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How smoke ventilation works 15/05/2014

It’s a known fact that smoke inhalation is the largest killer in fires in domestic, factory or commercial areas. If smoke can be removed efficiently should the worst happen, it could give those inside precious minutes to raise the alarm and leave safely. That means a need for smoke ventilation systems that meet and exceed current safety standards.

There are a number of approved ways of achieving effective smoke ventilation.

Natural – In simpler buildings, a vent could be used as high up as practicable to allow smoke and fumes to escape. The vent can be actuated manually, or by a fire control system. Either way, it should be able to keep stairwells clear for long enough to allow escape. This is used particularly in flats and communal housing units.

Smoke Shaft – In buildings where there are extended travel distances and the top floor might be a long way above the ground, effective smoke shafts are required which passes through multiple levels of a building providing ventilation with dampers or automatic opening devices on each level.

Most commonly used in residential and commercial buildings to protect fire escapes and fire-fighting stairs, only the damper on the fire floor opens, providing safe smoke release.

Smoke shafts can also be used to extend travel distances and reduce stair numbers for escape, the most efficient system for this being dual shafts, each with fully-reversible powered fan units. In a high quality system, fire-fighters should be able to override the settings.

Another viable alternative is the used of pressurised stairwells. Pressurisation protects protecting escape routes against smoke, allowing greater time for escape. A higher pressure in the stairwell compared to adjacent spaces means that the fumes are naturally held back. Most high rise buildings employ these systems, which require a delicate balance so the pressure differential is not so great that the average person cannot open the door from one sector to another.

It takes a wealth of experience to design and fit smoke control and smoke ventilation systems to prevent panic, protect exit routes, help fire-fighting access and protect valuable stock and building structure from damage. Contact Cosaf to discuss your fire prevention and ventilation needs.

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