3) Compromised Passive Fire Protection – Simple building renovations can create gaps (literally) in fire barriers. IT wire or piping is commonly run through walls or ceilings, but the penetrations are rarely sealed. These openings, which can be inches in diameter, create additional paths for combustion and smoke to travel within the building.
"One proactive measure you can take is to identify fire barriers with stencils or labels," suggests Elvove. "It reminds workers that specific measures are required in that area to maintain fire protection."
You can also conduct a fire-life safety inspection after any retrofit project, Reid recommends. Even a simple light fixture installation could impact a fire or smoke barrier, so make inspections a habit.
The same vigilance is applicable to minor renovations. Remember that changes to layout configurations, walls, ceilings, and partitions have an effect on the sprinkler system, Elvove stresses. Make sure fire protection is included in any design considerations and properly documented.
4) Reluctance to Adopt Technology – Life safety systems are designed to last for years on end, but keep an eye out for retrofits that can enhance what you already have in place.
"Many companies take a 'code minimum' approach and won't consider anything that's not mandated. Others are going beyond to provide an extra level of care for their occupants," notes Charles Riley, a sales managers for NOTIFIER, a division of Honeywell that manufactures fire-life safety solutions. "There are many newer technologies that can provide advanced solutions, such as multi-criteria detectors, touchscreen interfaces for first responders, addressable fire alarm systems, maintenance alerts, bar code inventory tracking, and voice annunciation."
For example, mass notification is not required by any code, says Elvove, but many owners incorporate it into their fire alarm system because they want to relay additional emergency messages. It gives them the flexibility to tell occupants what to do or not do.
If you're looking at fire protection for a new project, consider using building information modeling (BIM), which creates 3D models of your facility. Use it to ensure that any conflicts with the placement of life safety components are ironed out before construction.
"BIM software is starting to include fire protection components within the models," Elvove explains. "Traditionally, many life safety components aren't seen until the contractor submits shop drawings. Now they can be incorporated into the design itself."
You can also integrate your fire-life safety systems, creating intelligent communication between individual components. Make sure that you test these pathways and ensure that any sequence reactions initiate properly.
For example, a smoke detector is responsible for shutting off an air handler, but have you verified the unit shuts down when prompted?
You may have done separate maintenance and inspected the air handler and alarm, but you need to confirm they work together, notes Elvove. Coordinating fire alarm testing with elevator recall and operating emergency lighting are also commonly missed tests.