Ventilation systems: Increase fire safety through proper fire ventilation

26 February 2024 in Building, Commercial

Ventilation systems: Increase fire safety through proper fire ventilation

ventilation systems

Poorly ventilated spaces are stuffier than a packed train cabin on the hottest day of summer. Ventilation systems in industrial facilities aren’t only vital for breathable air quality or smoke control. They are crucial for early detection and prevention of fires. Keep reading to learn how advanced ventilation for early fire detection is an important part of
fire safety and prevention.

Types of effective fire ventilation systems

There are three core types of fire ventilation systems:

  1. Natural ventilation systems. These are ventilation systems that use the natural buoyancy of smoke and how heat rises for smoke control and to prevent fire spread.
  2. Mechanical ventilation. Mechanical fire safety ventilation systems use powered elements such as large fans to move smoke and heat away from hot areas where there is high risk of fire.
  3. Vertical ventilation. This ventilation approach allows heat, smoke, and gases to travel up and out of a structure. Emergency vertical ventilation procedures such as cutting a hole in the roof of a facility for vertical ventilation are risky, as they may lead to structural collapse.

What are the benefits and roles of an effective ventilation system?

Effective ventilation systems increase air circulation, aiding with heat dissipation to reduce the risk of fire. They enhance fire safety by:

Improving visibility

Thick smoke may impair visibility substantially, making it much harder to combat fires in the event of breakouts.

Reducing risk of flashover or backdraft

A flashover is when fire spreads rapidly through the air due to intense heat. A backdraft is when there isn’t enough oxygen to sustain combustion in a superheated environment and oxygen is suddenly introduced, causing rapid combustion and even explosion. Effective ventilation systems help to move heat away from a fire, reducing this risk.

Helps to reduce risks such as smoke inhalation

Keeping air quality cleaner through proper ventilation systems also helps to reduce the risks of dangers such as smoke inhalation in the event of fire, as smoke doesn’t densify as

How does ventilation aid early detection and fire suppression?

Ventilation systems provide a logical place for installing smoke detection alarms, as the continuous flow of air from facilities makes ventilation systems an early warning, first contact
Systems that facilitate continuous airflow aid fire suppression because they:
● Provide a continuous supply of fresh outside air, optimising air quality for fire suppression
● Remove or dilute gaseous fire risks
● Maintain temperature and humidity at safer levels for the prevention of fires.
A smart ventilation system helps with early detection by triggering alarms when abnormal levels of heat and/or smoke are detected, so that rapid fire suppression is possible.

The evolution of fire safety ventilation systems

Early fire fighting systems relied primarily on natural fire suppression and prevention. Think buckets of water, natural openings, and everything manual only. Modern ventilation systems for fire prevention became more sophisticated in the 1900s with mechanical smoke extraction systems and the possibility of remote activation. Another innovation was zoned smoke control, where buildings were designed with compartmentalization to prevent the spread of fire in mind.

Modern, advanced fire safety ventilation systems feature everything from integrated fire detection systems to advanced smoke control solutions such as oxygen reduction to deprive
fires of the elements needed for combustion.

Along with technology, regulations and fire prevention standards have evolved to ensure that high fire risk environments have the ventilation and fire prevention necessary to safeguard against catastrophic fires.

Sustainable ventilation practices for fire safety

How do you sustain effective ventilation systems and ensure that they function as intended?

  • Conduct regular inspection and cleaning. Ventilation systems should be inspected and cleaned often, to ensure that air flow is not obstructed.
  • Check mechanical integrity. Mechanical components such as fans should be inspected to ensure their integrity and optimal function.
  • Regular system testing. Ventilation systems should be tested frequently to ensure that they will perform reliably in the event of a fire.
  • Tech upgrades and modifications. As superior ventilation technology becomes available, tech upgrades should be performed to ensure that state-of-the-art fire suppression and early detection is available.

Contact ERF now for fire ventilation system installation and inspection that is compliant with SABS standards and keep your premises safe.

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