Robert E. Solomon, P.E., National Fire Protection Association, tells how identifying building use, occupancy and other factors impacts planning for an appropriate system.
A comprehensive fire- and life-safety design requires a cohesive blend of alarm/detection capabilities, an appropriate suppression system and a number of other building construction features that depend on occupancy, type of facility and use of space. An often overlooked component — planning — is integral to keeping occupants safe.
In buildings, like an apartment complex, the alarm and detection system is a critical component because occupants may be asleep. Alarm and detection features can provide functions such as early warning for occupants, fire department notification and unlocking of doors. In large public venues, like a shopping mall or arena, the notification system may integrate a voice-communication function to give emergency instruction.
For healthcare occupancies, correctional facilities, high-rise buildings or other places where evacuation would cause considerable disturbance or not be a desired option, suppression becomes the focus of the system.
“An automatic fire sprinkler system has the ability to control the situation, thereby limiting the effects of the fire, the generation of products of combustion, and in general, allowing additional time for occupants to move to a safe area,” said Solomon.“Of course, the presence of a well-thought-out means of egress, with adequate exits, stairs and doors, is also crucially important.”
In general terms, the means of egress should also be thought of as a “system,” as well. The number, type and arrangement of the egress components are important factors to consider.
Some construction options may require the integration of firewalls, fire barrier walls and smoke compartments, as well as protection schemes for vertical openings between floors.
“There are even criteria for interior finish materials such as floor, wall and ceiling coverings,” explained Solomon.“Each of these building construction features can be specified to achieve the desired level of fire resistance, which is usually measured in hours for a firewall based on the building’s structural system, or for flame spread and smoke-developed characteristics for an interior wall finish. The level of fire-safety performance intended for the building is contingent upon the use of the occupancy.”
To receive more information about the content within this issue, fill out this Online Response Card.