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Jens Jakobsen - Maintenance Of Fire Protection Systems

Disaster has happened before. A company invests in an automatic sprinkler system to meet fire department or insurance requirements and when a fire occurs the premises is razed to the ground.

The reason? The system was not maintained, and the batteries did not charge and could therefore not start the diesel driven pump. No water - no suppression - no protection!

Not only does the client suffer the economic loss of the building and the contents, but also the economic loss of the automatic sprinkler system. Why does this occur, how can it be prevented and what are the legal ramifications?

When a building plan is submitted to a municipality for approval, fire protection is one of the key aspects that is scrutinised. Based on the intended use of the building and expected population load, the requirements for means of escape, building stability in the event of a fire, detection, smoke control and suppression must be met.

Once such systems have been approved by the municipality it is up to the owner of the building to ensure that means of escape are kept open and the fire detection, suppression and smoke control systems are
periodically inspected, tested and maintained. Not to do this is an offence in terms of the National Building Regulations.

The fire department will conduct inspections of premises to ensure compliance and can issue warnings, fines or even close a premise depending on the impact of the infringement on public safety. It is important to note that the inspection of means of escape and fire protection systems is not the responsibility of the fire department but is the responsibility of the owner of the building.

Insurance assessors will also conduct inspections from time to time to ensure that the insured is meeting the insurance requirements with regards to fire risk mitigation. If a fire occurs and fire protection systems are not being inspected, tested, or maintained, the insurance company could have grounds to repudiate a claim.

The owner of a business and the owner of a building have a vested interest to ensure that means of escape and fire protection systems are maintained in accordance with the requirements of the approved
fire plan.

If the occupancy classification of the building changes, say from a block of flats to an office block, a new fire plan must be submitted to the municipality for approval. Some changes are not obvious: such as a building designed for the distribution of fruit and vegetables now being used for the panel beating of motorcars. Such building changes impact of means of escape and the fire protection systems and the building and systems must therefore be inspected annually by a competent person.

Many business owners contract suitably qualified third party fire safety auditors to do annual inspections of properties to ensure that the following conditions are met.

The occupancy classification of the building (or parts therefore) have not changed:
That means of escape are adequate for the number of people in the building and that they meet the requirements of the regulations;
That fire detection systems are being tested, inspected, and maintained. This will normally include the analysis of patterns of false alarm with a view to reducing them;
Water flow testing to ensure that the design flow is still adequate for fire protection systems;
That fire suppression systems, including water based systems such as sprinklers, gaseous suppression, foam systems or others are being tested, inspected, and maintained;
That diesel fire pumps and electrical generators connected to fire pumps are being run for thirty minutes every week;
That smoke control systems are inspected, tested and maintained.
By rigorously inspecting, testing and maintaining fire protection systems, building and business owners can ensure that in the event of a fire the systems will perform as designed. Insurers will recognise the standard of fire protection being applied and a favourable premium can be negotiated.

M: +27 83 391 6767
T: FDD Fire Eng: +27 21 791 0047

 Jens Jakobsen Maintenance Of Fire Protection Systems.GIF
 Jens Jakobsen Maintenance Of Fire Protection Systems.pdf

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