Discussions with architects, developers and others, as well as main contractors when discussing areas of a sprinklered building frequency relate to areas where sprinkler protection can be omitted. One concern often raised with the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association (BAFSA) is the possibility of injury or damage when sprinkler protection is installed in electrical utility rooms. BS 5306 Part 0 standards The forthcoming iteration of BS 5306 Part 0 standards contains advice on the interactions between electricity ad fire suppression systems, including hose reels and portable fire extinguishers. The text quotes from an article published in the November 2018 issue of Fire Risk Management, the journal of the Fire Protection Association. Concerns about the dangers of using water fire extinguishers or hose reels to extinguish fires in live electrical equipment usually relate to the possible risks of electrocution. This theoretical risk (the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have not recorded any such actual injuries) probably originates in tests undertaken by the Paris Fire Brigade in the 1930s and replicated in a piece of demonstration equipment at the Fire Service College. Omitting sprinkler protection in plant rooms The conventional approach at the time of publication of BS 5306 was to omit sprinkler protection in plant rooms Using a 9 liter water extinguisher generating a straight jet could endanger the user, if the jet were to come into contact with a live conductor, as there is the possibility that electricity could be conducted back upstream to the person holding the extinguisher, especially if they are standing on a wet floor. Because of this risk, the conventional approach at the time of publication of this part of BS 5306 was to omit sprinkler protection in plant rooms and to provide dry powder and/or carbon dioxide portables adjacent to electrical equipment. Portable fire extinguishers using water mist Portable fire extinguishers using water mist have been available in the United Kingdom for a number of years now, however, they do not appear to have been widely promoted or deployed in commercial and industrial applications. Apart from their widespread effectiveness, portable fire extinguishers using water mist have a major advantage in that they have a high level of dielectric safety. A number of manufacturers of portable water mist fire extinguishers on the market in the United Kingdom state that their product has passed a 35 kV test. There have been several instances where fires have started in server rooms and have been extinguished by a single sprinkler head, preventing any fire spread from the room of origin. BS 5306, the standards for sprinklers and water mist systems It is normal practice to install inert or chemical gas flooding systems where automatic fire suppression is essential At the time of publication of this part of BS 5306, the standards for sprinklers and water mist systems allow these to be omitted in areas or rooms where water discharge might present a hazard. For sprinklers, in particular, BS EN 12845:2015, 5.1.3c standards is used based on the systems to be subject to a risk assessment, where their use is proposed in areas where electrical fire or electrocution risks are present. Where wet systems are clearly unacceptable because of the risk to personal safety or collateral damage to property, it has been normal practice to install inert or chemical gas flooding systems where automatic fire suppression is essential. Water-based fire suppression equipment With regard to water-based systems in general, power generation companies make extensive use of water-based fire suppression equipment to protect turbo-alternators, switch gear and transformers at voltages up to 400 kV and involving significant currents (typically 20, 000 MVA). Provided that such systems are designed and installed in accordance with the appropriate standards, it is expected that they will function as designed to justify omission of coverage in switch rooms, server rooms and transformer chambers. Risk of electrocution in fire extinguisher use In an article in the FPA magazine, FRM (November 2017), former BAFSA Secretary General, Stewart Kidd was quoted as stating, “I have long believed that the frequently expressed concerns about ‘mixing water and electricity’ are greatly overstated and usually relate to a theoretical possible risk of electrocution while using a fire extinguisher or hose reel. Much of the fear may relate to the demonstration of the potential for conduction of high voltage at the Fire Service College.” I can find no records of any actual injuries relating to the use of extinguishers being incurred since 1945" Stuart adds, “I can find no records of any actual injuries relating to the use of extinguishers being incurred since 1945. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) records confirm that, since 1996 (as far back as its records go), none of the fatal electrocutions recorded relate to fires or firefighting.” Danger of conventional water extinguishers The fear of electrocution presumably relates to the use of conventional, 9 liter water extinguishers, which produces a ‘straight jet’. If this was to come into contact with a live conductor, there is, it is agreed, at least a possibility that electricity could be conducted back down the stream to the person holding the extinguisher, especially if they are standing on a wet floor. As mentioned earlier, there aren’t any examples of this happening and the HSE has confirmed that it is not aware of any such accidents being reported. That said, do water mist extinguishers that are usually rated as ’safe at 1000v’ (and most are tested to 35kV) pose this hazard, in relation to tackling a fire in live electrical equipment? Is it not time that BS 5306 Part 8 Selection and installation of portable fire extinguishers: Code of practice was updated to reflect the benefits of portable extinguishers using water mist? These are few of the important questions to be answered.
Recently there have been five UK fires in commercial and residential timber framed buildings. Fires which have put multiple lives and property at risk. The Worcester Park fire in September saw a four-story block of flats destroyed and families lose their homes and belongings. Despite the widely reported tragedy at Grenfell Tower in 2017 and the progress made from the Independent Review of Building Regulations by Dame Judith Hackitt, fires are not decreasing in frequency, size or impact. The Fire Protection Association’s annual Fire Sector Summit aims to provide the very latest sector thinking and developments to protect people and buildings. Held on 5th November at One Great George Street, the 2019 Summit will cover newly-emerging issues such as the toxic effects of fire - something research has shown can cause ongoing health issues. catalyst for change within the fire sector Challenging the current state of affairs is a frequent theme at the Summit. Stewart Kidd, Managing Director from the Loss Prevention Consultancy will question whether life safety codes go far enough to protect one's assets, heritage and schools. He will present alongside the Fire Protection Association’s own Technical Director, Dr James Glockling. Workshop sessions such as this one will allow delegates to tailor the event to their own taste. Our delegates add just as much to the event as our experts by challenging views which are pivotal to the future" The event will be chaired by Jonathan O’Neill OBE, Managing Director of the Fire Protection Association. Commenting on the necessity to progress fire safety regulation, Jonathan says: “The recent report from the Competency Steering Group was lacking in its commitment to act. The Summit will remain a catalyst for change within the fire sector. Our delegates add just as much to the event as our experts, by challenging views and concepts which are pivotal to the future of fire safety." latest fire safety trends The impressive program of speakers will include: Fighting fires in timber frame buildings – Mark Cashin, Chief Fire Officer, Cheshire Fire and Rescue Services The cladding industry post Hackitt, the competence piece and toxicity in Building Regulations – Dr Jonathan Evans, Chair of the Technical Committee, Metal Cladding and Roofing Manufacturers Association (MCRMA) Assessing the toxic risks from warehouse fires - Graham Atkinson, Principal Scientist - Major Hazards Group, HSE Science Division The health effects of toxins - Vitalina Kirgizova, Immunogeneticist, University of Cambridge The Summit includes: Access to fire industry experts The latest fire sector knowledge and developments Networking Delegate pack Lunch Tea, coffee and refreshments 6 IFSM CPD hours London Summit The London Summit is ideal for: Building owners, landlords and managing agents Insurers/brokers Health and safety managers Construction industry professionals and manufacturers Architects and designers Building control officers and approved inspectors Fire risk assessors Fire engineers Fire and rescue services enforcement officers Social housing providers