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System Integration – the important recipe for true fire safety

We’re smoke ventilation specialists, so you’ll have seen many of our blogs focusing on this subject at length.
But the reason we do what we do is pretty singular – it’s all about making buildings such as residential tower blocks safer in the event of a fire breaking out. It might not be as obvious a role as a fire fighter, but the fact is our engineers are working hard to save people’s lives in potentially tragic situations.
So we must acknowledge that a holistic view of fire safety is what’s needed. Smoke ventilation is crucial for clearing escape routes and facilitating fire fighter access, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of making fires less harmful.
There are many other ingredients that must contribute, such as fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire and smoke dampers – and we’re calling for a better general awareness of these systems, what they do, how they work and, indeed, the fact that each has a role to play. We’re not saying they have to be technically integrated via a unified control system (although this is certainly conceivable) but they do have to be engineered into a building’s design in such a way that they can complement, rather than conflict with, each other.
In practise, this means an approach that starts at the design phase, through construction, installation, commissioning and eventually maintenance, refurbishment and replacement.
“The public perception is that fire alarms and sprinklers save lives, and it’s a simple message to put across so the media tends to reinforce it,” explains Adexsi UK’s technical director Rob Davies. “But the reality is more complex, with other factors from the construction method of the building envelope, to the precision of damper installation, to smoke extraction systems all playing a part.
“Our expertise is smoke ventilation but where many people see it as a conflict – either sprinklers OR smoke control – the fact is they should be specced to work in harmony with each other. In a full system, you would expect the smoke detectors to sound the alarm, the smoke ventilation system to clear the escape routes, the damper system to prevent ductwork spreading heat throughout the building and the sprinkler system to slow the spread of the fire. Without each other, the overall effect is more dangerous for building users.”
“From us this is a call for greater collaboration between all service providers and clearer standards or legislative guidelines to ensure these systems get equal weighting at every stage of creating our built environment, and equal understanding in the minds of the public in general.”