Tall building fire safety
Products for electrical systems that are installed into modern, complex buildings have to be fit-for-purpose for today’s challenging demands. With the background of numerous incidents still being felt by the fire performance industry, how is it to set the benchmarks for the future to make sure there is never another Lakanal House or another Grenfell? The long-term answer is for clearer guidance and legislation, if necessary, to enable the whole supply chain to make decisions which are com...
The global market for Passive Fire Protection (PFP) Materials is estimated to reach US$ 30.2 billion by 2025. Growth in the market will be driven by the growing number of fire accidents, stringent fire safety regulations, and technological advances and product innovations. The growing number of fire accidents worldwide in recent years has led to the implementation of increasingly stringent regulations related to fire safety across the globe. In this background, demand for fire management produc...
Leading lights in fire safety have been appointed by the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition [IFSS] to help improve building safety worldwide. A core group of twenty-two leading fire safety experts was appointed to the coalition’s standards setting committee that will work to develop landmark industry standards for fire safety in buildings. Overcoming Risk To Public Safety Past-president of the Association for Project Safety (APS) Bobby Chakravarthy – who is a founder mem...
From a dozen or more perspectives, the tragic fire at London’s Grenfell Tower was a wakeup call. The shear scope of the tragedy – 72 deaths, 70 injuries in the worst United Kingdom residential fire since World War II – is a stark reminder of the importance of fire prevention, and the catastrophic consequences of its failure. There are additional lessons to be learned from the fire service response to the blaze, which burned for 60 hours and involved 250 London Fire Brigade fir...
The continuity of power in the event of a real fire has never been more important as modern buildings become more complex and the need for the highest quality of products comes under the spotlight. With power for lighting and fire alarms, the fire and rescue services can use the intelligence gathered to evacuate people quickly, confident that they have found all the people in the building. Without power, they are literally scrambling in the dark without good information upon which to make thei...
The UK market for passive fire protection products is estimated to be worth around £650m at manufacturers selling prices - excluding installation. The market has grown by around 2% in 2017, with forecasts for 2018 at a similar level. This follows good growth between 2013 and 2015, which represented a period of recovery for the overall construction industry, especially in the education, offices, retail and leisure sectors. The forecasts indicate a more subdued performance, with lower levels...
ASSA ABLOY UK is holding a dedicated event at West Midlands Fire Service’s headquarters in Birmingham to help raise the bar on standards of quality for fire door safety Over three million fire doors are installed every year in the UK, yet incorrect specification, poor installation and a lack of maintenance is still a common occurrence. In light of this, and to coincide with Fire Door Safety Week, ASSA ABLOY UK is holding a dedicated event at West Midlands Fire Service’s headquarters in Birmingham to help raise the bar on standards of quality for fire door safety. The event will take place on Thursday 27th September and is aimed towards building owners, facility managers and persons responsible for fire door safety. Key topics on the day will cover the importance and future of fire door certification, common issues of fire door installation, inspection and maintenance, and the importance of compartmentalisation within high rise residential buildings. Door closers are important part of fire safety On the day, attendees can expect a discussion panel, speaker presentations and a series of case studies from representatives from British Woodworking Federation (BWF), BRE Global, Exova Warringtonfire, West Midlands Fire Service, the NHS, and ASSA ABLOY UK. David Hindle, Head of Door Controls for ASSA ABLOY UK, said: “The draft report produced by BRE Global on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, highlighted that only 17% of door closers at Grenfell were present and working. “Door closers and other door hardware that impacts on the performance of a fire door or doorset are a critical part of fire safety and should be subject to performance standards and regular maintenance and testing. Educating professionals about fire door safety “After the success of our Fire Door Safety Week 2017 event, we wanted to continue to help educate professionals on raising the standards of fire door safety. We urge building owners, facility managers and persons responsible for fire door safety to attend this year’s event to learn more as we all have to start treating and recognising ‘passive fire protection’ as critical, at all times.” ASSA ABLOY UK is leading the way when it comes to campaigning for increased fire safety awareness. An insightful and educational whitepaper was recently issued in response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety. The whitepaper will also be showcased and discussed in-depth at the event during Fire Door Safety Week.
FireVu awarded Visual Flame Detection Patent No.GB2535409 for exceptional fire detection system The award, Patent no. GB2535409, is granted in recognition of the uniqueness of the ‘Flame detection system and method’. The patent was awarded in April this year and follows on from the grant of a US patent in March 2017 for the FireVu flame detection algorithm. FireVu flame detection system FireVu’s innovative method of measuring the colour and intensity of flame in an image results in exceptional detection rates, exceptional detection range and zero false alarms. It is superior to all other visual flame detectors on the market which rely on flicker. Other manufacturers claim to correlate colour and flicker, but they are unable to eliminate false alarms. FireVu’s flame detection uses the absolute laws of physics, and in particular Planck’s Law which results in an accurate determination. It is also able to identify the break out of fire much earlier than conventional systems that rely on physical contact between a detector and the off-gas or smoke. Furthermore, FireVu segments the field of view, significantly helping stakeholders to identify the origin point of the fire, aiding efforts to extinguish the threat. Early and efficient fire detection FireVu’s flame detection system is ideal for the early detection and warning of smoke and flame in industrial processes which utilise motors, conveyor belts, bearings and moving parts, hot substrate and flammable materials; for e.g. in Waste Management and Processing, Steel, Paper, Utilities, Petrochemical, Waste to Energy, and Power Generation. It can also be effectively installed in retail outlets and on high-rise developments. FireVu is also ideal for detecting smoke and flame in large voluminous areas such as Aircraft Hangars, Warehousing and Atriums.
FIREX International 2018 provides fire and life safety solutions Over 18,000 visitors - representing a 12% increase on the 2017 event; and more than 140 exhibitors – 70 of which were new to the 2018 edition – came together from 29 countries at FIREX International to drive and reflect on the life safety landscape in the UK. For three days at ExCeL London, fire safety professionals accessed over 10,000+ life safety solutions held to the highest standards. FIREX International 2018 Amidst the present national agenda regarding fire safety in the built environment – with a particular emphasis on social housing – FIREX was the dedicated platform for engaging with leading experts, exploring proven technologies and receiving essential guidance. Gerry Dunphy, Brand Director of FIREX International explained, “It is reflective of the times we’re in that a fully-fledged fire safety event is resonating so deeply with the market, and we’re pleased to see an increase in life safety professionals engaging with the event. The show’s growth is a testament to the industry’s demand for change. Both visitor and exhibitor sentiment reflected the criticality of FIREX, and the conversations held on the show floor speak volumes for the way in which FIREX is changing perceptions around life safety being a right, not a privilege.” Sales Engineer at Specialist Wiring Accessories explained, “The first two days were probably the busiest days that I’ve ever known at any exhibition. It’s brought forward an extremely good quality of contacts and enquiries.” 5th International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference The show also welcomed the 5th International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference, exclusive to FIREX, in addition to an in-depth seminar programme across the Expertise & Guidance Theatre, sponsored by BAFE, and the FPA Infozone. A highlight of the seminar programme included Dr Chris Cocking’s talk “Human Behaviour During an Emergency”. This hugely popular seminar, presented at the FPA Infozone, provided insight into the rarity of mass panic, and indicated that there is very little evidence to suggest that people panic if they are made aware of the threat – which means that information should not be withheld. His analysis was paired with a tangible solution to provide vital information about what’s going on, what the threat is and what they need to do to escape it. Fire doorsets and live smoke demonstrations New to FIREX International 2018 were Show Me How demonstrations in the brand-new Sprinkler Zone. These addressed the fire safety concerns keeping visitors up at night by not only offering the latest solutions and technology but showing how to use them. There were also live smoke demonstrations by GERDA, showing the crucial role of fire doorsets in passive fire protection. With a newly introduced fire challenge, the 20th anniversary of the Engineers of Tomorrow competition saw fire apprentices compete in live installation challenges. The Inspirational Speaker Series also drew massive crowds as the show welcomed a fantastic line-up of world class speakers, including comedian and mental health expert Ruby Wax OBE, English rugby legend Sir Clive Woodward OBE and Nicky Moffat CBE, formerly the British Army’s highest-ranking female officer. Jeremy Rees, Acting CEO, ExCeL London commented, “We were delighted to welcome FIREX to ExCeL London. Our teams are working closely with UBM to support their ambitions for growth and we are delighted that they had another successful event with us. This event, together with the wider P&M series, is playing a vital role in maintaining and creating safe and secure environments, something that resonates strongly with us. We look forward to welcoming visitors and exhibitors again next year, when they will be able to travel to ExCeL more quickly than ever before via the Elizabeth line.”
The need for compliant fire-resistant doorsets is crucial, and as Dr Lane has stated, the non-compliance of the flat entrance fire doors would have contributed to the failure to prevent the spread of fire DHF (Door & Hardware Federation) has welcomed a series of findings into the Grenfell Tower blaze by Chartered Fire Safety Engineer, Dr Barbara Lane. Dr Lane, who has presented her conclusions in a comprehensive report, gave evidence to Sir Martin Moore-Bick's public inquiry on 18th June, in which she listed a number of failed safety regulations that she believes contributed to the significant loss of life. 72 people died in Grenfell Tower in West London, on 14 June 2017. In particular, DHF has saluted her findings pertaining to the inadequacy of the tower’s fire doors, described by Dr Lane as “a crucial element of the stay-put strategy, as they represent an opportunity for weak spots to form in the fire-resistant partitions that separate a flat fire from occupants either on that floor where the fire has started, or occupants in the flat above the floor where the fire has started.” This is something DHF has been emphasising for many months. Importance of compartmentation in fire safety “Compartmentation is vital and plays an important role in passive fire protection”, says DHF’s CEO, Bob Perry, “The need for compliant fire-resistant doorsets is crucial, and as Dr Lane has stated, the non-compliance of the flat entrance fire doors would have contributed to the failure to prevent the spread of fire and hot smoke from the flat to the lobby.” “Additionally,” continues Perry, “she highlights that faulty fire doors mean faulty compartmentation, and compartmentation is the primary basis of the stay-put strategy.” DHF has actively lobbied for many months for changes in regulations and included this in its report to the Industry Response Group Mandatory third-party certification for doorsets The simplest way of achieving compliancy is by making it mandatory for third-party certification of companies manufacturing, installing, repairing or inspecting fire-resisting doorsets and is something DHF will continue to strive for. Under UKAS, accredited third- party certification auditing and traceability procedures for fire doors, unauthorised substitution of compliant fire-tested door materials and components which may lead to failure under exposure to fire, are tightly controlled and generally prevented. DHF has actively lobbied for many months for changes in regulations and included this in its report to the Industry Response Group, with the Tamworth-based trade association working continuously to highlight the importance of compartmentation, issues surrounding poorly or ill-fitted door closers, as well as the need for compliant letter plates, locks and door hinges. Poor functioning of fire doors led to the disaster During her own visit to the site, Dr Lane observed that the installed doors contained different locks, hinges, letter plates and self-closers, which she believes significantly affected the performance of the door, by reducing its burn time. She concluded that the fire doors and their lack of performance, contributed significantly to the spread of smoke, and fire, to the lobbies, with this failure affecting the ability or willingness of occupants to escape independently through this space to the stairs. “The industry has got to do better to ensure that compliant, safe and regulated products are put on the market, and are installed and maintained or repaired by credible, trained people who adhere to the regulations,” says Bob. “For the past year, we have learned the heart-breaking details surrounding this disaster, and the preventative measures that could have been taken to save lives. This report adds further weight to our on-going campaign, so that a disaster like Grenfell never happens again.”
As the report states, the use of fire doors, correctly installed and with stringent fire door maintenance procedures is an integral part of fire safety DHF (Door & Hardware Federation) has welcomed recommendations made in Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety’s final report published on 17 May. “We wholeheartedly support the proposals set out in Dame Judith’s final report, particularly pertaining to the development of a clearer, more transparent and more effective specification and testing regime of construction products,” says DHF’s CEO, Bob Perry. “We are particularly pleased that specific duties are now to be assigned to clients, designers and contractors. The need for the information flow to be improved with requirements for a digital record, a fire and emergency file, and a Construction Control plan is encouraging. As too is the need for clearer accountabilities and obligations from both the residents and the newly appointed dutyholders.” Fire doors – integral part of fire safety The Tamworth-based trade association, which, through its membership of CPA and Build UK, were heavily involved in the industry group response finds it very encouraging that their input has been reflected in the recommendations of the report. “All points we were campaigning for in the industry call for evidence were listened to and we are happy to see these points in Dame Judith’s report.” he added. “Poor building safety must become a thing of the past.” says Bob. “As the report states, and again, a point that we have been stressing for many months, the use of fire doors, correctly installed and with stringent fire door maintenance procedures is an integral part of fire safety.” DHF was co-opted to be members of a small Technical Fire Door Group set up by MHCLG to advise the Expert Panel on the concerns over flat entrance fire door test failures" Certification by a UKAS-accredited body Perry continues, “Interestingly, an equally important document for us is the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (MHCLG) advice note 16 issued on 16th May. DHF was co-opted to be members of a small Technical Fire Door Group set up by MHCLG to advise the Expert Panel on the concerns over flat entrance fire door test failures that have emerged following the Grenfell Tower fire and have been reported in the media. “It’s particularly pleasing to see that the Expert Panel, in point 19 of the advice note, advises that third party certification by a UKAS-accredited body of manufacture, installation, maintenance and inspection of fire, smoke and security doors, will give greater assurance on the performance of doors. Ensuring that door hardware is not compromised “This is something DHF has lobbied tirelessly for, along with the importance of compartmentation and issues surrounding poorly or ill-fitted door closers. This is a step in the right direction and is further reinforced by the recommendation 7.2b in the Hackitt report which states the testing of products that are critical to the safety of High Risk Residential Buildings (HRRB) should be subject to independent third-party certification. DHF will continue to push for this to become mandatory.” “It is also critical,” he adds, “that the integrity of a fire door is not compromised when maintenance or repair has taken place, and that the hardware is not substituted for economic reasons, that’s why point 16 of the Advice Note is poignant to our industry. If every component has its test evidence included in the electronic file, and that there is greater transparency of that evidence, then it is a sure way to ensure that residents feel – and are – safe in their homes.”
Numerous exhibitors from Germany and abroad will be presenting their solutions at the trade fair VdS-FireSafety Cologne on 4th and 5th December 2018 will once again offer fire protection and security professionals a wide range of information, consisting of seven top-class conferences and symposiums, a large trade fair and thematic forums in the exhibition hall, which are open to all trade fair visitors. As traditionally every second year, the major industry get-together for preventive fire protection in 2018 will have an international focus. This means that numerous exhibitors from Germany and abroad will be presenting their solutions at the trade fair, and visitors are expected from all over Europe and beyond. In addition, the popular VdS conference ‘Fire Extinguishing Systems’ (4/5 December 2018) will take place with an international perspective and simultaneous German-English translation. The programme of the conference ‘Fire Extinguishing Systems’ covers a wide range of current topics around the technology and regulation of Fire Extinguishing Systems (FES), as usual with a lot of practical relevance, exciting international application scenarios and the opportunity for discussion. This year's topics include amongst many others: Water Mist Extinguishing Systems This is about the new VdS-guidelines for this type of extinguishing system, also in comparison with EN-standards and NFPA-guidelines, as well as interesting applications. Foam Extinguishing Systems Amongst other things, current developments in foam extinguishing agents, future approval procedures and the new VdS-guidelines are described - also here in comparison with other regulations. Oxygen Reduction Systems Experience gained over many years with installed systems are presented from the perspective of an industrial insurer. Furthermore, the test methods and their implementation in the planning and installation guidelines of FM Global and VdS are compared. Fire at Grenfell Tower in London The official results of the investigation will be examined and the question will be discussed whether a sprinkler system could have prevented the accident or at least significantly contained the fire. Quality problems with Fire Extinguishing Systems components It will be demonstrated how the efficiency of existing sprinkler systems is sometimes impaired due to manufacturing defects in pipelines. As always, participants will have the opportunity to visit the major international trade fair, the Science and Exhibitor Forum and the Future Forum Fire Protection in the large exhibition hall during the breaks in the conference - both with a large number of specialist presentations on fire protection and safety and security topics.
The era of “smart buildings” is here, bringing new opportunities for significant gains in efficiency, safety and environmental protection. In an interview, Rodger Reiswig, director of industry relations at Johnson Controls Global Fire Protection Products, offers his insights into the impact of smart buildings on fire detection and what it means for organisations planning new facilities. Q: How do you define smart buildings? The term “smart buildings” means different things to different people. For some, it’s all about the Green Initiative. Is the building able to sustain itself or reduce its carbon footprint? Can they reuse some of their water or generate electricity from onsite solar cells or wind turbines? Another definition of “smart buildings” is based on sensors. Is the building smart enough to know that, if I’m the first person there in the morning and I swipe my card, it should switch the HVAC system into occupied mode? Can it start to turn the lights on? Can it adjust the window shades to allow the sun to come in? Can it call the elevator down for me because it knows that I’m in the lobby and I’m going to the tenth floor? It’s all about how the systems integrate with one another, not just providing information to each other, but also interacting with one another, causing things to happen from one system to another. Q: How close are we to the vision of an integrated intelligent building where all the systems work together? We’ve already been doing some integration for a few years now with things like HVAC and lighting. Now we’re seeing tighter integration where, for example, we can use the position of the sun to get the best impact of sunlight to start to heat the building in the winter. One of the biggest challenges that we see in the smart building environment is protocols or topologies for how one system talks to another. The fire alarm system uses a certain protocol or language. The HVAC system uses another protocol or language, and so on. Creating an environment where systems can talk to one another and not just send, but also receive information – that’s the difficult part. Everybody can send information out. It’s easy for me to tell you what is happening in a system. But for you to tell me what’s happening in your system and then expect me to do something with that information, that’s when it gets a little bit harder. Q: What makes system-to-system communication challenging? Because of the critical role they play in protecting lives and property, life safety systems require a level of reliability and resilience far beyond that of other building systems or networks. Therefore, we have to be extremely careful about how we allow information from other systems to come into the life safety system, in case that information should affect the performance of the system. In addition, the design and specification of life safety systems is guided via three different means: building codes, standards and listings. Each of those means is controlled by different organisations. Any proposed changes to life safety networks have to pass muster with those entities, and that takes time, effort and consensus-building. When we’re talking specifically about system-to-system communication, the listing entities, organisations like UL and FM Global, regulate how much information can come into any life safety system. The listing documents require that there be some type of a barrier or gateway to prevent unauthorised or corrupted information from coming into a fire alarm system, causing harm or causing it to lock up. Life safety systems require a level of reliability and resilience far beyond that of other building systems or networks We will see all building technologies become more integrated over time as we work through the different entities and people begin to realise the benefits of improved safety, lower environmental impact, and reduced costs. Q: How will fire detection systems benefit from other sensor information available in a building? One of the things being explored is occupancy sensors that tell where people are located in a building. Some type of telemetry could be used to understand where people are concentrated in a facility and, based on that, make the fire alarm system more or less sensitive to smoke. If a lot of people are congregating in one area, there might be more activity and more dust being stirred up. You could use that information to set different alarm parameters compared to, for example, an empty building with no significant air movement. We see that type of operation happening. Knowing how many people are in a building and where they are located is also a critically valuable piece of information for first responders. Here’s another example: let’s say we have a big parking garage next to a mall. Cars come in, and perhaps some people leave their cars running, or the cars aren’t operating as efficiently as they should be. You could have carbon monoxide detectors and occupancy sensors in the garage, and when the garage becomes crowded and carbon monoxide levels start to rise a bit, you could tell the fire alarm system not to go into alarm, but instead to turn fans on to get some fresh air moving throughout the building. It’s performing a life safety function, but at a non-emergency level. Q: Are you involved in any cross-industry standard-setting organisations to enable better communication among building systems? On an industry level, Johnson Controls is very active in the development of codes and standards. We have people who sit on committees for things like healthcare occupancy standards. We have engineers that contribute to product listing documents. We have people who participate in committees that determine how products should be installed and maintained.Fire alarm systems could be used to detect and solve non-emergencies before they become threats We’re even involved with groups, like the National Disabilities Rights Network, that advocate for laws that promote equal access and notification of life safety events. The list goes on. It’s a common protocol that allows all types of systems to get on the same communication platform and be able to send and possibly receive information, depending on the product and the type of system it is.Just to give you an example, there’s a standard called BACnet, Building Automation Control Network, which was developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. BACnet is based on entities, so within their system, they need to define what each entity is. What is a thermostat? What is a variable air box? What is a lighting controller? What is a fire alarm smoke detector? We work closely with this organisation to create entities that can reside on their infrastructure so that, for example, the lightning system recognises what a smoke detector is when they send that entity out to the network. It’s one of the most important methods we are using to communicate among dissimilar systems. Integrated systems mean elevators could be used to evacuate people in an emergency We’re working on two fronts: internally and industry-wide. We’re developing third-party interfaces that enable an outside entity to sign a non-disclosure form and get the keys to the kingdom, if you will, on our protocols for how our systems operate – the data stream that we can send out and receive back – allowing that third-party developer to create some of these interfaces themselves. That has been one of our challenges, because we have always said that this is a fire alarm system, and if you want that type of an interface, we need to write it and get it listed. We had to step back and say, what if we developed a barrier gateway and allowed somebody else to develop the protocol and, done properly, became able to receive and send information to the fire alarm system? It’s like what Apple does with apps. We are going down that road with this third-party interface gateway. Q: Have these developments changed how you’re planning for the future development of fire detection systems? Yes, they have. We are looking at how we can use these systems strategically to make life safety systems better. And life safety is becoming more nuanced, proactive and comprehensive. Can I communicate and use this information to unlock the door so people have a clear egress? Can I start to use the elevators to evacuate people during an emergency? We’ve been told traditionally to use the stairwell and not the elevator in the event of a fire. But it takes a person about a minute a floor to get out. That’s a problem if you’re in an 80-story building. You have elevators sitting there. Is there something we could do to allow these elevators to be used to evacuate people? The American Society of Mechanical Engineers has been working hard on developing the language and requirements to do that. It’s just one example of how having systems integrated and talking to each other allows us to create smarter solutions that can help make facilities safer. Q: What advice would you give to building owners, architects, designers or contractors to help them start planning today for the future of smart buildings? The most important thing is to build awareness. The average building owner doesn’t know that a lot of this technology even exists. We need to inform them that there are options they can ask about. One of my recommendations would be to ask your design engineer. As you discuss the kind of windows you want, the kind of flooring and lighting and so on, ask how these systems could integrate together and what the benefits of integration would be. The bigger your facility, the greater the benefits of integrating these systems. Another resource that people don’t use often enough is the AHJs, the authorities having jurisdiction. That’s the local fire marshal, the fire chief, the local first responders. Don’t be afraid to sit down with a fire marshal, tell them what kind of building you’re putting in, and ask them what would help them respond in the event of an emergency in that building. They’ll be glad you asked, because these people see a lot of different buildings and respond to emergencies every day.
A number of shocking incidents involving fire have highlighted the need to better manage risks in buildings. David Adkins, managing director at Risk Warden, explains why some organisations need to give compliance with statutory regulations more focus and how the use of state-of-the-art online risk assessment tools can help to ensure that a building is as safe as possible. The Grenfell Tower disaster in London, in which 72 people lost their lives, brought the subject of fire safety into sharp focus. A government review into building regulations in the wake of this tragedy, led by Dame Judith Hackitt, made it clear that competence – defined as a combination of knowledge, skills and experience – underpins safety for all. It also found that that the current regulatory system is not fit for purpose and, with little or no quality monitoring, has created a situation where poor language confuses guidance with regulation and means that there is an overlapping regulatory enforcement framework. Why you need a fire safety action plan Sadly, Grenfell was not an isolated incident and similar events have occurred throughout the world. In 2017 a fire at a 17-storey commercial building in Iran led to multiple deaths, including those of 18 firefighters, while in 2015 16 people died in a fire in a residential building in Azerbaijan. Perhaps what is most concerning is that these types of events have been regularly occurring for many years – in 2010 a fire in a 28-storey tower block in China killed 53 people and injured at least 90, while in 2004 a fire at a care home in Scotland led directly to the deaths of 14 residents. The inquiry concluded that this tragedy could have been prevented by a suitable fire safety action plan. These examples highlight why it is vital to take the issue of safety seriously by undertaking a formal risk assessment. Put simply, if risks aren’t identified, a building’s occupants are in danger. There are a number of important pieces of legislation relating to this area in the UK including The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, which contain a consistent set of requirements. Employers also have a general duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees at work. The Grenfell Tower disaster in London, in which 72 people lost their lives, brought the subject of fire safety into focus Responsibility for fire risk assessment When it comes to the dangers associated specifically with fire, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) places the onus on a designated responsible person within an organisation to carry out regular assessments to identify, manage and reduce the potential danger posed by fire. Article 9 of the RRFSO states that "The responsible person must make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to which relevant persons are exposed for the purpose of identifying the general fire precautions he/she needs to take to comply with the requirements and prohibitions imposed on him/her by or under this order". Any failure that leads to loss of life, personal injury or damage to property will expose a responsible person and could lead to prosecution. Outside fire risk assessors If the responsible person does not have the knowledge to carry out a fire risk assessment on his or her own, it will be necessary to call on a competent outside fire risk assessor. However, as Article 18 of the RRFSO points out, "Preference is to be given to a suitable competent person in the responsible person’s employment over a person not in their employment". Just as importantly, it states that, "A person is to be regarded as competent where they have sufficient training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the preventive and protective measures". If an outside fire risk assessor is employed then the responsible person must undertake due diligence to ensure that the individual concerned is competent and has successful track record in this line of work. Failure to do so can have enormous repercussions like, for example, in 2017 when a former firefighter and professional fire risk assessor was given a sentence of four months in prison suspended for 12 months for providing a ‘woefully inadequate’ fire risk assessment in his capacity as a private consultant. Failure to undertake due diligence when employing a fire risk assessor can have legal consequences Monitoring and reviewing fire risk It is up to the responsible person to put processes and procedures in place to enable compliance to be fully evidenced. This includes keeping up to date records of testing and maintenance regimes that can be scrutinised by relevant enforcement authorities, as well as enabling the responsible person to monitor, control and periodically review the fire risk assessment, especially during and after significant changes to the use or layout of a building. At the moment there are no hard and fast rules as to how fire risk assessments should be carried out. However, the most important requirement is to identify the fire hazards and how people could be at risk. In addition, emergency routes and exits, fire detection and warning systems, fire fighting equipment, the removal or safe storage of dangerous substances, and the needs of vulnerable people such as the elderly or those with disabilities must be factored in. The aim should always be to remove or reduce the risks as much as is 'reasonably practicable'. A failure to provide satisfactory evidence that a comprehensive risk assessment has taken place could result in invalid insurance, large fines and even the prosecution of any individuals responsible. To that end Article 11 of the RRFSO states that "The responsible person must make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the size of his/her undertaking and the nature of its activities, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures". Today’s state-of-the-art solutions are structured around an intuitive internet-based interface Risk assessment and compliance tools Sometimes, particularly with large buildings or campus environments, the complexity of the risk assessment process requires a more methodical approach that takes subjectivity out of the process. When it comes to satisfying the requirements of Article 11 of the RRFSO where "the responsible person must record the arrangements", the latest generation of intuitive risk assessment and compliance tools can help. Today’s state-of-the-art solutions are structured around an intuitive internet-based interface, which allows a responsible person to be guided through the entire risk assessment process in a clear and thorough manner. This is a significant improvement on the old fashioned ‘pen and paper’ approach, as digital images can be captured and placed directly into a report at the relevant section, while templates for specific building types ensure consistency throughout. This simplifies the identification, management and prevention of any risks related to not only fire, but security, and health and safety too, thereby reducing the potential for danger within a wide variety of environments. It should always be remembered that the risk assessment is only the first stage of the process and where traditional methods often fall down is in taking – or not taking, as the case may be – any necessary remedial action. Online tools provide a more cohesive approach, as once the risk assessment has been completed all work undertaken is clearly outlined, logged and accounted for to comply with audits. This provides evidence of compliance and ensures organisations meet their legal obligations, validate their insurance, take a consistent approach to risk management and provide peace of mind for a responsible person. Making buildings safer There is a clear need for a digital record of risk assessment compliance for the whole life of a building – from design and construction through to occupation. As assessing risk can be a lengthy and complicated process, anything that makes this easier and enhances an organisation’s ability to negate the likelihood of injury or even death should be embraced. It stands to reason that risk management must be more strictly applied in order to prevent incidents that could be avoided – therefore, the use of online risk assessment and compliance tools should be at the forefront when it comes to making buildings safer.
FireVu multi-detectors facilitate quick fire detection and remedy at Worcestershire warehouse Budget Waste Management operates a waste removal, disposal and recycling service. It processes the waste it collects at its large waste processing facility in Worcestershire. The company deals with a great variety of material, much of which is flammable. So the risk of fire is significant and the potential impact of a fire outbreak is extremely serious. FireVu multi-detectors rapidly identify fire outbreaks The fire started as a result of an aerosol can contained within the waste being punctured during processing which then ignited. The purple and green boxes that can be seen on the video show FireVu rapidly identifying the outbreak of fire. Crucially, FireVu spots the fire quickly because the multi-detector can identify both the thermal output and visual flame. The system is visual based, so it can detect fire much more quickly at source than systems which rely on an overall increase in ambient temperature, or physical contact with smoke or flame. Other systems will only detect if there is a substantial fire present, by which time a total loss is likely. Early detection means remedial action can be taken quickly, before the fire has taken hold. In this case, an operator is able to stamp out the flames. Without early detection the entire warehouse could have gone up in flames within minutes. Multi-detectors installed by Alert Systems FireVu partner, Alert Systems, installed 7 multi-detectors with an FV1 Annunciator within the warehouse to provide comprehensive coverage of the waste processing areas with associated control room alert functionality. Each FireVu solution is customised to meet the individual client need, and in this case study the detectors were placed in specifically identified strategic locations following consultation between the client and the FireVu team. The result is a very early warning fire detection system that gives Budget (and their insurers) peace of mind of knowing that if a fire breaks out, FireVu will alert them quickly. High tech analytics software analyses video images from the FireVu detector to identify the presence of smoke, flame and heat at source, thus providing fast, accurate, very early warning. Furthermore, FireVu segments the field of view, significantly helping stakeholders to identify the origin point of the fire, aiding efforts to extinguish the threat. The system also provides sensitive calibration features which minimise the risk of false alarms. Why does FireVu stand out in the industry? FireVu offers a unique combination of features not available from other products on the market, including: Can ‘see’ flame colour, brightness and intensity (Planck’s Law) and signal the visually verified alarm in seconds * Works outside and in large voluminous spaces Unaffected by airflow or stratification Thermal detection** with two thresholds to detect heat build-up The visual of the smoke, flame and heat detection provides situational awareness to the owner/operator via FireVu annunciator and Enterprise ObserVer viewing software Can integrate to the alarm panel and automate the shutdown of systems within recommended field of view, **Multi-Detector version Application Scenarios As a visual-based system, FireVu can be applied in many, diverse scenarios. It can be effectively applied both indoors and outdoors; on the outside of buildings or in large atriums/warehouses. Application areas include: High-Rise Buildings Waste Management Facilities Hotel lobby areas Retail outlets Schools Warehousing Industrial Production Line Facilities
Most of the systems installed at Cobalt Business Park use Hochiki Europe's Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP) With around 40 individual buildings housing over 160,000m 2 of prime office space, Cobalt Business Park is the largest complex of its kind in the UK. Located just a short drive from central Newcastle, it has played a vital part in the regeneration of the region, which is now one of the nation’s most vibrant and forward thinking business hubs. Building work began over 12 years ago and being awarded Enterprise Zone status meant that tenants could enjoy free business rates and 100 per cent capital allowances for corporation tax until August 2006. This led to a plethora of blue chip multinational organisations choosing to locate there and by doing so they have brought over 9,500 jobs to the area. Cobalt Business Park offers access to a wide range of facilities and boasts a surgery, a nursery, restaurants, a swimming pool, a fitness suite and a 500 capacity delegate conference centre. In order to give those working on-site the highest levels of protection its owner, Highbridge Properties, has insisted that each of the buildings has a state-of-the-art fire detection system as part of an overall building services infrastructure. Based in Blyth, Northumberland, ARC365 is one of the north-east of England’s leading life safety installation specialists and it has enjoyed a long-term relationship with Cobalt Business Park. Chris Harris, director of ARC365, explains, “We were originally invited to tender for the fire detection installation in the first building. Our proposal centred on the installation of a Hochiki Europe fire detection system, which we have used almost exclusively over the last 17 years. We won the contract and since then we have been asked to carry out similar work for all but three buildings on the site.” "We will continue to specify products from Hochiki Europe, as we know that we can rely on them to ensure the highest levels of protection” Although the buildings that comprise Cobalt Business Park are all different shapes and sizes, and house many different types of organisations, ARC365 tries to keep the fire detection systems as consistent as it can and introduce as many common features as possible. Harris and his team are involved when the main construction works are underway, usually through Castle Building Services Ltd, who have been involved in the electrical and mechanical disciplines of many of the buildings throughout the business park. Harris says, “When the developer has a client for the building, a complete fire detection system is designed and installed, based on the layout the client requires.” If a building is unused, we usually just install a limited fire detection system in shell and core areas such as stairwells until it is occupied. Working as a team with Castle Building Services Ltd gives them the confidence that the Hochiki products we offer are of the highest quality and reliability. "This innovative chamber design minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires" All of the systems installed at Cobalt Business Park are analogue addressable and most of them use Hochiki Europe’s Enhanced Systems Protocol (ESP). Stuart Davies, the company’s marketing manager, explains, “ESP is a resilient total communications solution for intelligent fire detection and fully integrated systems. It has a multi-purpose structure that provides the flexibility and expansion to accommodate simple addressable systems through to integrated building management and safety systems.” The buildings’ fire detection systems are also compliant to the BS 5839 category L1 standard, which means that automatic detectors are deployed throughout all areas including roof spaces and voids. This gives the earliest possible warning of fire and makes sure that there is sufficient time for escape. Unwanted and false alarms are a problem in any type of building but in offices, where there is a high density of people, they are particularly disruptive. Where possible, ARC365 installs Hochiki Europe’s ALG-EN optical smoke sensors, which feature the company’s High Performance Chamber Technology. Harris states, “‘This innovative chamber design minimises the differences in sensitivity experienced in flaming and smouldering fires. The result is a high performance optical chamber that is equally responsive to all smoke types and helps to reduce the possibility of unwanted alarms, as the algorithms in the devices can be adjusted to account for the different environments that they are used in.” A fast and efficient installation is important for ARC365, and the ability to fit detectors onto a standard base unit offers significant time and cost savings, without any compromise in quality. Harris adds, “Our experience with other manufacturers’ products has highlighted just how well designed and thought out Hochiki Europe’s are, what can take minutes only takes seconds.” To enhance continuity across the estate, each building has a stainless steel plate installed in the reception area to house ARC365’s control equipment for the fire detection, disabled refuge and accessible toilet alarm systems. This means that if one of the site’s security operatives has to enter one of the empty buildings, they can easily locate the control panel and know how to operate it. Cobalt Business Park is very much a work in progress and new buildings are being designed and constructed all of the time – the most recent being a four floor office block and a two storey retail/office block - both handled electrically and mechanically by Castle Building Services Ltd. ARC365’s Chris Harris, concludes, “It’s been fascinating to see how it has developed over the decade or so and we are thrilled to be a part of it. We will continue to specify products from Hochiki Europe, as we know that we can rely on them to ensure the highest levels of protection.”
The University Hospital of Wales had been in use for some 20 years and several aspects of its design did not meet current hospital and fire safety standards. Project: The University Hospital of Wales is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Europe. The main ward block houses 800 beds and is a high-rise building. In addition, there is a three-story medical block and a three-story dental block. The three buildings are interconnected by subways and tunnels. The hospital had been in use for some 20 years and several aspects of its design did not meet current hospital and fire safety standards. The hospital had also experienced severe disruption due to smoke spread from some relatively small fires. A radical re-evaluation of all aspects of the fire safety provision was required. This included assessing: Compartmentalisation and separation aspects. Automatic fire detection requirements. Automatic fire suppression strategies. Requirements for storage and removal of waste/rubbish. Procedures for evacuation in a fire emergency. Contribution: BRE Global's Fire and Risk Sciences Division (FRS) was commissioned by WHCSA to assess the total fire safety provision. The hospital of Wales will get an enhanced security and safety cover after the FRS report FRS liaised with the local fire service, the hospital board, the hospital fire officer and NHS Estates in order to carry out a comprehensive evaluation of the problem. FRS then produced a fire safety report detailing cost-effective recommendations, which were based on fire safety engineering principles rather than just opting for compliance with prescriptive codes and requirements. The fire safety assessment report was then used to form the basis of a subsequent £multi-million refurbishment and upgrading scheme. Benefits: FRS is the UK's leading centre for research-based consultancy and testing covering all aspects of fire safety and security. The division can draw upon extensive research into experimental emergency evacuations and occupant behaviour during fires, all of which was important to the successful conclusion of this project. Established in 1947, FRS's clients extend beyond the construction industry, and include those concerned with design, development and manufacture of materials, products, systems, industrial processes, transport and offshore. BRE is retained as an advisor to the NHS Fire Code Committee and the NAPG.
TOA Europe is celebrating a huge new audio network installation at OpernTurm TOA Europe is celebrating a huge new audio network installation comprising TOA VM-3000 Series PA/VA systems, SX-2000 audio management systems and loudspeakers, in Frankfurt, Germany. Due to open later this year, the OpernTurm (literally 'Opera Tower') is the latest addition to Frankfurt's celebrated skyline. Comprising a 170 m high-rise building and a 26 m low-rise perimeter development, OpernTurm derives its name from Frankfurt's historic opera house, the Alte Oper, which faces it across Opernplatz. Designed by Frankfurt-based architect Christoph Mäckler, OpernTurm is the latest development by Tishman Speyer Properties, whose last major investment in Frankfurt was the OperaTurm - the 257 m high 'giant pencil' that has stood at the entrance to Messe Frankfurt since 1991 and is known to tens of thousands of tradeshow-goers from all over the world. Though not as high as OperaTurm, which became Europe's tallest building when completed, OpernTurm has already become a landmark building for other reasons. It is one of the first new office buildings in Europe to be certified according to Gold rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green construction standards, and has been designed to consume 23% less energy than the guideline stipulated by EnEV 2007 - Germany's latest set of energy-saving regulations. To help achieve these results, OpernTurm uses a sophisticated BMS (Building Management System) based on LONworks protocols, under which all IT and related technical hardware is equipped with a standard chip, allowing intercommunication between any two pieces of equipment at any point on the building's network. SPIE delivered a complete fire alarm, voice evacuation and paging backbone for the project. SPIE in turn partnered with Hellwig Tonanlagen, based in nearby Bensheim, to design and install the audio elements of the system, using TOA SX-2000 and VM-3000 audio management systems as hubs. SPIE delivered a complete fire alarm, voice evacuation and paging backbone for the project "In total there are some 13 racks of TOA equipment, including a whopping 78 VM-3000 units and six SX-2000s acting as master controllers, and over 3,000 TOA loudspeakers," reveals Torsten Hellwig, managing director, Hellwig Tonanlagen. "The scale of the project is enormous - with 42 floors of offices in the main tower and a further seven in the low-rise section, plus a conference centre, a casino and other leisure facilities, not to mention a series of themed gardens which connect the buildings together. With their ability to distribute multiple channels of audio digitally, plus their inherent scalability and flexibility, TOA products are the obvious solution in a project such as OpernTurm." TOA Germany supported the project throughout with technical assistance and design consultancy. Wolfgang Pein, sales manager, Germany at TOA Europe, comments: "At TOA we pride ourselves on being able to support our customers throughout the process, from initial tendering through to system commissioning and beyond. You don't just buy boxes from us. This is increasingly important as the worlds of fire detection, PA/VA and security become more deeply integrated. "Designed with full network integration and compliance with EN 54 standards in mind, the SX-2000 and new VM-3000 are perfectly suited to installations like OpernTurm. We are delighted to have been chosen as a key supplier to such a technically sophisticated and prestigious new commercial building." While the scale and technical complexity of OpenTurm are themselves outstanding, the project also required great attention to detail, as Hellwig's Cirullies explains: "Culturally, this is a very important building for the city of Frankfurt. Its lobby areas allow direct access from Bockenheimer Landstrasse to the historic Rothschildpark for the first time since the 1960s, and park itself has been specially extended. The architect was very keen for this space to be as aesthetically 'clean' as possible, so we partnered with an acoustic consultancy, Barth Acoustics, to design custom enclosures that would keep the architect happy, while also integrating seamlessly with the TOA network to provide the required intelligibility." Work began on the construction of OperaTurm in late 2006 and the building opened in late 2009.