JSG Industrial Systems

Minimising Fire Risk for Bus Transport

bus fire suppression

Bus fire in Perth on a vehicle fitted with fire suppression

An outbreak fire was reported to have completely destroyed a public transport vehicle even though it was fitted with a fire suppression system. While the system did detect the fire and did activate, it did not prevent re-ignition of the fuel source. The incident saw passengers evacuated from the dedicated bus port terminal, with the associated roadway being closed indefinitely.

Not only does this incident have an impact as to the cost of replacing the vehicle, and additional cost impact of re-routing 18 services around the affected area of the bus port, it also carried the potential risk to passengers had this incident occurred while travelling on a motorway, in which case their evacuation would have been delayed.


The incident in Perth draws focus to the effectiveness of the installed fire suppression system and whether an AS5062 compliant risk assessment was conducted, as well as other factors.

This should be a concern to bus operators & following an incident of this nature, should be encouraged review of any existing risk assessment taking into consideration new incident information as it becomes available.

Even though many buses are already fitted with fire suppression, suitable actions are required to be taken to prevent a similar incident occurring. Failing to do so begs the question, “How many buses might potentially be similarly affected within Australia?”

There are a variety of ways to mitigate fire risk in the bus industry but all need to start at proper fire risk assessment. AS5062 clearly spells out the fire risk management process to systematically apply management policies, procedures and practices to identify, analyse, control, monitor and review fire risks at all phases of equipment life.

This means that when designing a piece of equipment, the potential risks that could be presented must be taken into account: in construction or acquisition of the equipment, consideration must be given to materials that can be/are used to minimise fire potential; installation, assembly and commissioning of a fire system to further reduce the outcomes of a fire that could still break-out; operational practices which could increase the potential of fire, along with maintenance practices that can also increase risk; modification of any equipment from the original design, and even decommissioning and dismantling equipment at the end of its operational life.

Minimising Fire Risk for Bus Transport

Careful consideration of these aspects become part of the identification of fire hazards, which then lead into risk analysis and evaluation, and finally move into the risk reduction stage. Whilst following all of this, the fire risks must still be monitored and reviewed as often as reasonably required, and a significant incident is a very apparent prompt to conduct such review.

The risk reduction stage is where the implementation of a fire suppression system comes into play, well after design and construction for any equipment. It is a last line of action where all other reasonable steps to reduce the potential have been taken, and consequences as low as reasonably achievable.

To design an effective fire suppression system it must be taken into account all of the fire risks identified in the initial stages of the fire risk management process or the fire risk assessment. Only then can a system be designed to provide fire protection to the areas of equipment susceptible to fire outbreak.

Interesting Facts

  • OTSI examined 15 fires over a 2 year period leading up to 2012
  • 14 engine fire incidents in the last 5 years on this make of vehicle for the associated transport company, most of which were fitted with a fire suppression system.
  • 8 resulted in total loss of the vehicle
  • 7 resulted in damage ranging from minor to significant, where significant indicated likely engine replacement or rebuild
  • Electrical faults broadly attributed to fire on 4 occasions.
  • Wheel or tyre problems on two occasions
  • Oil, coolant or fuel system faults on the remaining nine occasions of which five were associated in some manner with the turbocharger.
  • Due to the air flow moving through buses during transit displacement, the fine particles produced from some types of fire suppression systems causing them to be far less effective than other available.
  • 94,131 buses were registered in Australia for 2014 at the time the census was conducted.
  • The light-weight material used to build buses is often highly flammable causing the rapid spread of fire if not suppressed quickly.

Issues faced by the industry

The simple fact is that buses are high operation vehicles that are subject to potential fire risks like all other vehicles, though by nature expose a wide range of the general public to this risk.

What is taking place in the industry to reduce fire risk to date is a massive step in the right direction; however, greater emphasis must be placed on improving the quality of fire risk assessment for any vehicle operating on public roads to transport the general public, prior to designing a fire suppression system. Bus companies must observe statistical information available when conducting fire risk assessment for every operating vehicle.

Failing to do so can, and will, have a wide range of impacts should a fire event take place, as we have seen with the Perth bus port incident:

  1. A business/owner has just lost an integral part of its operation in the destruction of its asset
  2. There can be subsequent impacts on surrounding infrastructure.
  3. Public transport, and in particular buses, have a higher level of risk exposure to human life than other industries.
  4. The potential risk consequence can be much more severe if a bus is travelling on a motorway at the time of fire outbreak.
  5. There are limitations in existing bus designs regarding allowing for installation of well suited fire suppression systems, which needs to be addressed during the construction stage. Safety must not take a back seat to profitability.

Solution how Muster can Minimise Fire Risk for Bus Transport

The Muster Fire Suppression System takes a holistic approach to addressing fire risk for all types of mobile & transportable equipment. The tools available within the Muster repertoire consists of a fire system design program that considers fire risk assessment as the starting point for any piece of equipment. The system is flexible and can be tailored to suit any risk area requirement, providing the highest level of protection, which not only complies with risk assessment processes but also uses components that are performance tested to comply with AS5062 as well.

We have system configurations available in the program to meet all levels of fire system as referenced by the Bus Industry Confederation. All of our distributors are trained in the use of the Muster design program to build effective risk assessments that include hazard identification, fire risk analysis and risk reduction controls, to provide a fire suppression system to protect your equipment and the people who use it.

Fire risk management is an important consideration for any fleet operator and your fire system provider should take it as seriously as you do.

For more information, please contact JSG Industrial Systems to be placed in contact with our highly skilled distributors.

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