed to SBF.
National Express operates more than 21,000 school buses through its Durham School Services and Petermann divisions in the U.S. and Stock Transportation in Canada. The contractor, which is the second-largest in North America, has decided to include the Fogmaker system in its new school bus purchases.
“We’re always looking for and evaluating new technologies to enhance safety,” said Daryl Hendricks, senior vice president of asset management for National Express. “During a demonstration, we watched the Fogmaker system put out a fire in seconds.” Fogmaker, which is installed in the engine compartment of a vehicle, uses water mist to suppress fires by displacing oxygen and reducing the ambient temperature to prevent re-ignition. It also blankets fuel sources with a biodegradable, non-toxic foam.
“We look at fire suppression as a way to increase survivability on buses,” said Joseph Mirabile, president of USSC Group, the supplier of Fogmaker in North America. “The early detection allows for a better chance to evacuate a vehicle that’s on fire.”
For the pupil transportation community in general, the potential for a school bus to catch fire is a concern that occasionally materializes and makes headlines. School bus drivers in these cases find themselves putting their evacuation training into practice, and they are often hailed for their actions in getting their passengers to safety.
Hendricks said that in these types of incidents, a fire suppression system would “provide extra time for evacuation of the bus … [giving] drivers another tool that will help them do their job better.”
As for the Fogmaker system specifically, Hendricks said that he and National Express CEO David A. Duke were impressed when they saw it in action at a Fogmaker facility in Pennsylvania.
“It really took my breath away with its ability to put out a fire and to bring down the temperature below the flash point [to prevent another flare up],” Hendricks said.
Other key selling points for National Express, Hendricks said, were the environmental advantage of Fogmaker being a water-based system and the fact that it uses pressure to operate, so it doesn’t need electrical input.
Mirabile added that the system is “armed at all times,” even when the bus is parked and powered off.
While data on the frequency of school bus fires is hard to come by, Mirabile said, the stricter emission standards that have gone into effect in recent years have resulted in engines running hotter, which increases the risk of fire.
Fire suppression systems are far more prevalent in transit buses than in school buses, Mirabile said. Some school bus operations in hotter climates have embraced the technology, but National Express may be the biggest school transportation provider to start spec’ing fire suppression in its new buses.
“This is a major player making a major investment in the safety of their students,” Mirabile said.