Fire safety and protection systems

Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi Kenya was on Saturday night razed down by a fire that started from their workshop. The incident drew my attention to fire protection systems that help a great deal when such a mishap occurs.

When a fire occurs injury and death might be due to asphyxiation from poisonous fumes,  burns from direct exposure to the fire, heart attacks because of stress and exertion, the impact resulting from structural collapse, explosions, and falls.

Not only does the life safety and property protection influenced by the design of the structure and its fire protection measure but also, they affected by construction material quality, maintenance and building content.

Balanced design depends on three systems to decrease the danger of death and risk to property as a consequent of fire.

The three systems are a detection system to warn occupants of a fire, a contaminant system to limit or restrict the extent of the fire, and an automatic suppression system to control the fire until it can be extinguished.

These systems of balanced design complement each other by adding fire resistance feature which is not offered by other components. Moreover, some balanced design component features are redundant which mean if a certain part is failed the other part will offer fire safety.

In addition, to apply an excellent physical balanced design for fire safety, a perfect education and training program needs to be integrated by the government.


  • Automatic detection
  • Automatic suppression
  • Compartmentation
  • Property protection
  • State of the art in designing for fire safety

Automatic Detection of Fire

The first and most important measure against fire, which is slow with smoke but without fire and low heat that does not activate sprinkler head, is an exact early warning.

From life safety point of view, detectors are substantially significant because they warn occupants close to the source of the fire to run away.

To alert fire department, alarm systems could be installed to decline reaction time of firefighters, increase the speed of rescue operation, and restricting the spread of fire and structural damages.

If detectors are fixed at corridors and connected to a central alarm, the evacuation of the whole occupant will be easy and potential injury and death will be reduced. Smoke sensing fire detector is the most usual detector that employed for early warning.

Generally, detectors need to be connected to continuous power supply and should have a battery as a backup for the case where power is failed.Automatic detector location is specified based on general building code requirements. In residential building, detectors should be provided in all sleeping rooms, areas adjacent to sleeping rooms, and on all level of the building including the basement.

The selection of suitable detectors is based on the number of storeys, obstruction rooms, amount of air movement, and other factors.

The installed detectors are vulnerable to various unanticipated malfunctions for example lack of maintenance because of human neglect, faulty of the power supply, and the act of sabotage.


The purpose of the automatic sprinkler system (suppression system) is to control the fire at its origin. Despite that fact that residential sprinkler is not produced to extinguish the fire, but it is dependable and influential in limiting the fire source in the room until it can be stopped completely.

the suppression system

The automatic sprinkler can reduce the possibility of flash over that can be the dangerous event. Not only does the fire suppression permits access to building to help occupants out of the dangerous area but also allows the continuation of fire suppression. 

suppression system in the kitchen


Compartmentation of Buildings

Compartmentation restricts the spread of fire by dividing the building into compartment areas surrounded by firewalls and by fire rating floors and ceilings. Added to that, the spread of smokes and poisons fumes to adjacent areas of the building is limited by compartments.

Large and destructive fire beyond compartments is avoided by restricting total fuel load increasing the fire.

Not only do compartments provide a safe place for occupants for whom unable to escape such as elderly and handicapped but also safe refuge areas for the long time when the fire are blocked or filled with smokes.

The compartment boundary which is not combustible limit structural damages and substantially decreases the repair time after the fire. Generally, the repair is nonstructural and possibly it involves the replacement of doors, windows, switches, electrical outlet, wiring, heating ducts, and covers of floors, walls, and ceilings.

I would personally recommend the government should enforce a law in building fire resistant commercial houses and schools as well this will save lives in future don’t you think?


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