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Last edited 08 Feb 2021
Fire protection engineering
Fire engineering makes use of engineering principles to safeguard individuals, property and the environment from the destructive damage that can be caused by fire. This is achieved through the application of established rules together with an in-depth knowledge of the phenomena and effects of fire and the reaction and behaviour of people to fire.
Fire engineering covers a broad range of topics, and can encompass the following:
- Science: Ignition of fuel/air mixtures, chemistry of reactions, inhibition of combustion and toxicity, and so on.
- Technology: Use of electricity in flammable atmospheres, structural fire protection, fire detection and alarm systems design, sprinklers and other automatic fire fighting systems, and so on.
- Psychology and physiology: Emergency behaviour patterns, design of escape routes, and so on.
- Law: Drafting, implementation and enforcement of fire safety legislation, litigation arising from fires, and so on.
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 provides the minimum fire safety standards for non-domestic premises. The Order designates a person, usually the employer or the owner as the 'Responsible Person'. They are required to carry out certain fire safety duties, including ensuring that general fire precautions are satisfactory and conducting a fire risk assessment. If more than five persons are employed it has to be a written assessment. The Responsible Persons can have competent persons assisting them to perform their legal duties. See The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 for more information.
The Department of Communities and Local Government has produced a series of eleven guidance documents which provide advice on most types of premises where the duty to undertake a fire safety risk assessment under the Order applies.
In addition, The Building Regulations Part B: Fire Safety, addresses all precautionary measures necessary to provide safety from fires for building occupants, persons in the vicinity of buildings, and firefighters. Requirements cover; means of escape, fire detection and warning systems, the fire resistance of structural elements, fire separation, protection, compartmentation and isolation to prevent fire spread, control of flammable materials, and access and facilities for firefighting.
- Approved Document B - Fire Safety: Volume 1 - Dwellinghouses.
- Approved Document B - Fire Safety: Volume 2: Buildings other than dwellinghouses.
- The nature, characteristics and mechanisms of fire including how it begins, spreads and can be controlled.
- How fires can be detected, managed and extinguished.
- The probable behaviour of structures, materials, machines, apparatus, and processes in relation to the protection of life, property and the environment from fire.
- The interaction and integration of fire safety systems and other systems in buildings, industrial structures and similar facilities.
The role of a fire engineer might include:
- Risk assessments to identify potential hazards, risks of fire and its effects.
- Minimising potential fire damage by effective design, layout and construction.
- Effective evaluation for the optimum preventive and protective measures necessary to limit the consequences of fire.
- The design, installation, maintenance and development of fire detection, fire suppression and fire control systems, along with fire-related communication systems and equipment.
- The direction and control of relevant equipment and people in the fire fighting and rescue operations strategies.
- Detailed post-fire investigation and analysis, evaluation and feedback.
The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) is the professional body that represent fire engineers. The IFE registers suitably qualified IFE members as Chartered Engineers, Incorporated Engineers and Engineering Technicians. It is possible to find suitably qualified members though the IFE website.
NB Setting the bar. A new competence regime for building a safer future. The Final Report of the Competence Steering Group for Building a Safer Future, published in October 2020, defines fire engineering as: ‘… the application of scientific and engineering principles, rules [codes], and expert judgment, based on an understanding of the phenomena and effects of fire and of the reaction and behaviour of people to fire, to protect people, property and the environment from the destructive effects of fire.’
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Automatic fire detection and alarm systems, an introductory guide to components and systems BR 510.
- Cavity barrier.
- Evacuating vulnerable and dependent people from buildings in an emergency FB 52.
- External fire spread, Supplementary guidance to BR 187 incorporating probabilistic and time-based approaches.
- Fire and rescue service.
- Fire authority.
- Fire blanket.
- Fire compartment.
- Fire damper.
- Fire detection and alarm system.
- Fire Door Inspection Scheme.
- Fire engineered building.
- Fire marshal.
- Fire risk assessments and historic buildings.
- Fire risk in high-rise and super high-rise buildings DG 533.
- Fire safety design.
- Fire safety engineer.
- Fire safety engineering.
- Installing fire protection to structural steelwork (GG 85).
- Ionisation smoke alarm.
- Improving fire safety design with coupled hybrid modelling
- Intumescent coatings..
- Joint fire code.
- Leading built environment bodies call for sprinklers in all schools.
- Making the case for sprinklers and dispelling myths.
- Means of escape.
- Multi-sensor alarm.
- Optical smoke alarm.
- Passive and reactive fire protection to structural steel (IP 6 12).
- Sacrificial timber.
- Smoke detector.
- The causes of false fire alarms in buildings.
- The cost efficiency of different combinations of fire protection measures.
- The impact of automatic sprinklers on building design.
- The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
- The role of codes, standards and approvals in delivering fire safety.
- Timber framed buildings and fire.
- Visual alarm devices - their effectiveness in warning of fire.
 External references
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