Monday, 12 November 2012
Monday, 15 October 2012
Provisional figures from the Scottish Government have shown a rise in fire deaths, despite a 17% reduction in the total number of fires.
Figures for 2011-12 show that there were 57 fatalities, an increase of 5 on the previous year. The total number of fires fell to 32,204, down from 38,970 in 2010-11.
Primary fires – that is all fires in non-derelict buildings and outdoor structures, fires involving casualties or rescues or any fires with more than five appliances in attendance – account for 39% of fires, with the remaining 58% being classed as secondary fires.
The figures were compiled by Scotland’s chief statistician and the news that fatalities in Scotland has risen in the last financial year is likely to cause concern as the Scottish Government continue preparations for the establishment of a single Scottish Fire Service.
However the figure of 57 is still the third lowest of the last ten years.
The leading cause of fatal fires was smoking materials with 21 of the 47 deaths (45%) in accidental dwelling fires as a result of ‘smokers’ materials and matches’.
Accidental dwelling fires overall were down to a ten year low of 5,116 with 17% as a result of impairment due to suspected alcohol and/or drugs use.
Roseanna Cunningam, community safety minister, said: "It is thanks to the work of fire and rescue services - which I have seen fantastic examples of in schools, workplaces and communities - that house fires are continuing to decrease across Scotland and lives are being saved.
"It is a tragedy however that lives continue to be lost to fire every year. Every death is devastating and underlines that we all need to be on our guard against the risks.
"Once again, alcohol and/or drugs were suspected to have been a factor in at least one in six accidental house fires.
"Although other key figures in this publication indicate an improving awareness of the danger of fire in our homes, this underlines that a link remains between alcohol, drug use and fire.”
Higher casualty rate than England and Wales
Although the 2011-12 figures for England and Wales are not yet available, the rate of fatal fire deaths per million in 2010-11 was 10 in Scotland, compared to 6.3 and 7 in England and Wales.
Scottish residents are being reminded of the dangers of smoking, and of drugs and alcohol, as well as the importance of ensuring a working smoke alarm is present.
A shocking 34% of house fires in 2011-12 had no smoke alarm present, and a further 13% had a non-functioning alarm.
Ms. Cunningham added: "The most important message we can give is not to be complacent and always be on your guard. We also urge you to get a smoke alarm and check it regularly to ensure it is in working order."
The full fire statistics 2011-12 report is available on the Scottish Government website.
Friday, 5 October 2012
Friday, 28 September 2012
Automist was installed by Quench Fire as a key part of an alternative fire protection scheme to protect the escape route through a first floor, open plan, communal lounge and kitchen area in a Oxford City HMO.
Lyndworth Mews is a block of 16 three storey town houses in Headington, Oxford, several of these properties are rented to students as a HMO property. A typical HMO in this block is two bedrooms and a bathroom on the ground floor, a communal lounge diner and kitchen on the first floor and two further bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor accessed from the lounge below.
At the end of August 2011 Quenchfire were contacted by an HMO Landlord from Lyndworth Mews looking to install a misting system to the lounge dining area of his properties.
This course of action had been brought about as a result of Oxford City Council extending HMO licensing to all HMO properties in the Oxford area. The licences are issued under part 2 of the housing act 2004 additional licensing. Previously additional licensing or selected licensing needed central government approval but in 2010 this requirement was removed. Oxford currently licence all HMO properties on a yearly basis.
The licence conditions clearly stated that:
“The building is required to have a thirty minute protected route allowing the occupants to escape without the necessity of passing through a risk room. In the current arrangement the open plan first floor lounge area does not meet this standard. In lieu of an enclosed 30 minute fire escape route, install an active water based fire protection system.
The system design is to be a Total Compartment Application Scheme designed to discharge water mist to protect the first floor lounge area in entirety. In the event of a fire the system must be capable of automatic detection and activation via a linked heat alarm or via a heat sensitive break glass sensor. The system can either be connected to the mains water supply (subject to satisfactory pressure), or can be self contained in an adequately sized water storage vessel.
Where an alternative scheme can achieve the same objective, for example, if the preferred option is to construct a fire resistant partition, the case officer should be notified in order that a suitable alternative can be agreed.”
The licence also covers upgrading of smoke and heat alarms as well as fire doors and closers.
David Moyce, Managing Director of Quenchfire Ltd proposed that a Plumis – Automist Fire suppression system was installed in the property to comply with the licence conditions. This could be achieved by mounting the Pluvia pump set in the kitchen under the sink and the wall nozzle could be located on the lounge dining room stud partition wall, activated by a heat alarm. And they were awarded the contract to install the Automist system in both properties.
The landlord said, “Installing Automist was the obvious solution to my problem; installing a fire resistant partition would have reduced the lettable space and reduced the rental value of the properties.
The Automist system was installed quickly with minimal interference to my tenants or damage to the property. There is very little visible equipment and the system provides 24 hour 365 day protection for my tenants in the event of a fire.”
The landlord is a chartered surveyor and multiple PRS investor and expert in the sector. As a result of this project Quenchfire Ltd have installed Automist active fire protection systems to a further 6 properties in Lyndworth Mews as well as various other HMO properties in the Oxford area. And there is significant interest from other licensing authorities in Automist as a solution to improved fire safety in HMO properties.
For further information on this project or the Plumis Automist range of water-mist suppression solutions call Plumis on +44 (0) 20 7871 3899, visit www.plumis.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, 24 August 2012
- Clothes dryer fire incidence in residential buildings was higher in the fall and winter months, peaking in January at 11 percent.
- Failure to clean (such as removing lint from traps, vents and surrounding areas of a dryer) was the leading factor contributing to ignition
- Dust, fibre, and lint and clothing not on a person were the leading items first ignited
- 54% of clothes dryer fires were confined to the object of origin
Download part of the Topical Fire Report Series produced by the US Fire Administration in pdf format -.Clothes Dryer Fires in Residential Buildings (2008-2010) (620 KB)
Friday, 17 August 2012
The Fire Kills campaign is the national fire safety campaign delivered by Communities and Local Government. The campaign aims to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by accidental dwelling fires by actively encouraging people to change their behaviour and attitudes towards fire safety. The Fire Kills campaign's 'breathe' advert has won a number of awards, including a Silver Lion for Best Cinematography, a D&AD Yellow Pencil for Best Direction and a Creative Circle Gold award for Best Cinematography.
Why not call an Accredited Reseller Installer to have a look at your property and work out exactly how an open-plan space could be formed?
Thursday, 9 August 2012
“Regulation 38 is not just a recommendation, it is a requirement, since this information can greatly improve the building occupier’s understanding of the safety precautions installed within a building,” said Mr Sugden.
Friday, 6 July 2012
Friday, 15 June 2012
Saturday, 2 June 2012
One in three homes now features a kitchen-diner, and one in five Brits plans to blend their separate living room and cooking spaces into a single area, a survey found.
Sunday, 27 May 2012
One of the most important kitchen "gadgets" is one that far too many people overlook completely. And no, we're not talking about a juicer.
It's easy to get caught up in fun kitchen gadgets and overlook the things that are most important--like kitchen safety. Around 60 per cent of accidental fires in the home start in the kitchen. Do you own a fire extinguisher? Do you know where it is and how to use it? Some risk assessors even went as far to remove them after they were deemed dangerous. Concerns were raised that householders could delay their escape by trying to tackle a blaze. There were also concerns that the use of extinguishers by untrained people, could add to the danger.
Friday, 25 May 2012
One person died and ten others were injured in a fire that spread rapidly upwards from a second-floor flat to the top of an 18-storey tower block in Roubaix, France, apparently via its flammable outer cladding, penetrating other apartments.
A hundred firefighters and 15 appliances attended the fire that started around 3pm on 14 May 2012, at the Mermoz Tower on Rue Dunant in the northern French town of Roubaix. The building and a nearby school were evacuated, and the crew brought the fire under control by 4.30pm.
The victim was an elderly lady and one of the residents was seriously injured. Four apartments were directly affected by the fire, but as the building is now uninhabitable, all 250 residents are being rehoused locally. The building, also know as the Aviator Tower, is reportedly owned by a social landlord organisation.
Source - FPA
Thursday, 5 April 2012
With sluggish property markets, loft conversions have grown popular: they add value without the high legal, stamp duty and agent’s costs of a house move. But in many cases householders and builders collude to work around fire safety regulations with an illegal, makeshift construction: the dummy wall.
Building regulations propose a protected escape route when a loft conversion is added to a two-storey property, to allow people on upper floors to escape at ground level, or from first floor windows, without exposure to smoke and heat from a lounge/kitchen fire. By keeping conditions tenable on this exit route while a fire rages downstairs, lives are saved.
A protected escape route is theoretically a powerful way to save lives. Unfortunately, the reality is imperfect. Householders want light, open living spaces and often prop fire doors open, compromising the ideal of protection by compartmentation. The problem does not end here however; consumers trends are towards open plan layouts with greatly reduced compartmentation.
UK regulations allow the use of fire suppression options like sprinklers to compensate for a layout with poor compartmentation, but most projects in practice do not follow this route. Instead, many homeowners opt for the cheap solution: create a protected corridor, have Building Control sign it off, and remove this “dummy wall” shortly afterwards. Bizarrely, legislation intended to improve fire safety actually leaves all parties uncomfortable with the outcome and the process used to reach it:
- Loft converters risk their reputation;
- And those responsible for fire safety have unknowingly failed to meet their goals.
Construction and removal of the dummy wall poses a serious threat to safety. BRE ran a large suite of tests representing television fires in loft converted houses, which found that:
- Conditions in the room of origin (lounge) always became lethal after 20 minutes.
- With the lounge isolated by a closed door, tenable conditions were maintained throughout the rest of the house.
- With the lounge door open or an open plan layout, conditions also became lethal in all other open spaces of the house.
- Sprinklers in the lounge restored survivable conditions throughout the rest of the house.
- The life safety benefits of linked smoke alarms were clearly demonstrated.
Despite the finding that either compartmentation or suppression is key to survival, fire doors are very often propped open and are not required to feature spring closers. Even in conventional closed plan layouts, the compartmentation ideal is no longer realistic; doubly so for homes with open plan layouts or dummy walls.
A study by the NHBC Foundation confirms that interlinked alarms and active fire suppression in an open plan layout is just as safe as an equivalent unsuppressed closed plan layout.
With fire suppression emerging as a legal and safe way to implement open plan layouts, and with sprinklers often claimed to cost as little as £1500, why aren’t sprinklers a standard solution in loft conversions, competing more effectively with dummy walls"
Sprinklers were originally designed for large business spaces where the setup cost is justifiable in insurance savings alone. In UK homes by contrast, the project size is smaller; low mains pressure and high flow requirements (perhaps 100lpm) can mean substantial cost and complexity in the form of pumps, tanks, and supply upgrades. The resultant cost and uncertainty makes householders uncomfortable; the simple and consistent, but deadly, dummy wall, much less so.
The situation is changing as more convenient and cost-effective alternatives to sprinklers emerge; these solutions can meet building regulations as long as they are backed by evidence. To quote ADB:
“ 0.18 There are many alternative or innovative fire suppression systems available. Where these are used it is necessary to ensure that such systems have been designed and tested for use in domestic buildings and is fit for their intended purpose”
An example of these alternatives is Automist, a high-pressure mist device which mounts around the kitchen sink or on a wall. In the event of a fire, a heat alarm is triggered at 57°C and a high pressure pump powers just 5lpm of water as a fine mist throughout the volume to be protected. The cost effectiveness of such systems is achieved by being provided as a complete “ready to install” pre-engineered kit which will protect small volumes, such as the open plan lounge of a home.
Putting Automist in an open plan loft conversion offers much more than comparable costs to dummy walls: it solves the regulatory problem permanently and also provides permanent fire safety to occupants. It’s time to replace the dumb idea with a no-brainer!
For further information on the Plumis Automist range of water-mist suppression solutions call Plumis on 020 8133 8775, visit www.plumis.co.uk or email email@example.com
Thursday, 22 March 2012
Thursday, 8 March 2012
Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Automist sprinkler alternative filmed for brand new Channel 4 series, Home of the Future, which starts February 12th, 7.00pm on Channel 4
As well as having cutting-edge technology and gadgets to play with, the Perera family in Sheffield will be challenged by scenarios likely to come in the next twenty to fifty years.
Overseen by expert Chris Sanderson, the Pereras will discover how we may work, rest and play - as well as eat, travel, stay healthy and power our homes.
The series looks at the effects of working from home and living in multi-generational households and asks: what will we eat when cheap food is gone and mass-produced meat is unsustainable? And the family face being shamed by their bin if they don’t recycle enough and being temporarily banned from short car journeys (electric and hydrogen-powered, naturally).
But the future is not all bad news as the Pereras discover mind-controlled games, domestic power stations that slash their bills, robots they can control from the other side of the world, waterless washing machines, cars, lawnmowers and vacuums that drive themselves and the joys of growing your own fish supper.
The first episode of Home of the Future airs on February 12th, 7.00pm on Channel 4.
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Ranch-style layouts with open plan living areas are relatively common in rented accommodation, including social housing; these layouts often include “inner” bedrooms whose fire escape route is through the open area. This is clearly against the guidance under two pieces of major recent legislation, the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which introduced new responsibilities for landlords and housing organisations. Some ambiguities in these laws have since been addressed by the LACoRS guide, published by the Local Government Association and endorsed by Central Government and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association; this document outlines how safe layouts must be achieved.
Some key facts:
- Although the LACoRS guide itself does not have legal force, it is now regarded as the standard interpretation manual for the new legislation.
- Unlike changes to building regulations, the new legislation applies retrospectively to all rented properties.
- Properties that don’t meet the new standards may remain in use only where it is “not reasonably practicable” for the landlord to remedy the problem.
- Landlords found to be in violation of the new laws can be imprisoned or face an unlimited fine.
Inner Bedrooms – What’s the Problem?
The LACoRS guide defines an inner room as one for which the only escape route is through another “access” room; this poses a risk to the occupier if a fire starts unnoticed in the access room.
Figure 1: Example social housing property layout featuring an inner bedroom
Figure 1 shows a social housing property layout featuring an inner bedroom. Inner bedrooms are particularly dangerous as an inhabitant may be deeply asleep and perhaps also intoxicated when a fire starts in the outer room. A closed bedroom door is a mixed blessing – although it may hold back smoke for a time, it also reduces the sound level of any alarm sounding in the outer room. Slow to rouse, the sleeper may awaken to discover a major fire and thick smoke on the exit route.
Section 12.2 of the LACoRS guide makes it quite clear that inner bedrooms and even living rooms are no longer allowed above first floor level:
[Inner rooms] should be avoided wherever possible. However, where unavoidable it may be accepted where the inner room is a kitchen, laundry or utility room, a dressing room, bathroom, WC or shower room.
Where the inner room is any other type of habitable room (for example a living room, sleeping room, workroom or study) it should only be accepted if:
- the inner room has access to a suitable door opening onto an alternative safe route of escape, or it is situated on a floor which is not more than 4.5m above ground level and has an escape window leading directly to a place of ultimate safety [and]
- an adequate automatic fire detection and warning system is in place; and
- a fire-resisting door of an appropriate standard is fitted between the inner and outer rooms (typically FD30S standard for non-high-risk outer rooms).
What can be done?
Provision of automatic fire suppression is allowable as a compensatory feature against such layout shortcomings. The LACoRS guide states:
… provision of a suitable water suppression system can, in some circumstances, allow for relaxed provision of certain other fire safety measures [such as] relaxed requirements for inner rooms.
A fire suppression device aims to control and suppress fires, significantly reducing the risk of injury, loss of life and property damage by maintaining tenable conditions for as long as possible while occupants evacuate. This is achieved by:
- Reduction of room temperature
- Reduction of smoke and toxic gases
- Prevention of flashover (the rapid ignition of combustible items in the room)
- Providing cooling and hence fire resistance to structural elements of the home.
In the immediate years following the introduction of the new legislation, the cost of retrofitting sprinklers to properties with dangerous layouts was prohibitive. Not only would housing associations face huge installation costs; disruption to families would also be enormous. It was therefore straightforward to argue that there was no reasonably practicable solution available to address poor layout. This is no longer the case.
Retrofittable fire protection
Inner rooms can now be protected by installing innovative water suppression devices in the access room. Several such devices are now available, designed to provide effective, retrofittable fire protection within the frameworks both of the new legislation and building regulations. Plumis’s Automist is one such solution and is the first active fire protection system that combines low cost and ease of retrofit with excellent aesthetics. Intended as a more practical and affordable alternative to sprinklers, Automist uses a high pressure pump to generate a fine water mist from nozzles mounted under a kitchen tap, on a work surface or in a wall. In extensive BRE testing, Automist was found to render a lethal environment survivable.
In the event of a fire, an automatically-triggered pump drives mains water through the unique nozzle unit, quickly filling the room volume with fog. The use of conventional heat detection, already the standard in kitchens, effectively eliminates nuisance activation. Unlike conventional sprinklers, Automist can be stopped and reset instantly via its control panel. As Automist uses much less water than a traditional sprinkler system, water damage in the event of activation is minimised.
Automist is safe to use in kitchen areas. Adding water to a cooking oil fire can greatly exacerbate the fire; the same is not true for water mist, as the up-draught from the flame and the evaporation of the tiny droplets prevents water from reaching and collecting in the pan.
To determine whether retrofittable fire suppression is suitable for a specific application, standards are available; notably, PD7974 (Application of fire safety engineering principles to the design of buildings) provides a framework for analysis of where the fire risks are, how fire and smoke will spread, and how passive and active fire protection and detection/alarm systems will function in a given layout.
New legislation requires the responsible person (landlord, occupier or both) to carry out a fire safety risk assessment, maintain a fire management plan, implement fire safety measures and address specific dangerous layouts.
Landlords who fail to address inner bedroom and living room configurations risk prosecution, unlimited fines and even prison sentences. Two landlords in Haringey, Greater London, were sentenced to six months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay £5,000 costs each because a fire in their property had revealed inadequate fire safety measures. In 2008, a Suffolk hotel case over an inner bedroom resulted in a prison sentence and a fine of £204,000.
With systems like Automist now available, landlords and housing groups can no longer claim that no viable solution exists for these problem layouts. Those who continue to permit these layouts without adequate fire safety measures do so at their peril.