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Fire Safety for Facilities Management Personnel – Smoke Control – Part 256

June 10, 2024 10:36 am

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy whose aim is to give information on best practice in fire safety for facilities management personnel through this blog series. In part 255, LWF talked about Aerosol Systems and Oxygen Reduction Systems. In part 256, we begin to discuss Smoke Control.

Although most people are well-aware of the danger from fire, it is the by-products of fire that are the biggest threat to people inside a building. More people die from the inhalation of smoke and toxic gases than from direct contact with fire.

From this threat arises the need to effectively control smoke from a fire and limit the damage that can be done to people, property and businesses.

The toxic gases produced by a fire include carbon monoxide which, when inhaled, is responsible for the majority of deaths in fire situations. Even when other toxic gases are present, such as hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide is likely to be the main cause of death.

A person breathing in smoke from a fire will suffer from severe respiratory irritation and distress and even in non-lethal concentrations, the carbon monoxide can cause confusion and an inability to concentrate.

Smoke is also significantly dangerous because it causes a loss of visibility. People are sometimes unwilling to move through smoke in a corridor or area unless they can see where they are going. This reticence can cause people to become trapped by fire and, as a result, suffer injury or death. It is not helped by the fact that smoke is an irritant to the eyes, causing tears to clear the eyes which has the opposite effect of causing blurring of vision.

Firefighters facing smoke-filled buildings or areas are in significant danger. Although they are able to use breathing apparatus, poor visibility means they are often unable to see hazards and may find it hard to locate the seat of the fire to begin the process of firefighting. It may also mean they are unable to effectively undertake search and rescue of any persons trapped inside the building.

Smoke and acidic combustion products leave residue on surfaces within the building which need to be cleaned very quickly after the fire is controlled, in order to avoid permanent damage. In the case of buildings of historical and architectural significance, this can be especially important.

The contents of a building, whether it is stock or computers, may be ruined if they are not able to be effectively cleaned after a fire.

In part 257 of this series, LWF will look at the spread of smoke. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your own facilities or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 35 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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