The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (henceforth known as ‘RRO’) has been in force for several years, but only recently has the legislation started to bite with serious punishments being handed down for breaches – the Chumleigh Lodge Hotel in London resulting in nearly a quarter of a million pounds in fines, for example.

The key to the RRO’s impact and relevance is in identifying the ‘responsible person’ referred to in the legislation.

This individual may be the building’s owner, a tenant, a maintenance contractor or a facilities manager. The identified person has ultimate responsibility for the safety of people who use the building as well as for the structure itself, and in many cases this person may be inheriting an existing fire safety system.

It’s easy enough to identify the basics, such as a fire alarm system or series of fire extinguishers, and ensure that their upkeep is maintained. But fire safety systems can be far more complex than that, resulting in challenges such as identifying which building features are fire-related and – vitally – how they all work together to ensure a safe outcome in the event of a fire.

Smoke control

A proper fire risk assessment may well result in the requirement for a smoke control system – designed to keep escape routes clear of hazardous smoke and improve accessibility for firefighters – and such is the highly technical fire-engineered nature of these systems it is imperative that a fully-qualified and experienced specialist be appointed to the design, supply, installation and ongoing service of the system. Remember, a service/inspection certificate for your smoke control system is every bit as important as one for your sprinkler system, fire alarms or fire extinguishers.

A simple maintenance regime for a smoke control system might undertake the basics, such as ensuring a louvre is able to open and close smoothly, but that doesn’t cover the most important aspect – ensuring that the louvre will open at the correct time when required, an in correct sequence with other systems within the building. Many structures use centralised control systems to govern each aspect of a fire safety system, and these require specialist maintenance and servicing provided by an expert in their trade. Failure to guarantee this can place a risk of legal action against the responsible person, especially if a fire were to break out.

For this reason, the fire safety industry needs to promote the importance of service and maintenance of fire safety systems every bit as much as their initial installation. In light of this an approved installer scheme is currently being developed by the SCA (Smoke Control Association) for the installation and servicing of smoke control systems to ensure the industry has its house in order.

Airvent Systems Services Limited

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