From smoke detectors and sprinkler systems to evacuation routes and other safety measures, setting up a fire safety system within new construction involves multiple components.
Anthony Jones, engineered system sales consultant at Koorsen Fire and Security, says a lot goes into designing and implementing a fire alarm and sprinkler system. Fire safety systems designers need to take an integrated approach. According to Jones, they should analyze a building’s layout and other elements and take into account local building codes and an owner’s legal responsibilities for protecting the completed project.
A fully developed fire safety system is one of the last systems set up in a build. However, Jones urges builders to take action earlier on. After all, construction sites can present several types of fire hazards.
“Sometimes, there’s absolutely no fire protection,” he explains. During a remodel, electricity and water are often turned off, so sprinkler systems and fire alarms won’t be working. In a new build, these may not be connected until the end of the project.
Fires in buildings under construction have caused an average of $172 million in property damage each year.
In recent years, fires in buildings under construction have caused an average of $172 million in property damage each year—structures being renovated, $108 million in damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Both have also resulted in injuries and deaths.
Following the Code
One of the first steps in setting up a fire safety system in a new build is understanding the building code requirements. The codes may vary based on the type of structure being built as well as individual localities’ rules.
Building codes will guide your fire safety plan, but the goal should always be saving lives and property. Most fire safety systems try to meet this goal through three main, interconnected objectives: detection, notification, and suppression. A fire systems design engineer should create a building-specific plan early on in the construction process that ensures these components work together, Jones says.
Detecting fires as early as possible gives you the best chance of extinguishing them before they have inflicted significant damage. Detection systems may include smoke and heat detectors, which continue to get smarter and more high-tech constantly.
Notification systems need to be set up to alert people in the building of a fire, but they should also be fully integrated to alert local first responders. Fire notification systems are also getting smarter and can connect to ventilation and stairwell pressurization systems. They can be set up to automatically close fire doors and shut down elevators.
Notification systems need to be set up to alert people in the building of a fire, but they should also be fully integrated to alert local first responders.
A critical part of a notification system is the escape plan. Most building codes require that building owners post an evacuation plan in a highly visible place. so that occupants know what to do if there’s a fire.
Sprinkler systems are one of the most common types of fire suppression systems, especially for commercial projects. These systems are usually activated by heat. Their use can reduce both the rate of injury and amount of property damage in case of a fire, according to NFPA.
Initial setup of a fire safety system is critical, but each component in the system should be tested regularly. Routine maintenance will ensure that everything is always in working order.
The exact fire safety system that you need for your build depends on the location and scope of the project. A fire safety engineer can help design an individualized system that works for the project so that properties and lives are protected.