As a commercial building manager or owner, it is integral that you prioritise regulatory compliance and safety. Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations stipulates the need for a detailed plan that...Continue Reading
As a commercial building manager or owner, it is integral that you prioritise regulatory compliance and safety. Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations stipulates the need for a detailed plan that can be acted on in the event of a fire and is unique to the building in question.
If you’re new to all this, you’ll have a lot of questions. What should a fire emergency plan include? Should you get help to ensure that your fire strategy plan is properly compiled? In this article we will provide you with an overview of fire strategy planning.
What is a fire strategy plan?
A Fire Strategy Plan is a document that details all measures taken with fire safety in mind. Means of warning, such as smoke detectors, and means of escape for anyone inside the building are obvious elements. However, a Fire Strategy Plan includes much more than that.
Passive fire protection measures that prevent or slow the spread of fire within a building are also part of the document. So, too, are measures that aid the fire department in its work, including ease of access, fire hydrants, and fire lifts, as well as factors such as sprinkler systems and ventilation systems.
The human element can’t be overlooked. If there is an evacuation, what are the roles and responsibilities of staff? Have you ensured that people know how to operate fire alarms if they haven’t been automatically triggered? Your fire strategy plan must provide a comprehensive overview of what passive systems and active measures will be implemented if a fire breaks out.
Remember, the aim is to have a fully working strategy that could save lives and reduce property damage should there be a fire in your building. It should therefore show what building features serve to achieve these ends, how you have prepared people who are likely to be inside the building and what actions should be taken in an emergency.
The role of building regulations in a fire strategy plan
When it comes to the fire strategy plan, building regulations state that fire safety information must be made available to the people who are responsible for managing any building. The fire strategy document contains all the information needed for informed decision-making and emergency response in the event of a fire. It also details the proactive measures that have been taken to ensure that the building has been fireproofed as far as possible.
Building regulations require professionals to incorporate fire safety into the design and construction of buildings. This includes active measures like fire alarms as well as passive fire protection features like fire doors that aim to contain the spread of fire. Needless to say, any alterations made to the building should not be detrimental to fire safety and will require the Fire Strategy Plan to be revised.
There are many ways to achieve regulatory compliance in building design. The British Standards Institution’s Approved Document B provides an adequate framework for fire safety in simpler, often smaller buildings like low-rise residential housing. In more complex scenarios Document BS9999 allows for compensatory measures when the straightforward application of the standard is not possible. For example, exit distances may be greater than those allowed in Approved Document B. Project-specific fire engineering strategies can be used to achieve compliance by addressing key outcomes. Thus, the criteria set out in building regulations and standards can be achieved in other ways, for example, by using additional safety features like smoke suppression systems.
With the building engineered for fire safety, many components of the fire strategy plan flow from its design, but compliance with building regulations and fire safety standards are only starting points for the Fire Strategy Plan.
What should be included in a fire strategy plan?
Means of warning
This portion of your Fire Safety Plan looks at rapid detection systems such as fire alarms, links to alarm receiving centres, and interfaces with alarms that activate other emergency measures. These could include factors like the control of fire doors and adjustments to the building’s ventilation system to prevent the spread of smoke.
Means of escape
In the event of fire, every person in the building should have an escape route with sufficient capacity, an acceptable travel distance, and a clear exit to a place of safety. In addition, there must be adequate emergency lighting as well as signage to guide people seeking an escape route besides emergency plans showing evacuation routes.
Passive fire protection
Passive fire protection refers to the structural and design elements that help to slow and contain fires. Measures include compartmentation, the use of fire-resistant materials, cavity barriers, fire doors and so on. These measures not only strive to slow the spread of smoke and fire, but also to protect escape routes.
Passive measures do not rely on fire having been detected. They work even when nobody is aware of, or acting on, the presence of a fire. Building design codes rate passive fire protection systems into classes using criteria such as fire resistance in terms of loadbearing capacity over a given timeframe. For example, coating structural steel confers an extended timeframe during which structural integrity is maintained and compartmentation stops the spread of fire for a specific expected period.
Protection against external fire spread
When compiling a fire strategy plan, the possibility of a fire spreading to adjacent buildings must also be considered. This may happen if fires spread to external elements like roofs or building cladding, or even as a result of heat transference.
Fire and rescue services access and facilities
Once again, for a building to achieve regulatory compliance it must be accessible to fire authority vehicles and personnel and that fire hydrants are easily accessible. Regulations should also indicate whether there is a need for rising fire mains, firefighting lifts, and so on.
Fire safety management measures
A plan is only as good as the people who are responsible for carrying it out. So this portion of your strategy looks at evacuation strategies and training for the staff who would oversee the evacuation. These measures would include regular routines for checking fire doors and for the implementation of fire protection maintenance.
Who should compile your fire strategy plan and how often should it be reviewed?
Compiling an effective Fire Strategy Plan requires a great deal of engineering knowledge and expertise. As a building manager, you should not attempt to do it yourself unless you are an accredited fire risk assessor or fire engineer. The former would be adequate when a relatively simple approach has been adopted, but in more complex scenarios, a chartered fire engineer will be required.
Your Fire Strategy Plan must be reviewed at any time when significant changes are made to the building, and routine reviews should occur annually. Even small changes can affect compartmentation, and regulations are updated on an as-needed basis.
CLM Fireproofing is an industry-leading team that consists of not only passive fire protection, firestopping and fire compartmentation contractors, but also design experts, fire safety strategists and project management specialists. We are on hand to advise on all matters related to passive fire protection and regulatory compliance, at varying stages in the design and construction process. Contact our team today to find out more.