Fire safety is about more than fire doors

Sam Yiend, director of Teal Products, explains why the Grenfell Tower disaster last year has rightly put fire safety back at the top of the industry’s agenda.

Since these devastating events last June, manufacturers, suppliers, installers and end-users have all been questioning not only the quality of their fire-rated products, but also their performance.

While this scrutiny of fire-rated products is incredibly important and long overdue, it’s vital that the industry recognises that effective fire safety is about far more than just fire doors.

While certified fire doors provide a durable barrier from flames, smoke ventilation systems are key to removing smoke and heat, creating a safe escape route out of high-rise residential or commercial buildings.

Designed for communal areas such as stairwells, lobbies or exit corridors, smoke ventilation systems use actuators to automatically open windows and rooflights in the event of a fire. A typical system should consist of vents certified to BS EN 12101-2 which are automatically triggered by a 24v control system (certified to BS EN 12101-10). The system is activated when a callpoint or smoke sensor is triggered, resulting in vents opening to clear smoke from that area of the building.

In many cases however, the windows used for smoke ventilation are not certified or tested to the same high standard as the system. We therefore recommend and offer a number of window options to customers including aluminium glazed louvres which are thermally broken and fully certified to this BS EN standard.

It’s an effective system which has become an integral part of fire and safety strategies across the world. Whether it’s apartment blocks, student accommodation or office buildings, lives are safeguarded through the effective automation of windows in essential high-traffic areas of the building, maintaining a safe exit.

In my view, the construction and building products industries can be fairly criticised for being far too reactive, and the unfortunate events of Grenfell are an extreme example of that. However, we now have a fantastic opportunity to be proactive by strengthening fire-rated product lines with smoke ventilation systems.

We know there will be those with trepidations about entering this new area of the market but at Teal we have the tools and support businesses need to stock, supply and fit these systems with complete confidence. Not only do we have 17+ years of experience supplying window control and ventilation systems, we offer bespoke one-page installation instructions for each product and full training at our facilities if necessary.

When you consider the most common cause of death from fire-related disasters is smoke inhalation, it shows just how vital these systems are to help save lives and hopefully avoid tragedies like this again.