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How to Prevent Fires Spreading

There are three main ingredients that a fire needs to keep it burning, fuel, oxygen and heat. Removing just one of these elements from the equation can stop a fire in its tracks. To do this safely and effectively you need to invest in fire protection.

There are two types of fire protection, active and passive. The initial aim of both is to slow down the speed at which a fire spreads, to protect property and save lives.

What is active fire protection?

Active fire protection comes into play when a fire has already started and involves systems and equipment to detect fires and fight them. Types of active fire protection include fire extinguishers, fire blankets and alarm systems. All of these methods however, require activation or operation, which is why they are considered active.

What is passive fire protection?

Passive fire protection on the other hand involves steps that can be taken to protect against fire before it breaks out. These include the design and structure of a building and how these can slow the spread of fire. The aim of passive fire protection is to keep a fire contained as much as possible, until help arrives to extinguish it.

Design and structure of a building can slow the spread of fire

Dividing up a building into different sections creates barriers that slow the speed at which flames spread. Each section should be sealed with a self-closing fire door that is activated automatically by the fire alarm being triggered. Special door and window frame seals that are activated by heat can help prevent smoke getting through openings, giving more time to people inside a burning building.

Flammables should be stored properly

If you are storing flammable materials on you site, particularly liquids and gases, then these must be kept in suitable containers in a designated safe area. Flammables can cause explosions, which rapidly accelerate the spread of a fire, so it’s important to follow strict guidelines regarding their storage and proper use.

Have the right firefighting equipment on site

It’s always a good idea to have basic equipment such as fire extinguishers on site so that you can stop fires if they are detected early on. Care must be taken however to ensure that the right types of extinguishers are placed in the right areas and that the people using them have the correct knowledge to enable them to operate them safely.

All fire extinguishers should also be maintained on an annual basis to ensure that they are kept in working order, so that they are ready if needed.

Fire alarm systems need to be installed

Of course it goes without saying that in a fire, every second counts. Having an appropriate system to detect and alert you to a fire is essential. As soon as the alarm has been raised, the fire brigade can be notified and the fire can be tackled quickly. Without some form of fire detection system, a fire can rage on uncontained, causing widespread damage to property and potentially put lives at risk.

How effective is your business’s fire protection? For a complete fire risk assessment from our fully qualified and accredited fire specialists call Euro Fire Protection now on: 08000 515 199.

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What is Fire Loading and How Do You Minimise it?

In simple terms fire loading is a measurement used by fire-fighters and other fire safety professionals to determine the potential severity of a fire in a given space. It describes the amount of combustible material in a building or confined space and the amount of heat this can generate. The more flammable materials there are present in a space, the higher the fire load and therefore the faster a fire will spread, increasing the potential impact of the fire.

A bare room with no furnishings or items present and concrete walls will have a fire loading of nearly zero. The problem occurs when people bring combustible materials into a space, as this increases the fire loading. However these materials are often essential for the useful functioning of the building, so you can’t completely eliminate fire loading in a building, although you can take steps to reduce it.

Reducing Fire Loading

Some specific uses of a building may carry a high fire load than others however. For example, art galleries tend to have paints, solvents and wooden picture frames present, so therefore the fire load is higher. Storing combustibles separately, with space left in between is advisable and even though it may not be the most efficient use of space, it can dramatically help limit the spread of fire. Also thinking about the types of materials that you are storing in a building and considering the possibility of moving them elsewhere is a good idea. 

Calculate the Fire Loading of your building

If you want to delve further into the way that fire loading is calculated, this will show you why certain materials contribute more to the fire loading. To calculate the fire loading of a building, multiply the number of flammable materials in a room by the BTUs they generate per pound. You then divide this by the number of square feet in the room to get the fire loading.

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and is a unit of heat equal to the amount of heat required to raise one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit at normal atmospheric pressure. Different materials have different BTU ratings per pound for example burning paper produces 6,500 BTUs/lb whereas burning petrol produces 19,000 BTUs/lb. As you can see, having petrol present in a building will greatly increase the fire load of a building, so if you want to reduce the fire loading of a particular building, it can help to find out the BTU ratings of the materials you have present and take steps to remove or carefully plan their safe storage.

Fire Loading and Flashover

One of the reasons why calculating the amount of heat generated by a particular substance when burning is so important, is that the build-up of heat in a fire can trigger deadly flashovers – that can engulf a room in seconds. Flashover occurs when organic materials are heated and undergo thermal decomposition. They then give off flammable gases which lead to simultaneous ignition of the combustible materials in a room.

Call the Professionals

When dealing with fire safety, it’s important to consult the opinion of a fire protection specialist. If you’d like more information on fire loading and how to reduce it in your premises, please get in touch with us today for our expert fire protection advice.

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