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For multi-occupied residential buildings, fire safety responsibility is often wrongly shrouded in ambiguity. Only recently, the CEO of Grenfell Tower’s management body passed blame to staff for an outdated building safety plan, of which information on vulnerable residents was 15 years out of date.

This baton-pass type approach simply isn’t effective, or even appropriate for a topic as vital as fire safety. After all, the standards associated with fire safety are by obligation, robust. Yet, for multi-storey and multi-occupied residential buildings in particular, history has uncovered a pitfall of wrong doings and poorly constructed fire safety practices.

With that, the pressures to do better have been mounting, and amidst the whirlwind of reformed conventions this year - consider EU and COVID updates - fire safety has rightly remained high on the agenda. Meaningful strides have been made towards improving fire and building safety, with the government providing a revised £5.1 billion in funding for the removal of ACM cladding in high-rise blocks, and significantly, upon examination of the final report of the Hackitt Review, further amending legislations in a bid to make regulations as airtight as possible. 

Updated regulations

FSA is set to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report

In April, the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA) was introduced, seeking to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO) by improving identification, assessment and enforcement in high-rise residential buildings. The newly reformed act further clarifies the duties that responsible persons must manage in order to reduce the risk of fire within their multi-storey structures, as well as the potential penalties, should those responsibilities be neglected.

Focusing on all components of a building, the new policies cover everything from structure and external walls (including cladding and windows) to the entrance doors to individual flats and the fire doors for domestic, multi-occupancy premises. In addition, the FSA is set to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report, highlighting accountability for lifts, evacuations, fire safety instructions and ensuring flat entrance doors comply with present-day standards.

Building Safety Bill (BSB)

Crucially, the introduction of the FSA will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action where necessary, leaving building owners (responsible parties) liable should they fall non-compliant. Considering East London was hit with another major fire incident in a 19-storey residential block only a week after these legislations were introduced, the changes have come at an opportune time.

More recently, the Building Safety Bill (BSB) was introduced to the house of commons on 5th July. As the name suggests, the BSB focuses heavily on enforcing higher safety standards for all residential buildings - also protecting occupants and providing them with a larger platform to voice their concerns. Once again, scrupulous responsibility is at the forefont of the new framework, with improved compliance and tougher penalties linked to the various stages of building design, construction, completion and finally occupation. FSA and BSB combined, there’s simply no room for shortcuts anymore.

Fundamentals matter

Fire doors and their equipment will provide between 30 to 120 minutes of protection against fire and smoke

Separate to the procedural removal of ACM cladding, attention shifts to what building owners can accomplish internally to improve fire safety standards. Beyond comprehensive risk assessments and evacuation plans, referenced at multiple stages of the reformed FSA is the use of fully compliant, fully tested fire doors. Often found propped open, damaged or poorly maintained, fire doors are a regular sticking point when it comes to fire safety incidents - yet characteristically, ey thare fundamental in keeping people safe in fire situations.

Available in ratings ranging from FD30 to FD120, fire doors and their equipment will provide between 30 to 120 minutes of protection against fire and smoke - but only when fitted, maintained and working correctly. The overhauled regulations have now put an increased pressure on building managers to comprehensively inspect the certification, gaps, seals, hinges and the closing elements of their fire doors - whether main or individual flat entrance doors - to ensure all is functioning suitably.

compatible ironmongery

All dedicated fire doors require a fitted fire door closer (a minimum size 3 is recommended), and when it comes to their maintenance, it’s good practice to perform weekly checks. To ensure the closer (and door) is working as intended, it’s key to release a fire door from a fully open position to ensure it closes into the frame at an appropriate speed. Furthermore, by opening and releasing the door from a 5 degree angle, checks can also confirm the closer is shutting the door onto the latch effectively.

Building managers risk falling foul to what the BSB now references as the ‘golden thread of information’

Should an internal inspection highlight an operational issue - perhaps from damage to the door and its furniture - building managers must ensure maintenance is carried out quickly and professionally in a conscious effort to keep their doors operating as intended.

Additionally, with certified and compatible ironmongery playing a key role in the operation of fire doors, all hardware and furniture - including the door closer, hinges, intumescent seals, wall sealing, latches, locks and the door leaf - must meet their respective EN classification codes and health and safety standards.

safety inspectors

With safety inspectors, fire and rescue teams and residents all permitted to raise concerns, the approach to fire safety should always be done to code - from the planning and installation stage right through to maintenance periods. If not, building managers risk falling foul to what the BSB now references as the ‘golden thread of information’, a live digital documentation of a high-risk residential building’s lifecycle, designed to increase transparency and accountability.

It’s clear then that we’re approaching a new age of fire safety for high-rise residential settings, with the newly reformed FSA and BSB - alongside accelerated government spending - paving the way to a brighter, safer future. With this renewed focus, building managers must take the next steps and strive to understand their responsibilities while revisiting the basics of fire safety before taking action of their own. 

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Door Closer Adjustments Explained
Door Closer Adjustments Explained

Door closers are required to protect people and property, but they are left useless without the appropriate adjustments. Kirk Smith of Allegion UK explains the key elements of door closer adjustments and how to correctly approach each type. Described as mechanically or electronically controlled closing devices, door closers are designed to open a door safely and close slowly but firmly enough to latch into place. Importance of closing doors When working as intended, closers play an integral role in a building’s operational safety, enabling a user to operate a door in a way that doesn’t harm them or damage the building. More importantly, a working door closer - whether concealed or surface mounted - will keep fire doors closed in the event of a fire, aiding in the compartmentalization of fire and smoke. As part of their building safety advice published in 2020, the UK government recognized the significance of ‘compulsory closers’ and has urged decision-makers and residents to recognize the importance of a working self-closing device. Yet, a lack of sufficient maintenance and installation know-how often results in indoor closers not functioning as required. Fundamental Safeguarding If a door closer is adjusted incorrectly, it can leave doors slamming open and shut compromises fire safety In their best practice guide, the Door Hardware Federation (DHF) states that a minimum power size 3 door closer must be used on fire doors. Additionally, to comply with UK Construction Products Regulations, controlled closing devices must be CE marked, and tested under BS EN 1154 standard and fire rated to BS EN 1634. Aside from using non-compliant hardware, complications arise when a door closer isn’t adjusted correctly. Whether a door is opened manually, mechanically, or electronically, if its accompanying door closer is adjusted incorrectly, it can leave doors slamming open and shut and in some cases, failing to close completely. This compromises fire safety and building security – but it can be corrected. Operations explained Door closers operate by using spring tension, controlled by hydraulic fluid which passes from one section to the next as a door is opened. When the spring pushes the door closed again, the hydraulic fluid passes back to the previous section through a series of valves that control the speed of the mechanism. The valves can be adjusted at the installation stage or regular maintenance periods, and assist in controlling the speed of the door operation. Adjustments Explained When adjusting a door closer, it’s essential to understand the type of correction a closer needs to operate in its desired way. Most adjustments can be implemented by opening and closing the various hydraulic valves found on the body of the door closer. This can be completed by turning them with an Allen key or screwdriver to increase or decrease until the door closes in a safe and controlled manner. Adjustable Closer Speed and Closer Power PowerAdjust mechanism provides a visual guide on the EN power level at which the closer has been adjusted" “In the first instance, if a door is closing with too little or too much speed, users are in danger of leaving the door ajar, or when slamming shut, damaging the surrounding walls or the door and hardware itself. This can lead to fire safety concerns and increased maintenance periods. With this in mind, it’s commonly recommended to locate and adjust the valves so that the fire door closes within a 5-7 second period from a 90-degree angle.” “A PowerAdjust mechanism provides a visual guide on the EN power level at which the closer has been adjusted. This visual guide is useful in showing what strength a door is currently closing at and can detail how many valves turns are required to increase or decrease the power. This helps to avoid overtightening which endangers breaking the regulator oil seal. It’s also key to remember that a minimum power size 3 is required on any fire door.” Adjustable Latch Action “At its most crucial stage of the closing cycle, a door must often overcome seals and latches to close effectively. An unlatched door can facilitate the spread of smoke and fire and renders a fire door useless.” “Adjustable latch action allows you to control the speed of the door in the final 15 degrees of the closing cycle, ensuring the door completes closing and isn’t left unlatched. In the event a door is closing too hard at the final stage, a closer can also be adjusted to soften the final 15 degrees, which helps avoid damage to the lock strike and frame.” Adjustable Backcheck “In some cases, a fire door may be opening too quickly and violently and when poorly adjusted, this can leave the door to jam on the closing cycle.” “To prevent damage to the door or injury to persons standing behind it, we recommend adjusting the backcheck. Doing so will provide a cushioning effect, slowing the door down which is optimal for active building environments such as schools. Even after adjusting the closer, it’s always worth using doorstops.” Adjustable Delayed Action Maximum delay permissible on and a fire door should take no longer than 25 seconds to complete its closing cycle" “A prolonged closing action is useful for busy environments such as schools, hospitals, and care homes – helping users pass through in adequate time.” “By adjusting the delayed action, the speed at which the door closes can be set slower, giving people extra time to pass through the doorway. Adjustable timing is set between 70 degrees and 120 degrees. However, maximum delay permissible on and a fire door should take no longer than 25 seconds to complete its closing cycle.” Adjustable Hold-open “Although mechanical hold open door closers are for use on non-fire doors only, electromagnetic doors can safely implement hold-open door closers under fire safety standards.” Fire door closers operating at optimal speed and strength are a prerequisite for comprehensive fire safety. When it comes to the installation and maintenance of fire door closers, it’s crucial to understand the intricacies of adjustments. After all, it’s never right to risk building safety or non-compliance.

Teledyne’s Handheld Laser Detects Explosive Methane From 100 Feet Away
Teledyne’s Handheld Laser Detects Explosive Methane From 100 Feet Away

A new handheld device can detect the presence of explosive methane gas from up to 100 feet away. For firefighters, the tool provides situational awareness, saves time, and ensures safety from a distance. Knowing the presence of methane gas enables a firefighter to deal with an emergency gas leak and to avoid a deadly explosion. Gas laser The Gas Laser from Teledyne Gas and Flame Detection can shoot a laser beam through a window, a gap in a door, or another common venting point to provide an instant reading of the amount of methane in an area up to 100 feet away. The laser is invisible, but a green-spot pointer guides the aim as a user “points and shoots.” The laser bounces off any reflective object and then analyses the parts per million (ppm) of methane gas per meter of distance along the path of the laser. It measures down to a threshold of 1.25 ppm/meter. The handheld device can also capture a video image and a GPS location in addition to the gas reading stored on the device. It can be connected via WiFi and/or Bluetooth to a smartphone or other device and has onboard data logging. The device is automatically calibrated and tested when it is returned to its case. Detects minute quantities of methane Gas laser detects a much smaller amount of methane than would be explosive, thus preventing explosions  “It’s a brand new device, and everybody wants it,” says Alan Skinner, Regional Manager, Portable Gas Detection for Teledyne Gas and Flame Detection. “Once they understand what it does, they want it. Now you don’t have to be inside a hazard to detect the hazard.” The Gas Laser detects a much smaller amount of methane than would be explosive, thus preventing explosions by addressing leaks early.  The lower explosive limit (LEL) for methane is 5 percent, the equivalent of 50,000 ppm, much higher than the measurement threshold of the Gas Laser. Previously, there was no entirely safe method of evaluating the gas concentration without being near an area, typically using a three-foot probe sensor, for example.  “Now they know what they are getting into before they enter,” says Skinner. “It saves a huge amount of time.” Understanding working of gas laser Getting the word out about the device has been a challenge given the continuing coronavirus pandemic and disruptions of the hurricane season. “It’s one of those products you have to show them and let them play with it to understand what it does,” says Skinner. Interest was high at the recent FDIC show, where Teledyne unveiled the new sensor alongside its broader range of gas detection sensors. Teledyne’s range of portable sensors traces its roots back to GM Instruments (GMI), founded in Scotland in 1947. The sensor company was involved in multiple mergers and acquisitions in recent years, including ownership by companies such as Battery Ventures, Tyco, Scott Instruments, Johnson Controls, and 3M. Two years ago, the product line was acquired by Teledyne and represents the portables segment of their Environmental Monitoring Division, which also includes Detcon, Simtronics, and Oldham. Protege ZM and PS200 sensor PS200 sensor measures levels of four gases – methane, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide Another sensor among Teledyne’s range of handheld devices is the Protégé ZM, a carbon monoxide sensor that a fireman can clip to their helmet, pocket, or bag. The “disposable” device has a 24-month lifespan, requires zero maintenance, and provides a calibration and bump test. The PS200 sensor measures levels of four gases – methane, oxygen, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide. An internal pump extracts a sample before a firefighter enters a confined space. A charge, bump, and calibration station (ABC Station) ensures calibration on a weekly, monthly, or twice-yearly basis. PS500 and GT Fire sensor The PS500 model adds another sensor to the four – typically either a photoionization detector (PID) for volatile organic compounds such as benzene, or a hydrogen cyanide (HCN) sensor to measure the presence of carcinogenic compounds that can be a byproduct of burning vinyl or plastics. The PID sensor can help investigators detect propellants that might indicate arson. The GT Fire sensor detects explosive gases in the PPM/LEL ranges with optional CO, H2S, and O2 sensors. The device can sniff out small gas leaks before any LEL level is reached. Able to find leaks in the PPM range, the device can pinpoint exactly where gas is leaking.

Weather And Wildfires Are Linked, And Both Are Difficult To Forecast
Weather And Wildfires Are Linked, And Both Are Difficult To Forecast

‘Fire weather’ is the combination of weather and environmental factors that determine the potential spread of a wildfire. Typically, the main concerns are wind, temperature, and moisture. Lightning is also critical as it is a semi-forecastable parameter. Typically, bigger fires need low moisture, high temperatures, and high winds. Too much moisture and fuels (grass and trees) won’t burn. If the winds are too weak, the fire becomes easily contained and unable to create spot fires, where embers ride the winds to more dry fuels. Hot temperatures help dry out the fuels, and fires have a difficult time starting in colder environments. Forecasting fire weather Predicting both the weather and wildfires depends on the scale of forecast. Both start by looking at the larger, background environment that is more easily predicted over a longer time. “As you get down to individual thunderstorms or individual fires, the forecasts drive towards hours or minutes and at much smaller distances,” says Renny Vandewege, DTN Vice President of Weather Operations. “The main difference is that with weather the environment and triggers are known. With wildfires, the triggers can be human influenced, which are not modeled as well.” Private company DTN has seen an increased desire for forecasting of ‘fire weather’ during the horrific wildfire season this summer. New technology specifically helps accurately forecast fire weather so utilities can be prepared for the possibility of fires and shut down to help save lives and property. Predicting both the weather and wildfires depends on the scale of forecast Driving business forward As a data, analytics and technology company, DTN delivers operational intelligence to organizations with complex supply chains around the world including the aviation, energy, offshore, shipping, transportation, and sports and safety markets. DTN’s more than 1,000 employees operate globally to ensure local understanding of the insights needed to drive business forward. Prolonged high heat is typically accompanied by exceedingly dry conditions Air temperature can help pre-heat the environment, making it more favorable for fires to start and spread, says Vandewege. Prolonged high heat is typically accompanied by exceedingly dry conditions. This heat dries out the fuels, making them more susceptible to catching an ember and becoming a fire. In July 2021, prolonged high heat across California and the Pacific Northwest aided in drying out fuels which, when sparked by lightning and driven by high winds, burned well over one million acres. Life-Threatening situations Fires feed back into the environment is several ways, says Vandewege. Fires can preheat the air around them, especially when being driven by the wind up a slope. This can create a situation where the fire spreads quicker into the hotter, drier area, rapidly expanding in coverage and creating life-threatening situations for misplaced crews. Further, winds can carry the embers of trees that are ablaze, thus creating spot fires beyond firebreaks or riverbeds. Controlled fires use up the fuels, preventing rapid and expansive fire growth, as well as stimulate new plant development. A ‘fire whirl’ forms when an intense fire heats up an area. This hot air rises quicky, and more air rushes in at the surface to replace that air and then it heats and rises. As more air is drawn in, it collides and begins to rotate, creating a fire whirl. There is also potential for pyro cumulus clouds to create some tornado-like activity Pyro cumulus clouds There is also potential for pyro cumulus clouds (the billowing clouds associated with high intensity wildfires) to create some tornado-like activity, sometimes referred to as a firenado (although the term is a misnomer).  “There are currently lightning climatologies for weeks and months in a fire season but given that the fire season often lines up with the dry season, that information is not very useful,” says Vandewege. “We typically look for dry thunderstorm setups, where the instability is large (due to high heat), but the moisture is more in the middle and upper levels of the atmosphere. This way any rain that forms evaporates before hitting the surface, preventing fuels from becoming wet. Once meteorologists see that type of signal, it’s mostly a waiting game to see where the fire starts.”

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