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Smoke Control Maintenance

13 May 2010

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With over 50,000 fires in British dwellings every year, over 300 fatalities mostly caused by smoke inhalation, it is imperative that we have smoke control systems in place which operate when required.

Fire alarm systems, often the first line of defence to prevent loss of life and loss of property in case of fire, are checked at least on a weekly basis and we have all become to expect regular fire alarm drills and procedures. The swift actions of systems and individuals tasked with working and maintaining these systems have saved countless lives over the last few years. But clever as these systems may be, they can lead us into a false sense of security as we still continue to ignore the effects of smoke.

Buildings which require smoke control systems include retirement accommodation, residential apartments, schools, universities, hospitals, government offices, commercial premises, leisure centres, theatres and retail units - in fact any building which is not a single dwelling.

Smoke control systems work with the fire detection systems in our buildings and a simple fire alarm can indicate a fire within a building and inform us to evacuate; a smoke control system should ensure that we have a safe and smoke free exit made available for us to safely exit the building. With over 300 people still losing their lives every year, mostly due to smoke inhalation, there are more smoke control systems and procedures required.

The main reason for smoke control systems is the preservation of life, but their use can importantly facilitate fire fighting operations, protect a building’s fabric and contents, and even reduce structural damage.

So, whilst fire detection systems are visibly and audibly maintained as far as building users are concerned, smoke control systems are also maintained with less obvious impact - or are they? Enter The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 - (RRO), which came into force in 2006. It has changed fire safety requirements and affects ALL UK organisations replacing over 70 separate pieces of fire safety legislation. Now the complete early fire detection systems, emergency lighting and smoke control systems have become one system in new, refurbished and modified buildings.

Compliance with RRO is the responsibility of owners, employers and managers with ‘fire certificates’ no longer being a valid proof of compliance. The fire brigade with their extensive knowledge of the dangers and the spread of fire, have now turned into prevention specialists. The fire brigade now visit premises in order to check for compliance and have the ability to prosecute individuals responsible for failures in providing a safe residential development, place of work or inside public space. Currently prosecutions are on the rise.

RRO insists that those responsible conduct risk assessments, train responsible individuals, provide equipment and competently maintain the equipment. Failure in any one area can lead to prosecution following an inspection. If a fire does occur then documents, which include the risk assessment, log of the equipment made available, maintenance records and training records will be required by the authorities and the insurance company. The building owners or operators are liable if procedures have not been met.

If you are reading this and feeling that you may not be adequately covered, or indeed if you are concerned that you may be the person who is responsible, check with your building owners or superiors and ensure your property is RRO compliant. If in any doubt contact a specialist as soon as possible. Not only will this cover you as a responsible individual, but more importantly could save lives.

Visits to undertake preventive maintenance for smoke ventilation systems should not exceed six monthly in addition to regular maintenance of other fire systems. The complete system should be viewed as a ‘life saving system’ that when fully operable can and will save lives.

SE Controls, one of the largest providers of smoke control systems, natural ventilation systems and maintenance services, can provide a total package. From early involvement in new and refurbished building projects to long term on-going maintenance with over 28 years experience in the sector.

SE Controls provide preventative maintenance visits to conform with the British Standards Institution Schedule BS 7346:1-1990, BS 5588:12-2004 The Buildings Regulations Approved Document B and BS9999. Complying with these standards means that where natural or powered, smoke and heat exhaust ventilation systems are provided these are checked, maintained and components replaced where required. Regular preventative maintenance not only reduces the cost of replacement but also further reduces the possibility of failure. SE Controls’ maintenance department can offer problem solving, advice and alternative solutions to existing systems that require modification. Once modified to meet compliance, modified systems can be maintained on a regular basis. SE Controls maintain a variety of sites across the United Kingdom, including the Channel Isles, the Isle of Man and Ireland and visit thousands of developments each year. SE Controls can offer national agreements providing economies of scale.

To discuss a requirement with SE Controls, or to request a copy of the printed literature, please call their head office in Lichfield on 01543 443060.
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