Fire in timber frame buildings

This document has been developed through the RISCAuthority and published by the Fire Protection Association (FPA). RISCAuthority membership comprises a group of UK insurers that actively support a number of expert working groups developing and promulgating best practice for the protection of people, property, business and the environment from loss due to fire and other risks. The technical expertise for this document has been provided by the Technical Directorate of the FPA, external consultants, and experts from the insurance industry who together form the various RISCAuthority Working Groups. Although produced with insurer input it does not (and is not intended to) represent a pan-insurer perspective. Individual insurance companies will have their own requirements and views which may be different from or not reflected in the content of this document.

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Occupant toxic exposure to fires in rain-screen cladding systems

An experimental investigation of fire gas exposure from un-fire-stopped penetrations through the external envelop of a building in association with the use of materials in the make-up of rain-screen cladding systems that may contribute to fire.

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Well-maintained Fire Detection System Reduce Fire Losses

The purpose of fire safety technology is to help people prevent fires and to minimise fire losses. Automatic Fire Detection Systems are designed to detect fires as early as possible and to send an alarm to the Emergency Response Centre or to other actors that can rapidly respond to the alarm. The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group points out that human skills play a significant role in properly operating equipment.

In 2016 automatic Fire Detection Systems reported 800 real fires in buildings; in other words more often than twice a day. According to Emergency Services College statistics prompt alarms were estimated, at the very least, to have annually prevented fire losses worth EUR 16 million.

Properly working Fire Detection System make a big difference in detecting fires, providing more time for action and, for example, securing business continuity for companies. On average, it takes approximately 15–18 minutes from smoke detection to commencing the rescue and firefighting operation at the site. If the fire develops further before it is detected by other means, and before people can start first extinguishing at the site, the damage will increase dramatically.

– Automatic Fire Detection Systems are reliable. They detect fires the most reliably and are the first to sound the alarm, says Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Expert, Finnish National Rescue Association.

The Fire Detection System plays a particularly important role when a fire starts in a space where it is difficult for humans to detect. Such spaces include different kinds of voids, utility tunnels, machine spaces and electricity boxes or main switch boards. Properly maintained and correctly functioning automatic Fire Detection System provide more time to act and to start first extinguishing safely and as soon as possible.

Human–automation interaction makes life safer.

It is always good to remember that, regardless of any installed fire prevention technology, no equipment replaces human action. Fire safety is an entirety in which the equipment supports people and their activities. The same applies to Fire Detection System. Equipment maintenance personnel must constantly hone their professional skills so as to be able to meet the requirements of the changing conditions.

– Equipment managers must receive training for and, especially, be familiarised with each site. The goal is to make them experts on the equipment at the site. Servicing and maintenance as well as planning, orientation and guidance given to others are the core competency of the equipment manager, emphasises Lauri Lehto.

The equipment manager cannot cope alone. People working and living in spaces fitted with fire alarms must be able to detect changes in their surroundings. The ‘fire safety team’ supports the equipment manager in observing the surroundings and in acting in various situations. In addition to the equipment manager the staff should include a sufficient number of other people that have been oriented, as required, to the functioning of the equipment and action during fires. Fire safety should not be the responsibility of one person alone.

– While the equipment creates safety and works at all hours, the system operator is not always accessible, says Lauri Lehto.

Systems that sends false, i.e. unwanted, alarms is often the topic of discussion. At present, it is estimated that there are approximately 22 000 – 24 000 pieces of equipment in use that are connected to Emergency Response Centres. Approximately one third of them has sent fire alarms – either real or false. The amount of equipment generating alarms has, however, decreased.

Systems are tailored to their environment. Most often the reason for false alarms is that the necessary arrangements during building renovations were not implemented or that the environment changes and human action changes the conditions. Yet, even in these cases the systems have worked correctly, in other words, the way they were installed to work.

Following a false alarm it is important to study the situation: what happened and why did it happen. The causes that led to the situation must be reported so as to avoid similar unwanted alarms in the future.

In addition to the site report the Fire Department’s report must be sufficiently detailed, particularly in such cases where the Fire Department sends a bill to the site because of a false alarm.

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group points out that Fire Detection System generate correct alarms approximately 800 times each year, and that they are installed, precisely, for such situations. Fires detected as early as possible cause minimal losses.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto

Safety and Security Expert

The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK

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Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very rare

Over the weekend, there was some discussion about damages caused by automatic extinguishing systems when the suspected reason of the water damages in the Kuopio theatre is a falsely triggered sprinkler nozzle. Automatic fire extinguishing systems have proven very reliable in events of fire. A sprinkler extinguishes a fire for a fraction of the amount of water that a fire brigade has to use at non-sprinkler sites. In addition, the risk of a water damage is very small. The risk of leakage caused by an equipment failure is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

Automatic fire extinguishing systems are designed to extinguish or restrict a fire until emergency personnel make it to the scene. The equipment reacts to an elevated temperature of a space, and the nozzle is triggered by the heat. A building with a sprinkler system requires considerably less firewater in case of a fire than a site without a sprinkler system. A sprinkler system also reduces fire and smoke damages.

Faults in automatic extinguishing systems are very uncommon. According to the statistics by FM Global, an insurance company in the United States specialising in sprinkler systems, the risk of a leakage caused by an equipment fault is one case per 16 million nozzles per year.

– The fact, however, remains that sprinklers are not triggered without a reason. In addition, not all of the nozzles in the system are triggered at the same time, but only those affected by elevated temperature, says Safety and Security specialist Lauri Lehto of the Finnish National Rescue Association.

According to American studies, in 98 percent of cases where an automatic system works, it works as it should. The reasons of inoperability are for the most part caused by human actions. The reasons include switching the equipment off or neglecting its maintenance.

The sector estimates that there are approximately 12 to 13 000 automatic fire extinguishing systems in use in Finland. These include almost 20 million nozzles installed in them. According to the statistics by the Emergency Services College, erroneous cases of operation in Finland amount to approximately 300 per year.
Very rarely are these cases caused by a faulty product. The underlying reasons may include installation-technical reasons or factors that have taken place after the introduction.
These include such conditions as the risk of freezing in winter time, or other environmental factors and changes that the placement of the nozzles has failed to take into account. One of the main reasons is inadequate equipment maintenance and servicing.

To work properly, extinguishing systems need regular maintenance for which SPEK, among others, arranges courses. https://koulutus.spek.fi/Default.aspx?tabid=70&group=Sprinklerit ja vesisumut&culture=
The essential matter is that the extinguishing equipment is properly maintained to ensure trouble-free operation when needed.

– Maintenance and servicing prevent situations such as the one in Kuopio. Neglecting maintenance may put people in a building in a danger to life situation and cause major economic losses, says Lauri Lehto.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK
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Lack of focus on toxic smoke from furniture


The toxicity of smoke is an important parameter when you are caught in a fire. Therefore, there are strict requirements for what the smoke from materials in trains and ships may contain. The same rules, however, do not apply to building materials or the largest source of smoke in our homes – our furniture.

As is well known, in the right quantities, everything is poisonous. And the quantities may be comparatively small when it comes to substances in smoke. If you are in a place where smoke is a crucial factor in case of fire, for example, a ship, plane or train, the toxicity of smoke is an important part of the materials’ fire-safety properties.

– The interest in toxicity in smoke grew after the fire on the Scandinavian Star ferry in 1990, where many of the ship’s passengers died due to toxic smoke, says Lina Ivar Andersen, Bachelor of Engineering and specialist in chemistry at DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

The disaster prompted the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to prepare new rules in the area, and today there are also requirements for smoke in materials for planes and trains.

– Especially for trains that are to travel through tunnels, where the risk of being poisoned in a fire is even greater, there are strict requirements regarding the toxicity of smoke. The more difficult it is to escape from a fire, the more important the smoke’s toxicity is, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

When flame retardants are a problem
There is no limit to how many substances there are to test when you investigate the toxicity of smoke, but typically the substances that are most poisonous and have resulted in death are measured – this typically includes carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, nitrogen oxide, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen bromide, hydrofluoric acid and prussic acid. These substances are especially found in smoke from artificial substances, such as fibreglass or plastic materials, and may be fatal even in small doses.

– Therefore, it is a question of using sufficiently small amounts of these materials in a product. The flammable decorations on non-flammable steel walls on ships are, for example, very thin. Nearly all materials can cause problems with regard to the toxicity of smoke if there are too many of them, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

It can be a challenge when a product has to live up to toxicity requirements. Not least because other, good fire-safety properties may increase the toxicity of a product. Low heat development and fire spreading are also good properties, and they can be achieved by using flame retardants in the product.

– Flame retardants often work by making the product smoulder instead of burst into flame. On the other hand, this means that more smoke develops and the toxicity becomes higher than if it did actually burst into flames. Often, the use of more fire retardants results in more smoke and toxicity. These are useful tools, but their use is a difficult balance for manufacturers, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

No requirements for building materials
The toxicity of materials is not just a parameter for transport. And although its application to building materials is not on our doorstep, it is sometimes a topic that is discussed in European forums. Recently, the European Commission investigated the need for regulating the toxicity in smoke from building materials, which resulted in the publication of a report in the autumn of 2017. It showed, among other things, that it is probably not building materials that comprise the greatest risk for emitting poisonous smoke in our buildings and homes. On the contrary, it is the things we fill them with.

– The smoke from materials that we normally build with presumably contain a limited amount of toxicity. On the other hand, we fill our homes with furniture containing many foam materials, which give off much more toxic smoke, says Lina Ivar Andersen.

Compatibility of fire safety systems is important part of safety

Compatibility of fire safety systems is important part of safety

Fire prevention technology may significantly improve the fire safety of buildings. There are many great equipment configurations that communicate with each other. It is also important for the operation and maintenance of fire safety systems that the users and maintenance personnel are competent. Specialists in fire prevention technology remind us that the equipment needs to be compatible and that it requires regular maintenance to maintain safety.

The specialists in the field have set up a development group of fire prevention technology, which is concerned about the maintenance and servicing of safety systems which, as such, are in working order. Without regular checking of the operating condition, the desired operation of the equipment may be prevented.

Fire safety equipment includes, for example, fire detector and extinguishing systems. The purpose, after all, is that the various systems carry out safety measures each second and thus maintain and ensure operational continuity. This is not always the case since shortcuts are taken as early as the planning stage.

The most important matter at the planning stage is to identify the fire safety risks of the environment. Jarmo Alaoja, a member of the development group of fire prevention technology, has come across a number of equipment solutions.

– The selection and compatibility of the equipment must be based on the evaluation of the site and the suitability of the devices. This way fire prevention is not a part of its own, separated from other planning, but is easily embedded in the whole.
When a well-prepared whole is then passed on to a special designer who knows the land use and building acts, the end result is a step closer to its purpose, says Alaoja.

– With good planning and a skilled maintenance organisation, surprising and additional costs may be avoided. The problems in maintenance are often fundamental and in many ways affect the technical operational reliability due to lack of methodicalness, says Lauri Lehto, Security Specialist with the Finnish National Rescue Association.

Equipment maintenance requires skilled personnel

Implementing the equipment according to the requirements is just a start. Maintenance is estimated to cover approximately 80 percent of the costs of acquisition and maintenance of the equipment during its lifecycle. The equipment must be suitable for the usage environment during its entire lifecycle.

– It is in particular worthwhile to examine closely the compatibility and updatability of different equipment. In the worst case, the systems start to functionally “argue” with each other. An update on one safety system suddenly affects the operation of another equipment. That is why the proper operation needs to be ensured by necessary operation tests when system is updated. In such a case, the total management of the fire prevention technology is emphasised instead of individual solutions.

It is also possible that the significant changes are performed on the structures, purpose of use, or conditions of a property. The risk exists that the systems will not work properly in the changed operating environment. The system works as it should with the old criteria, but the operation no longer meets the requirements of the site. Problems may emerge in particular when different equipment are separate with no contact with each other. Different parties manage their own segments, but no one manages the whole.

– It is not meaningful or appropriate to limit the implementation or servicing of systems just to pass inspections. The important issue is proper maintenance based on the genuine know-how by the responsible persons and understanding the importance of fire safety, says Lehto.

What is the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group?

The Fire Prevention Technology Development Group is a group of experts whose shared goal is to advance safety and to develop the service and maintenance, qualityand technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The environment is constantly developing and fire prevention must stay up-to-date to meet the new challenges.

Lauri Lehto
Safety and Security Expert
The Finnish National Rescue Association SPEK

Focus on sustainability and fire safety in the EU


A new EU directive on the energy performance of buildings is to result in comprehensive energy renovation and strengthen the focus on obligations related to fire safety. This is explained by Bendt Bendtsen, who is a Danish member of the European Parliament and was the main negotiator for the new directive.

What is the purpose of the new energy performance of buildings directive?
– It is intended to stimulate energy renovation of existing buildings. The old directive from 2010 had a lot of requirements for new buildings, but we only build about 1% building stock a year, while 80% of our existing buildings will be in use in 2050. So, in order to have well-functioning and efficient energy consumption and make Europe more sustainable, we have to energy-renovate many more buildings – in fact, three times as many as today. Only by making our buildings more energy efficient can we cost-effectively achieve the climate and energy goals for Europe. This includes fewer fossil fuels, less import from Putin and better indoor climate for European citizens.

What role does fire safety play in the directive?
– A completely new obligation in the building directive is that member states must prepare long-term renovation strategies to achieve highly efficient and de-carbonised building stock in 2050. In the national long-term renovation strategies, the member countries can both tackle fire safety and estimate the strategies’ significance for health and indoor climate – including the safety of residents and users. According to the directive, the EU countries will – by both building new buildings and through major renovations – take healthy indoor climate conditions and fire safety into account. It is important that the industry and stakeholders insist that the governments of the EU countries live up to their obligations. First of all, when the directive is to be implemented in March 2020, but also when the directive is used in practice.

How do we ensure fire safety generally in the hunt for energy efficiency?
– Energy renovations provide a clear opportunity to tackle fire safety in a way that is the least inconvenient and least financial burden for owners, residents and users. When you energy-renovate, it makes sense to take a position on whether all fire-safety measures have been taken, and whether technical or structural changes can be made to buildings that can improve fire safety.

Joint European building regulations have been discussed before. Is this the beginning of developments in this area?
– I do not think that a European building regulation is very likely. My impression is that the governments of the EU countries will continue to insist the geographic location and placement of buildings will be too nationally specific to justify a European building code. I think that it is already a major step forward for Europe and European citizens that our EU countries have obligated themselves to have a highly efficient, de-carbonised building stock in 2050 by looking at energy performance. The toolbox for getting there is in the hands of the governments of the EU member countries, and rightly so.

Facade fires that have occurred in recent years, including, most recently, the Grenfell Tower in London, have had major consequences in Europe. What is the EU doing to confront this problem?
– In the building directive, we have focused on obligations related to fire safety. This is a good first step, but, of course, it requires that the EU countries are conscious of their responsibility when the directive becomes national legislation. In addition, I have just presented a proposal regarding the EU’s 2019 budget to improve fire statistics in Europe. An improved statistical basis is the first step towards being able to optimise fire safety efforts in the EU countries. Today, there are very different national approaches and calculation methods when it comes to fire safety. It would be good to have a joint European data basis so we can identify ‘best practice’ in the EU countries’ fire safety efforts more easily – and, in time, even start European fire safety measures.


CFPA Europe publishes first European guideline for cybersecurity in SMEs

CFPA Europe publishes first European guideline for cybersecurity in SMEs

The “CFPA-E Guideline No 11:2018 S” is based on the German VdS 10000 guideline and is available free of chargeSmall and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular often find it  difficult to adequately protect themselves against cy-bercrime and the loss of important data, since comprehensive security measures entail high costs and considerable effort. To remedy this situation, the Confederation of Fire Protection Associations Europe (CFPA Europe), an alliance of more than 20 national safety organizations, has now developed the first European cybersecurity guideline especially for SMEs: the CFPA-E Guideline No 11:2018 S, “Guideline on Cyber Security for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.” This is based on the well-known German Guideline VdS 10000 (formerly VdS 3473) and provides an ap-proach that enables small and medium-sized enterprises to protect them-selves against cyber risks in an appropriate and affordable way.The CFPA-E Guideline No 11:2018 was published by CFPA Europe at the end of 2018 and is available free of charge at www.cfpa-e.eu.

Endorsement by European insurance association

The association Insurance Europe has officially endorsed the new guideline: For the first time, European guidelines are thus now available that are specially tailored to the needs of SMEs and are supported both by re-nowned safety institutes throughout Europe and by the European insurance sector.The guideline helps SMEs to improve their information security so that they can better resist cyberattacks. This resilience can be examined and certified on the basis of the guideline in audits – and thus also verified for dealings with business partners and insurers.


VdS-FireSafety Cologne on December 4 and 5, 2019 at Koelnmesse: Registration of exhibitors is under way!

A renowned industry gathering in the center of Cologne comprising a trade fair, expert conferences, and forums on the topic of preventive fire protection

Cologne, March 7, 2019. Companies from the field of preventive fire protection can now secure their participation in this year’s VdS-FireSafety Cologne trade fair on December 4/5, 2019 (see below for contact details). With its successful combination of trade fair, themed forums and expert conferences, VdS-FireSafety Cologne offers exhibitors the perfect setting to present their latest products and solutions and to enter into discussion with specialist visitors.

Versatile opportunities for presentation on favorable terms

The heart of VdS-FireSafety Cologne is the large trade fair with its focus on technical, structural and organizational fire prevention and protection. A site with a complete booth can be booked for as little as €215/m² for the entire duration of the fair.

All exhibitors are also invited to stage live demonstrations, and particularly interesting displays can be integrated as stations of the guided tours at the fair. The exhibitors’ forum in the trade fair hall also offers an attractive platform for presenting new products, along with technical and service innovations.

Future Forum Fire Protection

Future Forum Fire Protection, another themed forum in the trade fair hall, has now been a regular feature of the program for two years. Future topics such as aspects of digitalization in fire prevention and protection are explained and discussed here – an offer that has proved highly popular and attracts further interested visitors to the fair.

Seven high-caliber conferences

In parallel to the trade fair and themed forums, seven separately bookable expert conferences are offered at VdS-FireSafety Cologne. These too attract many interested expert visitors to Koelnmesse. The exhibitors of course also benefit from this, as for example René Schwertfeger from T&B electronic GmbH emphasizes: “The quality of visitors is particularly important to us: Thanks to the expert conferences taking place in parallel to the fair, the genuinely interested target groups are represented here, such as fire protection officers, insurance employees, experts, and consultants.”

The expert conferences at VdS-FireSafety Cologne 2019 at a glance:

  • Structural Fire Protection (Dec 4, 2019)
  • Security and Alarm Management (Dec 4, 2019)
  • Fire Extinguishing Systems (Dec 4, 2019)
  • 46th Professional Development Seminar for Fire Protection Officers (Dec 4/5, 2019)
  • Smoke and Heat Exhaust Ventilation Systems (Dec 5, 2019)
  • Fire Detection and Alarm Systems (Dec 5, 2019)
  • Construction and Fire Protection in NRW (Dec 5, 2019)

Information and booking for exhibitors

Further information and registration details for exhibitors can be found at bst.vds.de/en/exhibition/exhibitors. If you have any questions, please contact Wolfgang Bartmann, tel. +49 (0) 221 77 66 6471, email: brandschutz-messe@vds.de.

All information on VdS-FireSafety Cologne at www.vds.de/fire-safety

VdS-FireSafety Cologne_fair.jpg, caption:

The heart of VdS-FireSafety Cologne: the large trade fair with providers from the fields of technical, structural and organizational fire prevention and protection

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Numerous product innovations and live demonstrations attract an interested specialist audience to Koelnmesse.

VdS-FireSafety Cologne_forum.jpg, caption:

A crowd-puller: “Future Forum Fire Protection” in the trade fair hall



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The CFPA Europe family is getting bigger

New members have joined the CFPA Europe. These new members bring experience, knowledge and good practices in prevention, fire safety, natural hazards and security.

The new members are:

  • The Polish Association of Fire Engineers and Technicians (SITP) from Poland.
  • Swedish Thefts Prevention Association (SSF) from Sweden.
  • Hellenic Institute for the Fire Protection of Structures (ELIPYKA) fron Greece.
  • Occupational Health & Safety, Environmental, Consultancy and Training Services (NTSS) from Turkey.
  • Occupational Safety, Fire Protection and Evacuation (Trajf) from Albania.