Going beyond the Minimum – Fire Safety Standards

Brian Stevens at Evaclite outlines current thinking within the industry and how specifiers have new innovations in their toolbox that can ensure compliance…and beyond.

It is possible to design a building to comply with the standard codes of practice, as set out in Approved Document B (ADB) of the Building Regulations and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (or RRO)

But while the regulations provide a minimum standard of fire safety, for many building owners it is not simply about complying with the regulations.

Approved Document B has recently been updated to restrict the use of desktop studies or assessments in lieu of testing. This approach has been commonly used and is where previous test data is used to suggest how a system or materials will perform in the event of a fire. However, in reality, it is often impossible to accurately predict how it will react in practice as even small changes to the design or build up can significantly affect its fire performance. Similarly, what other systems and procedures that are accepted as the norm should we now be looking at?

Historical events have highlighted the need to not only ensure compliance with the regulations but have also opened up discussions on whether compliance with the minimum provides a solution for all?

An example of this is The King’s Cross Underground Fire on November 18th,1987. Most of the people that died, did so because they took the wrong route out of the station, they took an evacuation route that leads them into the path of the fire. Thirty two years on and now in the 21st century, with new technologies in adaptable, intelligent emergency exit signage, is it still acceptable for instance to be using dumb “standard” exit signs that can potentially lead people towards a hazard?

Is it even possible today to design a building that’s fireproof? Probably not 100%, and if it does burn it’s going to produce smoke, heat and toxic gases. Fire design engineering is also about making sure we can get people out of that structure as quickly and efficiently as possible, eliminating bottlenecks and directing people to the safest exits and avoiding smoke-filled corridors, as set out in BS5266-1 :2016 Annex B. Integration of building systems such as fire detection and emergency lighting can enable quicker, safer and more decisive evacuation.

Fire safety engineering is not just about compliance with a set of prescriptive codes, it is about developing performance-based solutions that are not only safer but can be cost effective without having to implement complicated systems or change the original design and thus satisfying the architect’s aspirations.

While the regulations provide a minimum standard of fire safety, the events of recent years have demonstrated the importance of going beyond the minimum to optimise the safety of building occupants.

The author would like to thank Bijan Fard at Fire Design Solutions and references from the EU Getaway Trial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbVT5OZfMF4

Want to discover why hotels are making the move to dynamic and adaptive signage? 

Download our free eBook: ‘Dynamic Emergency Exit Signage: Why the time is now for the hotel sector’ to discover the wider problems facing hotels and how they deal with some very practical customer experience issues.

Download the eBook

Dynamic and Adaptive Signage: We Make No Secret Of Our Signs

Up until now, fire design engineers and fire risk assessors when specifying some type of “Smart” Emergency Exit signage to stop people entering a building or exit, have had to rely on old tech, essentially what is known as “Secret Signs”.

These are generally big black boxes placed above an exit door with an apparent dark fascia to the front. Once an alarm activation has occurred these boxes light up usually with a worded message such as “Do Not Enter”.

Talking to architects and installers of this type of signage, they all commented that these signs are ugly and bulky and do not blend into the aspirations of the building design. The worded message can also present language barrier issues during an evacuation. Sometimes they must install this type of sign and an emergency exit sign alongside, so essentially two signs.

At Evaclite we make no secret of our emergency exit signs. They are constantly in view, providing a compliant sign at all times. They have the ability to adapt to a given emergency situation and if the exit is no longer viable then a Red Cross will automatically appear across the fire exit sign and flashing Red LEDs attract the eye to the sign’s message. Similarly, if the exit is viable a Green pulsing arrow will appear within the white arrow pictogram of the sign. Being intuitive and with no words, they are easily understood by all languages.

Dynamic and Adaptive Emergency Exit Sign
“being detected twice as fast, and three times faster at decision making.”

So no more big, bulky boxes hanging from your airport concourse or prestigious new apartment building. It’s no secret that architects and installers prefer the Evaclite option. New IP65 signs are now available.

Want to discover why hotels are making the move to dynamic and adaptive signage? 

Download our free eBook: ‘Dynamic Emergency Exit Signage: Why the time is now for the hotel sector’ to discover the wider problems facing hotels and how they deal with some very practical customer experience issues.

Download the eBook