Blog Article

Fire Strategy – Essential But Forgotten

Regulation 38 Documentation | Trident Fire Compliance
Published: 18th January 2024

What is a fire strategy? Is it what people should do when the fire alarm sounds in a building? If that were the case then the answer would be simple–run! Not much of a fire strategy. The basic answer is‘ yes’, but a fire strategy is infinitely more than this.

A fire strategy takes into account all those important questions; who, what, when, why, where, how? A fire strategy takes into account everything there is about a building and establishes what fire safety precautions, fire protection systems and fire management procedures need to be in place to ensure that life safety can be achieved.

It will consider what the building is constructed from, and how it is constructed. It will consider why it is being constructed and where it is being built. It will consider who will be occupying it and why they will be using it. Once that has been established, a fire strategy will use all of the available guidance and regulations to determine a suitably safe design that will allow the building to operate as normal, but have an acceptable degree of safety which will allow occupants to escape and allow fire and rescue services to arrive and combat the fire.

As you can see, there are a lot of questions to answer and a lot of guidance to get through. And all of these components will impact how a fire strategy is prepared and this will in turn affect how the building is built, managed and operated. A fire strategy will dictate what type of fire alarm system you will need. It goes as far to tell you where your fire doors need to be, and how much protection the structure of the building needs to enable it to remain standing in a fire. These are but a couple of aspects of a hundred different systems, components and procedures that need to be determined fora building to be deemed safe. These are all very important questions that you will need to know if you manage or occupy a building.

Now imagine you don’t have a fire strategy. You don’t know what fire alarm system you have. You don’t know where your fire doors are, or even where you escape routes are. In some cases, you do know (or you think you know) where these are, but the question is; do other people? Do other people in your management team know where they are? Do your employees, visitors, and contractors know? And it’s not just doors or alarms. It is also systems such as; smoke extraction, sprinkler systems, firefighter lifts, alarm sounders, wall construction, floor construction, external wall construction, and the list goes on. If you don’t know now when you don’t need it, imagine the situation when you do need it and still don’t know.

Now it is worth noting that contemporary buildings are completed to the standards and regulations applicable at the time of construction. However, it can often be the misconception that an existing building already meets the requirements of relevant fire safety legislation. Over time, a building operator/owner may utilise different consultants and contractors to maintain fire safety systems in a building (with only minimal information) assuming this was the accepted process.

Unfortunately, this often leads to fire safety works/consultations being ad-hoc, or “piecemeal”, with assumptions and “best guess” approaches being used when installing, maintaining and replacing fire safety systems. And this can happen again and again over the years, and over time you might find that you don’t have one certain system, but you have multiple systems of different types and different standards.
Without a clear plan of action, or a reference document, on what should and shouldn’t be in place within a building, it can often result in the fire safety measures being too complicated and otherwise confusing, or there being a general lack of information or knowledge on how the building should be maintained with regards to fire safety. This often results in fire safety systems not being maintained or replaced when required, or wilful damage occurring to systems with no regard as to their importance. For example, there is a risk that an installed passive fire safety system may be damaged and then not repaired correctly which could compromise the systems performance. A common error that occurs is contractors using mix-match products which may not have suitable evidence to prove it’s performance and could further compromise the fire compartmentation. These defects could go unknown or ignored for years.

To overcome this, all buildings (no matter the size) should have a fire strategy document. A fire strategy document(prepared by a competent fire engineer) will review all of the building components with regards to fire safety including size, occupation, and the existing construction of the building. With this information, and consulting accepted guidelines and practices, a fire engineer can clearly outline how a building should be managed with regards to fire safety. Not only will this document outline the expected locations of fire compartments, but it will also advise on elements such as escape routes, alarm systems, extinguishing systems, building management procedures etc. With this document in place, firstly the Responsible Person will have a single point of reference for how fire safety operates and is maintained in their building. Secondly, any fire safety personnel (including contractors, consultants, fire risk assessors, and the fire and rescue service) will be able to clearly see how the building is designed to function with regards to fire safety. Not only will this make assessments and inspections easier and more consistent, but it will ensure that future remedial and maintenance works are carried out to the correct standards ensuring compliance can easily be achieved.

Trident Fire Compliance are at the forefront of fire safety, working with clients on new build projects and existing buildings. We understand the importance of a fire strategy and we would always strongly recommend that any building owner who doesn’t have one, should get on prepared as soon as possible. It is a small investment that will lead to long term savings when it comes to fire safety, particularly with regards to the operation and maintenance of your fire safety systems. At Trident, we do not prepare fire strategies for buildings, but we work with some of the best names in fire engineering and we are more than happy to recommend a number of these companies to you to ensure you are achieving compliance with fire safety.

However, Trident do offer a Regulation 38 Documentation service. Regulation 38 is a requirement under law that any information related to fire safety systems within a building must be provided to the end user as soon as the works are complete. This includes operational and maintenance documentation for alarm systems etc, but also includes certification for installations completed.With the number of fire safety systems in place within a building, it can often be confusing as to what documentation is needed and where. In fact, more often than not, the documentation often gets lost in folders and files which are stored and archived to never see the light of day again. This can lead to difficulties, as described above.

However, Trident are able to offer a collation service that takes all of this information and contains it within a single, easy to use, reference document. No longer will you need to dig through countless files and documents to find the one piece of information you are looking for. Instead, Trident can provide the information in a single document which, when saved or stored safely, can be referred to whenever you have a fire safety query. If you need to know who installed firestopping, where and with what systems, it will be detailed for you to know. If you need to know what the cause and effect matrix is for the alarm system, it will be detailed for you to know. Got a fire risk assessment coming up? Pull out your Regulation 38 document and have it ready for when they arrive, it will give you (and your assessor) a massive head start and will make the whole process that much easier.

Get in touch with Trident today to see how we can help you achieve compliance with Regulation 38.

About the author

Ben Duggan

Managing Director Ben is passionate about helping clients achieve the highest standards possible with fire protection and ensuring they deliver safe and compliant projects every time.

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