In Conversation with Herik Naaby of Firexpress
You’ve been coming to Dhaka for the last 4 years, what is your take on the fire hazard safety system, or the demand of fire safety system in a city like Dhaka, which is growing, which is the center of all government activities, development and economic activities of the country?
We came to Bangladesh because we wanted to introduce state-of-the-art firefighting concept. Four years back, we received our first order from Bangladesh Fire Service & Civil Defense authority. There is a demand for fire fighting equipment and knowledge, both in the public as well as the private sector. We have been, especially for the past two years, focusing very much on the private sector. We are trying to encourage them to be able to improve their fire safety. If you check the Readymade garment industry, what Accord and Alliance have done so far is praiseworthy but so much more needs to be done yet.
We have been actively imparting knowledge on how to tackle fire, small or big outbreak. Starting from the basic wisdom to introduction to equipment, which would enable them to not panic during an accident; rather they would render helping hand to others.
Besides raising awareness among common people employed in the private sector, we have been working relentlessly to make the companies understand that they need to own a certain amount of fire fighting equipment. The last inferno at Banani shows that high-rise buildings in Dhaka lacks immensely in this area of expertise and badly need a supply of equipment.
If you look at firefighting, one extremely important aspect is response time. Unfortunately, if you look at Dhaka, I think the average response time is very high for Bangladesh Fire Service and Civil Defense. The factors owing to high response time are of course traffic jams and lack of water and access to the source of water.
When it comes to firefighting, skill is very much needed. Are you providing any kind of skill development for the firefighting department of the country?
Our concept includes both: supplying equipment as well as training of our customers. Because as I said, we do not just want to deliver something, see it standing there, and in case people need it, they don’t know how to use it. To be very frank, where we see, both of the companies who have invested a lot of money in this, as I said in case they have a fire, people will not act, because our human mind is “Wow it’s hot, smoky. It’s scary, I gotta save myself”. So our concept is: once we provide equipment to a customer, we arrange a training program for a group of employees who are actually learning how to use and maintain the equipment. Most importantly, part of that training should be live fire training. So, they feel confident that, “Okay I have the equipment, if there is a fire, I can deal with it, and I do dare to deal with it.”
For the fire service department, we are only providing equipment and training on how to use those.
Do you have any kind of customized unit solution for big RMG company or big chemical companies?
Yes, we do. We have actually worked here during the past years on approaching the private companies. We have solutions where they can cover a huge area with a very small unit, which is however far more efficient than what they have at present, the fire extinguishers and so on. The advantage of our equipment is not only efficiency, but we also use a very limited amount of water. I think I’ll come back to that a little later. But we use a limited amount of water, meaning it’s easy to handle, it’s a real unit, in a factory you can easily push it around. You have a long hose, and we have a good distance of coverage, so you can act in safe distance to the fire, to not get the full heat exposure. You can use it very efficiently, and one of the very important issue here is that using our equipment you attack the fire directly on spot. If you get the sprinkler system started, the entire area will be flooded, all materials being wasted. You can have damage due to inundation and so on. When we extinguish, we extinguish the fire, we have no water damage because of the technology we use, and we have no secondary damage.
Would you like to tell us a little bit more about the two methods, one is the pump driven, and the other one is compressed air units. Can you tell us how they are significant and innovative?
The technology we use enables us to create extremely fine water droplets, most of them less than 0.1mm. We can throw them out up to a distance of 50m. At the same time, we can lay out foam, and that means we cover literally all type of fires with the very same equipment. The two concepts we use, one is what we call a pump driven unit, where we have a water tank, or we stock water from any water source, pressurize it up to 40 Pa, and then we spray it out to fire, and then adding a bit of foam i.e laying out foam, depending on the type of fire. These units don’t need to be connected to a water tank, which can be delivered together with the pump driven unit. Or the customer could have access to water himself.
The other type of unit is what we call compressed air driven unit. It is a self-contained unit, where we premix water with 3% of foam in a water tank. And then we pressurize it and push it out through the hose.
Do you have any kind of innovative methods, for high rise building fire?
Well, what we actually have is containing the fire inside before it spreads. We are not having any system where we can support high-rise buildings from outside in. A ladder is needed that helps firefighters go up to that level. What we always recommend is to always have efficient fire fighting, inside the building, so if anything happens you can contain it before it develops. You only have 4-5 minutes to act before the fire has a chance of getting out of control. With our equipment, you can actually grab it, if you take the compressed air driven units, you simply grab it, open the air tank, roll out the hose, and you are in action within 20 seconds. And that means you can immediately react and prevent it from getting out of control. However, all these require the availability of equipment as well as the right mindset to fight the fire.
We have worked on a concept where we try to introduce what we call a mini fire station or fire post. The concept includes gathering volunteers who will become firefighters in an area in time of need. We have seen in Denmark that raising awareness in a community helps a lot. These volunteers will also learn about how to prevent fires. For a densely populated country like Bangladesh, such volunteer-based fire fighting awareness could spell huge success.
Do you think cost wise that’s a big thing for companies? Where does the figure stand with all the training and equipment?
We have an extremely efficient product, and of course, quality is equal to price. We consider our products will be relatively cheap, and I think it is important to understand that, for a company owner, or for factory, you can consider price as X, but what are you rating the price against. if you have a fire tomorrow, you might have insurance coverage and say “Oh I am insured”. But you will be out of business for one month, 3 months, 6 months. And many of your customers will not wait for you to get back to business. Do you think they’ll be sitting idle? Not at all! They will go to your competitor and you’ll be out of business for an even longer term. So firstly, we consider our concept and equipment as additional insurance, to be able to save your assets and day tomorrow, compared to what you have today because most of the factories will not be able to do that today, even though they have been certified by Accord and Alliance.
Number two, we are actually working with the insurance companies now, in order to see and we got a very positive response from them, to get to lower their premium on fire insurances if the company invest in more efficient fire fighting equipment. So that could be a further incentive.
What is the chemical composition of the foam?
It’s soap. We add only 3% to the water. The interesting thing with our equipment, with the very same equipment you can tackle different types of fires. You can even spray it into electricity up to 10,000 voltage. They will be able to do that with a normal fire hose. And that’s where we have a huge advantage, and since at the same time, we use around 20 Pa of the water used from a normal hydrant or firetruck, so that means a very limited amount of water can take care of the huge fire. So you can actually compare, 50 liters of our mobile unit will equal to 1000 liter of a fire truck. It has the same capacity or capability.
I think another thing which is also important like the concept here where the Lance is not only the heart of our equipment. It’s made in a way so that if you move it forward and back, you can do it constantly during the fire fighting. You either layout foam, or you spray the micro drops. So it means, if you have a conventional fire truck, and they come in, depending on the type of fire, they should use either the water hose or the foam system. It’s two different systems in a firetruck.
How has the response been so far from the private sector?
It has been very good, very positive. I would say it takes a little bit of time, for us to identify and so on. We have a number of sales committed already, and I would say as we work right now, quite a lot more comes in during the month here. We are negotiating, with quite a number of different companies and it will be a good number.
So, Fire express is active in any other South Asian countries, or only in Bangladesh?
No, we are also present in the Middle East and Far East Asia for many years. Past 20 years, and we have been working there, we have been working with the civil defense there, where police or police cars driving in Dubai have our equipment in their cars. We are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, too. Out here, if we go a little further east, we are in Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, etc. Hong Kong is one of our very big customers. We are also active in China and Taiwan.
What is the overall size of business, financial figure wise, worldwide?
We are around turnover, 10 million euros.