Fire protections systems are standard building features that either actively or passively help to control the amount of damage that can occur to a building and it’s occupants in the event of a fire. The structural integrity of a building can be compromised once a fire has reached critical weight-bearing points or breached walls in a way that exposes the interior to weather elements.

Active fire protection systems include features such as automatic fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems. They work to contain the spread of the fire with the action of spraying water or alerting occupants to its presence. These features are crucial to a building’s construction, and should be implemented as a precautionary measure in any office or public space. Passive fire systems contain fires without taking action by utilizing building compartmentalization through the use of fire-resistant walls and doors.

When designing or upgrading a building, engineers take into account the implementation of the following fire protection features in order to comply with existing laws and provide building occupants with the maximum level of safety.

Automatic Fire Sprinklers

One of the most important components of a fire protection system are the automatic fire sprinklers. Once a fire sprinkler has detected the presence of smoke, it sprays water through sprinkler heads throughout the room or building, notifying occupants of the presence of fire in conjunction with the alarm system. These systems are most effective in the fire’s initial growth stage, as they work to spread a continuous flow of water over the fire, ideally dampening it enough to be fully put out.

Automatic fire sprinklers are installed during the initial construction of a building, but can be updated in the case of a faulty system or in response to new laws regarding fire safety. When installed initially, the building’s risk factors and layout are taken into consideration to ensure that safety is maximized regardless of the specific and unique challenges brought about from a building’s design plan.

Standpipes

Much like automatic fire sprinklers, standpipes are built into the initial construction of a building as they run throughout the walls of the entire structure, providing coverage on every floor. These standpipes create a water flow with nozzles that water hoses can be connected to for the manual application of water onto an emerging or spreading fire. Much like fire hydrants, firefighters can utilize this connection to spray water from the building’s main water source from any floor they may need to.

Two different types of standpipes exist: dry and wet. Dry standpipes can only be used by firefighters and do not have water flowing through them until they’re needed in the event of a fire. Wet standpipes always have pressurized water flowing through them, and can be utilized by both firefighters and building occupants. Generally, wet standpipes have hoses already attached so that building occupants can readily extinguish a fire if necessary.

Oftentimes, these standpipes include fire department connections. These connections are utilized by the firefighters on scene to either supply water to the standpipes or supplement the building’s already existing water supply. This additional water can be sourced from the fire truck itself or from a hydrant that can tap into water the building’s standpipes may not have access to. These are usually included in the initial creation of the standpipes in order to provide an extra source of water to the building.

building fire protection system

Fire Alarm Systems

Fire alarm systems are put in place in order to alert a building’s occupants in the event of a fire. These are installed in every room of a building and are highly regulated by fire safety laws. Generally, these can be automatic or manual alarm systems. Automatic alarm systems can detect heat or smoke and emit a high-pitched alarm throughout the building. Manual alarms must be pulled by a building’s occupant, and include simple instructions on how they can be used. Both types of alarms emit a visual cue as well, seen as a bright flash every few seconds.

Smoke Control Systems

Through the application of both physical barriers and mechanical systems, smoke control systems work to limit the spread of smoke through a building, ideally limiting the amount of damage the smoke can do to both the building and it’s occupants.

The mechanical systems of smoke control include fans, dampers, doors, and shutters that all work together to isolate and contain the spread of smoke. These are generally installed in the initial construction of a building as well, and work in conjunction with sprinkler systems to prevent as much damage as possible to the structural integrity of a building.

Fire Command Systems

In order to achieve unity and a systematic approach to containment of a fire, many buildings utilize a fire (or incident) command system. These systems are highly beneficial in evaluating, maintaining, and communicating the vital aspects of the fire, as well as providing updates in real time. Incident command systems are used in more than just fires, and emergency services generally use them to communicate and understand a number of different emergency-type situations outside of fire control.

Post Fire Smoke Purge

Similar to smoke control systems, the post fire smoke purge involves a series of fans and shutters that helps to eliminate the smoke from a building, and can include automatic ventilation from windows and doors to flush smoke from a building, preventing further damage. Although the fire has been extinguished, smoke can still cause harm to a building, making it unfit for occupancy, so post fire smoke purge systems are just as vital as other fire protection systems.

Auxiliary Radio Communication Systems (ARCS)

An auxiliary radio communication system (ARCS) provides clear, reliable communication for firefighters who may be separated by smoke, thick walls, or other standard radio interferences. These systems are installed within a building, including a base station, radio consoles, radiating cables, antennae, and power supplies. ARCS include two very distinct features: they need to be both wireless and bidirectional. They also operate continuously, even in power outages, to ensure that the firefighters on the scene are able to effectively communicate even if the fire has damage the electrical integrity of the building.

It’s important that engineers take into account every possible feature of a fire protection system for buildings that are being newly constructed or updated to achieve building code. With the right fire protection system in place, smoke and fire damage can be contained and eliminated, decreasing the spread of the fire’s reach and saving the integrity of the building.

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