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Building Products January 2018

FIRE PROTECTION AND SECURITY Every building should be subject to a fire risk assessment JANUARY 2018 | BUILDING PRODUCTS 59 compromise the integrity of the fire compartmentation, which is why regular inspections should be carried out. Breaches Breaches in compartmentation are often down to a lack of control over external contractors when carrying out work. Building owners and property managers need to ensure that any breaches are adequately catered for in an appropriate manner when work is carried out. Good fire safety design requires a combination of passive (compartmentation and subcompartmentation by fire and smoke barriers) and active (automatic fire detection and fire suppression systems) fire safety systems, in addition to a robust fire risk assessment. There are very serious considerations for building owners and property managers who do not undertake adequate fire risk assessments. As smoke travels quickly – at between 15 and 90 metres per minute – studies have shown that 67% of fire related deaths are through smoke inhalation and 44% of deaths involve people who were not in the room where the fire originated from. Fire separation, if installed correctly, does have an enviable success rate, however breaches through compartment walls, floors and ceilings can cause smoke, gases and fire to spread through escape routes to other parts of the building. As well as allowing fire spread, it also hinders the fire services’ operations and can put firefighters at increased risk. Fire safety strategies need to be driven from the top of an organisation and backed by sufficient training to ensure those who commission refurbishments and those that are responsible for carrying out regular inspections, understand fire compartmentation and the implications for breaching this during refurbishment works. Training may also be required for persons carrying out fire risk assessments to ensure there is sufficient knowledge in terms of the location and type of fire compartmentation, its function and the importance of maintaining them to achieve their expected level of fire resistance. Alternatively, a good way to reduce risk is to bring in an external company to take care of fire risk assessments. Failure to do this could lead to seriously increased levels of risk within a building and direct contravention of the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005. Fire compartmentation should be assessed and reasonable endeavours should be made to at least sample fire stopping in areas where there is obvious potential for penetration. Some may argue, why should you worry about passive fire protection systems if you have a working active fire protection system in place? Fire sprinklers are an effective method of control during a fire. However, they are not the ideal solution in every situation. Sprinklers in areas where high degrees of vandalism can occur can cause substantial damage to neighbouring properties if activated. To ensure the system works effectively in the event of a fire, it must be serviced and inspected regularly. This can be problematic in a large residential estate, as we have seen how landlords struggle with access for gas safety checks. The ideal solution is that passive and active fire protection systems are both in place and subject to regular inspections and maintenance as part of the fire risk assessment. London Fire Brigade (LFB) chiefs have recently warned of “an increased risk of serious building fires unless the construction industry starts to take fire safety more seriously.” The LFB’s experts revealed that, all too often, they see serious flaws when inspecting buildings. The most common include flawed compartmentation between flats, which can allow fire and smoke to spread throughout buildings, also a lack of understanding of what fire safety measures are in place, as well as how to maintain them. Lessons need to be learned to restore peace of mind to occupants of multi-occupancy buildings, workplaces and public buildings to assure them that they will be protected in the event of a fire. Both active and passive fire protection systems need to be inspected, tested and maintained regularly, in line with manufacturer’s guidelines and in accordance with legislation. Failure to do so could lead to serious injuries, or even fatalities. www.horburypropertyservices.com


Building Products January 2018
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