Tightening Risk Management on Buildings

major fire hazards

 

In the recent past, we have witnessed quite a few incidents of large fires in buildings across the UAE. As a result, the insurers and the re-insurers have tightened their underwriting by increasing property insurance premium rates and imposing restrictive conditions in the insurance policies. The focus has shifted to proper risk management with respect to identifiable hazards in building construction and housekeeping.



major fire hazards

 

One of the major fire hazards that have been identified is the external panels (ACP Panels) of buildings containing combustible materials. This is commonly referred to as “Cladding”. The panels commonly contain a polyethylene core as the insulation material. These panels can easily ignite and the fire can spread quickly due to the presence of the material. In the UAE, most high-rise buildings have external panels containing combustible materials.

However, all claddings are not equally hazardous and the following table will illustrate the differences.

Type of Insulation Core Material used Rockwool Polyurethane Foam (PUF)
Combustibility Non Combustible Highly Combustible
Colour White Black
Looks like Chopped white cotton Rigid Foam
Risk Low hazard High Hazard
Fire Rated Fire Rated Non Fire Rated

In many countries like USA and UK, due to the strict test protocols for building codes, buildings are more resistant to external wall fire. UAE is also following suit to regulate building codes with respect to usage of external panels with combustible insulation core.

However, at this moment, building managers should be more aware of the various building hazards and take necessary steps to mitigate risks. Apart from construction, various other hazards exist in buildings which also need to be taken care of.

There are some inherent

 

There are some inherent difficulties in fighting fires for high-rise buildings. According to NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), “High-rise buildings present several unique challenges not found in traditional low-rise buildings; longer egress times and distance, evacuation strategies, fire department accessibility, smoke movement and fire control. The multiple floors of a high-rise building create the cumulative effect of requiring great numbers of persons to travel great vertical distances on stairs in order to evacuate the building”

 

The following illustration can help in highlighting some of those measures that can be included in the risk management programme of a building.

If ACP has PU Foam as Core Insulation Material.

  • No hot works like welding should be allowed near the panels.
  • Electrical devices should not be installed on panels.
  • Regular checking of electrical systems.
  • To break the chain non combustible panels (fire rated) can be installed in regular height intervals.

Fire Hazards to watch out for

  • Electrical Hazards - Poor wiring, damaged electrical devices, overloading sockets.
  • Housekeeping - Storage of combustible materials, lack of maintenance, poor housekeeping.
  • Hot works like welding, electrical devices fitted on cladded panels etc.
  • Smoking in undesignated areas.

APPLY

  • Sprinklers in regular intervals.
  • Fire breaks like fire doors and non combustible panels.
  • Maintenance of Fire fighting equipments and alarms.
  • A hot works permit for any works in the buildings.
  • A clear set of safety precautionery measures for tenants and occupiers.
  • A Health and Safety committee.
  • Identification of hazards and quick rectification measures.
AVOID

 

The following illustration can help in highlighting some of those measures that can be included in the risk management programme of a building.

AVOID

  • Non Fire rated ACP Panels.
  • Hot works near panels.
  • Storage of combustible materials in terraces and balconies.
  • Tenants without a valid Tenancy Contract.
  • Plastic and other combustible furnitures in the terraces and balconies.
  • Impairment of fire fighting devices.

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