Article by Caroline A. Bødkerholm

To see the importance of having fire rules and fire prevention work, we must turn back the time. Large city fires have been a major problem during the past. Some city fires could rage for several days destroying up to 1/3 of the cities. Back then, most of the houses were half-timbered houses, and the foundations were intended only to carry a half-timbered house, and not a much heavier ground-walled house.

Historically, city fires, have resulted in the establishment of rules and building codes in the area of fire prevention, and the insurance industry as we know it today. Building regulations today are normally performance based in most countries. One important factor in fire prevention is passive fire protection:

  • The construction of fire walls
  • Fire section walls and fire cells
  • Securing of doors and door openings
  • Pipe and cable penetrations, etc.

 Over the last 30 years, the new European fire classes have been introduced. The reason for these additions was the desire for a pan-European way of documenting the properties of construction products.

European standards for testing and classification have therefore been developed. As a result, the national system for classification of building materials and components was replaced by the European system.

 The European fire classes do not inform about the specific requirements in every country as they have the freedom to decide on their own safety level. For that reason, it is necessary to look into the national regulations and investigate the minimum requirement for personal safety to secure a legal construction.

Oftentimes, this requirement is lower than the insurance companies' recommendations, as the insurance companies base the requirements on value hedging, which is based on experience from real fires.

What should be considered with your passive fire protection?

For the past 20 years, it has been possible to classify more and more building components. However, some are still missing e.g. doors and exterior doors. All types of openings in a fire separating wall must be able to meet the fire separation classification and thus integrity. It is especially important to choose the correct fire sliding door, or side hung fire door for exterior walls, these must be per. November 1st, 2019 be approved and CE marked.

 ”Fire doors and fire sliding doors are important as they prevent the spread of fire and smoke between building sections, thereby optimising personal safety and the rescue of values and minimising the extent of damage”. – Hans Raeder, Senior Risk Engineer, Risk Management Services Denmark

Today, we see a lot of buildings where the passive fire protection is supplemented by active fire protection as e.g. sprinkler systems that will prevent the fire from spreading. From a risk point of view, if the sprinkler system works, then there shouldn’t be a need for the passive constructions. However, if the sprinkler system fails, which is something we experience every year, then it is necessary to have a passive construction, which can withstand a fire without the help of an active system.

The penetration of fire rated walls and floors is often necessary to accommodate electricity, data cables and piping systems. In these cases, exceptional care is needed. Fire rated walls will be unable to provide protection against the spread of smoke and heat if there are unsealed penetrations.

In connection with the fire separations, it is important to have a correct finish to the roof, either as a fire parapet, or fire parapet replacement. A building can be divided into several fire sections, where the fire section walls must prevent a fire from spreading and help to limit the extent of the damage.

Fire prevention is an important parameter in the operation of a modern company, as it will minimise operational losses and avoid injuries, both to persons and equipment.

Hans Raeder, Senior Risk Engineer, Risk Management Services Denmark

Best practice

When the building is in use, it is important that the building's fire properties are maintained and not deteriorated. It is often seen that the function of the firewalls and fire section walls is forgotten or not respected in connection with remodeling.

Have a fire plan with fire ratings

It is important to have fire plans, that show the location of fire separations, both horizontal and vertical. The approved fire plans should preferably appear in the operating manual for the building.

Control of the building during construction

It is also important that there is control of the building during construction, where the finish of the fire section walls is checked, as well as seals around ventilation, pipe and cable ducts are closed.

Post-construction check

This check must be prepared to check for external faults and defects so that everything is in order and operational before the building is put into service.

Continuous maintenance

It must be regularly ensured that fire doors and fire sliding doors can close completely and that the closing device and retaining brackets work, the frequency for various checks must be ¼, ½ and 1 yearly.

Fire seals must also be regularly inspected, as these are often removed in connection with re-installation of installations.  

If you have any questions to above article, you are more than welcome to contact Risk Management at If.