In addition to the safety of occupants with business continuity an ever increasing issue, protection from fire is an integral aspect in reducing downtime at any facility. An understanding of why you need both fire prevention and fire protection can reduce hazards and maintain safety.
Never underestimate the devastation, loss of life, and financial toll caused by fires. A sound approach to overall life safety in any facility is if you’re going to safeguard your building, you have to include both fire prevention and fire protection practices and tools.
Buildings are constructed in accordance with the version of the building code that is in effect when an application for a building permit is made. Building inspectors check on compliance of a building under construction, and a building permit is issued after review by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).
Once construction is complete, a building must be maintained in accordance with regulations and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) fire codes, which is enforced by the fire prevention officers of a local fire department.
There is a big difference between fire protection and fire prevention. Fire protection uses tools and processes to maintain safety and reduce hazards associated with fires. Fire prevention involves the steps that can prevent a fire from occurring.
Fire protection within a facility relies on system components to detect and prevent fires and mitigate their consequences. Licensed and reputable life safety providers install the proper devices to make sure the building is in the best possible position to fight a blaze should a fire break out.
Monitored fire alarm systems signal the alarm monitoring center in the event of fire and provide early detection for quick action. Fire suppression devices, such as sprinkler systems and extinguishers, stop the spread of fire.
A full-fledged fire protection system includes:
- Fire Suppression Sprinkler Systems (wet, dry, preaction, deluge, antifreeze, and fire pumps)
- Special Hazards Fire Suppression Systems (foam, low and high pressure CO2, as well as clean agent systems)
- Fire alarm detection system (control panel, flame detectors, heat detectors, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors)
- Mass notification (notification appliances, pull stations/call box points)
- Fire extinguisher, fire hydrants, and backflows
- Fire alarm monitoring
- Integrated security, access control, and video surveillance systems for appropriate actions from each system
Fire prevention requires inspection, testing, and maintenance of systems to ensure they are operating properly and they are effective during a fire. Systems need to be periodically inspected for mechanical deficiencies, proper function, valve actuation, water flow, sprinkler clearances, etc., Fire prevention also involves eliminating the risks that may cause fire to occur.
These steps are guidelines to overall fire prevention:
- Perform regular risk assessments, and identify the weak areas to improve safety.
- Identify and resolve deficiencies sources within the facility that emit heat or are combustible, flammable, or make the building more susceptible to fire.
- Adhere to fire regulations and NFPA standards.
- Perform regular fire drills. Keep building owners, operators, occupants, and emergency personnel up to date regarding operation of fire protection systems.
- Regularly train staff on fire prevention practices.
- Keep systems in top working order with preventive maintenance contracts.
- Utilize diagnostics and system analytics that can help predict trouble before it occurs.
The first priority of fire protection and fire prevention is to be proactive. This means implementing and monitoring a fire safety regime to reduce disruption and protect staff, visitors, and other occupants.