Category Archives: Fire

Cause of multistorey carpark fire in Liverpool still unclear


Never before have 1,400 cars been engulfed by flames in a multistorey carpark. But this is what happened in Liverpool in December 2017. The question now is, what was the reason for the violent fire spread and what effect will the fire have on parking facilities in a number of European countries?

On 31 December, fire broke out in a car in a multistorey carpark in Liverpool. The carpark was a concrete building open on all sides – very much like the ones we know in Denmark. What is totally unfamiliar is the way in which the fire developed. Despite a prompt alarm call, a call-out time of eight minutes and 21 emergency response vehicles during the time of the action, the firefighting forces were unable to prevent the fire from spreading between cars and the storey deck, causing the write-off of all 1,400 cars plus the building. Questions are now being raised as to how this could happen.

– We know of similar fires in multistorey carparks in various locations abroad, but at the worst this has meant five or six destroyed cars and in a few cases more extensive fires, but nothing comparable to the fire in Liverpool. This is an unprecedented case and ought not to be possible, says Ib Bertelsen, Customer & Relations Director at DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

Explanations sought
In particular, the rapid fire spread is a matter of surprise.

– Naturally, sprinklers would have retarded fire development, but this was presumably a fully legal building of conventional construction. However, it is possible that difficulties in response tactics played a role, Bertelsen says, with the following explanation:

– When a car fire is reported, a reduced response team is sent out in the first instance, because it is ‘just’ a car fire. And it may be hard for the fire crew to access the scene of the fire.

Another possibility is that petrol and other flammable liquids leaked from the damaged cars and contributed to the rapid and violent fire spread. The local fire force estimates that the temperature was up to 1,000 degrees.

– That’s a lot, and we don’t yet know the specific circumstances, but even so, it is surprising that the situation could go so badly wrong in a properly constructed building. It will be very interesting to hear a likely explanation of why things developed as they did, Bertelsen says.

May change dimensioning
Once the explanation has been determined, the next question is whether this will have consequences in other countries.

– If there is no reasonable explanation, then, to the extent we have similar buildings in Denmark, we ought to be thinking about how we dimension our buildings and what scenarios we are dimensioning them for, Bertelsen says.

And maybe not just multistorey carparks will be subject to change – depending on the explanation from Britain.

– To a certain extent, you can compare them with large open-air carparks. Obviously, conditions are completely different in a building, but the cars are just as tightly spaced in an open carpark.

[NEW GUIDELINE] Photovoltaic systems: Recommendations on loss prevention

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PV modules mounted on buildings are on the one hand exposed to the weather, such as wind, snow, hail and temperature fluctuations, and on the other hand joined with adjacent building constructions, which may be thereby affected with regard to their protective functions, e. g rain or fire protection.

This guideline does a run-through the main system hazards and makes some recommendations on prevention measures to be considered during the phases of design, installation and operation.

This guideline is available for free download here

[NEW GUIDELINE] Demountable / Mobile flood protection systems

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According to loss experience losses caused by flooding can be significantly limited by preventive measures. In this context especially stationary protective measures have proved successful. Mobile protection systems can complement or replace stationary protection systems because of operational or areal constraints.

To establish appropriate protection measures the existing hazards must be identified and analyzed as well as the associated risks assessed. The relevant objectives, e. g. the height of protecting wall, are to be defined object-related and depending on the legal requirements and risk assessment.

The guideline “Demountable / Mobile flood protection systems” shows the available systems in the market and their features, and does a run-through the functional characteristics to be considered when choosing a system for mobile flood protection. Some advice for the selection of the type of system is given, based on previous operational experiences. Quality assurance measures required to the systems are also included in the guideline.

This guideline is available for free download here


CFPA Europe at SICUR


President Tore Eriksson from CTIF and Donald Bliss from NFPA is here visiting CFPA E’s exhibition corner. To the right Mirna Rodriguez and Tommy Arvidsson.

SICUR 2018 was held 20 – 23 February in Madrid. SICUR is the International Security, Safety and Fire Exhibition and it was organised by IFEMA. Cepreven, who is the Spanish member of CFPA Europe, had a big showcase and in one part of that booth also CFPA E could inform about our activities and work. There was also a conference and the Director for CFPA E Tommy Arvidsson and the Chair of our Marketing and Information Commission Mirna Rodriguez had a presentation with the title “Fire Prevention in Europe”.

This year version of the exhibition exceeded SICUR 2016 and the exhibition area was 24% bigger and it was much more visitors. “We got many visitors to our corner, and some people stopped for half an hour because they were very interested and impressed about the work that we are doing in CFPA Europe”, said Tommy Arvidsson as a reflection after the days in Madrid.

Both progress and challenges have appeared during the drafting of a European facade test


It is not perfect, but it is a big improvement. A draft proposal has been put forward for a common European standard for testing building facade systems, and even though it has some flaws, there are grounds for optimism.

The discussion surrounding a common standard for the fire testing of facade systems in Europe is not new. And recent events have fuelled the debate. This is both due to the fire in Grenfell Tower in London and also a draft proposal for a common standard that RISE (Research Institute in Sweden) has developed in collaboration with a consortium. The draft proposal has been ordered by the European Parliament, among other reasons, due to industries wanting to simplify access to the European markets by having a common standard for testing and classification.

– It is a difficult process, and it took ten years to develop the SBI test. But fires involving facades in one way or another increase the pressure on the political system to take action, says Anders Dragsted, who is a fire safety consultant at the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

That pressure has so far resulted in a draft proposal for a common testing method and interpretation of the test results for facade systems. It is based on the British BS 8414 and the German DIN 4102-20 facade system tests, and it also investigates factors such as falling material and smouldering fires. The first draft came out in August, and representatives from all member states were asked to provide comments on it.

– There are several positive elements. For one thing, the scope of application is widespread. The draft covers all types of facade systems except curtain wall systems, which have their own standard. This makes it easier, since then you don’t have to develop several different tests for different types of facade systems. It is an advantage for the manufacturers and for the buyers of facade systems since they only need to familiarise themselves with a single system. The same applies to the testing institutes, who only need to use one type of equipment and one method to test the facade systems, Anders Dragsted explains.

More tests than necessary
The draft proposal suggests two test variants: one with a ‘medium’ fire impact and one with a ‘large’ fire impact. Additionally, the draft covers tests with and without open windows in the facade system, which gives a total of four different test variants. Based on the spread of the fire and whether there is a smouldering fire or falling materials and on the variety of the test, a tested facade system is given one or more classifications. However, it is not all test variants that allow for unlimited access to the market in all EU member states.

– The various countries will have their own requirements on what classification is needed. This means that the manufacturers must find out in advance what classification a country requires and make sure that the tests are conducted with the correct configurations. At least two tests will need to be conducted in order to obtain all the classifications that the draft proposal contains, says Anders Dragsted and continues:

– The ideal solution would instead have been if the draft proposal suggested using a single test configuration with a single type of fire impact. The facade system could then be assigned an appropriate classification, depending on the results of the test. That would mean that a single test would have been sufficient, he says.

Outdoors testing is less than satisfactory
The draft proposal also suggests that the test is conducted outdoors. This may lead to problems for countries with strict requirements for companies’ environmental impact, as their testing labs presumably will not be allowed to make outdoors tests after taking into account neighbours and the environment. This means that the environmental regulations of the various countries will lead to unfair competition between the test institutes across the EU.

– Furthermore, the draft proposal requires that there is virtually no wind, which is extremely rare in Denmark. The temperature must be between minus 10 and plus 40 degrees Celsius at the time of the test. Tests on either end of that temperature scale will be different. If there is direct sunlight, this will impact the test, and so will the moisture of the material. And if you cannot document that the facade systems are exposed to the same impact each time, this is not satisfactory, Anders Dragsted notes, and adds:

– Even though there are flaws and parts that might be improved in the draft proposal, it will, however, still be a big step in the right direction.

Swiss TS, Swissi and IWT are becoming Swiss Safety Center AG


Wallisellen, 3 January 2018 – Swiss TS Technical Services AG, IWT AG (Materials Technology Institute) and Swissi AG (formerly the “Safety Institute”) are merging. As of 1 January 2018, these companies are being combined to form the new Swiss Safety Center AG, which is owned in full by the SVTI Group. For customers and business partners, this means that in future they will have access to an even wider range of services in the areas of technical safety and risk management from a single source, such as

  • certifications of management systems, products and people,
  • systems safety, assembly conformity, functional safety 4.0,
  • safety-related calculations, simulations and model calculations,
  • fire protection, occupational health and safety, operational environmental protection,
  • integral risk management,
  • materials technology, stationary and mobile,
  • destructive and non-destructive testing and damage analyses.

The existing, extensive training offering will also be expanded.

As of 1 January 2018, all rights and obligations of Swiss TS, Swissi and IWT are transferred to Swiss Safety Center AG. The CEO of Swiss Safety Center AG is Dr Raffael Schubiger.

Contact address: Franco Brunner, Marketing/Communications, Swiss Safety Center AG, 8304 Wallisellen, tel. +41 44 877 61 39

Anti-terrorism: Do security considerations override aesthetic ones?


We need to focus more on security when we implement anti-terrorism measures. Additionally, we need to be better at taking advantage of experiences from abroad when it comes to implementing anti-terrorism measures.

The politicians and employees at the Danish parliament, Christiansborg, are an obvious target for terrorism, and therefore work has begun on securing the area around the Christiansborg Palace Square. After several years of negotiations, it has been decided that a number of temporary granite slabs are to be replaced with granite spheres, 112 cm in diameter, in order to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering the palace square.

The appearance and expression of the anti-terrorism measures within and around the historic Christiansborg Palace has been the subject of an intense debate, and the design considerations have been one of the reasons why permanent anti-terrorism measures have taken a number of years to implement. But the debate concerning design in relation to anti-terrorism measures reduces their effectiveness in the opinion of Jesper Florin, the head of the security department at DBI, the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology.

– We have to think about a lot more than the extent to which granite spheres may be suitable for the Christiansborg Palace Square or not. Terrorism is a growing problem everywhere, and therefore we need to be better at listening to the experiences of the neighbouring countries that have unfortunately already been exposed to terrorist attacks, says Jesper Florin.

Need for a national agency
Jesper Florin thinks that Denmark should gather all the agencies that possess important knowledge about terrorism, defence and security in order to be able to give the best possible advice and develop the best solutions. This could be the police, the PET (police intelligence service), the armed forces, the security industry and, of course, the city planners.

– Among others, we have the military with a lot of experience, and also the police intelligence service who collect knowledge from all around the world. Why don’t we set up a national knowledge centre for anti-terrorism measures where all knowledge is gathered in one place to the benefit of both Denmark and our partner countries? Jesper Florin asks.

Both secure and easy on the eyes
According to Jesper Florin, a national knowledge centre against terrorism could lead to more perspectives being available for more thoroughly considered anti-terrorism measures, and where the effectiveness is not necessarily an either/or when it comes to the trade-off between security and design or appearance.

– Take a look at Oslo, for example. Here, they have begun securing the entire government district by, among other things, using urban open spaces and architecture. It is effective and easy on the eyes at the same time, so it is in fact possible to reconcile security with nice design, says Jesper Florin.

In Oslo, a series of architectural and design-related elements have been merged as security elements over a larger area. Thus, flower boxes, scenic elevations of terrain, water basins and winding streets all serve as anti-terrorism measures that prevent vehicles from gaining unauthorised access to the area.

– With the terror attack of 2011, the Norwegians saw how much can go wrong, so they are determined to make adaptations. The same way, I am sure, that we would adapt to changes in Denmark, Jesper Florin says.

In Oslo, it is not just a single historic building that has been secured. Here, they have made a thorough plan that focuses on the entire government zone.

– If we are to reach the same level of security in Denmark, then it will require an increased level of cooperation between the authorities, police and private stakeholders working with security and planning, Jesper Florin points out.

Award to Brandforsk at the Swedish FPA


CFPA E’s member in Sweden, the Swedish Fire Protection Association, has a research organisation that they have responsibility for. The organisation is called Brandforsk, the Swedish Fire Research Board. In October Brandforsk got an Award of knowledge from the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE).

The Award ceremony was held in Montreal, Canada, on 11th October, and the award was received by CFPA E’s director Tommy Arvidsson, who also is the chair of Brandforsk.

CFPA E has invited to a meeting

In January CFPA E will arrange a meeting with CTIF (International Association of Fire and Rescue Service), FEU (Federation of the European Union Fire Officer Associations) and Insurance Europe. The meeting is a kick off for closer cooperation and also a possibility to agree on important fire safety problems that we together would like to bring to European Commission for discussion.

Fire Safety: Technical Cycle


For all of those who wish to have a comprehensive knowledge of fire safety, CFPA-Europe has the “Fire Safety – Technical Cycle” course, which has a minimum duration of 15 days, corresponding to 100h of training, and is currently available in Belgium (ANPI), Denmark (DBI), Finland (SPEK), France (CNPP), Germany (VDS), Italy (AIAS), Portugal (APSEI), Spain (CEPREVEN), Sweden (BRANDKYDDSFORENONGEN), Switzerland (SWISSI) and UK (FPA).

Besides the national fire safety regulations, in the course are treated several matters that are fundamental to the understanding of fire safety in buildings, including nature and behaviour of fire, behaviour of elements of structure and materials under fire conditions, control of fire and smoke spread, first-aid fire-fighting equipment, fire detection, design, control and maintenance of fire protection systems (sprinklers and aqueous and non-aqueous systems). In the CFPA-e Fire Safety – Technical Cycle course are also addressed issues as behaviour of people, risk assessment in industrial and commercial premises and fire protection management.

With the completion of the course, are acquired skills in terms of risks identification, control of fire causes and minimization of their consequences, use and application of prevention and protection systems and techniques and the relevant regulations and standards.

We highlight the fact that the course integrates a module on practical firefighting training, in which the trainees have the opportunity to learn to use first-aid fire-fighting equipment, namely fire extinguishers, blankets and hose reels.

The course gives access to the CFPA -Europe Diploma “Fire Safety – Technical Cycle”. In order to access this diploma, trainees need to get approval in a written examination plus a case study management report presented in writing or orally. This case study is based on a simulation of a fire safety audit in an industrial or commercial premise.

The course can be attended by all those involved in fire prevention that wish to deepen their knowledge, namely safety managers, advisers, consultants, experts, consultants in fire prevention, authority staff, inspectors and insurance professionals.

London fire emphasises challenges with high-rise buildings

Grenfell Tower Fire

Classic technical challenges fighting fires in high-rise buildings probably played a part in the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in London, in which at least 80 people lost their lives.

Exactly what happened, why and how have not yet been completely determined following the appalling fire in the Grenfell Tower flats in London on 14 July. However, it would appear that a series of universal fire safety challenges in high-rise buildings played a central role in the most serious domestic fire in the UK since the beginning of the 20th century.

One of these is the facade, which was renovated last year with a new surface and insulation on top of the existing concrete facade.

– There is still a lot we don’t know, but from the photographs, it looks as if the facade contributed significantly to the rapid development of the fire, says Anders B. Vestergaard, fire safety consultant with the Danish Institute of Fire and Security Technology, DBI.

The UK media have reported that the materials used in the construction should not have been used on the building. But if you know anything about building processes, you can easily imagine how they have ended up there.

Change in construction
- Maybe the architect and building consultant originally proposed panels that were more fire-resistant and made the facade safer, then during the construction process, the developer and builder changed them for a cheaper product for economic reasons, says Vestergaard and adds:

– Once that decision has been made, you tend to forget that the facade is an integrated solution and that by changing part of it, you are affecting the whole system. It’s a classic development in a construction process that can have serious consequences for fire safety.

During the renovation, windows may also have been moved to increase the light in the flats, leaving the facade insulation – which can be flammable, more exposed to fire and thus compromising the fire-safety unit of which each flat in a concrete tower block comprises.

– And if you don’t screen off the area around the windows from the flammable insulation of the facade with a fire-proof material, you’re left with a facade where fire can spread unhindered between the floors and between the facade and the flats, Vestergaard explains.

The facade is a complete system
The overall problem is that the facade is not thought of as a complete system but as individual elements. This is what happens when a contractor changes individual products in a system and it’s also the case if you imagine that fireproof materials are the only solution in a high building. Because actually, there is nothing wrong with using flammable materials for the facade of a tower block as long as the system is constructed to support its use, e.g. by encasing the flammable material in fireproof material.

– It can be difficult to get right but is certainly possible and provides options with sufficient safety, says Anders Dragsted, fire safety engineer at DBI.

– It may also be that all materials in a facade system are approved individually but become a completely different product when they are put together. Normally products are tested individually but not the system as a whole, as it should be, he adds.

Another well-known challenge with tower blocks is evacuation. In connection with Grenfell Tower’s recent renovation, a system was installed that, in case of fire, was supposed to keep the stairwell free of smoke by creating an overpressure. This was a really important feature as the stairwell was the only escape route for the residents as well as being the only way in for fire fighters. It has not yet been ascertained whether or not the system worked but overpressure ventilation systems are generally difficult to work with.

– In Denmark, overpressure ventilated stairwells have become more common over the past 15 years because higher buildings are being built. This is often a requirement when a building is over 22 metres high, as emergency service ladders cannot reach higher, making safe evacuation via the stairwell even more important, explains Lise Schmidt, fire safety engineer at DBI.

Advanced systems
An OPV (over pressure ventilation) system works in the way that a stairwell becomes pressurised if there is a fire on one of the floors. The OTV system blows air into the stairwell and creates an overpressure. On each floor, it is possible to release pressure via an opening to a shaft. When the door between a smoke filled floor and the stairwell is opened, the airflow from the stairwell forces the smoke away from the stairwell and the release in pressure ensures that the smoke is released out into the open. If smoke is only registered in the stairwell, the system will not usually start as this will spread smoke into the stairwell and to all other floors.

– OTV systems are very automatic and must be finely adjusted to ensure that the pressure does not get too high, otherwise the doors to the stairwell may become difficult or even impossible to open, explains Lise Schmidt.

In recent years, more advanced systems have been developed where the airflow into the stairwell is more constant, and a safety valve or damper in the stairwell ensures that the pressure does not become too high.