INTERSCHUTZ 2020, 15 - 20 June, Hannover/Germany
Fire Prevention

Fire protection and fire fighting with water mist

Fire protection often requires disasters that bring further progress. Such a disaster occurred on 7 April 1990, when a fire on the Scandinavian Star ferry killed 158 people. This accident was the starting signal for the further development of water mist technology.

03 Jun. 2019
IWMA - Source: VID Fire-Kill
Source: VID Fire-Kill

The idea for this technology had existed for a long time. At the end of the 19th century, the American company F.E. Myers produced a system that sprayed water droplets and allowed firefighters to carry them on their backs when fighting small forest fires. A little later, Grinnell also developed a nozzle that fought fires with droplets. But it was not until 1978 that a textbook entitled "Fundamentals of Fire" was published.

Water in droplets - smaller than ground cereal grains

Krister Giselsson and Mats Rosander write in it that in the future there will be a liquid - water, for example - which, atomised into droplets smaller than ground cereal grains, will be the most important fire-fighting agent in buildings. And it was these two men who presented the results of their research after the fire at Scandinavian Star.

In addition, the Montreal Protocol was passed in the late 1980s. The topic was the abolition of substances that lead to the depletion of the ozone layer. Among other things, it was decided to phase out the use of halon as a fire-fighting agent. This gap was to be filled by water mist.

IWMA - Source: VID Fire-Kill
Source: VID Fire-Kill

How does water mist work?

What can water mist do that other fire-fighting agents cannot? A water mist system reduces the temperature - much more than a traditional sprinkler system. People and property are thus better protected from the effects of heat.

In addition, water mist removes oxygen from the fire. The pressure of a low-pressure water mist system is less than 12.5 bar. High-pressure water mist systems operate at a pressure of between 35 and 200 bar - this value could be even higher in the future.

The higher the pressure, the smaller the droplets. The total surface area of the droplets increases, the water becomes mist and evaporates. And the fire runs out of oxygen. Evaporation only takes place where high temperatures are reached. There, where it does not burn, also no steam is formed. This area can therefore be used as an escape route.

And there are other advantages: Water mist poses no danger to humans. If a fire breaks out, the system can be activated immediately. Compared to a sprinkler system, a water mist system consumes less water. The thinner pipes save space and costs. Water mist systems can also be retrofitted.

IWMA Bettina McDowell - Source: private
IWMA Bettina McDowell (Source: private)

Water mist for deserts, museums or tunnels

As far as the list of applications is concerned, it all started in the off-shore sector, with ships and oil platforms. This is also where the pre-disaster research took place on the Scandinavian Star. So it was about passenger cabins and engine rooms. Today, water mist systems are increasingly used where water is scarce - for example in the desert states of the Middle East.

Museums often choose water mist to protect valuable exhibits. The problem here would be not only destruction by fire but also water damage. Even buildings that are listed as historical monuments and are to be protected for their own sake use inconspicuously installed water mist systems.

"Speakers presenting applications at the annual water mist conference also talk about saunas, escalators, server rooms, libraries, cable tunnels in power plants, railway stations and printing plants. Prominent applications include the Elbe Philharmonic Hall, the Eurotunnel, the Clock Tower in Mecca, the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York."

Bettina McDowell, Managing Director of the International Water Mist Association (IWMA)

The next Water Nebula Conference will take place on 23 and 24 October 2019 in Berlin. IWMA will also present itself at INTERSCHUTZ 2020 as a discussion partner and supplier of information. At the IWMA stand, association representatives will answer questions, network and talk to potential cooperation partners about joint activities in the field of fire protection. More information can be found at .


The International Water Mist Association (IWMA) was founded in 1998 in Magdeburg, the association has been based in Hamburg since 2012. The aim of the association is the professional exchange.

Since 2001, the IWMA has organised seminars and annual conferences: the International Water Mist Conferences. These serve the "water nebulisers" to exchange experiences. In addition, professional groups that have to deal with fire protection are given a point of contact with regard to content. The topics range from applications