Millions of rands are lost due to fire damages in South Africa each year. A commercial property fire not only threatens lives but also a business' assets and ability to continue operating. Therefore it's imperative for intermediaries and commercial business owners to work together to manage these fire risks with a comprehensive fire safety management policy. Including an automatic fire sprinkler system is a good place to start.
What is an automatic fire sprinkler system?
An automatic fire sprinkler system is a pressurised water supply and distribution system that is designed and built according to specific fire design codes and standards, based on the applicable fire risks in the concerned area. These systems are typically found in warehouses, manufacturing industries as well as hotels and large office buildings.
The main components of a fire sprinkler system comprise water supply pipework and a network of sprinkler heads that activate in the event of a fire, releasing water from the system to extinguish the fire below. Water supplies can be in the form of a public or municipal water supply for small installations, or more reliable, independent water tanks and dedicated fire pumps for larger installations.
Where provided and properly serviced and maintained, a fire sprinkler system can save lives as well as significant damage to property. However, the systems can only function as intended if they are properly designed and installed, all key components are well maintained and tested and serviced on time to ensure its functioning and reliability.
Where fire sprinkler systems are not provided or are only partially installed, a robust risk management programme must be implemented to ensure that fire prevention is the absolute focus at a facility.
Advantages of fire sprinkler systems
Fire sprinkler systems are designed to react promptly and automatically in the event of a fire, much faster than any human, irrespective of time of day or safety concerns. Here are more benefits of a fire sprinkler system:
Fire sprinkler regulations to know
In terms of Section 17 of the South African Building Act, the National Building Regulations and Directives, provide “for the requirements with which buildings shall comply in so far as precautionary measures against fires or other emergencies are concerned, including the resistance of buildings against the outbreak and spreading of fires, the protection of the occupants or users of buildings or other persons against fires, the aids or other installations to be in buildings for the combating or prevention of fires and for the vacating of such buildings in cases of fires or other emergencies”.
To comply with the above legislation, it is best practice globally to install passive fire protection, such as smoke detectors in buildings and automatic sprinklers in structures with a high fire load or where such buildings or structures house high-risk exposures. These systems are designed and installed in accordance with proven standards, codes and rules that are based on actual fire tests.