The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Fixed Fire-fighting Systems – Part 2

April 6, 2017 10:48 am

In this blog series for those who work in Facilities Management and who have a responsibility for Fire Safety, we have been looking at the nature of fixed fire-fighting systems. In Part 1, we broke down the different types of water-based fixed extinguishing systems. In Part 2, we’re going to look at the types of non-aqueous fixed extinguishing systems before discussing Automatic Sprinkler Systems.


With gaseous fixed extinguishing systems, gases are used in place of water extinguishing for either local application for in cases requiring total flooding. Where they are used for local application, they can provide protection of an localised area with a Class A or Class B risk, within a larger volume.


When a gaseous fixed extinguishing system is used for total flooding, its purpose is to protect against Class A or Class B fires throughout the entire area of a protected space.


A powder fixed extinguishing system can also be used in a localised or total flooding way. When used locally, it can protect for Class B fires in a local area, and for total flooding, it can protect against class B fires throughout the entire protected space, although these are not commonly used.


The kind of system in use will depend entirely on the requirements of the building and if one of these is already in place within a building, familiarisation with the purpose is necessary for fire safety purposes.


Turning now to Automatic Sprinkler Systems, they are one of the most commonly used and most valuable fixed firefighting systems. Typically they are used in cases where general protection is required throughout a premises and are often installed into industrial and commercial buildings, such as those which operate as offices, factories and warehousing.


While such a system is designed to detect and control a fire, subduing it until the Fire Service can attend to extinguish the fire, it is often the case that the system can entirely extinguish a fire. However, the Fire Service should be called in all cases of fire and under no circumstances should a sprinkler system be relied upon as a total solution.


While in the UK, sprinkler systems are mostly used where their purpose is to protect property and there is minimal risk to life, across the world sprinkler systems are being used more often in buildings where there is a substantial risk to life in order to minimise that risk. It is undoubtedly the case that the inclusion of an effective sprinkler system certainly does not cause additional risk to life and in many cases, has been a substantial advantage. One such successful application is in shopping centres, where sprinkler systems are used to minimise the effect of a fire, reducing smoke production and therefore, making it more manageable for the smoke control systems in place to maintain breathable air while an evacuation proceeds.


In part 3 of this series, we will look at requirements for sprinkler systems. 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 0208 668 8663.


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.


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