Passive Fire Safety – A risk-based approach

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The latest issue that seems to be hitting the radar on the Fire Safety front is PFI projects.

The Public Finance Initiative or PFI has been around since the 1990s and allowed private firms to invest in public buildings, and then take a long term return from rents.  In the last 12 months there have been some glaring omissions noticed in the standards of fire safety compartmentation in some of these buildings, with hospitals and schools being hit hardest.

Having discovered that the building may not have been built to a reasonable standard, building managers are scheduling Passive Fire Surveys, as was carried out at Carlisle’s Cumberland Hospital early this year. It was reported that the bill to rectify the work was in the region of £14 million!  A hefty figure, and a significant amount of work.

Deciding who is responsible and who will pay is a separate conversation. But whoever has to undertake that work needs to be adopting a risk-based approach.

Identify the critical areas that require protection: typically this will be defending walls, floor and ceilings.  Having identified the critical compartments, drill down into the works to be completed, undoubtedly there will be a portion of the residual works identified that do not form a significant risk to the buildings compartments, these can be identified and put to one side, allowing the critical works to take place sooner.

Of course this does not solve the issue of buildings not being built correctly, but it does at least allow the building to continue to be used for the purpose it was built, and its occupants kept safe.

If you want to find out more about Risk Based Passive Surveys of a building, you can call 01524 784356 or email

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