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Whenever there’s a building fire there are a number of safety systems that are not only expected to be in place but are taken for granted that they will be. Fire alarms, sprinkler systems and fire extinguishers are all expected to be readily available.
But while these systems are indeed hugely significant in controlling the spread of a fire, they do very little to combat the number one cause of death in a building fire – smoke.
Death from smoke inhalation can occur in minutes so it is absolutely vital that smoke control systems are made just as much of a priority as other fire safety systems. Unfortunately there seems to be a lack of knowledge with regards to smoke control and worryingly, this lack of knowledge often extends to the individuals responsible for fire safety such as building owners, maintenance managers and FM contractors – even though, under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), they are the ones likely to be held accountable in the event of a fire.
Introduced in October 2006 the RRO states that responsibility for ensuring fire safety legislative compliance now rests solely with an assigned individual who is legally required to carry out risk assessments enabling them to identify, manage and reduce the risk of fire. If you’re the building owner, maintenance manager or FM manager this person most likely means you.
This ‘responsible’ person (as referred to in the legislation) has ultimate responsibility for the safety of people who use the building as well as for asset protection. The importance of this order should not be underestimated as disregard for the RRO has led to fines of up to £240,000 and even the prosecution of the individuals responsible.
To help ensure that this individual is fully aware of their responsibilities it is advisable that they are supported by a specialist contractor that has been registered and certified under the FIRAS scheme.
The FIRAS certification scheme makes it much easier to establish who the fire safety experts are, and by taking a proactive approach to reviewing the competency of these individuals, ensures they have the experience, expertise and knowledge necessary to provide advice and support on the installation and maintenance of fire safety systems.
It is important not to over look the risks inherent in improper maintenance or a lack of maintenance altogether. For example, in buildings that are dependent on aged or outdated systems, it may prove difficult (if not impossible) to find replacement components if they haven’t already been upgraded since installation.
As with any electrical or mechanical system, smoke control equipment and components require regular preventative maintenance to ensure optimum efficiency and successful operation with other fire safety features. This preventative maintenance of smoke control systems is especially necessary in structures where there are a high number of people at any given time, such as shopping centres, high-rise offices, residential apartment buildings and schools.
Of course, these issues can be remedied with regular, on-going preventative maintenance procedures set in place by a specialist contractor with the necessary expertise and experience, as well as the introduction of, and compliance with, minimum industry standards and Government Legislation.
Brakel Airvent offers whole-life support for all smoke control systems including a range of service, repair, refurbishment and upgrade / replacement packages and emergency call-out response.
FIRAS accredited, Brakel Airvent comprehensive maintenance packages and remedial solutions can contribute to energy cost reductions as well as supporting building owners and their nominated responsible people, with their obligations and duty of care in relation to legislative compliance and life safety.