Changes to the Building Regulations

They’ve gone and reduced the impact of various local acts on the national Building Regs.   Technical guidance in Approved Document B, which covers fire safety, has been amended as part of these changes.   There’s a discussion of the changes here.

This is all about the governments efforts to reduce the burden of “red tape” (i.e. bureaucracy) on companies.  Can’t be bad!

Painting over strips in fire doors

There’s a good discussion of fire door maintenance at this site.  Paint will not stop an intumescent strip from actuating. Paint will, however, harden smoke seals and make them ineffective.  Best advice, not expecting the decorator to understand the difference, is to tell the man with the paint-brush to stay clear of the strips.

A painted intumescent strip is not unacceptable.  A painted smoke seal would need to be replaced though, as there is a risk of smoke spread past the door if a fire occurs.

Sprinklers Save the Day.

Sprinkler saves Veolia recycling centre in Oswestry

A sprinkler system at a recycling plant  saved it from being destroyed by fire.  The blaze broke out at the Veolia recycling centre at Mile Oak Industrial Estate, Oswestry.

A sprinkler system at a recycling plant saved it from being destroyed by fire. The blaze broke out at the Veolia recycling centre at Mile Oak Industrial Estate, Oswestry.   Fire crews were called at about 6.30pm, but within minutes the sprinkler system triggered and prevented the fire from taking hold.   John Griffiths, for Shropshire Fire and Rescue, said: “Fortunately Veolia have a sprinkler and it stopped the fire. It was a godsend. Without it we would have been here a long time.”

 The Manager at Veolia said the system was fitted when the centre opened in 2009.   “To replace that building would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds.”  Fire crews from Oswestry, Ellesmere and Shrewsbury ventilated the building and damped down the fire with the help of Veolia staff.

The cause of the fire is not yet known but is not thought to be suspicious.


A Fire where the Guy Does It right.

Man Learns The Importance Of Fire Safety

By Nicole WintersPublished: April 30, 2012, 5:03 PM

SIOUX FALLS, SD -Would you know how to use a fire extinguisher if you needed to? A Sioux Falls man picked one up for the first time when he woke up to find his bathroom on fire early Monday morning.Powdery residue sits on just about every surface of Ryan Combellick’s apartment, a reminder of his fast actions early in the morning.

“I woke up just to a loud bang; that something exploded,” Combellick said.

That loud bang was a butane lighter.  The noise came from the bathroom, just feet from where he was sleeping. A candle, which he thought he put out, had started some towels on fire and spread to a cabinet.

“I just ran and grabbed the phone, I was dialing 911 and grabbed the fire extinguisher,” Combellick said.

He hit the fire alarm, woke up his neighbors and used the extinguisher to fight the small fire.  It’s a tool firefighter Shawn Greer says should be in every home because as Combellick learned, a fire can spark anytime, anywhere and smoke can build quickly.

“We use the term PASS.  Pull the pin, aim it towards the fire, squeeze the handle and sweep it to where it’s actually burning at,” Greer said.

To put the fire out, you should sweep back and forth at the base of the fire, but only if it’s small.  If it is large, get out of the house.

“If it’s smaller than a waste paper basket, use your extinguisher to put it out.  Otherwise, an extinguisher should be used just to buy you time to be able to get yourself or others out,” Greer said.

In this case, everyone made it out of the building safely.  And despite the mess, Combellick knows things could have been much worse and cleaning up is nothing compared to the loss of a life.

“Know where the fire extinguisher is, the fire alarm,” Combellick said.

Combellick was treated for minor smoke inhalation.

The fire department says to use caution when putting out fires and always call 911 first. If you’re unsure about using an extinguisher, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue holds trainings every Thursday. Call the headquarters at 605-367-8092 for more information.


More about Fire Risk Assessments

So there we are, walking round the building being assessed.   The boiler room has a good fire door on it, but there’s no way the wall is fire resisting.  Contractors have bashed out a hole to pass a plastic pipe through.   Fire can pass through the gap.  Fire can burn away the pipe.  We need a thing called an intumescent collar here with a fire-stopping in-fill around the collar where it passes through the wall, all to maintain the fire resistance.

It is rather unusual these days to come across an extinguisher that still complies with old British Standard as opposed to the more modern European standards.   All extinguishers should be red-bodied with a little indicator sign displayed just above to show the type of fire the extinguisher is suitable for.

Storage up against cylinders and close to the electrical intake makes for a severe hazard, particularly to fire-fighters, if a fire occurs.   Get it shifted!

External stairway with a grating to walk on.  Suitable for hgih heels?  Not really.  Staff ahve to be made aware of this hazard so they don’t end up falling because of a shoe heel jammed in the grating.

To repeat – lots of different problems arise during the survey of a building, and the Fire Risk Assessor definitely needs his wits about him.

Assessing Fire Risk

Part of any Fire Risk Assessment survey involves a look around the building.   You try to think of 20 different things at once and look out for any deficiencies.  This picture shows a residual current device.  If you are in a licensed premises (or any premises where entertainment is provided) one of these devices should protect any socket that may be used to supply power to the performer’s equipment.   The device drops out the power as soon as there is a leak to earth that is more than 20 milliamps.  This being insufficient to dispatch a person, it ensures the use of the entertainer’s equipment remains safe even if there is a fault.

Hooks on fire doors!  The Fire Officer’s nightmare.   Self-closing fire doors can only be held open by devices designed to release the doors if there is smoke in the vicinity; and only then if smoke detection is installed on either side of the door to trigger the release .    Otherwise they must be removed forthwith.

Lookee here now. I wouldn’t want to trip on this stairway, it looks a long way down.   Isn’t it obvious that a handrail is needed?  Otherwise the means of escape isn’t safe to use.

And here, it’s unwanted mail and newspapers stuffed in around the gas meter right by the front door.  Could it be a problem if the papaer gets ignited?  You can bet your life it would be a problem!  Similarly, rubbish in the meter cupboard needs clearing out to avoid a fire hazard, again in this case in the entrance hall.

You can see that there’s lots to address whilst carrying out the Fire Risk Assessment survey.   You look at the macro – alternative exit routes, provision of a fire alarm, enough extinguishers etc. – and the micro, those insidious causes of ignition or fire spread that can put people at real risk.   There’s a lot to it when you start to think about it, you have to admit.





Cylinders in Fires.

Compressed gas cylinders pose serious hazards if involved in fire.

Liquified petroleum gases behave differently to compressed gases, in that because the contents are a pressurised liquid, the liquid will boil and over-pressurise the cylinder.  The cylinder fails with a violent explosion, but that’s not the end of it.   The gas expands, cools and becomes a liquid, burning because it’s close to a fire.  This burning liquid forms a fire-ball that affects a wide area around the fire.    So storage in a building, among other stored combustibles is definitely not advisable.  Anyone in the building and particularly fire-fighters can be exposed to a high risk if the stored materials are ignited.

Oxygen and other compress gas cylinders are dangerous because of the sheer energy stored.   Acetylene is unpredicatble, and that’s why the Fire Brigade start evacuating the local area if acetylene cylinders are over-heated.   These cylinders have to be kept cool for more than 12 hours before they are adjudged safe to remove.   We will ceretainly comment on the storage or use of any compress gas cylinders in a premises where a Fire Risk Assessment is carried out.

Rubbish – Problems? Rubbish!

Rubbish in the meter cupboard can accumulate, right next to a possible source of igntion – the electrical equipment - and create a fire hazard next to the front door, blocking what may be the only way out of the building.

It might not look too bad now, but why wait until it gets so bad that the litter could be involved in a serious fire?   The litter needs clearing out on a regular basis.

What’s an old fridge/freezer doing in the corridor?   Fire here stops everyone in the building getting out.   Get rid!  Keep the escape routes clear.

What’s this bike doing in the corridor?   I ask you!   Actually, is it a fire hazard?  No.   Is it an obstruction if there’s a fire evacuation?  No.  So it’s all right where it is then.

Unwanted mail can add up to a hazard in the entrance hall of a residential property.   There should be a routine for removal of old mail at regular intervals.