If you want to protect lives and property from fire risk, compartmentation is your best line of defence. A fire compartment divides large internal rooms into more manageable spaces that you can then seal off to protect escape routes and prevent fire and smoke from spreading.
If you’ve had a Fire Risk Assessment on your property, you may already have an action point to undertake a Fire Compartmentation Survey. These are crucial for your safety — here’s why…
What is Fire Compartmentation?
A fire compartment could be a room, a space or even a separate storey in a building that’s designed to prevent the spread of fire. It’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Rather, each bespoke compartment will take into account building usage, the height of the building, other fire suppression systems like automatic sprinklers and the potential fire load.
For a fire compartment to be practical, the walls, floors and ceilings need to be constructed in a way that effectively contains the fire. That means using fire doors and ensuring that all ducts, pipes, rafters and joists are properly fire-stopped.
What is a Fire Compartmentation Survey?
Your Fire Risk Assessor will flag up any breaches they feel may compromise the effectiveness of the fire compartment. These breaches could be in relation to the floors, ceilings, or walls.
The next step is for a specialist to undertake a Fire Compartmentation Survey, which will examine the efficacy of any compartmentation measures.
A comprehensive survey covers everything from fire doors and roof voids to ceilings, floors and walls. It can point out critical improvements that can help you protect occupants and high-value property more effectively.
What’s Involved in a Fire Compartmentation Survey?
A Fire Compartmentation Survey covers the existing fire compartment measure and the strategy used to contain a fire in the building. The scope of the survey should include:
- A complete visual inspection of each fire compartment and the measures put in place to stop the spread of fire and smoke, including doors, roof voids, basements, floors, walls, shafts and risers.
- A thorough inspection of all fire doors in use in the building.
- A survey of the current fire compartment measures, comparing them to Approved Document B (Building Regulations), British Standards, and building-specific documentation.
- An assessment of all materials used to seal each fire compartment and whether appropriate fire-rated materials have been used and installed correctly.
- An in-depth assessment of the methods and materials used to create each fire compartment.
Once the survey is complete, you’ll receive a report detailing its findings. This should include:
- Any damage to a fire compartment could compromise its effectiveness.
- Where fire dampers have been omitted when ducts pass through a compartment.
- Unprotected steelwork could impact the fire effectiveness of the building as a whole.
- An action plan including necessary remedial actions to fix the issues and retain the integrity of your fire compartment strategy.
The report should also include photos and floor plans with comprehensive mark-ups of fire compartment walls and fire doors. These visual aids will help you to create a clear evacuation plan and can be used as safety training tools with your staff. If you’re planning any building work, you’ll need Fire Compartment Drawings to apply for planning permission.
Why is a Fire Compartmentation Survey Important?
Not every property benefits from fire compartmentation or needs a survey. For example, single occupancy and low-risk buildings won’t require compartmentation. On the other hand, hotels, blocks of flats, care homes and mixed-use buildings must have a fire prevention strategy that includes compartments.
A Fire Compartmentation Survey is vitally important where vulnerable residents are involved because of the time taken for evacuation. For example, care home residents may need to follow a Progressive Horizontal Evacuation in the case of fire. This method involves moving residents from one fire compartment to another. It’s just one example where well maintained and accurately surveyed fire compartmentation saves lives.
In contrast, some care homes may have a stay-put policy. Again, in this situation, fire compartmentation is a central part of keeping occupants safe. Each fire compartment must be adequately constructed and inspected to meet Building Regulations.
However well implemented your fire safety policies are, regular surveys are essential. Knowing that your fire compartmentation is fully compliant will help to protect occupants and ensure they have the necessary time to evacuate while safeguarding your property.
JNR Limited Fire Protection
At JNR Limited, we provide a comprehensive range of fire protection services in London, Manchester and Birmingham, including fire doors, fire stopping and fire barriers. Contact us now to discover how we can help you protect your property.