Here at Protek Interiors, we’re increasingly being called to work on projects where problems have been found with the fire protection in place in new-build projects, including schools and hospitals. It’s relatively common to find such flaws in an older building, which may have been constructed before there was a great deal of knowledge of passive fire protection – however it’s more worrying to find these issues in a new-build, and especially so when it’s something like a school or hospital.
Sometimes the issues only come to light when a fire actually breaks out and the systems don’t work as they should – for example, at a school in Knowsley, a fire broke out in a kitchen and spread to an adjoining stairwell, which could have put the lives of pupils and staff at risk. Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the incident made it clear that the fire-proofing measures in the building were not living up to the standards they should be. Because the school was part of a group that were built as part of the same project, all eight schools had to be surveyed. Similar defects were found at each, all of which needed to be put right quickly.
What is passive fire protection?
We talk about passive fire protection a lot here at Protek Interiors. Essentially, it’s fire protection that’s literally built into the fabric of a building. That means it is designed to help stop the spread of a fire if it breaks out, providing more time to get people out and for the fire services to put a fire out safely. It won’t stop a fire from breaking out in the first place, but it will help protect the fabric of a building and the people within it, if one does. You can read more about passive fire protection in a blog post we wrote last month.
What we’re brought in to do
When issues with the passive fire protection in a new build project come to light, we’re often brought in to help put things right. Depending on the building and what we’re engaged to do, this could include us doing things like:
- carrying out surveys to establish the adequacy of passive fire protection measures in a building
- producing reports about the issues and making recommendations about ways in which fire proofing problems could be put right
- carrying out the work to upgrade, improve or repair the passive fire protection systems in a building, so that they meet the required standards to allow for safe evacuation or prevent fire from spreading in the building
- returning regularly to a building to test and re-test the fire protection measures.
The issues we often find
There are some similar issues that crop up over and over again when we carry out work like this, namely:
Problems with fire dampers
Dampers are passive fire protection products that prevent the spread of fire inside ductwork. There can be problems with maintenance and testing of, and access to fire dampers. For example, if they’re built into a wall, this means they can’t be accessed for testing and maintenance.
Issues with fire doors
Fire doors save lives – they are specifically designed to reduce the rate at which fire spreads through a building. However, despite their importance, it’s not unusual to find fire doors that are propped open, meaning they would be prevented from working if a fire broke out.
Obviously, any issues like these have to be put right as quickly as possible, in order to make sure the buildings affected can continue to function as normal. So it can be a stressful and costly endeavour for all those involved, and something which could often have been avoided if only proper attention was paid to fire-proofing at an earlier stage in the building’s construction.
Call Protek Interiors to find out more
If you want to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of having a new build without adequate fire protection in place, why not call us at Protek Interiors? Our expertise in passive fire protection and extensive experience of helping companies to get it right can help make sure you don’t get caught out.