While fire safety may seem obvious for occupied properties, there is often more risk of a blaze starting in an empty building. Thankfully, remote monitoring technology is there to help safeguard these sites, so that facilities managers can ensure that the buildings they are responsible for are protected even if they need to lie empty in the wake of the pandemic. John Harrison, sales and marketing director, at wireless solutions firm, Ramtech, discuses.
Across Europe there are hundreds of thousands of buildings lying dormant, which is likely to have risen with the impact of the pandemic.
In England, there were 665,600 vacant dwellings in October 2020, which had increased by 2.7 per cent (17,500) on the previous year.
Fire safety is often associated with the risk to those inhabiting or working within buildings. But in the UK, the Home Office recorded 14,308 primary fires* as well as 1,730 fires within derelict buildings between 2019-2020, so the figure is likely to rise above this when taking an entire continent into account.
The Risk And Responsibility
For facilities managers who must factor in the ongoing upkeep and safety of buildings that may be void or empty, safety measures must be kept a priority. Wiring, furniture, and other waste products pose a risk of becoming highly flammable material. On top of this, the lack of activity and safety checks inside these types of buildings means they have different fire risks, and arson, criminal damage, illegal occupation and theft are much more common. The onus is on building and facilities personnel to ensure there are fire safety measures in place even if they are deserted, with the same legal obligations applying to empty building as in those in in full use. With this in mind, facilities managers have a very important role to play.
Peace Of Mind Security
Automatic detection is very important at various buildings, which is where smart equipment integrated with an IoT software platform comes to the fore. For fire safety, automatic detection such as wireless alarm technology can help by monitoring sites, identifying risks and preventing emergencies in the first place.
This innovation gives facilities managers the tools to link up the building with property owners, project supervisors and safety personnel to ensure that they can receive alerts in real-time – helping to prevent accidents, unauthorised access, vandalism and disasters.
Wireless fire alarm systems have advanced greatly over the past few decades. For example, when fire alarm systems with automatic heat and dust resistant smoke detectors give early warning to a potential fire, they can be paired with a digital platform so that offsite notifications can be received by managers who can then decide what action to take. Units can be deployed in almost any style or size of building and have a three-year battery lifecycle to keep maintenance to a minimum.
The pandemic has only helped to further spread the wider adoption of such technology, due to the implementation of measures such as social distancing, which meant only a limited number of personnel could be on site at one time. The good news is that this technology has been able to fill some of the gaps in terms of monitoring safety systems and generating data remotely, which continues to offer value as a more flexible approach to opening buildings and office spaces becomes the norm.
Investing In Protection
Facilities managers have a responsibility to ensure that the buildings they look after remain functional spaces and are also protected even when not in use or are vacant, derelict or void. With the threat of fires being ever-present, ensuring adequate fire measures have been adopted to keep the public and property safe should the worst happen is crucial.
Having a robust system to watch over an empty building will safeguard the property investment and lead to potential savings should a fire breakout. By taking a proactive approach and exploring the fire safety detection and remote alert systems available, facilities managers can oversee the safety of buildings and maintain security standards of the site with ease.
*Primary fires are potentially more serious fires that harm people or cause damage to property and meet at least one of the following conditions: fire in a (non-derelict) building, vehicle or (some) outdoor structures, fire involving fatalities, casualties or rescues and fire attended by five or more pumping appliances.
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