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Practical fire testing raises awareness

The importance of real-world fire testing has been raised at a recent event held in the ANPI testing ­facility near Brussels.

The event involved a group of 50 invited stakeholders from across the UK, including the Fire Brigade, local authority representatives, consulting engineers, architects and contractors from across Europe.

Notable attendees included:

  • Ray Edwards and Nic Hodgetts of the West Midlands Fire Service; n BAM senior design manager Peter Bennett;
  • Austen Runnicles of Broadway Malyan Architects;
  • Senior surveyor at Southwark Council Paul Davies;
  • Gavin Duncan, also of Southwark Council;
  • Granville Harris of London Fire Brigade’s Fire Engineering Group;
  • Building Design Partnership environmental engineering director James Warne;
  • Keith Elves, Westminster District Surveyors.

A controlled blaze was started inside a test building in order to demonstrate real-life smoke conditions in terms of visibility and heat, as well as to show clear layering and the smoke doubling effect created by mezzanine levels.

Benefits on show

The tests were able to display not only the rapid propagation and behaviour of smoke caused by fire within enclosed spaces, but also the dramatic benefits of properly designed and well-maintained smoke control systems in safely venting hazardous fumes.

Attendees were stationed within the fire test area, witnessing the heat and reduced visibility caused by the thick black toxic smoke, ­before being led outside to safety to see the smoke ventilation system in action.

Testing proves the theory, and provides a valuable resource and a memorable experience to anyone who attends.

This experience reminds all within the industry that fire safety isn’t just about meeting regulations and coming up with designs on computer screens; it’s about saving lives and mitigating the risks to building users.

This kind of testing is designed to help others in the industry and beyond, highlighting the risks presented by poor smoke ventilation.

Dave Mowatt is a director of Airvent