The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises – Fire Detection & Suppression – Part 51

September 6, 2021 11:58 am

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals, our aim is to give information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 50 of Fire Engineering for Healthcare Premises, LWF considered sprinklers and other common types of system that can be used to suppress fire. In part 51, we will discuss Fire Service intervention.

It is important that the fire safety design of a healthcare building allows for a safe evacuation of occupants without Fire Service intervention. Rescue by firefighters is a last resort in an emergency situation and cannot be seen as an accepted part of the building evacuation.

The Fire Service will, however, ensure that all occupants have reached a place of safety before they make their main push against the fire itself.

There are three elements which will affect the time taken before the Fire Service are able to begin to control and extinguish a fire. The first is the time taken to notify them; the second is how long it takes to get to the fire from the station, assuming they are there; the third is the time taken to assemble the equipment and resources.

When the time for the Fire Service activity is added to the overall time-line for a fire scenario, the fire size (heat release rate) can be calculated for when the fire-fighting activity begins. This calculation will give an indication of the fire-fighting resources needed and a means of examining the effect of different fire protection measures on the conditions the firefighters will encounter – for example, different fire safety systems.

It is difficult to establish time taken for the Fire Service actions and there are no relevant calculations to assist in quantifying. It will be necessary to undertake qualitative judgement in consultation with the Fire Service when planning.

One factor that must be taken into account is the time taken for the Fire Service to begin effective firefighting activity depends upon ease of access to the site of the fire. Space outside the building for the deployment of appliances and equipment is necessary. The design of some healthcare buildings, if they are high-rise or have deep basements, may make it necessary to provide protected routes including fire-fighting shafts, lifts and corridors. Firefighters can then move through relatively safe conditions until they reach the fire site.

Positive-pressure ventilation may be used to ensure a smoke-free route for firefighters, however, this can have the significant drawback of smoke-logging other areas of the building. Where progressive horizontal evacuation is practised, such systems would require very careful planning in particular.

In Part 52 of LWF’s blog series, LWF will discuss the human factors influencing fire safety design. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact LWF on freephone 0800 410 1130.

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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