The consequences of using a fake fire extinguisher can be deadly. A fake device will malfunction, and it may also intensify the fire. Indeed, the situation warrants high-tech solutions because the cost of failure couldn’t be higher – injuries and lost lives.
As such, it’s incumbent upon brands to protect consumers with the reliable fire safety equipment they rely upon when needed most. Firefighters are not the only people who depend on fire extinguishers since they’re in homes worldwide, so how can brands identify fraudulent products in the first place? The answers are complex, but building an ecosystem of anti-counterfeit solutions is how world-class brands are saving lives by spotting fake extinguishers before they enter the market and endanger consumers.
What are the risks if fire extinguishers are counterfeit?
Consequences can be deadly when people believe that a counterfeited fire extinguisher is genuine. The danger demands immediate action because fires can cause extensive property damage or worse. A fire can spread throughout a structure quickly, and authentic fire extinguishers give us the means to stop the flames before they surge out of control. Nonetheless, brands are far from helpless, so here’s a breakdown of the risks.
False sense of security
Unfortunately, the equipment can malfunction at the worst possible time when people need to trust it most in the event of an emergency. Some fakes may not eject fire suppressant materials because they only contain fraudulent powder. Extinguishers work by smothering the flames and preventing flare-ups, so another risk is that the device may be full of the wrong type of suppressant. A prime example is a product meant for a chemical fire but filled with the incorrect materials.
May intensify the fire
If an extinguisher is fake, it may also be filled with an improper amount of air and an unknown substance that may or may not be fire resistant, as evidenced in this fact sheet by UL. Unfortunately, these kinds of fraudulent fire extinguishers are openly sold online on wholesale exchanges like Alibaba. When this situation occurs, the product only adds oxygen to the fire. The result is an intensifying fire, the exact opposite of what an extinguisher is meant to do.
Chemicals can be harmful
Another thing that can go wrong is falling ill or getting hurt from inhaling the fake powder. The chemicals inside the device can irritate the eyes or when in contact with the skin. Fraudulent extinguishers will use anything to mimic the effects of real ones, so there’s a reasonable chance that criminals will resort to an unsafe chemical. For example, a CO2 extinguisher may not contain enough gas to stop a fire completely.
Examples of fake fire extinguishers
Despite a manufacturer’s best efforts to create safe products to protect consumers, people have a hard time resisting lower prices for bargain devices, so they begin shipping the equipment en masse. The problem is that once phony devices reach store shelves, it’s very difficult to tell which extinguishers are fake because the facsimiles look legitimate at a glance.
The good news is that responsible brands have informed the public as much as they can about the risks. Not so long ago, in 2019, UL released a notice that included photos of the fake equipment. The criminals essentially changed serial numbers and identifiers, and thankfully, most of the devices involved in this incident were isolated to a single country.
The U.S. The Coast Guard (USCG) also revealed that they discovered fakes aboard ships. Specifically, two brands were identified as potentially fraudulent, but the USCG’s quick action likely saved lives. Once again, the criminals simply copied and mass-produced items with identical serial numbers. So, what’s the current lay of the land regarding anti-counterfeit solutions for extinguisher manufacturers?
What solutions are currently used?
Fire extinguisher manufacturers try to keep fakes off the market, but low, bargain-basement prices are hard to resist online, especially if the product looks genuine. Still, the reality is that some fraudulent goods will make their way into homes and businesses. The current solutions brands use won’t suffice in the near future as con artists become more sophisticated and ply their criminal trade with impunity.
Serial number tracking and tracing will no longer suffice to spot fakes because fraudsters can simply copy them, remove overt markings, or fake logos to pass off the item as legitimate. Currently, covert anti-counterfeit solutions aren’t as widely deployed as they should be to ensure safety, but the good news is that brands can significantly improve their security posture with an ecosystem of software from AlpVision. AlpVision Fingerprint, Cryptoglyph, and our Brand Monitoring System.
AlpVision Fingerprint Physical Products Protection
AlpVision Fingerprint, our powerful anti-counterfeit solution that excels at pinpointing fake items at the product level, is a software tool to include in your company’s anti-counterfeit repertoire. The tech relies on spotting the intrinsic defects in the plastic parts of extinguishers, such as handles and pressure gauges. The software then references images to see whether or not the same inherent microscopic imperfections exist. If so, the item is authentic. The solution would work well for companies with global supply chains and multiple parts suppliers, which is how leading companies are securing their product line.
Furthermore, AlpVision Fingerprint is extraordinarily difficult for criminals to copy the one-of-a-kind defects in a plastic mold not visible to the naked eye. The random processes used to create the plastics, such as electro-erosion, are challenging to replicate. The tech required is also cost-prohibitive and not publicly available to con artists.
Cryptoglyph – Packaging and Label Protection
Cryptoglyph excels at securing fire extinguisher labels for digital verification. The initial rollout of Cryptoglyph worked by imprinting microscopic holes over the whole label, but nowadays, the solution can punch thousands of microscopic holes in the varnish layer. Criminals won’t be able to copy the Cryptoglyph because they have no viable alternative to the underlying technology. Cryptoglyph is a powerful, agile solution and a crucial piece of an anti-counterfeit ecosystem.
Essentially, the software works by scanning an extinguisher’s label with a smartphone app. It will also scan reflective surfaces imprinted with Cryptoglyph if warranted. When included with other anti-counterfeit defenses, Cryptoglyph affords you the opportunity to scale defenses at a better price. Cryptoglyph is a leading technology that thwarts counterfeiters before they start. Still, you can develop an even more robust ecosystem when you adopt a holistic approach.
With Cryptoglyph, mobile authentication is extremely fast and can be used by consumers all over the world because you don’t need proprietary devices to read the marks. Also, verification stats can be retrieved for continuous improvement with AlpVision BMS.
AlpVision Brand Monitoring System
Global enterprises require global solutions that integrate into their current IT infrastructure. As such, we designed AlpVision BMS to be a server-based web application, allowing brand owners to monitor activity online, and collect counterfeit statistics and authentic products when the system flags potential incidents. That’s how the system works at a high level, but AlpVision BMS provides additional safeguards as well concerning brand protection.
Not only can our BMS solution help you identify counterfeit wares, but it will also integrate seamlessly with our other systems, such as AlpVision Fingerprint and Cryptoglyph. Still, if you have a custom architecture, our brand monitoring software can also combine well with other tools, including secure QR codes, 2-D dot matrices, or something more covert.
Either way, the ideal solution for extinguisher manufacturers should be able to authenticate stats and collect them while providing real-time alerts. Indeed, AlpVision’s BMS process provides secure encryption, which allows you to capture real-time data on fire extinguisher manufacturing processes and send notifications from any part of the world. With our online brand protection system, you can finally take control, analyze critical data, and minimize the damage to IP and other infringements.
If you’d like to read more about our anti-counterfeit solutions,contact us to see how AlpVision’s tech can bolster your security posture