Reliance on the fire service is something you should never count on. The suitable location of evacuation routes must be factored into your building development process. Not only that, but the routes themselves must be positioned to offer as much fire protection as possible.
If the building is large and there’s reason to suspect that a means of escape won’t be available for all tenants, a protected stairwell en route to an exit may suffice, as long as flames, smoke, or gasses can’t enter.
While single and double storey houses below 4.5m can have an egress window or protected stair for their respective escape routes, larger buildings shouldn’t have inner rooms, but should have sprinklers, protected stairwells, and an alternative escape route. If you’re concerned about fire safety routes compromising security, you can find help through the police forces’ architectural liaison officer.
Choosing Smoke and Heat Detectors
There are two factors to consider when choosing between optical smoke and heat detectors and ionisation heat and smoke detectors. The former is better for installing near kitchens, as they are less likely to create false alarms.
However, ionisation detectors respond faster to both smouldering and fast-flame fires. Whatever the case, ensure your alarms are connected to mains electricity and have a battery back-up.
Positioning Smoke and Heat Detectors
Smoke and heat detectors should be positioned in areas between sleeping spaces and in kitchens and living rooms. The goal is to detect the fire as soon as possible so it can be extinguished before it spreads, but they should also be placed within 7.5m of the door to every habitable room and on every storey of a multi-level property.
Where there is more than one detector they should be linked so detection of smoke by one detector sets all of them off. If there is a building warden, or other security on-site, detectors should be monitored so they can deal with fires quickly.
Internal Walls and Ceilings
The two factors to consider when choosing internal linings for your property are combustibility of the lining and the amount of heat it generates once ignited. Many lining materials have different levels of fire resistance. For rooms larger than 4m² look for certified linings that meet national class 1 criteria.
For rooms of 4m² or less, national class 3 will suffice. For suspended ceilings and roof lights, compliant thermoplastic materials can be used, and suspended ceilings themselves can be a strong method of fire resistance. If there are concealed floor or roof spaces, you may need cavity barriers. However, a fire resistant ceiling placed below the cavity barriers can suffice.
Fire curtains can also really help to slow down a fire and minimise the damage to your property.
External Walls & Roofs
The biggest factor when deciding on external walls and roofs is how they’ll prevent fire travelling to a neighbouring property. In a similar fashion to internal walls, external cladding should be chosen based on low combustibility combined with reduced capacity to generate heat.
Additionally, height and position of the building needs to be considered. Simultaneously, fire resistance should be factored into as much of the roof and wall as feasibly possible, in order to minimise the risk of fire from a neighbouring build crossing to yours. Extremely high standards of fire resistant cladding should be applied where an external roof or wall is less than 1,000mm from a neighbouring boundary.
Providing Access for Fire Service Vehicles
Although sole reliance on the fire service is unwise, suitable access should be made available for firefighters and their vehicles. This access should be available outside and inside the building and fire vehicle access should allow for hydraulic platforms and turntable ladders. The building should have sufficient internal fire mains and adequate ventilation in basements to allow heat and smoke to escape.
There are other areas beyond the scope of this article that also need to be considered such as the use of thermoplastic coverings for ceiling lighting and the fire standards for external buildings such as garages. However, just follow these basics and you’ll be off to a good start.
For more fire safety advice, get in touch with us today by calling 01384 221743 or contact us online.