Διαβάστε μερικές από τις πολύ ενδιαφέρουσες ερωτήσεις που τέθηκαν κατά τη διάρκεια του Συνεδρίου του ΕΛΙΠΥΚΑ, στις 7 & 8 Φεβρουαρίου 2020. Στις ερωτήσεις απαντά ο Adrian Brown, Πιστοποιημένος Πυρομηχανικός. Η παρουσίαση του κ. Brown είχε τίτλο «Η Περίπτωση του Grenfell Tower».

  1. How can someone i.e. on the 15th floor of a high-rise building can know if and when the fire on the 5th floor will affect him in terms of smoke?

In the UK (England and Wales at least) the warning in case of fire in purely domestic and residential properties such as flats and self-contained apartments relies on the occupants being in control of their own property – the same as would be the case in a normal house. The design of such accommodation in a multi-occupied building (in buildings of all heights) requires sufficient fire-resistant construction (typically a minimum of 60-120 minutes) to protect people in their apartments and the escape routes leading to outside. In the event of a more serious fire in an apartment the understanding is that the occupants of the Apartment on fire will raise the alarm to their neighbors, the Fire Service and Building management. There is currently no mandated requirement to provide an automatic fire detection and alarm system within the public areas of the building, or have each Apartment fire alarm linked to each other.  However a new system for use by the Fire and Rescue Service at an incident may soon be required to be installed within high rise building which addresses this issue. Evacuation alert systems are for use by the fire and rescue service incident commander only, who may, in the course of managing a fire incident, want residents to evacuate sections of a floor (in a large building), individual floors, or the entire building. Using an evacuation alert system, residents may be directed to evacuate via alarms sounded in each flat.

  1. People living in Grenfell tower had indeed expressed that they felt threatened (as evident by the calls that were played during the public inquiry); however, they were given reassurance to stay put and not evacuate. Why do you think that happened?

All guidance with regard to Stay Put design and evacuation in high rise buildings clearly states that if occupants begin to feel threatened due to heat or smoke, irrespective of whether the building was designed or implements a stay put/defend in place strategy, then they are at their own liberty to evacuate at any time – there is no law that requires occupants to stay in their homes if threatened by the effects of a developing fire. It will be the jurisdiction of the Inquiry to determine why they didn’t evacuate in sufficient time to remain safe and unharmed.

  1. What was the use of the building that you demonstrated the fire propagation? Were there high combustible materials present?

The building in the video clip (not the one with the car in the roof!) was under construction. The floor where the fire can be seen was level 6 of a podium car cark. The fire development to flash over was due to a low ceiling height and wooden building materials being stored to a height of approximately 2m. However, the fire was started intentionally 6 levels below and spread via an incomplete Mechanical Services shaft.

  1. Is the stay put strategy actually being implemented (in the UK)? Isn’t such a plan directly opposed to what a fire alarm would alert residents for (evacuation in this case)?

The ‘Stay Put’ policy has been used effectively in the UK since the 1960’s. The underlying principle of means of escape and warning in case of fire is that each occupant within their own household is responsible for their own safety. Fire alarms within the Apartment only alert the occupier (and in some case the building security/concierge) in the event of a fire within their own property. The internal layout of flats and apartments is strictly controlled by design to provide fire resistant walls and doors, and also the size of the Apartment itself. Therefore, should a fire occur within the kitchen of the Apartment, for example, the fire normally (if the walls and doors have not been removed by the occupier when they take ownership of the property) is confined to that area and is restricted from involving the whole apartment. The maximum distance to a protected area is 9m. In larger Apartments where the design needs to be more flexible, automatic sprinklers must be installed. So in summary when a fire occurs in the Apartment, the Apartment fire alarm operates and the occupants either deal with the fire without disturbing the whole building – such as what happens with burnt toast – or they evacuate and call the fire service, they may also alert other residents on the same floor after closing their Apartment door which must be a minimum 60 minutes fire resisting. In some buildings it fire alarm break glass points are provided at doors to exits for that purpose.  The fire service then assesses the fire and make a decision to continue with a stay put strategy OR evacuate at least the fire floor and two floors above. However, should the fire begin to compromise the internal fire compartmentation or it is clear, based on dynamic risk assessment, that there is a significant risk to life should persons remain in the building.

  1. Fire service typically desires to have flexibility in operation and not constrained by design assumptions, what are your thoughts?

Throughout the UK there is a requirement for consultation to take place between Building Control Authorities and Fire Services in respect of proposed buildings and relevant building work. However the Building Act and supporting Regulations require this only as mandatory for buildings which will also fall under Fire Legislation such as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order in England. It is during this process that, notwithstanding the Building Regulations requirement to provide MINIMUM access and facilities for Firefighting, that the Fire and Rescue Service have an opportunity to raise observations and discuss specific requirements with the Client and Architect. The facilities provided should therefore reflect current Firefighting techniques and guidance as well as National and Local Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs). Once the building is constructed and occupied, and in the event of an Incident in the building the Fire Service Incident Commander and Operations team must constantly and dynamically risk assess the incident and building for operational effectiveness and safety. This process should also take into account the safety of occupants, structural stability effectiveness and integrity of compartmentation and the relevance of the design evacuation strategy- such as an initial Stay Put building Strategy. It is important to acknowledge that just because a building has been designed to utilise a particular evacuation strategy, it does not mean that that strategy must be used throughout the duration of the incident. Moreover, the decision to amend/modify the evacuation strategy lies totally with the Incident Commander. Such decisions must reflect the Statutory Duty of the Fire and Rescue Services: to Save life, Protect Property and render Humanitarian Services.

*Οι απαντήσεις των ομιλητών εκφράζουν τις επιστημονικές και εμπειρικές τους απόψεις, παρουσιάζονται δε αυτούσιες χωρίς καμιά παρέμβαση από το ΕΛΙΠΥΚΑ.

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