Fire Fighting Equipment and Facilities
Your risk assessment may identify the need for fire fighting equipment such as:
• Portable fire extinguishers
• Fire blankets
• Fire buckets
• Hose reels
• Sprinkler systems
• Watermist systems
• Waterspray systems
• Gaseous fixed fire extinguishing systems
• Foam systems
• Powder systems
• Kitchen fire suppression systems
• Facilities for use by fire fighters including fire mains, fire fighting lifts and fire fighters switches for high voltage illuminated signs
The sections that follow will give more information about this equipment to help provide a basic understanding of its applications and use.
PORTABLE FIRE EXTINGUISHERS
Critical parts of UK fire legislation are the general fire precautions or fire safety measures that the responsible person will need to take to comply with the law.
Key measures of these general fire precautions can, in part, be met by the adequate provision of portable fire extinguishers, the application of a suitable system of maintenance and effective training in their use.
Portable fire extinguishers are able to control or extinguish small fires, preventing them from
developing into big ones before Fire & Rescue Service arrive. Portable fire extinguishers are valuable in the early stages of fire because of their portability, immediate availability and easy use by one person.
People are not expected to deal with a large fire, since extinguishers are essentially first aid fire fighting appliances of a limited capacity. But their ability to help contain the spread of fire may be vital until the Fire & Rescue Service arrive.
The capability to contain and prevent the spread of small fires is an essential tool in meeting general fire precaution measures or fire safety measures required by law. Portable fire extinguishers can reduce the likelihood of the spread of fire on the premises and mitigate the effects of the fire on people, property and the environment.
Fire fighting equipment should be simple to use, essentially, a pull-pin, point and squeeze handle operation. This makes them easy for anyone to use. However, the usefulness of portable fire extinguishers depends on people knowing how to use them. All modern extinguishers have clear instructions on them.
Where there are employees some, and preferably all, should be provided with formal training. Various types of portable fire fighting equipment are available, ranging from the simple fire bucket with water or sand through to water-based extinguishers as well as foam, powder, CO2 and wet chemical extinguishers.
Guidance in BS 5306-8, the code of practice for fire extinguishing installations and equipment on premises, advises on the selection and installation of portable fire extinguishers. Recommendations are given on the type, quantity and rating of fire extinguishers that should be used and where they should be located such as on escape routes, stairwells, fire exits and corridors. This will ensure that the means of escape can be safely and effectively used at all times.
The FIA recommends that fire safety equipment should be installed, commissioned and maintained by a competent person. Although desirable this is not a requirement of legislation.
It is strongly recommended that installation, commissioning and maintenance of portable fire extinguishers be carried out by a BAFE SP101/ST104 certified company. This provides assurance that the service provider is competent.
Portable fire extinguishers form only part of building fire protection, and it should not be assumed that their provision removes the need for other protection.
Hose reels can be installed in all types of building, from factories and storage facilities to offices, shops and transport centres as well as schools, healthcare facilities, hotels, and prisons.
SPRINKLER AND OTHER WATER-BASED FIXED FIRE EXTINGUISHING SYSTEMS
Several water-based fixed fire extinguishing systems are available and these systems can be installed in many types of building. The type and size of system and the requirement for pumps and other equipment will be determined by the system designer.
Sprinkler systems should be installed to EN 12845 by companies certified to either FIRAS or LPS 1048 third party certification schemes, which will prove their
competence in this area.
Most sprinkler systems are installed for property protection but very often they play a part in an engineered fire safety solution for a building.
Sprinkler systems can be installed in many types of building. The size of system and the requirement for pumps and other equipment will be determined by the system designer.
Several types of sprinkler system are available to suppress fires in ordinary combustibles:
• The most common sprinkler system is a wet pipe
installation in which the system is permanently
charged with water under pressure.
• Dry pipe systems are used where the system may experience low temperatures that would freeze the water.
• Pre-action systems are similar to dry pipe systems where the system is maintained dry and water is allowed into the system following activation of a fire detector.
• In deluge systems the pipework is empty and unpressurised, and in this case the nozzles are open (i.e. without heat sensitive elements). A separate fire detection system is used to activate deluge valves, allowing water to enter the piping system. Water flows from all nozzles simultaneously. These systems are used where rapid spread of fire is a concern.
• Waterspray fire protection systems are specialised versions of a deluge system; the piping and discharge nozzle spray patterns are designed to protect a uniquely configured hazard.
• Watermist fire protection systems utilise the large surface area of very small droplets of water to rapidly absorb heat by generating steam. In addition, the steam reduces oxygen in the vicinity of the fire. Watermist systems may use nozzles with glass bulbs (like sprinklers) for fire suppression of limited amounts of ordinary combustibles, or may have open nozzles for fire extinguishment of flammable liquid fires.