Fire protection is the study and practice of mitigating the unwanted effects of potentially destructive fires. It is also the research and development, production, testing, and application of systems that detect fires and mitigate their impact. Fire safety is a fundamental element in all facilities, whether they be offices, hospitals, warehouses, manufacturing plants, or educational institutions.
In addition to the human cost of a fire, a fire can have devastating financial impacts on companies. The loss of equipment, the costs of relocating operations, and the lost productivity due to a fire could result in millions of dollars in losses. Choosing the right fire safety plan for your facility is crucial, and making sure that equipment gets the required annual inspections and tests to keep them functioning properly are just as important.
Whether your facility uses passive or active fire protection, a plan to reduce the risk of a fire occurring will save money in the long run. Passive systems include fire retardant materials that are used during construction of the building to help prevent the spread of smoke and flames. This includes things like cinder block walls, fire-rated doors, and fire-resistant glass partitions. Fire curtains can combine passive and active systems, as they deploy only after a fire is detected.
An active system is one that requires some type of action or response in order to achieve its life safety objective, which may be detecting the fire, notifying occupants and the fire department, managing smoke, or controlling/suppressing the fire. This is done by emitting a controlled and concentrated substance to extinguish the fire, which can vary depending on the environment the system is protecting.
For example, in an office building, sprinklers are designed to suppress fire by dousing the area with water, which helps limit the spread of flames and smoke. The resulting cooling effect can also help protect against structural damage from the heat of a fire.
There are going to be maintenance requirements associated with any fire protection system, no matter which type is chosen. These are largely driven by local laws and NFPA regulations, and will include scheduled inspections of the equipment as well as regular test results to make sure that everything is functioning as it should.
In addition, there is likely to be training involved as well. It is important that anyone who will be involved in the operation and maintenance of your new passive or active systems be adequately trained to ensure that they understand how to handle the system in an emergency situation, what to do when a fire occurs, and when it is safe to re-enter the facility. New standard operating procedures and guidelines should be drafted to reflect the capabilities of your fire protection system, and these should be reviewed and revised as necessary during a project. This will also help ensure that any changes are documented and kept up to date. This information can be very useful in demonstrating compliance to local and national fire codes and NFPA regulations.