The LWF Blog

Facilities Management & Fire Safety – Smoke Control – Part 1

October 5, 2017 1:03 pm

In LWF’s blog series for those who work in Facilities Management and/or who have a working interest in fire safety, we are looking at the necessity for effective smoke control as a part of a building’s fire protection package.


While no person would object to any fire protection or prevention methods, smoke from a fire is often more dangerous than the fire itself to building occupants. Smoke inhalation is the primary cause of death in a fire situation, rather than burns.


Smoke itself is made up of components each of which can be very harmful. Particles of debris can be inhaled and will cause lung irritation, particularly if the substance is toxic. Vapours of liquid formed during the fire can be poisonous when inhaled and toxic gases can also be present, the most common being carbon monoxide, which is deadly.


The presence of smoke can be disorientating. A building occupant may not be able to tell which way they should go to safely leave the premises, due to poor visibility, but additionally, inhalation of the smoke causes further confusion and affects the ability to concentrate. It has been proven that the building occupants may be reluctant to walk through smoke because they cannot see, even when they are aware that is the route that must be taken.


The effects of excess smoke in an area result in a situation where not only is visibility impaired because of the visible smoke, but that the eyes are unable to function due to the irritation of the smoke which causes blurring of vision. This culminates in a situation where people hesitate for too long and become trapped, often resulting in injury or even death.


When the Fire Service arrive, smoke can cause problems for the Fire Fighters too. Although they are equipped with breathing apparatus, smoke reduces visibility to an extent that hazards may be encountered which were unanticipated and can cause injury. The filling of a building with smoke also means that it is considerably more difficult for the source – the fire itself – to be found. This leads to the potential for substantially more fire and water damage to the premises.


Smoke itself can cause damage to the premises. In order to avoid long-lasting damage, all surfaces should be cleaned soon after the fire is controlled to avoid excessive harm, which means that smoke control will be especially important in buildings of historical or architectural importance.


In Part 2 of this series, we will continue discussing the potential for damage caused by smoke before we look at how smoke spreads through a building. 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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