A better and more sustainable future
The countries in the world have committed themselves to improve the planet and lives of its citizens, and UN has defined this in 17 life-changing goals. These Goals should be reached by 2030.
This means that all countries, companies, and individuals should strive for and contribute to making it possible.
CFPA Europe, as a European and Global association, want to support and contribute to this important work, and our work mainly concerns four of UN’s Goals:
• Goal 3 – Good Health and Well-being
• Goal 4 – Quality Education
• Goal 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
• Goal 13 – Climate Action
How we contribute to UN’s Climate Action Goal:
Adaptation to climate change – A statement of CFPA Europe
Climate change is increasingly becoming worldwide an issue for society, as well as for CFPA Europe as an association of national fire protection organisations in Europe. Here, mitigation with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is mostly on the agenda.
In parallel, adaptation to climate change is becoming increasingly essential, to limit the impacts of climate change on people, nature and society. This step is reasonable, as extreme weather events and changes in meteorological parameters, e. g regionally and seasonally rising of average temperatures or/and shifting of precipitation distributions are expected to increase because of climate change. These negative consequences are due to ongoing climate change and delayed and insufficient mitigation efforts. The typical impacts of climate change are e. g. flooding caused by heavy rainfall away from water bodies, heat waves, drought in summer and associated wildfires, storms, and hail. They are already recurring in European countries and have caused fatalities, severe damage to nature, to property and considerable economic activities impairment.
The protection against natural hazards, and, thus also against extreme weather events has been a topic of CFPA Europe since 2012. Based on experiences of member organisations of CFPA E, the following recommendations are already developed and published:
- Guideline No.1: 2012 N Protection against flood
- Guideline No.2: 2013 N Business Resilience – An introduction to protecting your business (Will soon be updated, also with respect to climate change)
- Guideline No.3: 2013 N Protection of buildings against wind damage
- Guideline No.4: 2013 N Lightning protection
- Guideline No.5: 2014 N Managing heavy snow loads on roofs
- Guideline No.6: 2016 N Forest Fires
- Guideline No.7: 2018 N Demountable / Mobile flood protection systems
These guidelines are available on the CFPA Europe website for free download. New guidelines on structural protection against heavy rain, and hail, and the supply of fire-fighting water in extreme weather conditions are currently under intensive development. Related to the last cases in recent years, the “forest fires” guideline will be updated.
Protection against natural hazards is also taken into account e. g. in the guideline on IT facilities (Guideline No.14: 2019 F) interdisciplinary, parallel to fire protection. The possible interactions with mitigation are also addressed in the development and the updating of technical recommendations. This is the case with Guideline No. 37: 2018 F “Photovoltaic systems: recommendations on loss prevention”, as renewable energy can effectively contribute to mitigation and extreme weather event impact PV installations on roofs or facades. All recommendations are intended to help the identification of hazards and the management of associated risks.
The development and updating of recommendations on protection against natural hazards are done by CFPA Europe in cooperation with experts from Insurance Europe, the umbrella organisation of insurers operating in Europe.
As a European player, CFPA Europe will continue to address climate change in its guidelines with practical recommendations as supporting contribution to adaptation to climate change.
What impact has the crisis had on areas such as burglary, cybercrime, terrorism, etc?
DBI, the CFPA Europe member in Denmark, gives on their website some trends that they have been seen in Denmark.
There have been numerous cyberattacks, particularly at the beginning of the crisis. The perpetrators adapted their language and wording to match the tone of the authorities. They tried to get people to log on to fake sites.
And what about burglaries? It looks like the burglars also accepted the advice to stay at home, and the burglary rates have fallen by a quarter compared to the same period last year.
Read more about these and other crimes and the experiences in Denmark.
The trend towards quality in fire detection and extinguishing systems as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site remained level in 2019, similar to 2018. It is noteworthy that the volume of equipment continues to increase. Factors affecting the present situation are modern equipment, trained system operators and the collective effort of the actors within the field where quality is sufficiently assured in all implementations.
The importance of proper maintenance and competent personnel cannot be overstated.The trend towards quality in fire detection and extinguishing systems as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site remained level in 2019, similar to 2018. It is noteworthy that the volume of equipment continues to increase. Factors affecting the present situation are modern equipment, trained system operators and the collective effort of the actors within the field where quality is sufficiently assured in all implementations. The importance of proper maintenance and competent personnel cannot be overstated.
This positive trend in equipment can be seen when the present number of automatic alarms, i.e. those coming from alarms connected to the emergency response centre (ERC), as well as the number of alarms physically checked on site are compared to the statistics from previous years. Whereas in 2019 rescue authorities checked out a total of 17 404 alarms, the average from 2016–2018 was 18 221 alarms checked (source: Pronto). Even though the volume of equipment is on the rise, the number of dispatches generated by alarms to rescue departments keeps decreasing – this is by virtue of sophisticated equipment, fire detection system maintenance companies and system operators.
An earlier press release of the Emergency Services Academy Finland concerning callouts received from automatic fire alarms connected to ERCs also supports this view:
Fire alarms connected to ERCs generated 18 000 alarms, which represents 16 per cent of all rescue services’ dispatches. Of these, 1 200 (7 per cent) were valid alarms. The previous time this number was as low was in 2002, even though the number of fire alarms connected to ERCs has constantly grown. These data were compiled by Pronto, the rescue services’ resource and accident statistics program.
More information (in Finnish) can be obtained through the following weblink: More traffic accidents in 2019, fewer fire alarms and first response dispatches.
Fewer serious shortcomings – also credit to the rescue authorities
Third-party working groups for interpreting standards and instructions also deem it beneficial that the owners of equipment are increasingly interested in ensuring the long-term reliability of fire extinguishing systems. It is also good that inspections have found fewer serious shortcomings in automatic extinguishing systems.
In 2019 Kiwa Inspecta conducted long-term testing on sprinkler systems, in other words 15 to 25 year reliability tests in accordance with a given site’s technical manual or design standard. The number of long-term reliability tests grew by 73 per cent compared to 2018. This is a very positive sign of improved practical lifespan monitoring in fire prevention technology.
Active collaboration bears fruit. “When it comes to this trend, credit should also be given to the rescue authorities”, says Mr Antero Peltomaa from Kiwa Inspecta, representing the Fire Prevention Technology Development Group. The authorities have better taken into account the third party working group’s reports of serious shortcomings, and demanded that the owners of extinguishing systems promptly engage in corrective action.
There is still plenty to be done – for instance the periodic inspections of fire alarms have revealed challenges in updating the systems and making them mutually compatible. The third-party working groups have found implementations having inadequate certificates and documentation when fire detection system (FDS) control panels have been replaced or updated. Inspections carried out by neutral third parties should be the norm when replacing and introducing FDS control panels. Still, first and foremost, the installation and service companies operating in this field should draw attention to this problem and improve quality assurance. This could help minimise such future problems in association with FDS control panel replacements which, to an extent, can now be inferred from the statistics.
“The customer’s own active engagement is also paramount in quality assurance, so that shortcomings are detected through regular maintenance and inspections. Detected shortcomings must be reacted to immediately, rather than passively waiting for the next periodic inspection. Fire prevention technology, in essence, entails continuity management as well as protecting lives and property”, says Mr Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Advisor at the Finnish National Rescue Association and Fire Prevention Technology Development Group.
Transition year for the new ST1 guidelines
The new ST1 guidelines for design, installation, and maintenance of fire detection systems were updated and introduced in 2019, and will be implemented in 2020. Likewise, the European Standards CEN/TS 54-14:2018en on the same topic have been updated. The fire safety branch has been waiting for reviewed decrees on fire detection systems but, unfortunately, it seems that the present Coronavirus situation will also delay these statutes and so the need for an updated decree still exists. In this situation, third-party inspectors and rescue authorities have been called upon to interpret the guidelines vis-à-vis the enactments.
In 2019 there were more and more such inspections, especially periodic inspections, in which the detected shortcomings recorded in inspection documents greatly differ from earlier observations. Consequently, in 2018 the third-party working groups for interpreting standards and instructions organised joint meetings among the groups. The goal of these meetings is to harmonise inspection practices among the third-party working groups. The group for interpreting instructions also participates in these meetings.
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, quality and technical prospects of fire prevention technology. The group is comprised of experts as well as representatives of fire prevention technology associations and fire safety organisations. The operating models published by the group are generic models intended for support and information, and people working within the field of fire prevention technology as well as other actors can find relevant information from them.
Retrofit sprinklers in high rises. Every tenant wish to sleep safe and people living in high rise feel happy if they know that in event of a fire they will be alerted by an alarm and protected by sprinkler.
The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service in England, where I live, has been campaigning for installation of sprinklers in high rise, tells CFPA Europe’s Director Tommy Arvidsson. Now they are also part-funding retrofitting of sprinklers in residential premises.
The housing provider Halton Housing got a £ 36,000 grant from Cheshire Fire Authority and that helped a lot to retrofit sprinklers into a 12 storey residential high rise.”
Link to read more below.
In smart construction, responsibility for fire safety is currently fragmented between too many parties, none of whom see the whole picture. This is causing delays and additional costs in construction projects.
It would be important to coordinate all technology being installed into the building during construction, also from the perspective of overall fire safety. If fire safety technology, solutions affecting fire safety and regulatory requirements were taken into account already in the building’s design phase, it would avoid delayed contracts and unnecessary extra costs.
These observations were made in Janne Mäkelä‘s master’s thesis “Integrated fire safety and systems in buildings”. The study was reviewed by Tampere University’s Faculty of Built Environment in May 2020.
Demand for system coordinators with an understanding of overall fire safety
Buildings are being fitted with a growing number of automation systems connected to the internet, and their technical solutions increasingly rely on cloud services.
Platform solutions combining the data masses of several buildings and their technical systems open up new opportunities for developing holistic property management solutions. Traditional fire safety systems could be complemented by, e.g. evacuation and information systems, intelligent lighting systems and sound analysis systems.
Fire safety system packages are relative newcomers in the field of construction and are strongly founded in official requirements. Due to a lack of knowledge of such systems in the construction industry, fire protection technology has not yet been successfully integrated with other automation systems or the existing implementations and culture related to older technical systems.
“It has formed its own, precisely defined area, which also leads to the fragmentation of technical implementations. If you acquire and install a fragmentary system, it is impossible to assemble it into a unified whole operating in accordance with functionality requirements and the original designs any more”, says Safety Expert Lauri Lehto of the Finnish National Rescue Association.
The lack of overall responsibility has also led to varying attitudes to fire safety. This problem could be solved by a system coordinator involved in the construction project from the beginning, who would be familiar with the operating models of the fire safety sector and could coordinate the construction project’s fire safety from start to finish.
What if we also listened to the building’s users?
The study confirms that buildings’ end users and owners should be more closely involved in the early stages of the construction project. If it was known at the design stage that the building’s end users will possibly modify the premises, it would be possible to take adaptability and fire safety into account from the outset.
“If the needs of the building’s users have not been charted, the premises will not be designed to enable varying activities. As a result, the building’s potential for adaptation can be curtailed by fire safety”, Lehto says.
Fire safety is a worthwhile investment
The key shortcomings highlighted in the thesis are the stiff competition in the construction sector, along with a lack of resources, know-how and the necessary baseline data. The study also emphasises the need to increase awareness of fire safety and its benefits.
The technical implementation of building systems has changed significantly over the last 20 years, and there is a lack of expertise and training on fire safety in the sector. The rapid pace of the changes has also left many traditional operators bewildered. Data models and platform solutions create new challenges alongside those specific to traditional design. The rapid digitalisation of automation systems has created a shortage of experts in the industry. Efforts are being made to fill this gap with IT experts. Fire safety too needs to change in the face of these developments.
Developers, building owners and end users need accessible information packages on fire safety options, so that they will be able to recognise and understand the various solutions available on the market.
“Fire safety is not always seen as a cost saving or good investment. But the concept of fire safety is not merely technical. The development of safety culture must be a common goal for all parties”, Lehto says.
A lot can be done for fire safety in the EU. Member states must therefore learn from each other and focus on this issue in the EU’s coming ‘renovation wave’. So argues Pernille Weiss, member of the European Parliament for Denmark’s Conservative People’s Party.
As part of the EU 2019 budget, proposals were put forward to improve fire statistics in Europe. What happened with the proposal?
- The Commission allocated money to a pilot project. This means that statistics are now being collected in this area and we can therefore identify what we need to do better. Since then, I have followed up, among other things, by hosting events in the European Parliament, where we have focused on fire safety.
What are the possibilities of joint European cooperation to enhance fire safety?
- Fire safety is basically a national matter. However, it is extremely important that we learn from each other across Europe. We are far from being equally good at protecting our citizens from fire, and we need to learn from those who do it well. Furthermore, it is important, of course, to have high standards of fire safety in the products we produce in the EU and in those we import.
What can be done to reduce the number of people who perish in care home fires?
- It’s up to member states to a great extent. It’s clear that we need national rules on how to protect not only newly built, but also older care homes against fire. A lot has happened from a purely technological standpoint and it’s important that our buildings keep apace. At the EU level, it’s very much about ensuring that the products we allow in the internal market are fire-safe.
What is happening on the subject of fire in the EU?
- The study on fire safety across the EU is a major step. In addition, the Commission has proposed a ‘renovation wave’. The purpose is to reduce energy consumption in buildings, but it’s clear that there are many of us who want to fight for fire safety to be incorporated when plans for this ‘renovation wave’ are presented.
In what direction do you see the work in this area going?
- It’s still too early to say. However, I see that there are several of us in the European Parliament who focus on fire safety, and this is a good sign. I’ve made an effort to draw attention to the issue by organising several events where politicians and industry people have met each other – because it’s important that we politicians talk to the experts.
Water mist and sprinkler systems are the most effective ways of preventing fire fatalities, especially among disabled people. This was the conclusion of Tapio Stén’s report.
When a fire breaks out, care facility personnel do not have the time to carry out first extinguishing or evacuate all of the residents who are unable to escape on their own. The number of staff is simply insufficient, and it may be challenging to physically move some residents. Automatic water extinguishing systems either put out the fire or limit it to such an extent that the staff at the site or the fire department can completely extinguish it. This was the case in every single fire from 2012–2019 at care facilities or similar institutions where automatic water extinguishing systems were activated.
In each fire examined in the report the automatic water extinguishing system worked as designed, preventing life-threatening conditions.
Fires are also extremely dangerous to personnel. Automatic water extinguishing systems markedly improve the health and safety of staff during fires. No staff members were injured in any of the cases studied in the report.
Rising temperatures as well as toxic smoke and gases are the most dangerous features to humans in a fire. Extinguishing systems provide extra time for safe evacuation and support the structural integrity of buildings.
Personnel at care facilities need to know how to act
When the Fire Detection System sounds, the building’s own fire protection technology, rather than the rescue department, is the first line of defence. The systems report the danger at the earliest possible stage, provide more time to act during the first critical minutes and put a stop to the threatening situation as soon as possible.
People in buildings must be able to act independently. First extinguishing skills and regular exercises are essential. Moreover, personnel should be familiar with the building’s fire protection technology. In addition, on top of technical systems, all sites should have a fire response plan. What is more, just having a plan is not enough – the staff must also be familiar with it.
– Fire safety is an entirety in which, in addition to technical systems, the aim is to support the possibilities of action people, especially the staff at the site, have. Fire protection is all about anticipation in which human action cannot be ignored. A well-trained staff and an appropriate safety culture play key roles, says Lauri Lehto, Safety and Security Advisor at the Finnish National Rescue Association.
Myths persist about the equipment
While fire protection systems are primarily intended to save lives, they also protect property and secure business continuity.
Fires are always dangerous. It is everyone’s desire to detect and extinguish a fire as early as possible so as to limit losses as much as possible. Without automatic extinguishing systems fire losses can result in temporary or even permanent closures.
Extinguishing systems are often criticised for water damage, and they are feared to cause more damage from water than from the fire itself.
When fire breaks out the extinguishing system’s nozzles open one at a time when the direct influence of the fire reaches the nozzle. In most fires only one nozzle is activated, which is sufficient to extinguish or at least limit the fire.
The water damage caused by extinguishing systems is probably smaller than what the fire and smoke damage would be of a freely spreading fire. It is also important to keep in mind that extinguishing systems only use a fraction of the amount of water that the fire department would have to use to put out fires at unprotected sites.
Reliability of extinguishing systems demonstrated by countless studies
This report corroborates the results of previous studies. Automatic extinguishing systems have proved to be extremely reliable in fires.
Extinguishing systems are very reliable, and they rarely malfunction. According to American statistics (FM Global) the leak risk caused by equipment failure amounts to one case per 16 million nozzles each year. Furthermore, the risk of water damage caused by the system itself is exceedingly small. Also, when the system activates, all of the nozzles do not simultaneously discharge water. Rather, only the nozzles whose thermal elements have broken due to high temperature will be activated.
In the USA the National Fire Protection Association’s study (NFPA, U.S. Experience with Sprinklers, 2017) came to the conclusion that the best results in fire loss limitation were achieved at sites having an automatic extinguishing system and a Fire Detection System Nordic studies also support this view. According to a Master’s thesis (Nieminen, 2018) presented at Tampere University, extinguishing systems were 98.1 per cent reliable. The study compared building fire statistics from 1996–2016. In a report (Markus Melin, 2018) of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap), extinguishing systems were found to be more than 99 per cent reliable.
The “Command of Civil Defense” of the seven Emirates extends its acceptance of products approved by Europe´s largest institute for safety and now also lists gas extinguishing systems certified in accordance with the Guidelines VdS 2454.
Cologne/Germany, October 1st 2020. The VdS certification body bundles 112 years of loss prevention experience and German engineering skills in comprehensive practical testing. Approved components and systems are fully compatible with NFPA installation standards and are accepted by authorities around the world. The “General Headquarter Command of Civil Defense” of the United Arab Emirates has now extended its listing of VdS-approved products to also include gas extinguishing technology.
“The VdS Quality Seal proves highest effectiveness and reliability directly at first sight”, emphasizes Gunnar Bellingen, head of the VdS fire protection laboratories. “We are delighted about this renewed appreciation by the UAE ministries, which underlines the fully reliable services of both our test engineers and the approved manufacturers in the entire world”.
The Emirates are among the wealthiest countries on the globe. The already strong construction activity in this booming region is expected to even increase due to the upcoming World Expo to be held in Dubai in 2021.
Caption UAE: VdS-approved products are accepted by authorities on all continents. The booming United Arab Emirates have now extended their listing and also added gas extinguishing systems (pictured a test in the German VdS laboratories).
VdS is one of the world’s most renowned institutions for corporate safety and security. 500 experts offer a unique range of services for fire protection, security, cyber-security and natural hazard prevention.
Services include risk assessments, testing and certification, inspections, information systems for natural hazards and an extensive training program. In addition, the independent institute sets international safety and security standards with the publication of a comprehensive set of Guidelines.
The optimal protection of our partners is based on a worldwide unique protection concept whose reliability builds on more than 110 years of VdS-experience, combining all core aspects of loss prevention. Decision-makers around the world rely on VdS-approved reliability and certainty.
More information at vds-global.com
Rely on Europe´s No.1 for Corporate Safety and Security
In recent times Lithium-ion battery fires have become no stranger to news headlines with serious incidents now being reported on an almost daily basis. In particular the transition to electric-powered vehicles has created a growing problem for fire and rescue services worldwide as electric car fires pose an increased fire threat. This threat is not only the degree of difficulty in extinguishing the fire quickly and safely but also the potential for spontaneous re-ignition several hours after the initial fire has been extinguished.
In order to fully understand this, one must first understand the process of “Thermal Runaway” which leads to the propagation of a fire throughout the whole of a Lithium ion battery pack or, in this case, potentially the whole of the vehicle.
In large scale batteries there are many individual cells which are linked together and fires normally propagate from cell to cell via the passage of heat from the external walls of the cells and from the electrical connection points which form the individual battery cells into multi cell modules and packs. As the cells reach high temperatures they eventually go into a state known as thermal runaway and this is achieved as a result of a chemical and physical process which at a cell level is not reversible since the resulting chemical reaction is exothermic.
In short it is essential to tackle a multi cell battery fire by extinguishing the fire which has been generated by the individual exploding cell and also by cooling the adjacent cells which will have been heated during the initial fire. It is frequently the case that one cell will heat several others each of which will in turn heat a number of others and the fire spreads on an exponential basis. It is therefore imperative to cool as many cells as possible in order to prevent the propagation of thermal runaway.
Vermiculite Dispersion extinguishing agent
A new eco-friendly water based extinguishing agent made and developed from the natural mineral Vermiculite (Aqueous Vermiculite Dispersion) is now available in the fire protection market specifically developed for protection against Lithium-ion battery fires. When applied directly to the cells of a battery in a thermal event AVD quickly extinguishes the flames, the water cools the system, the high surface area mineral platelets interrupt the free radical chain reaction and a refractory film forms which impedes oxygen diffusion to the fuel source. The relatively high viscosity AVD coats the battery; as the water evaporates, the viscosity of the AVD rises quickly further reducing the flow away from the fire source. The AVD quickly forms in to a gel-like structure with water trapped in macroscopic pores. Initially it is the pore water that continues to cool the system and the AVD can be seen to ‘boil’. It is this ability of AVD to trap water close to the source of the fire that enhances its cooling effect.
Another advantage of AVD is that as it dries it forms a thermally insulating film which reduces the risk of thermal runaway propagation to adjacent cells. The non-combustible vermiculite film also coats the packaging of adjacent cells reducing the combustible loading of the system.
Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral that is exempt from REACH regulations. It is chemically and physically inert, only releasing steam when exposed to raised temperatures. It is also non-toxic to humans, plant life and animals so there is no concerns that with the clean-up process needing to be managed under regulated processes
Lithium Battery Fire Classification and chemistries
Lithium-ion battery fires have no fire classification of their own and they cross the boundaries of several existing categories from A to C. The Lith-Ex portable extinguisher range (containing AVD) has been tested and certified to EN3-7 Class A in order to meet European regulations. The extinguishing agent, AVD can also be applied via fixed systems for large scale industrial applications such as energy storage facilities. The agent is equally effective on varying different battery types and chemistries making it an extremely versatile agent considering the primacies of the natural mineral the cooling effects remain the same
For more information www.avdfire.com