In Episode 24 of The Mission Critical Fire Protection Podcast, Lee Kaiser sits down with Alan Rhodes ORR's West Coast account manager. Alan discusses his love of water mist systems, and his tenure in the fire suppression industry, and talks about mission-critical fire protection with Lee.
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Welcome to MCFP meet the experts where ORR Protections, VP of engineering, Lee Kaiser interviews, industry insiders on all things Mission-critical fire protection.
Lee Kaiser (00:19):
I'm here with Allan Rhodes today. Allan is an account manager for, ORR Protection systems with both the power generation team here at ORR and the West coast division of ORR Protection. So you're out of Northern California, but I know you traveled the whole country, uh, helping to serve our customers and coming up with solutions for them. So, Allan, tell me, how did you get into the fire protection business?
Allan Rhodes (00:42):
Yes. Well, Lee, it's kind of an interesting story. Uh, I had a love for the F for basically being a fireman. Okay.
Lee Kaiser (00:49):
Yeah, a good way to start.
Allan Rhodes (00:50):
And so, uh, yeah, and so in junior college I took a fire science, but I also took, uh, construction management and, uh, I so happened to get a internship the second year that I was at the JC and went to work at the Lawrence Berkeley laboratory. So at a DOE national lab worked in the plant engineering department in mechanical engineering, mostly dealing with pumps and water distribution systems, low conductivity, water, et cetera. However, when I returned from labor day weekend, it was kind of a tragic event, but the mechanical group lead and his whole family were killed. So that sent me into, um, my boss was immediately promoted to take that position. And we were right in the middle of the FM review of all the labs right after the Brown's ferry fire.
Lee Kaiser (01:50):
Oh wow. So they needed some fire protection help.
Allan Rhodes (01:52):
So we had about a $7.5 million budget at that time. And I had just entered UC Berkeley and was working part-time up at the lab and going to school, so they asked me, they said, we know it's asking a lot, but can you take over the improve risk safety project? So that was my first taste of fire protection. I went ahead to finish my mechanical engineering degree three years later. And at the same time ran the improved risk safety project. So that's how I got my feet wet and fire protection.
Lee Kaiser (02:25):
Well, that's more than getting your feet wet. That's getting thrown out of the frying pan into the fire. Wow.
Allan Rhodes (02:32):
And so from that point, I went to work for one of the consultants that was consulting with me on that project. Um, worked for them for a period of years. They would, they were called the, uh, FBE group. They were the spinoff of the old Ancil Sierra group. Ancil used to have their own consulting arm that they called the Sierra group. So it was those, uh, fire protection engineers that I got to study under.
Lee Kaiser (02:55):
Oh, that's great. So now, um, you know, Allan, I know from knowing you personally, you are really an expert in water mist system. So how did you find yourself coming to that technology and becoming a, an expert there?
Allan Rhodes (03:12):
Well, at the time that I became interested in water mist, I was working for, um, ABB uh Impel, which was the old combustion engineering group. And we ended up being purchased by a Sayer Brown Bavaria ABB, and I became part of the power, power group. And from there, we had a very interesting, um, problem. They produce high voltage DC conversion equipment, so that you can take AC converted to DC and transmit it without having a substation. However, they'd had some fires. So we were looking for a system that we could actually run off of the low conductivity water that runs through the valve to keep it cool. And we were looking for a system that would allow us to have very little water, but to be able to address essentially an, A, B or C class fire. And that's what led me to water mist. And my first exposure was to Secure Plex in Canada.
Lee Kaiser (04:10):
Allan Rhodes (04:11):
And then to Mariof and, uh, after, uh, after a while I was offered a position with Mariof and at that point that was in the early nineties and then went on to 2000 and completed my journey there in 2015 so.
Lee Kaiser (04:32):
Oh, wow. So, I mean, you know, that's a long time with water mist and I know you, you know, for ORR again, you, you hold really that subject matter expert position for us. Uh, and in addition to your other duties, but, and, uh, water mist and help, you know, help people throughout the country with, uh, learning about and applying water mist system. So yeah. I'm know you've done some great projects with that product. What you do. Does any projects stick out in your mind that you want to tell us about?
Allan Rhodes (05:01):
Probably one of the crowning projects that I worked on personally and was involved very deeply with was the, uh, Apple new world headquarters, which because probably because of my knowledge of the project allowed me to come to, ORR, and we obviously now have the service contract for the world's largest campus.
Lee Kaiser (05:23):
That was a great project, really, really important project. So, um, with, you know, water mist is important to our business and important to a lot of our customers. Why is it valuable, um, in the marketplace? What makes water mist systems different than, you know, sprinkler systems or other gaseous systems that are available to?
Allan Rhodes (05:45):
Well, as, as you know, one of my pet sayings is this water mist is merely a sprinkler system on steroids. Okay. And the reason I say that is this because it's still a water based system, but, and now we actually have several different operating ranges for the systems. You know, there's low, medium and high pressure. And the low and medium pressures have actually caught up with high pressure and many of the advantages that were offered initially only in high and high pressure, but we use typically 90% less water, it's a very efficient on a multiple set of fires class, A, B or C. Um, and it just, uh, provides, I think in most cases where we apply it, a much better solution than even sometimes a gaseous or conventional sprinkler system can provide. It is three-dimensional, it is a gas if there not a gas, but a fog. And so, um, there's very few limitations. It has, other than obviously you wouldn't want to use it on a water reactor.
Lee Kaiser (06:50):
Sure. So in the future with water mist, do you think there's going to be, uh, more innovation? Do you think there's going to be more entrance into that market or, uh, do you think there's going to be just more awareness of when water mist is the right solution to use?
Allan Rhodes (07:08):
I think that several things are going to take place. Number one, I think that the fire protection community in North America is thirsty to learn more about water mist technology. Now, you know, it used to kind of be a, a subject that it was only if you loved, did you really want to try and, and get involved with it? But now I think, uh, I see it being specked more often. Um, and I think that what's what you're going to see is the low and medium pressure systems are going to continue to gain equivalency with their ability to penetrate the fire plume, droplet size, et cetera, as what the high pressure mist systems offered in the past. So if I had to make a prediction, I see the water mist community probably migrating more to a medium pressure range system than continuing to operate at high. And I know several of the high pressure manufacturers are actually looking at either acquisition or innovation of their own systems to run at lower pressures.
Lee Kaiser (08:13):
So a lot of developments, you know,yet to come. Yeah,
Allan Rhodes (08:16):
I think, I think water mist is going to be here for a long time.
Lee Kaiser (08:19):
Well, Allan Rhodes, uh, account manager for ORR Protection, uh, in both the power generation team and on the West coast. So thank you so much for spending the time with us, and we're really glad you're with us.
Allan Rhodes (08:32):
Lee, It was my pleasure.
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