57 million Americans – almost 18% of our population – live with some type of disability. Disabilities can affect mobility (20.9 million people), hearing (11.3 million), vision (7.3 million) or cognitive abilities (15.1 million).
For generations, persons with disabilities were ignored or ostracized. Fortunately, values and attitudes in our society have evolved in significant and positive ways. Our society is now committed to providing every disabled person with the opportunity to lead an active and fulfilling life in which his or her full potential can be realized.
The passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990 represented the fullest expression of the commitment to equal opportunity for persons with disabilities. The purpose of the ADA was to make it possible for disabled persons to live as full and equal citizens of our society.
The ADA mandated major changes in the way that facilities of all types are designed, constructed and operated. Facilities are now built to accommodate the needs of persons who are sensory deprived, blind, confined to a wheelchair or otherwise disabled.
These changes created a multitude of challenges for building owners, designers and contractors. One persistent challenge has been how to install fire extinguishers in compliance with requirements for accessibility.
Specifically, codes and standards that define accessibility generally require that objects on walls protrude no more than 4” (102mm) into circulation paths. However, prior to Oval, there was no 5 pound or larger fire extinguisher that was less than 4” (102mm) in diameter.
Since there was no fire extinguisher that was less than 4″ (102mm) deep, the limit on projections was either ignored or the design of the facility had to change just to accommodate installation of fire extinguishers. This often required moving walls, making walls deeper than normal and/or wasting valuable and expensive floor space.
In 2015, a creative inventor decided to tackle this problem. He understood that, if there was a way to make a fire extinguisher that was oval instead of round, then the projection from the wall could be reduced to less than 4” (102mm).
Changing the shape of a fire extinguisher is no small undertaking. Fire extinguishers must withstand extreme pressures, temperatures, shocks and stresses. A round cylinder is structurally very strong. Matching this strength in a vessel that is not round is difficult. After a lot of engineering work and many trials, it was found that the best solution was to make the vessel using an aluminum extrusion with welded top and bottom caps.
The initial prototypes were finished and, on June 14, 2016, the Oval low-profile fire extinguisher received U.S. patent number 9.364.696. On October 19, 2016, Underwriters Laboratories completed testing and certified the Oval low-profile fire extinguisher for use.
Since then, Oval fire extinguishers have been installed successfully in many facilities and the recognition of the value of our products has grown every day.