Four Tenets of Fire and Life Safety
Print Issue: March 2020
Four Tenets for a Fire and Life Safety Program
It is wise to have a program in place that can help minimize the dangers of fire, smoke, fumes, and even panic. BESIDES laws, CODES, and regulations, THESE FOUR TENETS CAN HELP FOCUS A FIRE AND LIFE SAFETY PROGRAM.
1. Protect. All programs should primarily focus on a provision for the safe egress of a building’s occupants and users. Evacuation can either be direct or in stages, for example with the evacuees moving into places of refuge as an interim measure until they can safely move or be moved from the interim site. Places of refuge are intended only as temporary holding areas in situations where an escape route is obstructed or otherwise unusable. Preferably, such places are made of noncombustible materials—ideally with a fire resistance rating of 60 minutes or greater—where people can shelter for a short time until they can safely escape.
2. Containment. If a fire and life safety incident occurs, the event and its impacts should be confined to the smallest area possible. Also, buildings where the event is occurring should be stable prior to an incident so that surrounding facilities and activities are not endangered.
3. Environment. Every effort should be made to maintain an atmosphere free of contaminants. While many and varied, contaminants liberated by combustion generally include any gaseous substance that negatively affects or inhibits breathing, such as smoke, combustion products, or other harmful elements. Minimizing these environments can be achieved by design, ensuring the various components of a structure are properly separated by fire-resisting elements, walls extend from floor to the underside of the roof or slab, doors are also fire-resistant, and HVAC systems are designed to prevent such contaminants from passing through a structure.
To ensure that escape stairwells are contaminant-free, separate ventilation systems that draw fresh air from the building’s exterior should be used, along with positively pressurizing the route to keep smoke and other contaminants out of these areas. Air ducts should also be fitted with fire dampers that automatically activate in a fire and isolate both the flames and the resulting contaminants.
4. Assistance. Detectors (early warning fire alarms), communications systems (public address systems or mass notification tools), and emergency equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits) should be provided and maintained. These tools should be clearly marked and easily accessible.
Colin Ackroyd was responsible for the Organizational Resilience Standard’s first implementation. Now retired, he enjoys assisting those seeking help in creating such guidelines. He is a member of the ASIS International Fire and Life Safety Council.