Fire Protection Overview
A vital part of any construction project is its safety in the event of a fire. This section will guide you through the products available in this area including fire detection equipment, emergency lighting and fire-fighting equipment and provide you with specialist suppliers and manufacturers throughout the UK. Fire accessory products like fire stopping materials and intumescent materials are also featured....more
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Fire Protection Explained
Fire Protection in buildings is designed to ensure the safety of occupants in the case of fire and to ensure as best as reasonably possible, their safe egress from the building. The protection of the building structure is not the paramount objective of fire regulations but this invariably is a bi-product of occupant safety and in consideration upon the safety of fire fighters trying to evacuate a building suffering a fire.
In new construction building regulations are the relevant legislation with existing buildings falling under the enforcement powers of the local fire authority. Where commercial buildings are concerned such as shops, bars and restaurants both Building regulations and Fire Officers become involved since a Fire Certificate is needed before the public may use such buildings.
Fire Alarms and Fire Detection Systems
A typical fire alarm system comprises of a control panel or indicating panel, fire sensors, manual call points and alarm sounders.
Control panels fall into two categories; manual and automatic. Automatic control panels are required to be continuously monitored to detect conditions such as fires or faults within the system. Typically in larger buildings a control panel will have several zones in order to carry out fire monitoring within different areas of each floor of the building.
Fire sensors comprise of smoke detectors and heat detectors. Smoke detectors are manufactured in three varieties comprising:
- Ionisation Detectors: comprise of two electrodes across which a current flow by ionising the air within the detector. Even a slight level of smoke causes this current to fall and triggers the alarm. These are the least expensive of all smoke detectors available.
- Light Scattering Detectors: a light beam and photosensitive cell are isolated from each other but as smoke enters the detector the smoke basically scatters the light, triggering an alarm signal.
- Light Obscuring Detectors: a continuous beam of light connects with a photosensitive cell, which triggers an alarm if this clear light path is interrupted by smoke.
Heat Detectors fall within three varieties comprising of:
- Fixed Temperature Heat Detectors: these operate at a preset fixed temperature and are ideal for Kitchen applications where smoke detection is not practical.
- Temperature Rise Detectors: these are used in specialist applications where significant temperatures are normal but fire monitoring is still essential.
- Cable Detectors: sometimes known as Linear Detectors these enable a very large area to be continuously monitored and the alarm is triggered if the cable sleeve melts to short circuit the alarm protection circuit.
Alarm Bells (Dome Bells) and sounders are manufactured in many forms for different applications and are characterised in performance by decibel output. The total output falls within a range of 60db to 120db. Alarm Bells and Buzzers will cover most domestic situations where it is calculated that about 70 decibels are required to awake a sleeping occupant. In large commercial applications a commercial fire siren is used.
Most commercial fire protection systems and office fire alarms have a series of manually operated break glass call points. Comprising of both, open circuit call point systems and closed circuit call point systems, the glass holds the circuit in the non-activated position thus triggering an alarm when the glass is broken.
The British Standards associated with the installation and maintenance of domestic fire alarm systems and commercial fire alarm systems are as follows:
BS 5839: Part 1: 2002
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for system design, installation and servicing.
BS 5839: Part 3: 1988
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Specification for automatic release mechanisms for certain fire protection equipment.
BS 58391988: Part 4:
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Specification for control and indicating equipment
BS 5839: Part 5: 1988
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Specification for optical beam smoke detectors
BS 5839 - 6: 2004
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation and maintenance of fire detection and fire alarm systems in dwellings
BS 5839: Part 8: 1998
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation and servicing of voice alarm systems
BS 5839 - 9: 2003
Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings. Code of practice for the design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of emergency voice communication systems.
BS 5446: Part 1: 2000
Fire detection and fire alarm devices for dwellings. Specification for smoke alarms
BS 7807: 1995
Code of practice for design, installation and servicing of integrated systems incorporating fire detection and alarm systems and/or other security systems for buildings other than dwellings
Fire Extinguishers are categorised in groups which are relevant to the type of fire they are intended to overcome. The British Standard for fire extinguishers is BS EN3 part5 Portable Fire Extinguishers and BS 7937 relating to cooking fat fires. All fire extinguishers are required to carry a BAFE mark. A typical fire of materials such as wood, paper and cardboard is tackled by a simple pressurised water filled extinguisher. Fires involving more complex substances and material require more specialist extinguishers and these are summarised below:
Water filled extinguishers are RED and for fighting wood, cardboard, textiles and general everyday household solid materials.
Foam filled extinguishers can be used on the above but also on petrol fires and other flammable liquids.
Dry Powder fire extinguishers (ABC) are predominantly for use on fires involving gases like butane and propane. These will also tackle fires suitable to Water and Foam extinguishers however and also electrical fires.
Carbon Dioxide Extinguishers are designed for Electrical fires and flammable liquids.
Wet Chemical Extinguishers are specifically for cooking oil 'chip pan fires' and can also be used on general household fires.
Fire sprinkler systems comprise of a series of sprinkler heads which act as detector heads and water jet nozzles; these are all connected by an installation of water pipe work mounted at high level. In the event of a fire, liquid in a glass sealing bulb of the detector head expands thereby opening the sprinkler in the location of the fire. It is a common misconception that all sprinklers in a building all open simultaneously but this is not the case.
Fire protection sprinklers are very highly favoured by insurance companies since they are fast and accurate in addressing a fire situation. Most fires are easily controlled by water within a few minutes but left unattended soon become out of control. It is normal for a sprinkler system to have a sensor within the system which activates an alarm if a water flow is detected.
Domestic sprinkler systems and residential sprinkler system are now evolving as a new area of the market, whereby considerable savings on insurance premiums can be obtained on the most lavish properties where a large fire could potentially have huge consequences.
Fire blankets are made of fireproof material to BS EN1869: 1997. Their most common use is for 'chip pan fires' and thus they are often located in communal kitchen areas. Fire blankets can be used to wrap around a person whose clothing is on fire.
Intumescent Coatings and Intumescent Strips
Intumescent Coatings and Intumescent Paint have very similar finished appearance to traditional paints. When subjected to increased temperatures as experienced in a fire, the material changes it's state by forming itself into a foam by undergoing a chemical reaction thus very significantly increasing it's volume. Such coatings are ideal for the protection of structural steel frames.
Where cables and pipes pass through the different fire compartments of a building or through different floors, intumescent material is commonly used for fire stopping at these points. The intumescent fire stopping may take the form of seals or collars which in the event of a fire, rapidly expand, hence blocking the spread of flames.
Intumescent strip is commonly used in fire doors to form the protection at the edge of the door in the frame. Smoke seals usually take the form of fine brushes which are integrated with intumescent strips in fire door situations. Similarly intumescent material can be used to create fireproof letterboxes, whereby otherwise the integrity of a fire door would be compromised by the presence of the letterbox hole in the door.