Drew sits down with Joan Leedy and Grant Lobdell from Dyne Fire Protection Labs to discuss all things testing. They cover fire suppression foam, the risks of AFFFs and PFAS chemicals, sprinkler testing, and the changing codes governing fire protection equipment.

Joan talks about the genesis of Dyne and how the business has expanded to meet customers’ needs for testing various types of equipment in a simple and effective way. Regular inspections work in tandem with lab-testing of equipment and chemicals to ensure systems work properly if and when they are needed.

They also cover antifreeze and the risks associated with improper mixing, as well as how changes in NFPA 25 have impacted businesses with suppression systems using antifreeze. “The 2023 edition says one thing, and most states are on another thing, so they’re behind,” says Grant.

The role chemicals play in fire protection systems make the work of testing and maintaining those chemicals all the more critical. Listen in for critical insight on testing and maintaining fire protection chemicals in a changing regulatory landscape.

  • 00:11: Introduction
  • 02:29: Joan & Grant’s roles
  • 05:14: Dyne’s innovation with firefighter foam
  • 15:12: AFS state regulation changes
  • 19:06: Sprinkler head testing
  • 25:17: Frequency data collection for NFPA 25
  • 30:30: Technological possibilities for sprinkler heads
  • 33:45: How has that business morphed over the last few years with the newly listed antifreeze?
  • 40:13: Recommending a fire protection service contractor/inspection contractor
  • 47:54: Inspect Point’s foam inspection capabilities
  • 49:22: Rapid Fire Questions
  • 54:04: Where to find Dyne Fire Protection Labs?
  • 55:06 : Conclusion

Full Transcript

Drew Slocum:
Welcome to 2024 from the Fire Protection Podcast. This is episode 56. We will be doing a lot more in 2024, trying to come up with a couple of episodes a month that are even more than that. Yeah, it’s fascinating—some of the guests and topics I have lined up for the year’s first half. So, please stay tuned and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, inspectpoint.com. Inspectpoint.com. We have lined up some of the guests for stopping topics as well. So yes, episode 56, Dyne Fire Protection Labs, is on the podcast. Grant Lobdell and Joan Leedy talk about their testing lab for sprinkler heads, foam, antifreeze, and dry chem. Sprinkler head testing is considerable in NFP 25, along with antifreeze and foam, and obviously foam the last few years with all the stuff going on with PFOS and PFOA. But yeah, I have lined up some of the guests and topics: sprinkler head testing has a great product there, so they’re talking about the nuances and g best practices. So great to have them talking about NFPA 25 and everything else. So, onto the podcast, and yeah, make sure to subscribe.

Drew Slocum:
Well, welcome Grant and Joan to the Fire Protection podcast. I’m in a lovely ocean right now, with a virtual background in my office. So yeah, thanks for joining today.

Joan Leedy:
You’re welcome. It’s great to be here.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, thanks for having us.

Drew Slocum:
Where are you guys located again?

Joan Leedy:
We are in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. So, I have the blizzard behind me. It’s already snowing here.

Drew Slocum:
That’s why we’re talking about dry heads and antifreeze today and getting ready for winter.

Joan Leedy:
No, it’s a lovely, nice day here today. It’s probably about close to 80, so it’s good.

Drew Slocum:
I guess I give each of you, given whoever wants to start, jump, an intro of who you are, what Dyne fire protection’s about, and what you’re doing in the market now.

Joan Leedy:
Well, I will start because I am the founder of Dyne. My background is in chemical engineering, and I started at 3M and ended up in the foam lab or fire protection with aqueous film-forming foam. At 3M, I used to test samples, and a sample would come in, and we’d all scramble because they’d thought coming was not that often and tried to get the testing done. So I always had this idea that it could be done better and quicker with a kit and make it easy. I mainly tested and actually got samples in baby bottles once, and I picture this guy at Exxon running around trying to find samples to put his foam in and going, “Honey, can I use the baby bottles?”

Drew Slocum:
Make sure they’re disinfected, right?

Joan Leedy:
Right. So anyway, I always had that idea, and then through work and kids, I ended up leaving 3M, and about four years after that, I started Dyne. So we started testing mostly firefighting foam, and we did this pretty cool kit where you send it out with bottles and prepaid shipping., We did a one-week turnaround, which no one had done before. And we just found, I don’t think, we took business away from people. I think we just made it easy for people to meet the code because the only companies that were testing foam at the time were other foam manufacturers, but again, they weren’t doing that great of a job at it. They’ve, of course, copied my kits now, and they do kits too. But yeah, so that’s kind of my background around.

Drew Slocum:
Nice. Yeah. Grant, what about you?

Grant Lobdell:
Well, I started at Dyne right out of college. My background is in chemistry, and I started as a lab technician. At the time, we were doing firefighting foam, and then I helped add sprinkler testing and all the other testing we do now today, and I just kind of climbed the ladder as I went. So again, I started as a technician, and I managed the laboratory for a time in GM and now the president. So that’s kind of my background. It’s all been at Dyne. My whole experience here. It’s been great. This fire protection industry, I had no idea I would get into it straight out of college, but I’ve enjoyed it, enjoyed it quite a bit, and I am always learning.

Drew Slocum:
You don’t even know what fire protection is unless you’re going for fire protection, I feel like, right?

Grant Lobdell:
Right. Yeah. In college, I had no idea what firefighting foam was. When I started here, I just knew I liked chemistry; I liked the lab environment. I like testing, and I applied for this position. Joan was gracious enough to hire me, so I definitely want to cover it. Yeah, we went from there.

Drew Slocum:
So I know Dyne gets into obviously foam, and we’ll get into other aspects that I want to cover along the way, but what else? To see that firefighting foam was along the way, we added antifreeze solutions. So inside of these sprinkler systems, one way you can add some freeze protection to ‘EM is with antifreeze or other ways, but if you do use antifreeze solution and FPA would have requirements on that, you’re going to annually before the onset of freezing weather, you’re going to get that tested. You can check it in the field if you have the appropriate equipment, but if you don’t want that liability, you don’t have the equipment, keep it calibrated. You could utilize our service for that. We can also help with this changing antifreeze landscape. Now, with these listed products coming to market and being required, we can even differentiate those listed products from what we refer to as legacy products. Just back in the day, your propylene, glycol, and glycerin mixtures.

Grant Lobdell:
So we added that and then came along, and a lot of this is customer-driven where again, they’re looking at the standards, and they see, okay, this standard, I’m following NFBA 25, I’m following, oh, get to a line that says, I need a laboratory to do this part. I need to send it to a lab to test this. And they’ll see that and reach out to us, “Hey, can you do this?” And that’s kind of how sprinklers came about. We were aware of it for a time, but then the demand became there; hey, we really need help fulfilling this. The contractor needs help getting this done. Can you do this? So then we added the sprinkler testing.

Drew Slocum:
Nice.

Grant Lobdell:
And then there’s a couple of odds and ends. I don’t know if we’ll get into it today, but there are dry chemicals, and there are a couple of other things we can do as well, but those are the main ones you focus on here at Dyne currently.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. Most NFPA 25, I feel like some of the testing will get into the different kinds of verticals inside that. And then, if we get time, I’d love to hit the dry chem, too. I am interested in that, but the big topic, and this is Joan, where you started your career is the firefighting foam and wild obviously the last; it’s crazy when you see your local state representative when you’re coming up on the ballot in, I think it was last October or the local state representative, and it was just like one of the five to 10 topics they were looking at is regulating firefighting foam. It said it right in a state representative getting ready for the election. You see it there; there’s stuff going on in the firefighting foam industry. So, I guess has that business exploded with all of the PFAS stuff going on PFAS stuff going on? I know there’s PFOS and PFOA, and they’re all under one realm.

Joan Leedy:
Well, the market’s changing. I am chair of NFPA 11. Oh, wow. And that was a five-year cycle, so we’d rewrite the standard every five years because there wasn’t. Still, there is a lot going on. And we’ve gone to a two-year cycle because of all the changes and the synthetic flooring free foams, NFP elevens kind of coined S Triple F. I don’t know if that’ll stick because there’s a lot of different terms right now, but currently in the current edition of NFPA 11, the new foams are referred to as synthetic fluorine-free foams or sfs. So, a lot is going on there. Honestly, here at Dyne, we haven’t seen a lot of fluorine-free foams yet, in my opinion. There was just recently, I think even within the last week, the first mill spec-approved fluorine-free foam, and I think that’s kind of going to get the ball rolling because it’s not just a UL-listed or a factory mutual approved. This is a military government, which is pretty hefty testing that goes on with the military to get it on the qualified products list. And you’re seeing the military, I think; I don’t know if you know the exact date grant, but they’ve already said they’re not going to use any fluorinated foams after like 2025, I think. So that’s coming up fast.

Drew Slocum:
And that’s a wide variety of whether it’s an aircraft hanger or just firefighting. Right. Yeah. What manufacturer was that? The actualtentenPAN, the PAN test, like the ten by ten pan test? Is that what they did? I guess? How did they pass that, or do you know? Well,

Joan Leedy:
The manufacturers have to submit samples, and it’s pretty intensive. There are even tests with materials, so long-term aging studies with different metals there. They test the plastic five-gallon pale by dropping it. There are drop tests. There are extinguishment tests. There are aging tests where they store the material for a given amount of time at a high temperature and then repeat it again. They test expansion drain times. So it’s a pretty hefty standard. I don’t know how many pages, but it is online. If anybody’s interested, you just look up. I don’t know the number. The old one was, I can’t even remember that anymore. But anyway, if you just look up flooring-free foam mill spec specifications, it is published.

Drew Slocum:
Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, maybe I can find something out there. Do you know what manufacturer passed the mill spec? Was it perimeter?

Joan Leedy:
Yes, they’ve advertised it. There might be others, but they’re the only ones I’ve noticed so far. I think they posted on LinkedIn.

Drew Slocum:
Nice. Yeah, I just Googled it, and a sponsored ad came up, so obviously, they’re on top of it.

Joan Leedy:
So I understand about five or six were being tested, so I would assume there’ll be others as well, or maybe I just haven’t noticed those. I don’t know if they’re. Still, it really is the only one.

Drew Slocum:
So when you’re getting a foam sample from, obviously, you have the automatic extinguishing equipment or firefighting, but then, well, the firefighting app, so there’s the firefighting foam, but then there’s the fixed foam protection. Are you getting both of those samples to do testing on? I guess what are you testing? Just the concentration. What else are you testing in there?

Joan Leedy:
The NFPA is now 25; it used to be an NFP 11, but they moved that to 25. They require that you test the proportioning. So there you’re running the equipment in the field and, manufacturer, that making sure that it’s proportioning at the right concentration. So if it’s a 3% foam and the FDA says it has to test between three and 3.9, that most of the time it’s done in the field. We do offer a service where you could send in the concentrate, you could send in a water sample, and you could send in the solution, and we can determine that in the lab, but that also can be done in the field and if it’s done in the field, they can make adjustments right there. So that’s one part of the testing. The other is you’re supposed to send in a sample that concentrates to a laboratory or manufacturer or a facility approved by the A HJ, and it just says quality condition testing.

The pH tests, including those we run, are a series of tests on the concentrate itself, like viscosity, PH, and density. What we’re looking for there is was whether it was diluted before accidentally diluted, say, or was it mixed with something that it shouldn’t have been mixed with? Viscosity is important because that determines proportioning, and some of these foams can get thicker as they age, so that’s a fundamental property. pH can kind of tell you whether some chemical reactions are going on. Most foams are pretty neutral pH, so if they’re very basic or very acidic, maybe something is going on here that might ultimately affect it; then what we do is we mix the product with water at its nominal concentration and mix it. We run expansions and drain times with film-forming foams. We’ve been making sure they do form a film, but that would only be with the AFS or the products that have fluoro chemicals in them.

We’ll test and make sure there’s a positive spreading coefficient. In my opinion, with these fluorine-free foams, the way they extinguish a fire is strictly with the foam and the expansion. There’s no film. So you really have to make sure that that product is still foaming sufficiently for it to work well. So it’s going to be really key going forward to test these. It’s not like you have two chances. You can either form and fill ’em or do a foam. You only have this foaming quality. So that’s going to be,th, important going forward.

Drew Slocum:
So with all these states that are taking out the AFS and putting in requiring synthetic foams out there, it sounds like the codes, and this could be 25, and some of the others may evolve, where kind of like sprinkler heads where you have to test them X amount of years since that fire blanket’s not there anymore on those synthetic foams, you have to ensure that they’re going to put out the fire. So it sounds like potentially, in the code, they will have to be tested X number of years every X number of years.

Joan Leedy:
That’s always been the case, and it is in the code now that they must be tested at least annually.

Drew Slocum:
Well, I mean, offsite right now, you have to get the concentration test through a refractometer, right? But how do they know in the field that it’s going to create a blanket, or maybe I’m misunderstanding?

Joan Leedy:
Well, both of those tests have to be done annually.

Drew Slocum:
Okay. Say that. So, have to be sent to you annually as well.

Joan Leedy:
Right. And I think Drew, the way that started was because there were as protein foam and protein foams, again, had maybe a five or eight-year shelf life, so you wanted to test ’em manually so that you didn’t fall off that hill and that they weren’t working. So the codes go way back, and I believe that’s why they were tested annually. Fluorinated foams had a much better shelf life, even 20, is that 30 years sometimes, but they’ve always said foam should be tested annually.

Drew Slocum:
Wow, okay. So, it is being sent off. I thought it was just refractometer tests for some reason. That’s my

Joan Leedy:
Opinion. No, it’s the whole thing. So again, what we do is we send a reminder and let people know it’s been 11 months, and it’s time to test again. The issue that occurred in the industry with fluorinated foams is people are using different ways of measuring the concentration in the field because they don’t want to discharge all these fluorinated foams. So there are pseudo foams, or they’re using a water substitution method, and those are even approved now to be done in the field because a lot of states still allow you to use fluorinated foams, but they don’t allow you to test or train with fluorinated foams.

Drew Slocum:
Right. You can’t discharge it; if you discharge it, you must incinerate it.

Joan Leedy:
Correct. Collect it. Well, there are even questions on incineration.

Drew Slocum:
Oh, really? Wow. Man, I remember doing a test. My buddy was doing a test down in New York City in Brooklyn, all the new diesel fuel-up stations for all the boats, and I’m like, they better find a good place to test this. And they did, and they added an incinerator onsite that they pumped it right into, but I was just like, oh, man, this is an accident waiting to happen here. But they did a good job with the test rig and all that. And how do you do that annually? Safely and environmentally safely, too, right?

Joan Leedy:
Yeah.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. There’s a lot of foam. I mean, and just PFAS in general. 3M just got, obviously, you probably still know people at 3M and that crazy litigation settlement the other day or a couple of weeks ago, and it’s just like, wow. All right. This is serious.

Joan Leedy:
Yeah. Yeah,

Drew Slocum:
Grant. So, all right. It’s the transition from foam, obviously, obviously annual testing for NFPA 25. You guys sent out some really cool ways to get that off and back to you. I think obviously most people, if they’re not doing foam, they’re definitely doing sprinkler heads if they’re doing NFPA 25, so different, I guess, what do you see most often? Obviously, the kind of codes dictate that, but what different types of sprinkler heads do you guys test there?

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, I mean, it’s a good question. It’s all sorts of types. The frequency differs based on your environment, the age of the sprinkler, and the type of sprinkler you have. So our foam and Joan’s gone through is annual. Sprinklers vary. If you’re in a harsh environment, you’re somewhere very corrosive, and you’re concerned about the sprinkler performance, you’re probably going to do that every five or ten years if you have a listed corrosion-resistant sprinkler. So it’s not every year, it’s every five or ten years, but you get something like the office space above me, pretty conditioned office space here. I just have an ordinary standard sprinkler that’s going to be after 50 years. So, we have a pretty good track record. It’s a tried and true technology. We can go 50 years before that first initial test, so come to be 50 years old.

The building owner needs to decide, well, am I going to replace all the sprinklers, or am I going to take four or 1%, whichever’s greater of the area down, and send it off to be tested? If I had quick response sprinklers, maybe that’s after 25 years. It’s a newer technology. And I’ll touch on just briefly the, I’m saying these intervals, some people may be listening and going, that’s not what my standard says. They may be several additions behind, right? These states are not up to the most current edition. It takes a while for them to adopt them. Dry sprinklers, for instance, have moved from 10 years to 15 to 20 over the last couple of additions. Now, if I look at the current 2023 edition, we are all the way up to 20, and we often get asked why that is. Why do we keep moving?

Well, one, I mean on the committee, they’re not trying to make it difficult for you just to make it difficult. It would be nice if we only had one interval, and what happens is the dry sprinklers, in particular, had a notoriously high failure rate for a long time due to the O-ring issues. I’m sure many listening are familiar with all the issues with O-rings, and they haven’t been listed. It’s probably 15; maybe you’re going on 20 years now, but they’re still out there. We still get some in through the lab here, and they have a notoriously high failure rate. We’re talking 50 to 70%,

And they’re going to send four or 1%. They’re going to send a couple of sprinklers. The chances of failing in that group of O-rings are extremely high, but we are now starting to weep through all those. So, as we’ve weeded through them with the dry sprinklers, we feel pretty good now. The failure rate on dry sprinklers is pretty low. It’s under 5%, maybe two or 3%. Okay, the committee decided, let’s bump it up to 15. Let’s bump it up to 20. Again, I think the goal is, now, this is my interpretation, my opinion, but I think the goal is to have fewer intervals. If we could just go, if it’s a harsh environment, five, if it’s quick or dry 25, if it’s standard 50, that’d be a lot easier than all these different intervals. So that is one that has increased. It is the same thing with click response, which used to be 20 years, now 25; we have the data to show between us and the other laboratories to show, hey, the failure rate is pretty low.

We can now extend that initial test. Again, we’re not here to try to take your money. We’re here to try to make sure these buildings are safe for people and for property. If the failure rate, if they never fail, there’s no reason to test them, or there’s reason to push that interval back. So, getting into the different types of sprinklers, we see them all. I mean, even though the interval is not as frequent as foam, and it’s all over the place right now, there are just so many buildings with sprinklers and so many different types of sprinklers. ESFR is pretty prevalent, too. Those big sprinklers currently have a 20-year interval. So we see it all dry sprinklers ranging from a couple inches to several feet. The dry sprinkle barrel, depending on the temperature, you need to protect against how much length you need. We get ’em all. We can handle it all.

Drew Slocum:
Also, those dry, they’re so, I don’t want to say fragile because they’re steel. They’re steel. I have worked for both Viking and Tyco, so I know very well how dry sprinklers are and how they’re made. But I feel like if you’re shipping that, and maybe this gets into the shipping package that you potentially send out, I think there’s the ability to if they’re just tossed on a truck for UPS or FedEx, they could get bumped and really throw off your test.

Grant Lobdell:
So we always say we can test sprinklers in just about any condition we receive them in. Now, that’s not to say you should send it in any condition. If you’ve got one that just corroded, you can’t see the sprinkler through all the corrosion; you may just want to replace that. But the one thing I can’t test is if it’s already broken; if it’s broken in transit, the bulb, or the link is broken, there’s nothing I can do. My test is to measure the sensitivity. How quickly does that bulb go off? Then, the functionality part of that is, does the waterway also clear? But if that happened in transit, there’s nothing I can do, which is get to you the kits. Yeah, that’s why part of the reason we provide these kits is that we won’t make it easy. The easier it is to do, the more likely it’s going to be done, but it’s also protected.

So, the standard kit we had has a lot of foam padding. You’re going to put your sprinklers in there, dry sprinklers. Now you brought up shipping. That’s the one caveat we always get to say for dry sprinklers: we don’t include the shipping on those because they are so big and bulky, but we do provide, if you need it, we provide a container of vessel that telescopes outfits your sprinkler. It’s got foam on both ends, so you protect it. Yeah. We want to avoid it; we get that all the time or just sprinklers thrown in a box. And that’s very frustrating for the customer of, okay, I sent all these sprinklers where my results, but we can’t test ’em. They’ve already broken, and having to re-sample them. So utilize the shipping boxes that we provide to protect those sprinklers and get ’em here in one piece.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, no, that’s a key comment. Or I guess the question is, so NFPA 25 is gathering data. Are you guys volunteering data to the committee to make decisions on these frequencies?

Grant Lobdell:
Yes. If they ask for it, yeah, we will certainly help provide that. Yeah, us in the other laboratories, yeah. Yep. So again, the failure rate, if they want to know again, okay, how are we doing on this type of sprinkler dry sprinklers, for example? They can ask for that. We can also let anyone in the public participate in the NFPA process. You can go to nfp.org and submit a public comment. We’ve also done that where in the industry, if we see something trending, that way we can submit a comment as Dyne and get it in front of the committee to discuss. Yeah, those failure rates on those intervals are key. Again, I don’t think, in my opinion, having intervals all over the place’s hard to remember, and especially when we’re on different additions, and we’re changing them, that’s not the goal. We do want to try to get to a place where it’s a lot less, more compact, if you will, easier to digest. But the failure rates dictate that it’s how long we can go before we’re not very confident in this product.

Drew Slocum:
Well, it takes a long time to psych out some of those older designed heads and get through all the testing of that if it’s an annual test. Also, I think everybody over NFP 25 has taken longer to kind of get fully adopted everywhere. So it’s some of that. Again, I work for two of the top sprinkler manufacturers. Is there any type of sprinkler head, newer technology, or older technology that you’re seeing more failures in? Obviously, you had the O-rings out there. Is there anything newer out there that you’re starting to see some trends?

Grant Lobdell:
No, not necessarily. And I don’t want to point out any particular one, but not necessarily O-ring being the most prevalent. I mean, nothing comes close to that. And that’s why there were those voluntary recalls. I mean, 50 to 70% is extremely high. And you got to keep in mind, too, that everything we do is after it’s been installed for a number of years, so even if I see a trend, is it just because that sprinkler that type is more likely to end up in this environment and that environment’s truly the cause. And even though NFPA 25, before you sample the sprinkler, you’re supposed to do that floor-level inspection and replace anything that fails. So if I see a sprinkler and I already know that it’s detrimental, corrosion, it will fail. You should just replace it right there. You should only be sampling from what remains. Everything that passes is then tested.

But we still get that. Again, I will test it in any condition it’s received. So again, in my opinion, it’s detrimental, but if they give it to us, we’ll still put it through the test, and it fails. That ends up as a failure statistic. It shouldn’t have been. I mean, there are those debates where everything that we get, maybe some of those should have been caught by the floor-level inspection. But we also keep in mind that we understand. Some contractors tell the building owner, they tell them Hey, this needs to be replaced. This is detrimental to corrosion. And the building owner will reply, no, no, you get a laboratory. I want proof. I want that report that says it fails. So they begrudgingly, okay, I’ll send it. I’ll get it tested. Even though we know it really should be replaced at that point, they want that piece of evidence, that piece of paper that says, yes, this does indeed fail. This is detrimental.

Drew Slocum:
Yep. No, no, that makes sense. Yeah. There are some newer design heads, like some of the institutional heads, which a lot of times it’s the environment, and I just remember working and trying to sell to some of the bigger facilities on the institutional side, and it’s tough to get those heads in because they have to fit the testing laboratory for the prisons or the hospitals or wherever they’re in, and they were just really tough to install, and I remember there was a lot of failures when they first came out, and then they kind of worked everything out.

Grant Lobdell:
That’s the case with a lot of things, and that’s why the NFPA has this quick response. Why is that? Not 50 years. It’s a pretty good track record so far. It just hasn’t been around as long. But yeah, they worked out the kinks, and I can say good things like the Bellevue Spring design on the water seal. We talked about the O-ring being really bad; the Bellevue spring is a washer that’s raised in the middle, which gives it a little extra push. Those have been great. Very good. There’s very little contact on the side where corrosion could kind of fuse it up. It gives that extra spring so I can talk about good things. Yeah, we’ve learned over the years, and I’ve seen these designs work very well.

Drew Slocum:
What about Viking coming up with the flap? The flap-style sprinkler, right? Where? Yeah, I haven’t seen it yet.

Grant Lobdell:
Myself. I haven’t seen it, yeah. How new technology is it?

Drew Slocum:
They’re probably five years old. Five years.

Grant Lobdell:
So again, yeah, we probably wouldn’t see them unless there’s some sort of legal investigation where somebody

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, it’s a corrosive environment.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, exactly. That’s the only reason we’d see those. So it’s still, again, so new, and keep that in mind, too. Yeah. Our failure statistics are designs a lot of ’em that are 10, 20, 50 years old, we’re getting back, so we’re kind of delayed if someone comes out with something today, I don’t have anything quite yet, and even if I did, even if they took ’em down, it’s only a couple of years old.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah

Grant Lobdell:
You’re not going to know. It lasts for five or 10. The data.

Drew Slocum:
Yep. Have you seen any dry, flexible sprinklers yet?

Grant Lobdell:
I haven’t. No. I know they’re out there. Yeah, I’ve seen four-foot steel pipe, but no, I haven’t gotten the flexible ones. It won’t be a problem as testing goes; we’re just testing the sensitivity of the bulb, and that water seal goes. But yeah, that will be interesting. I’m still awaiting the first ones to come through.

Drew Slocum:
I think they’re seven years old at this point, so it’ll probably be another five to 10 years, which is kind of like, all right, I feel like the newer technology, you should want some data on that, and then all of a sudden, I don’t think you’re going to run into this, but then you run into the O-ring thing, right? And then it’s just like, boom, you got these recalls happening.

Grant Lobdell:
And they put ’em as part of the listing tests. There are some aging studies, some corrosion, 30 days, I believe. I mean, there are some studies I’m sure they’ve done. But yeah, as far as infield, I haven’t seen too many myself.

Drew Slocum:
Nice. Yeah, you probably see a lot of interesting stuff coming in from that.

Grant Lobdell:
Sure. Yeah. So, anything older than 1920 for the code you’re supposed to replace, but we still get some in.

Drew Slocum:
Do you really?

Grant Lobdell:
Oh, yeah. Yep. We get a couple. Yep. From the early 19 hundreds. Yep.

Drew Slocum:
What do you do with ’em when you’re done?

Grant Lobdell:
Well, most of ’em, the metal, so just a standard. A lot of its brass will just recycle the metal. So once it’s activated, right, the bulb’s gone. It’s shattered everything. It’s just a steel frame or a brass frame. Recycle that. Same thing with dry; most of that’s just steel, so it’s not worth too much, but we’ll recycle it. But there are a few that we’ll save. We have a display in the office here now. We call it the Wall of Shame. Mostly, what we display is what you don’t want to do. We’ll get ones that are just corroded like crazy, a hornet’s nest attached to the top of deflectors. Oh, we’ve seen all sorts of things. So those are most of the ones we save. But yeah, there’s some unique old ones that, yeah, we’ll definitely save and put on display.

Drew Slocum:
I’d throw ’em on eBay in there.

Grant Lobdell:
There are collectors who have reached out.

Drew Slocum:
There are collectors out there. Yeah, that’s kind of funny,

Grant Lobdell:
But most of the time, we recycle that metal.

Drew Slocum:
Oh, that’s cool. Yeah. I’m always interested in seeing how the code has kind of morphed in the different years. I had a feeling the laboratories were sending in the data, and it was tweaked, but the technical committees do not just look at the data; there are also different interests there. Like, all right, is this going to? There are owners on there; there are insurers on there. There’s a wide variety. Actually, I’m going to be; there’s at some point rolling on NFPA 25 as an alternate here soon.

Grant Lobdell:
There you go. It’s a tough one to get on, but congratulations.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. So, kind of step into another topic in 25 is antifreeze, and obviously, that’s been probably over the last, what, 15 years. I think I was working for Tyco at the time when a couple of those fires happened with the glycol mix. How has that business morphed over the last few years with the newly listed antifreeze?

Grant Lobdell:
Quite a bit, just as much as it’s morphed in the standards. Yeah, I think 2009, somewhere around there. Yeah. We had an incident where a highly concentrated and highly pressurized system went off. So antifreeze, if you take a lot of ’em, are propane glycol glycerin these days. I mean, that is a flammable liquid, and to make it worse, we put it under pressure. So, it kind of atomizes and makes very small droplets. It’s very flammable. So if you were just taking antifreeze and that’s the first thing coming out of your sprinkle, it is going to fuel the fire. So when that happened, the issues the industry decided, okay, we need some more regulation on this. For starters, let’s just say it has to be factory-premixed. The belief is that if we’re mixing this in the field, there’s the potential that it can separate out in pockets.

Drew Slocum:
I have a funny story for you one time. Yeah, go

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, go ahead. I’d love to hear.

Drew Slocum:
Sorry to interrupt.

Grant Lobdell:
No, no. I’d love to hear it.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, so I never named names, but I, I’m rolling into a contractor’s office, and I go to the back, and there’s literally a guy, there’s 2 55 gallon drums right there, and he’s just got, I think he might have A-C-P-V-C stick or something, and he’s just mixing, and I’m like, what is he doing? And I go inside, and he is like, yeah, he’s mixing up the antifreeze for some of the products we got going on, and this is prior to everything happening, but it was a guy just mixing water.

Grant Lobdell:
And that’s how it was done, and it’s not the easiest to get into a solution. It takes some effort, but they were able to customize, need this percent for this amount of freeze protection, and that all occurred. They thought, let’s just take that variable out. We want it mixed by the manufacturer thinking that let’s ensure it’s mixed and it’s going to stay steep because, again, if it separates out, you might have pockets of just really highly concentrated antifreeze. So that was the first big change. Factory premix, again, all of this is something you can check in the field with refractometers or hydrometers or something in the field. You can check it, but you could utilize us as well, but then they always set in there after that. We have a sunset date of September 30th, 2022. At that point, we want to use every one. We want to use listed antifreeze and listed just meaning.

Okay, a third party has come in, evaluated, and done a series of tests; they’ll check the corrosion on it. Again, how stable is it? Is it going to stay in solution? We’re going to use that. And as we know with this podcast, we’re past that sunset date of September. Oh yeah, almost a year. Yeah, 2022. Right. So the 2023 edition says one thing, and most states are on another thing, so they’re behind yet. So, if you’re following anything prior to this current 2023 edition, it says after this date, you should use the listed antifreeze solution. But if you’re following the current edition, which I’d always recommend reference the most current, it says when it needs to be replaced, then you have to do the listed antifreeze solution. So if you have a legacy installed and it still passes and you don’t have to drain it for whatever reason, it can remain in there for the current edition, but as soon as you have to drain it for some reason, even if it’s still good, but you had to drain the system for some other reason, you are expected at that point to use the listed product.

From our standpoint, it shined from testing shined a spotlight on the issue and the need to test. So there was definitely some increase there, and then lately, there’s been a need for, okay, as you may know, the records aren’t always the greatest in this section. So they’re understanding, okay, what do I have? I have this liquid. Is it the legacy? What is propylene glycol, or is it a listed product? And that’s where we’ve had interest, and we can help them. Okay, I can’t tell you what’s in it. Some of those are considered trade secrets, but I can determine if it is that product or not. We have the ability to check for some of these additives and whatnot in the solution. Interesting. Okay. We can give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Again, I can’t tell you what specifically is in it, but I can tell you whether or not it is one of the listed products or not.

Then, there are requirements listed that are pretty simple. You have to follow the manufacturers. It’s got a refractive or density; make sure it’s within that tolerance. If you’re still on the legacy, same thing, we’re going to look at refractive of in density and see where it’s at. But you have to keep in mind, too, that we may have a product that is good. It meets the refractive density, but it may not provide the freeze protection you need. It may still be valid; it’s not too concentrated, but let’s say it only provides you down to 10 degrees, and you need to go all the way down to a five, okay? Then, even though it’s still acceptable for NFPA, it may not be acceptable for your situation.

Drew Slocum:
And I know the listed ones have some trouble getting down to the lower temperatures, and yeah,

Grant Lobdell:
There are some limitations, and more and more have come. You mentioned Tyco. I think they had the first one, but now I think there might be up to four different products. Tyco’s got two. Lubrizol Noble. Yeah. They’ve all been able to now; it took a while. I mean, the reason they put that date almost ten years down the road to 2022 was they needed time to develop these products. To meet these tests. One, they had to develop the tests. Again, like you said, you had a guy literally mixing it up. All of a sudden, we’re going, okay, what tests do we want to do to ensure this is going to work? So they had to come up with a test, and the manufacturer had to take the product and try to meet those tests, and then no, it didn’t. Okay, what do we get to add, and what do we get to finagle here to make it past these tests? So it took a while. It was last minute, but there are products out there that, hopefully, listed, could get you. But yeah, there are limitations both in temperature and size and use.

Drew Slocum:
So if you’re on an addition of NVA 25 prior to 2023, which is, by the way, the entire country, nobody’s on the newer standard, even though we’re in 2023, and it probably, they’re probably not even going to make their way there until probably three to five more years, which is the craziest.

Grant Lobdell:
Most around 2017, 2020, yeah.

Drew Slocum:
Some in 2020, but not too many yet. So how do you recommend, I guess, a fire protection service contractor, inspection contractor, or whatever? So if it says, Hey, it’s got to be listed by this date, do you recommend just automatically getting that analyzed by you guys just to say if it’s listed or not? If they’re not sure?

Grant Lobdell:
Okay. I know we’re on the 2017. It says that after this, data needs to be listed. Right, but let’s look at the current. They’ve made this grandfather in there where I can leave this in until it needs to be replaced and let the A HJ decide. That is what I would recommend. You know what I mean? But I would certainly bring that to them unless, again, the billing order really does want to switch. At some point, they will have to switch. It’s just delaying the inevitable. If they have a legacy, as soon as it needs to be drained, they’re going to have to switch. But if they really do want to delay it, make the HJ aware of it; they’re probably already aware of it. But I mean that out of the foam and sprinklers we’ve talked about, antifreeze has had a lot of change. It is probably the most change over the last couple of additions in 25.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, yeah. Obviously, bringing in the newly listed products and stuff like that.

Grant Lobdell: 
Yep.

Drew Slocum:
Oh, cool. That’s good stuff to learn about. So, I guess I might as well hit it. I got both of you here, Joan and on, so you guys obviously do the foam side and the chemical side, and that’s where you started some of the sprinkler stuff. But you said you guys get into some of the dry chemical testings, I guess, and what codes are referenced there? I guess you tell me a little bit more about that because it’s kind of new to me.

Joan Leedy:
Well, that’s a service we offer. We have a kit for that as well. That’s kind of our MO to have those kits and make it easy. There is an international maritime organization or IO specification that does require that dry chemicals on ships be tested. Is that an annual thing, Grant?

Grant Lobdell:
Every two years. I believe.

Joan Leedy:
Every two years. And so what we’re testing for is moisture, which is the main one. Then, we also do a task just to confirm the particular dry chemical.

Drew Slocum:
Oh, make sure it’s all of one.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah. If it’s a B or C, it’s your mono ammonium phosphate, which is typically your ingredient in there, so we’ll look for that. Typically, it’s anywhere from 70 to 90. Depends on the product.

Drew Slocum:
Yep.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, we can tell you. Do you have, again, an A, B, or C? Do you have a BC extinguisher? Purple K.

Drew Slocum:
Interesting. Yeah, and that’s big. Obviously, NFPA A 10 has that, and

Grant Lobdell:
Correct, and 17 would be your fixed systems, but yeah, 10 being your portables, and those were IMO 1432 that Joan’s talking about; it specifically mentions having a laboratory test, and FPA 10 and 17 are more vague. They just say to examine it; some people choose, again, visual examination is what they choose to do. I’m not going to sway one way or the other, but I think we got a great service. But yeah, in those NFPA documents for dry chemicals, they don’t specifically call out sending it to a laboratory to have it analyzed.

Drew Slocum:
That’d be kind of nuts with all the extinguishers out there, and how do you do that at scale?

Grant Lobdell:
How do you efficiently grab a sample and get results back before you recharge it? Yeah, it would be quite a logistical nightmare.

Drew Slocum:
And I’ve seen some fire extinguisher charging stations or recharging stations, and I think most of them are doing a pretty good job making sure the moisture content’s right, obviously, and they’re not mixed over. They’re not mixing different chemicals, different types.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yep.

Joan Leedy:
A lot of this gets back to knowing what you have. I mean, even in foam, there are a lot of different types of foam. There are foams for alcohol for water-soluble versus water-insoluble solvents. So, drawing you with your software could solve this problem because when people buy foam, they should be documenting what type of foam they bought, when they bought it, and what lot it was, and it just gives you the whole picture. Then. So when you do testing, you know what you’re doing too, and with dry chemicals as well, but unfortunately, sometimes that’s not the case. You throw some foam in a tank, and then you throw some other foam in the tank, and you realize that those two are incompatible.

Drew Slocum:
It is chemically incompatible with the equipment that they’re going through.

Joan Leedy:
Right. The equipment, there’s actually a freeze-protected foam that has ethylene glycol in it, which is water soluble polar solvent, and if you put alcohol-resistant foam in with that, you cause the polymer to drop out a solution, plug up your whole system.

Drew Slocum:
Oh, no way.

Joan Leedy:
I mean, that’s just one example of how not knowing what you have and adding something to it; I don’t think that happens very often because alcohol-resistant foam or freeze-protected foam is not all that common. But there is a case where you could have a nightmare just by mixing these foams.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, it could happen. I know there’s a variety of different contractors that I’ve fire protection professionals that I’ve talked to. They’re like, if we’re not currently doing the inspection or service on this account, I’m not even touching foam. There’s too much. They’re in one of the states that is kind of going after it more than others. So it’s like, all right, they’re not even going to go after it. They’re like, Hey, I can shift my business elsewhere, and I don’t even have to worry about it, which is kind of scary that they don’t even want the business because of the litigation around it.

Grant Lobdell:
The scary part is, I mean, that system’s still sitting out there.

Drew Slocum:
Sure, somebody’s got to do it.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah. Hopefully, you never need it, but if you do, you’re going to want it to work. I mean, that’s what these tests are trying to help get that; hey, hopefully, it just sits and sits, and you never need it, but when it trips, we’re going to hope it works.

Drew Slocum:
Yep. Hope it works.

This has been great. In our software, like Joan, back to your comment, we track a lot of that data concentration levels over the years and what is there. So there’s a lot of value, obviously. I think we have value to the NFPA side of things, too, to see what data is needed and how frequencies change what should be tested. So I think over. Unfortunately, the code cycles don’t happen quicker, and things take time to adopt, but I think we’re getting to a certain point where some of this data is obviously you’ve provided that on the sprinkler testing side and have changed that around. So I think that’s one of the first steps to refining it because a lot of what 25 was is just picking stuff out of the air and not having on some of the frequency stuff and putting the data to that, I think, is very powerful.

Grant Lobdell:
I mean, they obviously make an educated guess where to start a new technology, but typically, it’ll be on the conservative side, and then the data will tell us, okay, I’m not having any failures. We can push that interval back, or, oh no, I’m having a lot of issues. We have to increase this. We got to catch ’em sooner.

Drew Slocum:
Cool. So, at the end of every podcast, I do this thing called the quick response round, which is kind of fun. So I’ll ask both of you guys a question and try to make it quick, and we’ll kind of wrap the podcast up. It’s kind of funny; we’re talking about quick-response sprinklers today. So, Joan, I don’t know if this is a quick question, but what are your thoughts overall with 3M getting out of the Novack business?

Joan Leedy:
Well, Novak is technically APFAS, but it does not have the issues that APFAS has. I think it’s going to be a public relations for the fire protection industry to make senators and representatives realize that all PFAS are not created equal. Firefighting foam gets into water sources, and people drink it. That’s the biggest problem, and Novec 1230 is discharged into a room. It evaporates, and the environment destroys it. It’s kind of a magical chemical, but it is A-P-F-A-S, so it’s a good question.

Grant Lobdell:
Hitting us with the tough ones at the end.

Joan Leedy:
The other point is, I mean, 3M got out of Novak 1230 because of public relations. It’s not because the product’s bad, but they have a policy to not manufacture any PFAS no matter what, and they’re using PFAS. They have to use it to make products and do some things like that, but they don’t want to be a manufacturer. They have a lot of business to protect. So it’s interesting what’ll happen, but my opinion is you’re still going to have some manufacturers not of Novec 1230 but of the generic chemical because it’s needed by the industry. Oh,

Drew Slocum:
Yeah. You needed by, and it’s funny, the FSSA and other associations are like, Hey, they’re getting together now. There’s a whole task force of, like, all right, what do we do? With Novak leaving the market from 3M, we have to do something. Who’s going to step in, and how does that all work with listings and design and stuff like that?

Grant Lobdell:
You mentioned it like the equipment. They got all this equipment for this chemical, and then all of a sudden, okay, now this chemical’s going away. I have to have equipment to run it, so yeah, I need a drop-in replacement, or I have to change everything.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, it’s a mess.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah.

Drew Slocum:
All right. This is an easier one for you, Grant.

Grant Lobdell:
Oh good. Yeah. Give me the easy ones.

Drew Slocum:
What is your opinion on the juicy lucy?

Grant Lobdell:
You’re the second guy today that’s asked me about that? No, it’s good. I mean, I’m a burger guy. Do you like burgers? Yeah. I mean, locally, like Joan mentioned, we’re outside St. Paul. We’re pretty close. There’s again, I’m not sponsored by anyone. I’m not going to name any names. If they would like to sponsor me, I could name ’em. But yeah, I do enjoy it. I guess I’m also a regular burger guy, which is fine with me, too. Maybe I don’t hype it up too much.

Drew Slocum:
What it is for whoever knows is that I do a little kind of fun stuff toward the end, but a Juicy Lucy is, what is it, a cheese?

Grant Lobdell:
It’s like infused. Yeah, yeah, you’re a burger, and then you infuse it with cheese, so when you bite into it, you get a lot of cheese coming out. Yeah, it’s good. But to me, I don’t know. It’s not; I’ll take a cheeseburger, too. Yeah, if you haven’t had one, you should have one. If you ever visit Minnesota, is it a Minnesota thing? Is that what we’re known for?

Drew Slocum:
It’s funny. I always Google who’s coming on the last episode of The Guy, which was outside of London, so I did some stuff there, and I was like, oh, that’ll make it fun. So, I always made the Same call. I recommend it.

Drew Slocum:
Well, great. Thanks, Joan and Grant, for coming on today. Yeah, it is cool to talk about some of this stuff. I’ve been wanting to have you on for a little bit to talk about the testing. Where can we find you? Do you want to give some shout-outs for contact info, or how do we find Dyne Fire protection?

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah, I mean, our website will probably be the best place to go, Dyneusa.com, but we pride ourselves on being available in customer service. If you call us, you can call (800) 632-2304, Lab@Dyneusa.com, or email. Those are, yeah, we try to make ourselves available. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll point you to someone who does, but if you’ve got a question on test results, we want to be able to answer that call and get you right away. We know a lot of these contractors; they need that quick turnaround. They want to turn around and get their end user to build out that answer, so they’re waiting on us, so we try to be as quick as we can.

Drew Slocum:
Yeah, no, it’s good stuff. We’re actually working with this idea. We have analytics for heads in our platform to run analytics to give the contractors a heads up of what’s coming due for sprinkler head testing so that customer service to that contractor makes all the difference.

Grant Lobdell:
Yeah. Yes, it does.

Drew Slocum:
This was episode 56 of the Fire Protection Podcast, powered by Inspect Point. Want to thank Joan and Grant from Dyne Fire Protection Labs for stopping by the podcast today. Here’s to a great 2024, and thanks for listening. Take care.