No one wants to see a fire-related disaster of any type, but whether it be due to poor fire protection planning, older more combustible (once wide-spread and approved) materials being used in the construction, wear and tear or bad luck, owners and managers of large (actually any) buildings are often left shaking their heads because of the assets lost and the property damage caused.
Fire accidents are rather unfortunately common. According to a report from the Parliament of Australia, between 2013 to 2014, Australian fire agencies attended 101,867 fire related incidents where 19,524 (19%) involved structural fires. In the same report, property damage computed in the same period was estimated to be at $700 million based on the insurance claims data provided by the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities.
What can you do to protect your structure from fire?
The magnitude of damage and the potential for loss of life due to fire-related tragedies is often unimaginable (or perhaps a case of no one wants to think of the worst case scenario). But that is the exact reason, why it is important to develop and implement a fire safety strategy either:
- As a result of fire upgrade works; or
- Before construction even begins.
In the same way that as consumers we take out car or health insurance it is essential that good construction practice take into account measures which are designed as a safety against those rare yet destructive instances when a fire does break out. This is the role of fire engineers – to take into account various and numerous factors which may occur and to develop design specifications which will mitigate the overall impact in a fire.
What is fire engineering?
Under the International Standards Organisation or ISO’s definition, fire safety engineering is:
“The application of engineering principles, rules and expert judgement based on a scientific appreciation of the fire phenomena, of the effects of fire, and the reaction and behaviour of people, in order to:
• save life, protect property and preserve the environment and heritage;
• quantify the hazards and risk of fire and its effects;
• evaluate analytically the optimum protective and preventative measures necessary to limit, within prescribed levels, the consequences of fire.”
In other words, fire engineers are experts in identifying potential risks and prescribing measures which can be taken to reduce the impact and severity into the future.
By requirement therefore, this specialised field of engineering requires an understanding of
- How various materials ignite
- How fires develop
- How structures react to fire
- How different building materials will fare in a fire scenario
- Architectural Specifications
- What preventative measures are available for use and the advantages of “fire proof” products (nothing is truly fire proof)
- How to work within the Building Code of Australia to ensure the highest levels of safety.
Overall, fire engineering is a complex field necessitating the application of science, technology, engineering, management, psychology, and even law. It is a multi-disciplinary field that only qualified engineers can successfully plan, implement, and monitor.
Why is fire engineering important?
Fire engineering is undeniably beneficial to you, especially if your business centres around the management or ownership of large structures and buildings. Here are some of the most important reasons why you should comply with the BCA’s fire safety provisions.
Fire safety engineering can:
- Protect your building in case of fire;
- Prepare building occupants and emergency services personnel;
- Mitigate property damage in case of fire, including structural, equipment, fabric, and building contents damage;
- Avoid compromising business operations and financial viability of your organisation; and
- Limit the emission of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere in case of fire.
Why you should hire a qualified fire safety engineering expert
Someone in the marketing team once used an a analogy for the work they do and we have taken it on board with regards the work we provide: “Everyone can clean their teeth, but not everyone can be a dentist.” In short, we all can and should do our utmost to protect the lives and buildings we work with. However, it takes a true expert who knows the intricacies of fire safety to develop a comprehensive plan that takes into account multiple facts which the layperson may not be aware of.
If you are doing your best to implement those aspects you know you should but are getting to a point where you realise you need the advice of a qualified third party before it is too late, speak to one of our experts at Permax so that we can guide you in your journey to ensuring you have the highest level of fire safety compliance possible.
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Permax constantly update the documentations based on the new fire testing outcomes and change of standards and regulations. To ensure the documents you read are up-to-date, please contact the Permax technical team.