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Seven layers of fire protection

According to Fire Safe Europe, 5,000 fire incidents occur each day across Europe. Fires are a health hazard, a financial drain, and a significant source of pollution in our environment.

Each country in Europe has its own set of fire regulations and laws, but no coordinated approach to fire safety has been developed – at least not across Europe. The European Fire Safety Alliance (EuroFSA) co-organized five high-level online fire safety events in November 2020, during which over 32 speakers shared their expertise and recommendations for bridging gaps and defining actions for 2021. They are prepared to engage with the European Commission to improve fire safety for all.

Plan of Action

Nonetheless, tremendous strides have been made in recent years: in Europe, fire fatalities have decreased by 65 percent over the last 30 years (Modern Building Alliance).

There are seven layers of fire safety in buildings (Modern Building Alliance), which will be discussed in greater detail to raise awareness and provide contact information for some solution providers.

The first layer is prevention

The first point begins prior to the ignition of a fire. Numerous measures can be taken to ensure the effectiveness of a prevention strategy. One of them is an understanding of the structure and the risks and causes of fires; thus, it is truly a matter of education and awareness. Smoking and electrical faults, as well as cooking and the use of candles and matches, continue to be major causes of accidental fires in Europe. The best way to prevent fires is to ensure that your buildings and premises are in good condition – inspect electrical cables and adhere to local regulations. Additionally, educate yourself on the best fire protection system for your premise. Certain systems even ensure that fire cannot start in the first place.

Wagner, for example, has developed an Oxygen Reduction System. Fires require three components to ignite: oxygen, heat energy, and fuel. If any one of these three components is removed, there is no way for a fire to start. OxyReduct is founded on this tenet. By lowering the oxygen content of the air, it literally “suffocates the fire.” Nitrogen is generated from ambient air and introduced into the previously defined protected area via the systems. This reduces the oxygen concentration in the area below the ignition threshold of the materials that are primarily stored there. A fire cannot start or spread in this protective atmosphere. However, because a smoldering fire can still occur despite the reduction in oxygen, this solution also includes an early detection system using air sampling smoke detectors – which brings us to the next layer.

Detection is the second layer

In the second layer, we consider what occurs when a fire begins. Indeed, the worst-case scenario for a fire is its early detection. Thus, what needs to be done in this case is to provide as much time as possible for building managers to react, evacuate, and take other necessary actions in the event of an emergency. Consider the best detection system, which may include smoke detectors, smoke alarms, or video fire detection – as well as gas or CO2 detectors. The market is brimming with opportunities. For instance, Apollo Fire Detectors’ latest collection of Soteria addressable fire detectors. Soteria detectors are programmable and can be set to the most appropriate sensitivity mode for the application. This provides assurance in installations that require constant adaptation to changing conditions.

Third: Early Suppression

Therefore, when a fire is detected, the next useful aids are fire extinguishers or sprinklers that activate within minutes. Automated fire suppression systems can assist by activating automatically in response to the detection of a fire. Johnson Controls, for example, offers a comprehensive line of residential, commercial, and industrial fire sprinklers. Additionally, they offer a comprehensive line of fire sprinkler systems for storage applications. These systems can be customized to meet virtually any fire suppression requirement.

Fourth layer: Evacuation

After completing the preceding steps, it is time to evacuate. Particularly if the fire cannot be extinguished using these measures. Priority should be given to the safe evacuation of the building’s occupants. Is there an accessible escape route in your building? Perhaps you have accumulated clutter on them? If not, are they well-lit, brief, and non-smoking? Are the occupants aware of them and how to get to them? While having escape routes is a requirement of building design, knowledge of them is a requirement of a functioning training and education system.

Slovenia exemplifies some best practices by developing an information campaign for citizens. Another initiative comes from Germany’s Frankfurt Fire Brigade, which conducts safety inspections of high-rise buildings.

Fifth layer: Compartmentation

To prevent a fire from spreading to adjacent rooms, it is critical to contain it within the compartment of origin. Additionally, this should help prevent corridors and escape routes from becoming unsafe during evacuation. Compartmentation is accomplished through the use of physical barriers such as fire doors and fire walls, floors, and the sealing of joints and penetrations. A significant risk that can devastate a well-designed compartmentation system is fire spreading through the façade.

Schüco is one provider of specialized compartmentation. They have created a fire-resistant aluminum construction from the FireStop range with 30 minutes of fire resistance for maximum flexibility and minimal complexity with their Schüco FireStop ADS 90 FR 30 fire protection system. The innovative three-chamber open rebate profile geometry with a basic depth of 90 mm enables flexibility during building operation. Adding cables to provide electricity to the doors or changing the lock technology, for example, from single-point locking to multi-point locking, is relatively simple. In this manner, a fire door can be upgraded with burglar-resistant components, for example, in conjunction with other modifications.

Sixth Layer: Structural Security

This layer takes the worst-case scenario into account. If the fire is to spread throughout the structure, it is critical that the structure remains stable and does not collapse. The standard fire resistance test on structural elements and assemblies can be used to determine whether structures are fire safe. Recent research has established that material combustibility is not always detrimental to structural safety: concrete, steel, wood, composites, and elements containing combustible products can all be used in structures.

Seventh layer: Firefighting

Professional fire fighters are only as good as the amount of time they have to respond to a fire. Their training and actions are what other people rely on, so let us avoid making it more difficult for them and keep the first six layers in check.