27 Sep See the whole picture when it comes to fire suppression
A holistic approach to planning and installing a fire suppression system is vital for protecting people, properties, and assets.
In this blog, we will explain why it is so important to see the whole picture when it comes to fire suppression in your business, plus the eight benefits you can expect to see when adopting this approach.
The modern fire suppression system has come a long way since the primitive methods of beating flames with objects or smothering them with dirt, sand, or water. The Romans introduced the idea of ‘firefighters’, known as the ‘Vigiles’. They used basic firefighting equipment such as buckets, sponges, and brooms, and later a larger mechanism called ‘siphona’, which was essentially a water pump, to extinguish fires. They also adopted an interesting technique to stop fires from spreading by destroying adjoining buildings to create firebreaks. While these were effective methods for the time, they are certainly not practical today.
Thanks to the collective efforts of firefighters, engineers, scientists, and inventors – and the thousands of years of experience in tackling fires – fire suppression technology has evolved significantly to the effective sprinkler systems, gas-based systems, and water mist systems we rely on today.
Research conducted by the National Fire Chiefs Council and National Fire Sprinkler Network into the effectiveness of sprinkler systems certainly adds weight to this claim. The findings revealed that sprinklers have a 94% activation rate, and when they are called into action, sprinklers control or put out fires 99% of the time.
Since a fire can never be predicted it is vital that businesses consider every potential fire risk and hazard when planning, designing, and installing a fire suppression system. This approach gives complete oversight of the entire system and ensures all installations and procedures put in place work collectively.
Input from a fire engineer or fire suppression expert to plan, design, install and then service and maintain the system will ensure that all aspects are considered, integrated, and work efficiently. Organisations that adopt this approach will soon realise the following eight benefits.
First and foremost, installing a properly designed and commissioned fire suppression system will provide comprehensive protection for people, property, and assets. All aspects of the system, from detection to the chosen method of suppression – whether that is gas, sprinklers, or water mist, will work as it is intended when needed.
During the initial phase of a project, a thorough fire risk assessment will identify and assess the unique requirements of the organisation’s premises, such as the size, layout, occupancy, and specific fire hazards. This then allows the suppression expert to select the best and most appropriate method of suppression whether that be sprinklers, pre-action systems, gas suppression, water mist, or a combination of them all.
Optimal system design
Ideally fire suppression design will start at the beginning of a building project before the construction gets underway. A building should be designed and constructed with fire suppression at its core. The whole fire suppression system will be completely integrated with the building design and its ultimate end use. This will ensure that the system provides the protection to the specific needs of the business and its stakeholders such as landlords, insurers, and end users.
It is also commonplace to design and integrate suppression systems into existing structures and we have recently seen many high tower residential blocks being upgraded with sprinklers or industrial buildings going through a re-purpose to a distribution centre having systems retrospectively installed.
Reliability and performance
A fire suppression system does need to be regularly checked and maintained to ensure that it will function when it is needed. Regular inspections, monitoring, weekly testing, and servicing ensures the reliability and performance of the entire fire suppression system. Preventative planned maintenance checks, and remote monitoring, can identify and address potential issues or failures before they compromise the system’s ability to operate effectively when needed. Most of the time these checks and tests can be carried out with zero down time to the organisation’s operations.
Compliance with regulations
Every building needs to adhere to fire safety regulations, and understanding the risks through a fire risk assessment ensures organisations are aware of all relevant legislation and have procedures in place to comply with the law.
A fire suppression expert will be up to date with current legislation and ensure that any design complies to the necessary standard set out in the fire risk assessment.
For example, UK legislation surrounding fire sprinklers states that buildings with a fire area spanning 20,000 square metres or more (and that are un-compartmented) are legally required to have a sprinkler system installed.
Failing to see the big picture could result in potential exposure to litigation for failing to comply with legislative requirements, a loss of an asset, business interruption or in the worst-case injury or loss of life to a person.
Once installed and commissioned, sprinkler systems use little water until they are called on to respond and suppress a fire. In addition, the majority of components to install a sprinkler system are readily recyclable. Looking at Gas fire suppression, experts will also understand the implications of the F-gas regulations in gas-based suppression systems. Older gases with high global warming potential (GWP) that could damage the environment if released into the atmosphere are being phased out and banned therefore designers will ensure low-GWP alternatives are specified and used. This not only mitigates the environmental impact but also contributes to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensures the system is compliant with legislation.
Integration with other building systems
A collective design approach to the fire suppression gives the organisation the complete picture of how it can integrate with all the other building systems, such as HVAC, lighting, and security systems. An effective integration will ensure seamless operation, vital coordination, and compatibility between various systems, enhancing overall safety. It also provides meaningful data that building managers can analyse to improve operational efficiency, potentially lower energy usage, and save money in operating costs.
Clearly identifying the needs and designing, installing, and maintaining to the exact specification and fire risks for each business can create a highly cost-effective system over its entire life span. There are no unnecessary components and no unnecessary servicing, meaning businesses can reduce costs associated with operation, repairs, and downtime.
Furthermore, as insurance availability and premiums increase, the introduction of a fire suppression and detection system can assist in many ways. Large numbers of underwriters and risk managers will increase or in some instances simply not insurance new or existing facilities without an adequately designed and installed fire suppression systems. This means that the risk management of owner owned or financed assets is predicated on having suppression technology. Industries such as waste transfer or recycling centers have seen insurance premiums rise and, in some incidents, cover not being renewed for existing facilities due to the risk of destruction in a fire without the installation of an automatic suppression system. It is possible to install systems in operating facilities with little or no downtime to the main operation of the business. This gives a favourable solutions to any company affected by a change in risk appetite from the insurer and their specialist underwriting teams.
With technology and fire safety practices continuously evolving, the design can look at future needs and developments. This approach prepares businesses to easily incorporate advancements in their fire suppression needs, any future upgrades, or system expansions resulting in a system that is always up to date and working effectively.
Fire prevention becomes second nature
Ultimately, by adopting fire prevention as second nature it gives complete oversight of the sum of the parts coming together to create one cohesive and safe environment. There is comprehensive protection from a system that has been optimally designed, compliant with all legislation, and that will work reliably as and when it is called upon, with the added benefits of saving costs and having as little impact on the environment as possible.
Not undertaking an effective fire risk assessment and implementing the recommendations from it can ultimately hinder fire protection, which, of course, can be fatal.
To find out more about our capabilities and holistic approach to fire suppression, please take a look at the Systems page, and get in touch to see how we can help.