The Importance Of Regular Passive Fire Inspections For Your Building

An effective passive fire protection strategy requires operators and managers of public buildings to juggle an array of responsibilities. One of these – sometimes underestimated in importance – is the crucial role of regular passive fire inspections.

In this article, we will elucidate the importance of undertaking regular passive inspections and how they can improve the safety and usability of your buildings.

What Is Passive Fire Protection?

Passive fire protection, as opposed to active protection measures that depend on an automated trigger or human intervention, comprise of a set of measures integrated into the fabric of the building to contain or slow the spread of fire and smoke. These include fire rated walls, compartmentation, fire barriers, fire doors, as well as fire resistant protective coatings and sprays that can resist higher temperatures.

What Is The Role Of A Passive Fire Inspection?

A passive fire inspection is a thorough strategic review of all the passive fire protection measures installed in the building. So, for instance, the inspection team might check the integrity of any fire resistant walls, floors, ductwork, and doors on the premises, ensuring that control measures are in an optimal working condition and conform to current fire health and safety regulations. The inspector may also check for potential breaches such as unsealed openings or gaps and evaluate the condition of fire and smoke dampers – among other things – and make targeted suggestions for improvement.

The importance of regular passive fire protection inspections and efficiency evaluations cannot be overstated in public buildings, for several reasons:

  • Slows the spread of fire and smoke: passive fire protection measures are designed to compartmentalise a building, thereby inhibiting the spread of smoke and fire. This buys valuable time for occupants during the event of a fire, allowing emergency services to respond effectively.
  • Facilitates a safe and fast evacuation: by hindering the rapid spread of fire and smoke, passive fire protection measures create a safer environment for occupants to evacuate, which is especially crucial in large public sector buildings and multi-building complexes.
  • Preserves the integrity of buildings: beyond protecting human life, passive fire protection inspections also ensure that the right control measures are in place to protect the structural integrity of the building. By slowing the fire’s progress, less damage is inflicted on the building, potentially speeding up the recovery and restoration process post fire.

Why Are Regular Passive Fire Inspections Important?

Regular inspections are advisable because, if not inspected regularly, some elements of your passive fire protection infrastructure may cease to work as intended. An ongoing series of inspections at established intervals, or in response to structural/usage changes of the building, will help ensure that your fire protection systems remain in optimal working condition.

This is important because, over time, normal wear and tear, electronic malfunctions, building modifications, or poor maintenance can compromise the effectiveness of these systems. A regular inspection schedule provides early warning of any issues, ensuring they can be dealt with promptly and that the building remains compliant.

Furthermore, passive fire inspections are a central part of legal fire safety compliance for employers and the managers of commercial buildings. The most important law to be aware of in this regard is The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, which provides a comprehensive framework for managing fire safety in all non-domestic premises, including workplaces, throughout England and Wales. The Fire Safety Order consolidated and replaced 118 former items of legislation, including the Fire Precautions Act 1971 and the Fire Precautions (workplace) Regulations 1997, with a new and stronger emphasis on fire risk assessment and mitigation.

Under the legislation, the responsibility for complying with fire safety regulations lies with the ‘responsible person’ for each premises, usually the employer, landlord, or occupier. This responsibility includes carrying out a thorough fire risk assessment, implementing the appropriate passive fire safety measures, and maintaining a comprehensive fire management plan.

Find Out More

IFI Group support facilities managers to create safer public spaces and buildings in the face of potential fires, through a variety of passive fire consulting and inspection services. To find out more, please click here to contact one of our experienced team.