The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Fire & Environmental Protection – Part 21

May 7, 2019 2:00 pm

In LWF’s blog series for those who work in Facilities Management or who have an interest in or responsibility for fire safety, we have been looking at property protection and how the requirements of insurance companies affected the ways we look to protect our businesses. In part 20, business continuity protection and contingency plans were discussed and in part 21, we talk about our responsibility to consider the environment in a fire situation.


Environmental protection is a term that is touching all areas of our lives. From low and no emission cars, through packaging and recycling, to sustainable resources, there are few arenas in which the environment isn’t a consideration. An incidence of fire can have a potentially damaging impact on the environment and it seems likely that more attention will be given to ways to limit or eradicate the negative effects of fire in the future.


The method used to put out fires, in the main, is substantial quantities of water, which in turn leads to water run off finding its way into our waterways. In cases where the fire involves harmful materials, chemicals etc., the potential for undesirable materials in the waterways is substantial.


Some businesses and organisations will present an obvious high risk factor. If they handle radioactive materials, for example, the release of affected hose water into the waterways could cause widespread and long-term harm.


Other organisations may not present such an obviously dangerous source of damaging materials, but environmentally-harmful materials can be found in the supplies used for building construction, such as asbestos cement roofs.


Even without potentially damaging chemicals finding their way into the run-off water from a firefighting operation, it can be argued that large fires are damaging to the environment. There has been an acceptance of some buildings being considered ‘sacrificial’. In other words, that something like a large unsprinklered warehouse should simply be allowed to burn down without attempts to prevent a fire occurring.


To the owner, the cost involved in fitting out a warehouse with expensive fire protection and prevention equipment may not balance well when other warehousing could be found relatively cheaply and the risk to life is minimal to none. In other words, the case for protecting the warehouse would not fit with the consequential loss plan of the business. It is also sometimes argued that the risk to firefighters can be avoided by allowing a building to burn down after it has been evacuated safely.


With the impact on the environment remaining in such cases, and the increased attention to ways to protect it becoming ever more at the forefront, it may be that there will be an onus on business-owners to protect buildings from fire, even when there is no commercial or life safety case for them doing so.


Next week’s blog will be on the subject of community fire safety. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0800 410 1130.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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