The objective is to reduce to acceptable levels the potential for death or injury to the occupants of a building and others who may become involved, such as the fire and rescue service, as well as to protect contents and ensure that as much as possible of a building can continue to function after a fire. The risk to adjoining properties also needs to be considered, as well as possible environmental pollution.
The main design options for ensuring fire safety are:
- Prevention: Controlling ignition and fuel sources so that fires do not start.
- Communications: If ignition occurs, ensuring occupants are informed and any active fire systems are triggered.
- Escape: Ensuring that occupants of buildings and surrounding areas are able to move to places of safety.
- Containment: Containing fire to the smallest possible area, limiting the amount of property likely to be damaged and the threat to life safety.
- Extinguishment: Ensuring that fire can be extinguished quickly and with minimum consequential damage.
Part B of the building regulations requires the installation of sprinklers under certain circumstances, such as new residential blocks of more than 30m in height and uncompartmented areas of shops or self storage buildings of more than 2000 square metres. They can also be used as a compensatory feature to address a specific fire hazard.
Sprinkler systems distribute water to sprinkler heads which spray water into spaces as required. They are a well-established technology and have demonstrated their reliability and effectiveness in protecting life and property over a long period.
It is thought that the oldest sprinkler system in Britain was fitted in 1812 in the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane. Traditionally, sprinkler systems have been used in commercial and industrial properties, but they are now available for a wide range of applications, including domestic buildings. More than 40 million sprinklers are fitted world-wide each year (Ref British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association).
Individual sprinklers operate when activated by their own heat detector, and then spray water onto the fire. They typically cover an area of 9 sq. m. They can be placed within occupied spaces, or in concealed spaces such as floor ducts to prevent fires from growing unnoticed.
Sprinkler systems can be:
- Wet installations.
- Alternate wet and dry installations.
- Dry installations.
- Tail-end alternate systems.
- Pre-action installations.
- Deluge installations.
- System zones.
Sprinklers themselves can be:
- Conventional and spray type sprinklers.
- Ceiling, recessed and concealed type sprinklers.
- Side wall type sprinklers.
- Early Suppression Fast Response (ESFR) sprinklers.
- Enhanced Protection Extended Coverage (EPEC) sprinklers.
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