Building systems make indoor spaces suitable for occupancy, but short-term disruptions can normally be tolerated. A blackout is inconvenient, but it does not pose an immediate threat in most cases. The same applies if space heating is turned off for a quick inspection, since the building does not become cold right away. However, fire protection engineering is a different story, since fire can have devastating effects in a short time.
Humans stay away from fire instinctively, but the risks of smoke are often overlooked. Smoke limits visibility, making evacuation more difficult, and it is lethal when inhaled in large amounts. For this reason, smoke accumulation is also considered a serious threat in fire protection engineering.
Fire protection systems must be capable of detecting fire and smoke, warning occupants, and activating automatic measures to prevent or mitigate damage. Automatic sprinklers are among the most effective fire protection measures, since they can quench most fires when they are still small.
Fire protection engineers also design measures that help firefighters, for cases where the automatic systems in a building are not enough to control a fire. The following are some examples:
- A fire command center inside the building, with auxiliary radio communication systems.
- Standpipes, which are used by fire trucks to pump water to any floor.
- When the building has a fire pump, the standpipe can deliver pressurized water without connecting to a fire truck.
Since fire protection systems are critical for building safety, they are normally subject to stringent requirements in building codes. However, the price of these systems is small compared with the cost of the avoided damage, so they can be considered an investment. Fire protection engineering safeguards your building and everyone inside.