Mine detectionAustralian video-based fire detection research aimed at improving fire life safety and asset loss control in underground coalmines offers remote automatic early fire detection and alarming well before current gas analysis technology is able to respond.

PhD researcher and fire engineer Frank Mendham of the University of Queensland’s Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) believes that Video Based Fire Detection (VBFD) will rapidly overtake current forms of gas detection. “VBFD will be used as a means of pinpointing early fire outbreaks associated with conveyor belt systems and similar fixed plant at a much earlier stage of fire growth than current CO detection can operate’.

Evolving CCTV technology can only improve on the exciting results that have been obtained already during testing at Queensland’s Safety In Mines Testing and Research Station (SIMTARS) over the past 5 years. Frank has travelled to NIOSH in Pittsburgh USA and to Aachen in Germany, to share his knowledge with some of the global leaders in his field of mining and industrial fire and risk engineering. In his words ‘VBFD potentially has the same evolutionary significance in detecting the early outbreak of fires in underground mines as did gas detection compared with birds in cages.”

The avoidance of space where untenable conditions exist during evacuation is paramount to survival in a fire. The design of an underground mine fixed plant fire detection system should ensure that it contributes effectively to reducing the Required Safe Evacuation Time (RSET) to an acceptable factor of safety less than the Available Safe Evacuation Time (ASET) period. The primary way that fire detection can assist in reducing RSET is by more promptly detecting and verifying a fixed plant fire and initiating an alarm signal than current approaches are able to achieve.

Concurrently with the Control Room of a mine receiving an early smoke detection visual image from an underground location, it will be possible to send the smoke detection images and the exact location of the fire to smart devices, such as mobile phones, tablets and vehicle mounted laptops of Mines Rescue personnel. A significantly earlier response will be initiated.

The final stage of the research requires the installation of a VBFD system in an operational pit, which is likely to commence within the next two months. If you would like further information please contact Frank Mendham at f.mendham@uq.edu.au