Responding to fires is always a heated debate among industry experts, but there is little argument that early detection is vitally important. This segment of fire prevention is where Standards Australia has been most active with a number of recent Australian Standards being published on both detection installations and extinguishing systems.
A Standard guiding extinguishers
The recent publication of AS 4214:2018, Gaseous fire-extinguishing systems has provided the Australian public with guidance for those firefighting systems that emit a gas to extinguish fire. While these systems are some of the most common in fighting fire, there are still several different methods of extinguishing a flame which have been developed in recent years. This has meant there is a clear need for industry, and the general public, to be provided with information on systems and methods already in place.
This standard has been prepared by the Technical Committee of Standards Australia – FP-011, Special Hazard Fire Protection Systems and supersedes AS ISO 14520, Parts 1 to 15 – 2009, Gaseous fire extinguishing systems.
The new standard includes:
- Environmental and safety information of each fire extinguishing agent outlined. Given the agents covered by this standard include synthetic greenhouse gases, it is a huge advantage for the final publication to have outlined the information required for the public to make informed decisions.
- New requirements which eliminate the need to release the extinguishing agents during testing procedures.
In many cases, the readability of a standard will determine its success and in publishing this standard, this was a huge focus. None of the intended safety improvements have a chance of being realised if this standard was hard to interpret or difficult to read, and given this standard guides the extinguishing of a fire it is important it can be easily understood.
The economic and environmental benefit of fire hydrant standards
A standard published at the end of 2017 acknowledges the ability of fires to spread at a rapid rate and thus the pivotal role fire hydrants play in minimising fire damage. Fire hydrants are often used to contain the spread of fire and to protect neighbouring properties, use of which can significantly alter the outcome of any fire. The benefits of effective fire hydrant system design extend further than firefighting success and can also mean less environmental impact and a positive economic impact on the community.
There are a number of important considerations to be made when determining the design and installation of fire hydrant systems. This is where the publication of AS 2419.1:2017, Fire hydrant installations – Part 1: System design, installation and commissioning seeks to guide installation of a hydrant, stressing the importance of how the fire brigade is intended to access the hydrant in the instance of a fire emergency.
Some of the key changes in this updated standard:
- Harmonised design elements between fire fighters, water authorities and building managers
- Reduction in the number of on-site tanks required to be installed
- Incorporates the latest technology regarding fire brigade pumping performance
The contribution of this standard to the Australian community can be felt across a range of public health and safety, social and economic areas. Updates to the standard will hopefully mean building owners and occupiers are utilising fire hydrant system designs that make it easier for firefighters to respond to a fire, including better compatibility of hydrants with water utility infrastructure. Minor design changes make it easier for building managers to ensure a fire hydrant system is available for use without being placed in an aesthetically unappealing place. Ultimately, this means the building manager can use the external space for more appealing features or parking places.
With increasing population growth in Australia, placing more and more demands on the built environment, it is essential that changes made to any Australian Standard are considerate of environmental issues and trends. The role of effective fire hydrant design has a huge role to play in minimising excess water use. This standard recognises this by adopting the latest findings with regard to fire brigade pumping performance and new technologies.
The environmental benefits can also be seen through the use of less material and more efficient energy usage, with the reduction in the number of on-site tanks required to be installed. The number of associated pumps also has the potential to decline, meaning building owners and managers are likely to spend less than previously required to implement a fire hydrant system well-equipped to respond to fires. High rise buildings in particular will likely see the biggest economic impact, with a potential reduction in water and energy use.
Emergency management standard gets a change-up
Responding to emergencies is a regular occurrence for those in the fire sector. In recognition of the need for an effective emergency plan for facilities, there is an Australian Standard which outlines minimum requirements for establishing, validation and implementing an emergency plan.
AS 3745:2010, Planning for emergencies in facilities is not a new standard, but a recent amendment in 2018 has improved its ability to deliver for the sector. Some minor changes were implemented, when the amendment was published on 29 June, including a definition of first-attack firefighting equipment, a new definition of first-response emergency equipment, and changes to a figure outlined in the amendment made in 2014. The figure outlines the different sections of the standard and visually displays how they feed into an all-encompassing emergency plan.
While there were only a handful of changes made to the standard, this type of amendment is vital to ensure the guidance continues to deliver for the industry. It is only in the standards giving the professionals in the fire-fighting industry the right guidance that the Australian community can have faith in their ability to respond to fires, whatever the circumstances.
Standards and the sector
Standards Australia has a number of active committees with continuing projects happening all the time to ensure there is as much guidance as possible to minimise the damage caused by fire.
To find out more, or to get involved, contact Alison Scotland, Senior Stakeholder Engagement Manager at Standards Australia on 02 9237 6088 or email [email protected]
For more information, go to www.standards.org.au