How can you know if your facility is at risk of loss from fire? What features and processes are in place that decrease or enhance that risk? What mitigations can be put into place to minimize the fire risk?
Risk can be defined as “the combination of the likelihood of an accident occurrence and the severity of the potential consequences”. A fire risk assessment is a direct assessment of the fire risks pertaining to a building or other structure. By conducting a fire risk assessment the level of risk can be identified, specific hazards can be realized, and action can be taken to mitigate these risks.
When conducting a fire risk assessment you want to thoroughly examine your structure or facility. Your examination should focus on identifying potential fire hazards (those items that contribute to increased fire/loss risk), and fire risk reduction factors (Items currently in place that reduce fire/loss risk).
Potential fire hazards to be identified are:
- Ignition sources present - Is there open flame in the area? Do hot work operations take place in the area? Is smoking allowed? Do industrial process create their own ignition source? Are their cooking facilities in the structure?
- Fuel load present - Does the area contain a large amount of flammables or combustibles? Would the materials within the space contribute to excessive fire load? Are the interior finishes flammable? How are items stored and configured?
- Occupant load - How many people can potentially occupy the space? How many people actually, regularly occupy the space? If a fire occurred, how many people would potentially be impacted?
There are five risk reduction factors that can reduce the risk of fire loss to a structure:
- Building construction type - Construction types I, II, IV provide the greatest degree of fire and heat resistance. Construction types III, and V are the least resistive to fire. Related Post: Understanding Building Construction and Loads
- Fire alarm systems - Fire alarm systems provide advanced notice of fire incident occurrence and can quickly contact emergency services. To ensure the reliability of these systems, they must undergo regular inspection, testing, and maintenance. Related Post: Beginners Guide to Fire Alarm Systems
- Fire suppression systems - Fire suppression systems are designed to control fires and keep them from growing to an unmanageable level. These systems, to be effective when needed, must be regularly inspected, tested, and maintained. Additionally, these systems must be installed and appropriately engineered to appropriately protect the hazard that they are installed for. Relate Post: Understanding Pre-Action Sprinkler Systems
- Building upgrades - As structures age they can become more susceptible to fire risk. As more is learned about building structure and systems, codes and standards are created and revised to make full use of the latest developments. Related Post: Aircraft Facility Fire Codes Index
- Water supply and reliability - The successful extinguishment of a fire relies heavily on the water supply availability, and how quickly and easily that water can be accessed. Related Post: How to Conduct Hydrant Flow Testing
Are your tenants, employees, and customers really safe, or are they truly at risk, with just a perception of safety?
My book, Risk Assessment Guide for Aviation Facilities, is a complete reference manual for understanding risk, conducting a risk assessment, and applying assessment results to mitigate fire loss.
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