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Property and Business Continuity Protection in the UK
While this is right to say fire control is concerned primarily with life safety, the provision of effective property and business continuity protection measures should not be overlooked. Recent fire statistics from the Association of British Insurers show that business failures following a major fire are worryingly high. So it is clear that fire and the resulting property loss remains a very real threat to business of all shapes and sizes.
This bulletin will summarise and discuss how property and business continuity protection can be achieved in new and existing buildings in the UK by using published guidance documents.
Current Published Guidance Documents
• The Fire Protection Association (FPA) Design Guide for the Fire Protection of Buildings
• Approve Document B – Fire Safety (Volume 2) – Buildings other than dwelling houses Incorporating Insurers’ Requirements for Property Protection
• PD7974-8: Application of fire safety engineering principles, Part 8: Property protection, mission continuity and resilience
The Fire Protection Association (FPA) Design Guide for the Fire Protection of Buildings is one of the most commonly used documents in the industry, in particular by many insurers as a basis for providing guidance to the building designer on what they require. This document outlines comprehensive guidance to allow architects and designers to take account of business risk management issues in relation to the fire protection of buildings. This document contains measures which are applicable to all buildings except residential building under 20m in height (but does include commercial hotel buildings). It is applicable to new buildings and to major refurbishment and upgrading of existing premises.
Based on the FPA guidance, property protection fire safety design is delivered through 12 essential principles which can be achieved either by following the FPA Design guide or by way of fire safety engineering. The 12 essential principles are covered under 5 main headings that include:
Reaction in the event of fire
Principle 1 - The building shall be constructed in such a manner that if a fire starts, the extent of fire and smoke damage will be minimised and confined as close to the source of fire outbreak as is practical/feasible.
Principle 2 - With the exception of joinery products, the building shall be constructed from building materials/products that will not make a significant contribution to the early stages of a fire or contribute to the spread of fire.
Principle 3 - Suitable measures will be taken for the prevention of premature structural collapse and excessive deflection.
Principle 4 - Consideration should be given at the design stage regarding potential damage from firefighting water and to ensure as far as practical that the effect on the environment of the fire effluent will be minimised.
Principle 5 - As a minimum, all fire protection products shall be third party certified to an appropriate product or performance based standard (attestation level 1 for CE marking).
Principle 6 - All fire protection products/systems shall be installed by adequately trained specialist installers.
Response to fire
Principle 7 - The building shall be fitted with an appropriate automatic fire alarm system.
Principle 8 - The fire protection systems shall be regularly maintained so that they are able to perform their intended function throughout the life of the building.
Principle 9 - There shall be adequate provision to prevent an arson attack.
Principle 10 - The building shall be so constructed that fire cannot spread into the premises from an adjoining building or other external fire source.
Fire safety management
Principle 11 - The building owner shall ensure an adequate standard of fire safety management throughout the life of the building.
Principle 12 - Any fuel burning appliance and services or electrical appliance and services shall be designed, constructed and installed in a manner that reduces their potential as an accidental source of ignition.
Following on from the essential principles, is a series of ‘sector specific guides’ which describe in detail how to achieve the principle within particular building types.
While the detailed recommendations of the FPA Design guide are not mandatory, the essential principles shall be regarded as being of vital importance and need to be considered in detail by building designers, fire safety engineers, consultants, occupiers or building owners. It is essential that insurers are consulted at the earliest possible stage of design, so that factors that influence the ability of the building owner to secure insurance at the most attractive terms can be identified.
Approved Document B: Fire Safety (Volume 2) – Buildings other than dwellinghouses Incorporating Insurers’ Requirements for Property Protection uses the text from the original version of ADB as the base, it simply amends or adds the requirements for property protection and business resilience. This provides the design community with a single point of reference in a format with which they are familiar, so as to alert them where and when insurers may look for additional measures. Appendix J has been incorporated in the guidance to provide an alternative set of design targets pertinent to business and property protection for fulfilment through ‘normal’ fire engineering design methods.
A new draft PD7974-8: Application of fire safety engineering principles has now been issued to provide guidance on fire safety engineering techniques to support property and business protection objectives. It also considers business impact analysis (BIA) and fire protection tactics for improving resilience. BIAs are presented in numerous ways, tailored to the individual organization, or their insurer’s requirements, or to a preferred format developed by their specialist consultant.
Roles of Fire Safety Professionals
Cost is a key consideration in these difficult economic times. Many building owners perceive that implementing property protection measures for uncertain events which may never happen is simply costing the business and loss prevention measures can be seen as a luxury, not a necessity. On this ground, it is a common tale that fire safety professionals normally become involved too late in projects, usually when physical contingencies are deemed too costly and after fire risk and loss prevention considerations have been addressed.
Lawrence Webster Forrest as specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultants can assist clients by providing early consideration of resilience, loss prevention and contingencies, in new builds or existing sites. We help to mitigate risk and integrate resilience into physical assets by ensuring the clients meet the design principles outlined in the published guidance. Our services include:
• Undertaking detailed risk assessments and site surveys in order to identify/quantify significant fire hazards, ignition sources, fire loads, sources of oxygen and property risks.
• Evaluating fire safety provisions and findings of the risk assessment to identify practical options for improving the fire protection strategy for the premises.
• Undertaking Qualitative Design Review (QDR), involving relevant stakeholders, to further evaluate the improvement options proposed and establish objectives and criteria for quantitative assessment.
• Producing Evaluation / QDR report on outcomes of options evaluation and QDR process.
• Appraising the proposed improvement options against their relative ability to reduce the impact of a fire on the client's business operation.
Whilst the safety of occupants is paramount, the principal objective of the fire safety design should be to minimize the effect that fire would have on contents and buildings. The property protection issues should be identified at the early stage of projects in order that the potential for property and business loss is assessed and risks are understood. To ensure appropriate loss prevention measures are implemented it is imperative that full consultation between all interested parties is carried out, particular between insurers, owners and their managers and other stakeholders.
This bulletin was written by Ken Seow MSc Fire Engineer
Should you wish to receive any further information on LWF and the services we provide please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 8663.