Life Safety – “Refers to the joint consideration of both the life and physical wellbeing of individuals.” 1. This, in relation to buildings, includes both the occupants and firefighters and requires different levels of fire precautions, to that required for property protection and business disruption.
To sum up life safety, the fire protection needs to ensure that all occupants can safely evacuate the building and firefighters if necessary can execute rescues, once the building is empty it can be acceptable for a building to burn down, with fire fighters just protecting surrounding risks. In fact some buildings are designed with this in mind, constructing the building to collapse in on it once a safety period has been reached.
There are various guides to life safety standards the main ones being ‘UK design codes for life safety systems’ and the USA ‘Life Safety Code NFPA 101’. These out line a standard to be followed for life safety and aim to establish minimum requirements that will provide a reasonable degree of safety from fire and similar emergencies in buildings/structures.
Property Protection – “Measures that are undertaken usually by property owners in order to prevent, or reduce property damage.” 2. This normally requires higher levels of fire prevention as it addresses fire behaviour far beyond the time it takes occupants to evacuate the building. It may also only protect certain areas of the property, i.e. to protect artwork or computer storage/server.
The basic objectives for property protection are, to minimise the effect of fire on a business, to limit the effects of business interruption, to allow a business to be trading within 24 hours of a fire, and to protect the buildings within a business.3.
To allow these objectives to be met, the FPA Design Guide4. lays down 12 principles to follow; these are summed up as;
Building materials/products should not make a significant contribution to the early stages of a fire, the exception being joinery products.
Prevention of premature structural collapse and excessive deflection.
Construction should ensure that if a fire occurs heat and smoke damage will be confined as close to the fires source as possible.
Arson should be considered and preventative measures taken.
Construction should not allow fire spread to the surroundings.
The building shall be fitted with an appropriate automatic fire alarm.
The fire protection systems should be regularly maintained.
The building owner shall ensure the standards for the buildings life.
Environmental considerations must be given, including results of firefighting.
All fire protection products shall be third party certified.
All fire protection products/systems shall be installed by trained specialist installers.
Fuel burners/services, or electrical appliance/services shall be installed/constructed in a way to prevent an ignition source.
Meeting all the above criteria’s are recognised by insurers that a building has reached a good standard with regards to property protection.
Guidance on the levels to which these are planned into any building project is laid down within various building legislation documents such as Approved document B 3., BS9999 5., CIBSE 6. etc. There are other factors which will also create the need for higher levels of protection;
Insurance companies who will often put conditions forcing higher standards to allow lower premiums or even the offer of a policy.
Buildings occupants, i.e. disabilities – physical or learning, familiar or unfamiliar, awake or asleep etc, who may need more time to evacuate.
Business disruption can, in some cases, cost a company more than the loss of property and even lead to closure.
Computer/paper files, products produced, antiques, artwork, etc, can often be of more value than the building, and again there loss could lead to closure/financial ruin.
Arson considerations, some areas may have a history leading to the need for additional external protection.
Environmental impacts such as, the release of hazardous materials, the effect of fire on surrounding buildings or facilities and also considerations for methods of firefighting (i.e. avoidance of water course pollution).
Taking the balance of these points into account the extra cost of additional property protection can sometimes become insignificant.
However, clearly it can also be seen the cost difference between life safety and property protection is great and unfortunately will have a significant affect on any final decisions.
Interaction between Life Safety and Property Protection
Before decisions can be made in these areas it is important that all stakeholders are involved including, but not restricted to;
Buildings end user
Building control authority
Local fire authorities
Architectural and engineering consultants
Government health and safety departments
Possibly, government heritage departments, should there be an impact on listed/protected property.
Arguably any life safety system will offer some form of property protection and visa versa.
The different types of protection also need careful consideration to ensure the most suitable is chosen, these may include;
Additional fire compartmentation
Fire detection and alarms
Special hazard systems , such as water mist, CO2, oxygen reduction, etc
Or simply relocation/removal of a high risk.
All the available systems can be part or all the relative protection required for both life safety and property protection; however a different level/standard may be required. An example would be a detection system for a large/complex risk, particularly industrial/commercial risk; the insurance requirement may be for a minimum L1/L2 (or P1/P2, L being life safety, P property protection) standard, where as the prescriptive standard may be L3/L4 or manual, which as a result of a risk assessment could quite easily meet the requirement of life safety.
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An open air shopping centre has very little in the way of requirements, however an under cover shopping centre will require sprinkler systems, automatic alarm systems etc, all these being for life safety, i.e. preventing the passage of heat and smoke into areas required for means of escape. In this example though property protection will be enhanced it is by no means the aim, however if a requirement of property protection was required (i.e. by the insurers), then extending the life safety systems or enhancing them could well meet the new requirements. There are different requirements within the actual sprinkler system for life and property, life requiring a wet system and twin water systems, where as property allows for a dry system but requires four pump units in the place of two 6.. Therefore the interaction between the two systems and final design will be assessed through risk assessment and cost/benefit analysis.
Fire Safety Strategy for a large manufacturing and storage facility
When looking at a large manufacturing and storage facility, after consultation with all stakeholders, the risks need to be identified;
Large manufacturing area, high numbers of staff, possible office areas, client areas etc, may well put the priority on life safety.
Storage area, this may have finished stock which could command a very high value and limited if any staff, therefore property protection could be the priority.
To bring the entire site up to the required standard for both, could work out initially at a high cost and then high ongoing maintenance costs to follow on a regular basis.
Compartmentation between the two areas could be a solution, 60 minute fire resistant wall and equivalent fire doors could separate the areas. Alternatively separate buildings with suitable separation, be it by distance or water curtain/drencher systems. Linked fire detection system between the two may be required, but a higher standard in the storage areas where a fire could go undetected due to low, if any, occupancy. A sprinkler system may only be required in the storage area for the same reasons and high value of storage. Though the machinery in the manufacturing area could be of a value, or if damaged high business losses, could require the installation of a sprinkler system or other form of suppression in certain areas.
Legislation v Insurance
Justifying Fixed Fire Protection Techniques
Holistic Approach and its affect on Fire Fighting
Web;http://www.teachmefinance.com/Scientific_Terms/Property_Protection.htm, (accessed 28/01/11)
Building Regulations 2000, Approved Document B: Fire Safety (Volume 2) – Buildings other than dwellinghouses. Incorporating Insurer’s Requirements for Property Protection. RIBA Publishing, Crown Copyright 2007.
FPA Design Guide for the Fire protection of Buildings: Essential principles, 2003.
BS 9999; 2008, Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings.
CIBSE – Guide E: Fire engineering
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