Ventilation saves lives

Whether it affects a business or a residence, a group of people or a single individual, in the event of a fire, the consequences can be highly damaging. Protecting human life is, of course, the highest priority above all else. However, writes Lewis Boyland, Middle East Technical Manager, Nuaire, we cannot overlook the devastating effect a fire occurrence may have on businesses’ operations.

Many businesses operate by manufacturing, supplying, stocking and selling physical commodities, typically stored in warehouse facilities at some point during the process. Consequently, warehouse fires have increasingly become a challenge for business owners with the potential to endanger the lives of staff and also, damage the commodities stored in warehouses, leading to reputational and financial losses.

While there are measures businesses can take to reduce the risk of warehouse fires such as addressing problems with electricity, lighting and exposure to flammable materials, fires can still happen. That is why effective fire safety solutions are a necessity for the safe operation of businesses.

There are many ways in which business owners can support fire safety in their warehouse facilities such as regular fire risk assessments, regular maintenance of equipment as well as the installation of reliable fire alarms, fire doors and fire signage. Some common systems installed to support fire safety are sprinkler systems and emergency lighting.

However, another important consideration when it comes to fire safety solutions is smoke control. Smoke control refers to reducing the build-up of smoke within a space in the event of the fire. The purpose is to provide occupants sufficient time to evacuate the buildings. Smoke control is where high-performing ventilation solutions can make all the difference.

Until recently, the importance of ventilation often went unnoticed. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, health and wellbeing became a key focus for individuals and businesses. The pandemic provoked a growing demand for solutions that support cleaner indoor air quality, encouraging manufacturers working in ventilation and air management to produce innovative, energy efficient products that protect safe and healthy indoor air quality.

In warehouses in particular, high-quality ventilation is key to keep fresh air moving throughout the building, creating a comfortable workspace where employees can perform at their highest efficiency levels. Beyond its role in keeping us safe on a daily basis, high-performing ventilation is also vital to life safety in emergency situations such as fires. In the event of a fire, toxic smoke-inhalation is the biggest risk to human safety – more so than the flames themselves. When fires occur, flames, smoke and gases can spread throughout the building or warehouse, wreaking havoc on human health and even damaging the goods stored inside. For these situations, smoke extractor fans are a commonly used ventilation solution that serve to extract smoke fumes long enough for people to evacuate the building and reach safety. A similar solution can also be used to drive air into the building, pressurizing escape routes such as stair wells in the event of an emergency. In both cases, these fans are manufactured and independently tested by a third party to ensure they can withstand high temperatures and operate reliably under emergency conditions.

In the Middle East and UAE, where high-rise buildings are in abundance and temperatures are hot and humid, the challenges of evacuation under emergency conditions must be met with complete confidence and reliability. Smoke extractor fans must work harder and for longer to ensure the safe evacuation of occupants from high level floors, making energy-efficiency and durability essential considerations.

In my experience with Nuaire, high-performing, innovative ventilation solutions are necessary to reliably protect critical areas of business operations such as warehouses. Effective ventilation solutions don’t just protect the lives of occupants inside, but also provide business owners and operators with peace of mind.

For business organisations, effective ventilation and smoke extract solutions are not just necessary for warehouses. When it comes to fire safety, carparks, both above and below ground, are also a key area for consideration. Fires within enclosed environments such as underground carparks can be particularly hazardous, calling for a robust smoke extraction strategy. Car parks often face the issue of insufficient fresh air flow, particularly those with multiple underground levels. Smoke extract fans typically serve a dual purpose. They work on a day-to-day basis to ensure carbon monoxide levels remain within prescribed limits by channelling the flow of fumes via a jet fan system towards a designated exhaust point. They are also designed to extract smoke and fumes out of the affected areas, operating reliably at high temperatures so that occupants can safely evacuate the building. A meticulously tested system is indispensable to support health and safety in such situations.

Smoke extract ranges which have been developed to ensure reliability under emergency conditions, but also to offer optimum efficiency when used for daily environmental supply and extract are now available. Our high temperature axial fan units, for example, are designed to extract smoke and fumes, certified to EN12101-3 for temperatures up to 400°C for two hours, so that occupants can safely evacuate. Systems can also be designed to a pre-determined fire load with fans strategically located to create a virtual smoke barrier. This would ensure the smoke spread is limited and cleared quickly and effectively while keeping the rest of the area smoke-free for safe evacuation. Such ranges are also developed to address regional building regulations and have undergone extensive testing in our AMCA and BSA accredited laboratories, allowing for reliable operation when you need it most.

As the building services industry increasingly focuses on sustainability, many modern manufacturers are striving to create more energy efficient fire safety and ventilation solutions to reduce energy consumption and associated costs. Choice of motors, control electronics, airflow paths both within the fan unit and within the wider system, are of vital importance when defining the energy efficiency of a system. By opting for high performing ventilation solutions that focus on energy efficiency, business owners can maintain performance of systems while saving costs on energy consumption. For example, Nuaire’s AXUS Axial Fans are engineered with long-life, heavy-gauge galvanised steel to ensure strength and durability, minimising the need for maintenance once installed to ensure reliable operation during a fire event. Furthermore, opting for high-performing, energy efficient solutions with less chance of failures, means less maintenance and repairs, and consequently better return on investment for businesses owners.

As the region continues to drive sustainability forward, demand for products which are designed for energy efficiency, is likely to grow. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before green legislation comes into play and all manufacturers will begin to adapt their offering to deliver more high-performing, energy efficient ventilation systems. The way forward for business owners is to adapt or risk falling behind in the industry.

Fire safety in business operations is an ongoing responsibility that requires a thoughtful plan, larger than simply installing smoke alarms. It begins with a thorough understanding of the fire vulnerabilities in your business and the spaces you operate. Then you must create a robust plan to ensure you select the right high-performing, reliable and durable systems to protect human life, your property and the planet.

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