By: Dhiren K Gada, Sejal Intelligent Façade Solutions Pvt Ltd
Fire accidents can happen during construction and post construction, or after any structure is occupied. It can be a residential building, commercial office building, or factory building. During the event of a fire, most people die due to smoke inhalation and panic situations.
To resolve the issue of trapped smoke, various materials and systems are available. Design can be developed by architects and construction consultants to control panic situations. Proper guidelines should be disseminated and regular training and drill must be conducted from time to time.
Firstly, we have to ensure that fire accident should not happen due to any human error, secondly, if the fire accident happens due to any reason, by natural or by human error, in such situation a plan must be ready for how to come out from the panic situation with zero loss of life. To mitigate the fire safety concern during the period of construction, it’s the responsibility of all the stakeholders including builders, architects and construction consultants who are practically working at sites.
It should be mandatory to follow the guidelines given by site safety officers for all kinds of safety measures including fire safety. All the construction equipment and tools which are combustible but necessary to use during construction. E.g. Gas / Electric Welding machines, etc. must be used safely and with maintaining the required distance from the other combustible material and also should store safely to avoid any unpredictable incidents.
To mitigate the fire safety concerns, one should understand the ancient structures built with different kinds of materials and the building design as they did. In our era, we have more options in material selection and to use in building construction. Then too we are facing more challenges of fire accidents every year. At the same time, one should also use good quality reusable products as per standards which are eco-friendly, just like glass and aluminium, etc. One should also strictly follow the safety norms given under NBC (National Building Code) 2016. To reduce the cost of construction one should not compromise on the quality of products. Government should take initiative and strictly define the fire safety product that must be used in all kinds of building structures in urban as well as rural areas too.
Fire escape shall be constructed of non-combustible materials. The combustible/ flammable material shall not be used for partitioning, wall panelling, false ceiling etc. Any material giving out toxic gases/ smoke if involved in the fire shall not be used for partitioning of a floor or wall panelling or a false ceiling etc.
There are many defined and proven materials available in the market which can help to mitigate the fire safety concern like – Fire resistance safety glass, fire resistance metal doors, fire wool, water sprinklers, fire-resisting electric cables, fire alarms, smoke seals, smoke detectors, fixed carbon-dioxide /foam/d-co water spray extinguishing system, static water storage tank, etc. Fixing an automatic smoke exit window, which opens if the smoke is detected above the defined restricted percentage is also essential.
A building must have identified fire exits with proper empty space to rescue the people trapped inside. All fire escapes shall be directly connected to the ground floor. There should be a provision for separate fire exit lifts to help senior citizens to escape. The lift machine room shall be separate and no other machinery be installed in it. The route to the fire escape shall be free of obstructions at all times. Smoking shall be prohibited in all areas where there is a profusion of combustible materials. Easily readable “NO SMOKING” signs must be conspicuously posted at locations where they can catch the eye. Each sign must also include a pictograph. The sign may also be illuminated.
As an alternative, a door which gives direct access to a balcony which is suitable for rescue by ladder or for escape should be designed. Windows are one of the most important parts of the building; the window should have an openable section which provides an unobstructed clear open area of at least 0.33 sq m. The height should be not less than 450 mm, the width should be not less than 450 mm, and the opening section should be capable of remaining in the position which provides this minimum clear open area. It is important to note that lockable handles or restrictors, which can only be released by removable keys or other tools, should not be fitted to window opening sections for escape or rescue.
Building regulations are making fire rated windows a requirement in an increasing amount of building types, particularly in high-rise buildings. In certain circumstances, glass, windows and façades must be fire-resistant. They must prevent fire spread, provide a safe escape route, offer ventilation, ensure that a building’s structure will not be affected, and provide safe access to the building in the event of a fire. Therefore, it is incredibly important to ensure that your building is fitted with fire-rated windows appropriate to your building type along with a fire-rated glass of 30, 60, 90 and 120 minutes as per requirement.
There must be basic awareness among all stakeholders, right from the person who is designing the dream structure to the person who is going to occupy the area for living or for a commercial purpose, with respect to fire safety mitigation measures. The awareness can be spread by the government, fire safety departments, fire safety material manufacturing companies, etc. To control the active fire, one should through with the guidelines of fire safety post-construction in an occupied building. Passive fire mitigation measures should be followed during the design and construction of the building.