Fire safety involves careful engineering which requires accuracy and scientific study. Like in other engineering disciplines, this is aided with experience and careful and skillful judgment. Engineering involves the need to evaluate fire hazards and risks and to offer fire safety strategies and designs based on performance.
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This essay will provide a fire safety report analysis on the proposed conversion of the fire laboratory into a lecture theatre. The report will cover several aspects of fire prevention such as the materials used in furnishings and structures and their susceptibility to different types of fires, disposal and handling of dangerous substances that can cause a fire in the premises, and many other aspects of fire safety.
We will consider various aspects of fire prevention and risk management. Most specifically, this report will be based on compliance with the provisions of Building Regulations 2000 (Health and Safety Executive, 2009).
The fire laboratory situated on the first floor of the building has some features which can be considered fire hazards, a violation of the Building Regulations 2000, and should therefore be correct.
Conversion of this first floor will involve some aspects of engineering. However, the fire safety strategy will require changes in the exits and routes, accesses for people, and fire services personnel, including fire safety equipment, utilities, and other warnings and devices. This will be covered as the report progresses.
The provisions of Building Regulations 2000 which should be a part of the Fire Strategy Report include the “Means of Warning and Escape” (B1), the “Internal Fire Spread Linings” (B2), the “Internal Fire Spread Structure” (B3), the External Fire Spread (B4), and the “Access and Facilities for the Fire Services” (B5). These five chapters will form the basis for this Report.
Means of Warning and Escape (B1)
Appropriate measures should be provided to install a warning system for students and other people in the proposed lecture theatre. Fire detection alarms are a necessity in buildings and structures to warn occupants of an existing fire. A computerized fire-detection alarm applies to this type of premises. This type is applied with the necessary IT tool or software which can aid the engineer or designer in planning the fire-safety measures in the building. (Christian, 2003, p. 4)
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A licensed electronic engineer should be hired to install the alarm. Another important fixture that should be installed is the smoke detector. It will increase the fire-detection methods of the building. Some types include the addressable fire alarm system, which can be automatic or manual. The photoelectric smoke detector is composed of a sensitive electronic circuit that provides an alarm in case smoke is detected. Photoelectric detectors can be installed in high-ceiling areas and spaces with medium to high-velocity airflow at the ceiling level. (Moore, 2003, p. 37)
The air-sampling detection system uses a sophisticated laser beam-based photoelectric smoke detector. Warning and protective devices should be added in air-conditioning units which are sensitive to fire. (Craighead, 2009, p. 11)
The means of escape should be provided on the east and west portions of the first floor. The floor plan is not quite clear. Exits should be clear in these directions. It is understood that this lecture theatre will be filled in by many people, including students, guests, and faculty. At one time, there may be more than the usual population in the building. A scenario that may occur is that a fire can originate from the ground floor; thus fire escapes should be provided on the north and south portions of the first floor, i.e. in addition to the normal exit routes on the east and west parts of the building.
Exits have to be wide enough to accommodate many people. The number of routes should be sufficient to avoid overcrowding. These routes must be fire-proof, with enough lighting, adequate signs, and provided with protection facilities such as smoke masks and other protection paraphernalia. (Diamantes, 2005, p. 13)
Internal Fire Spread Linings (B2)
The internal fire spread linings pertain to the materials used inside the building and their resistance or susceptibility to fire. The floor plan should be provided with materials that can withstand heat. It is not clear here whether the linings and other materials are strong enough to withstand heat. There are partitions in the proposed lecture theatre that should have internal linings that can withstand heat. We have to presume here that during the outbreak of fire, there will be many people inside the first floor where the lecture theatre is situated. And assuming that the origin of the fire is inside one of these partitions, the strength of the internal linings to withstand heat can save many lives.
Internal Fire Spread Structure (B3)
This provision states that the building should have adequate stability to withstand the fire. The first floor which will be a lecture theatre has several partitions, as stated earlier. There should be wall structures to separate the lecture theatre from the other partitions. Some other partitions on the sides might provide room for offices or restrooms. The structures, as provided by B3 of the Building Regulations, should be able to provide division or strength so that fire cannot spread so easily. The provision is explicit when it says that the construction should be fire-resistant.
While there are doors that allow people to go in and out, these doors should not be sliding doors.
The External Fire Spread (B4)
This provision concerns the external walls of the first floor of the university building so that fire will not easily spread. The walls should be strong enough so that they can resist fire. The roof also should not allow the risk of spreading the fire so easily.
We can read from the plan that there is enough partition and distance from the structures. However, these should be further strengthened, and the thickness should be within 1000 mm or more. Fire will not easily spread from the external structures.
Access and Facilities of the Fire Services (B5)
The provisions state that the building should have adequate access for fire personnel including their equipment and other facilities to allow and assist them to fight a fire. There should also be enough ventilation so that smoke and heat shall not easily spread. Firefighting facilities can be situated near the stairs or access from the ground floor to the first floor.
Our analysis from the first plan is that these are not clearly provided. The exits and entrances are not sufficient for fire personnel to have easy access in the event of a fire. Modifications are necessary to effect the changes as required by the Building Regulations.
Areas in the floor plan marked “X” are routes going to the first floor. These are the only exit routes that are not sufficient in the event of a fire. The area marked X1 is not sufficient, so another access going up must be added, and this is the area marked X1F. Other stairs going up should be added on the right side, and this is the area marked X2F. X3 and X4 are sufficient for fire exits. X1F and X2F can be used as spaces for fire-fighting facilities and equipment. Fire personnel can use this in the event of a fire.
Sprinklers must be provided over the entire first floor where the lecture theatre will be located. Fire extinguishers will be stored within this area and the different corners of the lecture theatre. Installing an automatic sprinkler system for life safety and protection is a must. This should also be maintained and ready to discharge water in the event of a fire. (Leber, 2003, p. 43)
Sprinklers can help in the control of fire. The absence of sprinklers is tantamount to violating the Building Regulations 2000. It is presumed that there is an existing sprinkler system in this area; if there is none, it is paramount that the project manager should have it installed. If there is an existing sprinkler system, an upgrade and maintenance are necessary.
Other fire fighting access and facilities should be installed with fire alarms, fire extinguishers, and other firefighting equipment. Electronic alarms and circuit breakers should be installed on the different areas of the first floor.
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The presence of firefighting equipment at the areas of the stairs (left and right) and even at the centre of the ground floor will provide security in the event of a fire. These are recommended areas.
Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (The National Archives, 2005)
A key legal requirement for fire safety strategy is compliance to Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, including the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR) and the Explosives Atmosphere directives (ATEX 139), for the proper disposition and handling of explosives and hazardous substances in premises such as a school building.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 encompasses fire safety methods and prevention which are applicable for England and Wales. This law covers many aspects of fire prevention and places a lot of responsibility on the part of the owners of a building.
Under the 2005 Order, the owner or employer acts as the ‘responsible person’ who is entrusted to prevent the risks of fire in his/her business premises, the area of responsibility, and must do everything in his/her power to conduct the necessary risk assessment. The provisions of the 2005 Order are clear about the different circumstances when the fire can occur. Risks of fire can be minimized by following the law. The responsible person must ensure that structures are constructed and maintained within guidelines prescribed by law. Fire prevention is safety itself, and this may correlate or link with the use of the right materials prescribed by the 2005 Order to ensure the safety of the persons on the premises. (The National Archives, 2005)
Another part of this report should deal with risk which is about fire prevention. Risk management means early identification of the threat of risks in the premises and find out the proper solution to the identified risks. This is known as the risk management process. It is one of the most important tasks for any company, business, or organization. Without the implementation of an effective risk management plan, the chances of failure of business are increased. Risk management planning is not only important for the success and stability of the business operation but also is instrumental for the security and safety of the employees working in a company or organization.
The term risk means deviating from the normal course of a particular structure, activity, or establishment, which means it is probable that something could happen and this is within a range, which is from zero to a hundred percent probability. In other words, it could happen but it’s not a hundred percent certain.
There are some lapses in the conversion of the fire laboratory to a lecture theatre. The provisions of the Building Regulations 2000 are not properly implemented. This should be considered and incorporated in the planning process to concentrate on the fire safety strategy, to avoid a risk of fire or accident. This may not however involve major changes in the planning, but some modifications can be instituted. The capacity of the first floor should also be clearly stated according to the original plan of the building.
Principal factors to be considered in the planning are the provision of adequate exit routes, the installation of heat-resistant materials and structures, and the installation of fire-fighting facilities and equipment.
Christian, S., 2003. A guide to fire safety engineering. Essex: British Standards Edition.
Craighead, G., 2009. High-rise security and fire life safety (third edition). New York: Elsevier Inc.
Diamantes, D., 2005.Principles of fire prevention. New York: Thomson Learning.
Health and Safety Executive, 2009. The Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002. Web.
Leber, F., 2003. Fire alarm system interfaces. In A. Cote, Ed., Operation Fire Protection Systems. Massachusetts: National Fire Protection Association, Inc.
Moore, W., 2003. Fire alarm systems. In A. Cote, Ed., Operation of Fire Protection Systems. Ed. Massachusetts: National Fire Protection Association, Inc.
The National Archives, 2005. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Legislation.gov.uk. Web.