Fire safety design questioned

Too many fire safety measures are being taken in public buildings, adding unnecessary capital costs and having a potential negative effect on safety according to an industry specialist.

Too many fire safety measures are being taken in public buildings, adding unnecessary capital costs and having a potential negative effect on safety according to an industry specialist.

"There is a fundamental oversight in some of the designs [of life safety systems] today because of a lack of properly applied technical solutions," stressed Christian Nielsen, regional fire engineer with Atkins Middle East. Speaking at a CIBSE-hosted event in the British University in Dubai, Nielsen stated that the effectiveness of sprinkler systems in tackling fires is being overlooked and additional safety systems are often added when they are not needed.

"There is far too much emphasis on smoke control systems in the event of a fire. Because 90% of all fatalities are caused by smoke inhalation, practitioners are concentrating on solutions to remove or control the smoke, instead of effectively and simply addressing how to put the fire out," he stated.

Industry statistics prove that the application of properly installed, operated and maintained sprinkler systems provide excellent life safety in buildings by addressing the root cause - controlling and extinguishing the fire. As building management teams spread their limited resources in maintaining unnecessary additional systems, there is a real danger that vital focus is shifted from maintaining the integrity of the sprinkler system, which has had a proven track record of saving lives for over 100 years.

"A classic example is the requirement for additional smoke detection, often in unsuitable environments. Smoke detectors are notorious for causing false alarms - a serious issue since false alarms disrupt business activities, so businesses sometimes solve the false alarm problem by shutting off all fire safety systems, which can also include the sprinkler system," he warned. "At Atkins we believe that focussing on reliable suppression systems is the best way to deliver high level life safety standards and cost-effective solutions," added Nielsen.

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