As the international fire industry comes to terms with the serious tall building fires that have occurred in recent times, there is a need
to consider how we can evolve the procedures and equipment used for tall building fire safety and firefighting.
Several recent tall building fires have highlighted the devastating impact of full height façade fires, where fires spread up the outside of the buildings and enter multiple rooms and compartments on multiple floors. Such fires completely defeat the design objectives of the fire safety strategy for most tall buildings.
They may ‘overrun’ any sprinkler protection that may be provided and overwhelm fire detection and alarm systems with multiple activations in multiple zones. They also raise the possibility of a fire which will quickly turn a progressive evacuation strategy within a tall building, into a simultaneous evacuation in staircases that do not have the design capacity.
It is vitally important for those who design and build tall buildings and those who manage them to fully understand how such buildings behave in a fire and how fire safety can be managed within them. They must recognise the need not only to develop a detailed fire safety strategy and building continuity plan for each building but also to ensure that plans are practiced.
Similarly, full façade fires will cause many issues for firefighting operations. There has been much consideration of the effects of fire on external wall cladding systems and weather panel finishes. The effect of the wind on these fires is also a key contributing element. Composite panel systems tend to de-laminate when exposed to heat, with debris often carried by the wind for some distance. This active debris zone during a fire can severely impact on evacuation of occupants and access for responding firefighters. High wind speeds may drive the fire around the perimeter of the building (horizontally), while low speeds will allow the fire to spread vertically.
Firefighters will need to carefully pre-plan to ensure they take account of water pressure concerns and the implications for breathing apparatus operating procedures; as well as considering command and control issues such as radio operation and procedures for changing the evacuation strategy of the building.
Evolving new strategies
The 6th International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference takes place on 18–20 June 2019 at Excel, London alongside the FIREX International Exhibition. Attracting industry leading speakers from across the world, the conference will seek to clarify a way forward for tall buildings in each country and discuss a range of key questions, including:
1. What does a ‘fit for purpose’ testing regime for tall building facades look like?
2. In connection with above, what does combustibility and non-combustible mean?
3. Is tall timber a good idea?
4. What is the latest thinking in computer modelling of tall building fires?
5. How should drones be best used for fire risk management in tall buildings?
6. What is best practice in tall building construction fire safety management?
7. How should fire related aspects of insurance cover of tall buildings be calculated?
8. How should drones be best used for firefighting in tall buildings?
9. What do world class tall building firefighting procedures look like?
10. What are the latest innovations in tall building fire safety?
Conference Director Russ Timpson comments: “As an industry, we must get to the bottom of the fire testing debate and provide a reliable standard for the construction industry. Drones and new technology have a major role to play and we want the conference to be the place where new innovations can be showcased.”
With expert speakers from Russia, Germany, US, UK and Australia already confirmed, anybody interested in attending is advised to book now as space will be limited.
Key facts for 6th International Tall Building Fire Safety Conference
Date: 18, 19, 20 June 2019
Location: Excel Centre, London
Day 1: Fire Engineering, Fire Testing, Fire Science in Tall Buildings
Day 2: Fire Risk Management, Insurance, Construction in Tall Buildings
Day 3: Firefighting in Tall Buildings
For more information, go to www.tallbuildingfiresafety.com