Fire compartmentation is the subdivision of buildings into manageable areas of risk, in order to prevent the spread of fire and smoke, and to provide adequate means of escape. It is a requirement of the Fire Safety Order (2005) that the ‘responsible person’ ensures safe means of escape are available at all times, established through a fire compartmentation survey.
A fire compartmentation survey is required because a fire risk assessment does not cover the areas such as above suspended ceilings in much the same way that a mortgage valuation is not the same thing as a structural survey of a property. This area of fire protection is much forgotten about but ensures the integrity of fire compartmentation walls to ensure an escape route is available in the event of a fire. To meet the legal requirements of the RRFSO, building owners and occupiers must ensure that the fire compartmentation in their buildings is robust and being adequately managed and maintained. Under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, organisations must ensure that the fire protection components within a building: “are subject to a suitable system of maintenance and are maintained in an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair.”
A standard survey covers:
- An inspection of the overall condition of the existing fire compartments.
- An assessment of the condition and effectiveness of the sealing of wall/soffit interfaces.
- An inspection of existing fire seals applied to service penetrations through fire compartment lines.
- An assessment of the materials used to seal existing service penetrations/linear joints and in particular whether appropriate fire rated materials appear to have been used and whether they appear to have been applied/installed in an appropriate manner.
- Notification of the presence of any damage to fire compartment lines that is likely to reduce the effectiveness of the fire compartment.
- Notification of the presence of unprotected structural steelwork within fire compartments which may have an impact on the overall effectiveness of the expected fire performance of the building.
- Notification of the presence of fire dampers within ducts passing through designated fire compartment lines.
- An assessment of the materials and methods used to construct any dry lined walls which form part of the fire compartmentation.
- An assessment of any specific issues relating to the ability to reinstate fire compartmentation (the presence of items of equipment or services which may prevent access to the required area).