EVALUATING FIRE SAFETY

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EVALUATING FIRE SAFETY

The hazard of fire is the consequence of uncontrolled, exothermic chemical reactions, especially between organic materials and air. It is particularly associated with combustible materials and energy sources used by people in everyday life. Fires causing loss and damage can occur wherever human activity occurs. Perhaps the most frequent location for fires is within buildings. These include both residential and non-residential buildings such as commercial and industrial buildings. For most of these hazard areas, a considerable and costly fire incident has built up over the years and has given rise to extensive requirements for fire safety.

Fire performance of a building material in Malaysia is been determined by a series of test methods details in British standard 476 which dictates the appropriate fire tests for these elements of structure/materials and grades the level of fire resistance. Specifically, the fire performance of a building material is determined based on:

  • BS 476-4:1970 – Fire tests on building materials and structures. Non-combustibility test for materials
  • BS 476-6:1989+A1:2009 – Fire tests on building materials and structures. Method of test for fire propagation for products
  • BS 476-7:1997.  Fire tests on building materials and structures. Method of test to determine the classification of the surface spread of flame of products

 

BS 476: Part 4: 1970 Non-combustibility test for materials
This test classifies materials as either ‘non-combustible’ or ‘combustible’. It is the most stringent standard for the fire performance of materials and gives a measure of the heat and flames generated by the material under standard heating conditions. Non-combustible materials can be used without restriction anywhere in a building. Their use ensures that hazards due to smoke and toxic gases are minimised and that the fabric of a building will not make a contribution to a fire.

BS 476: Part 6: 1989 Method of test for fire propagation for products
This test measures the amount and rate of heat evolved by the product while subjected to standard heating conditions. Test results are given as an Index of Performance (I) which is based on three sub-indices (i1, i2, i3). The higher the value of the Index, (I), the greater the material contribution to fire growth. The higher the value of the sub-index, i1 the greater the ease of ignition and flame spread.

BS 476: Part 7: 1987 Method for classification of the surface spread of flame for products
This test classifies materials into Classes 1 to 4 in descending order of performance according to the rate and extent of flame spread over their surface under standard heating conditions. All Promat board products have the highest rating of surface spread of flame, i.e. Class 1.

Fire hazard vary in different situations. Therefore, there is no general fire problem and consequently no universal solution to ensure fire safety. Fire protection strategies for a certain environment should be adapted to the specific aspects of the fire hazard in that particular environment.