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Innovative Norfolk design which saved lives during terror attack

PUBLISHED: 12:27 24 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 24 January 2019

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, are fighting to overthrow the internationally-based Somali government. Picture: MOHAMED DAHIR/Getty Images)

Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, are fighting to overthrow the internationally-based Somali government. Picture: MOHAMED DAHIR/Getty Images)

2009 AFP

A fire extinguisher designed and created in this county has been credited with saving the lives of soldiers during a terror attack in Somalia.

The shrapnel-damaged Norfolk-made P50 extinguisher after the mortar attack at the Somalian military compound. Its unique technology, invented and made by Britannia Fire prevented a “catastrophic explosion”.Picture: Britannia FireThe shrapnel-damaged Norfolk-made P50 extinguisher after the mortar attack at the Somalian military compound. Its unique technology, invented and made by Britannia Fire prevented a “catastrophic explosion”.Picture: Britannia Fire

Shrapnel pierced two fire extinguishers developed and made by Britannia Fire at Ashwellthorpe – which have inner cylinders wrapped in Kevlar thread – when a barrage of mortars was fired by gunmen at the base in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, on New Year’s Day.

The cylinders remained intact because of their technology, which is designed to resist explosion.

Britannia Fire, inventors and manufacturers of the P50 extinguisher at its Norfolk factory, believe traditional steel extinguishers would have burst after shrapnel impact, risking serious injury.

Sales director Andy Spence said metal extinguishers would have “catastrophically exploded” in the attack by Islamist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate.

Kevlar thread, used to make bullet-proof vests, is wrapped on to the P50's multi-layer inner cylinder by winding machine at Britannia Fire's Norfolk factory.Picture: Britannia FireKevlar thread, used to make bullet-proof vests, is wrapped on to the P50's multi-layer inner cylinder by winding machine at Britannia Fire's Norfolk factory.Picture: Britannia Fire

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“It was the first – and hopefully the only time – a P50 has come under fire in such an attack and it performed as it was designed to do, to withstand the attack and remain intact,” Mr Spence said.

“We know the P50’s resilience but our client was so impressed. If those cylinders had been metal extinguishers, installed just two metres from the compound wall, there would have been a catastrophic explosion and lives could have been lost.”

The P50 is currently exported to 20 countries and is installed on many military operation sites worldwide and British embassies.

The multi-use P50 was last year chosen to protect terminals at Heathrow Airport and is installed in universities, public buildings, national chains, finance houses and banks and large organisations in the UK and across the world.

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“We are planning demonstrations in a military environment to demonstrate the resilience of the P50 compared to traditional steel extinguishers, which is part of their unique safety feature,” Mr Spence said.

“This feature is another big plus for this sort of location in a volatile area. No engineer needs to go on site reducing risk as well as cost.”

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