Within the appreciations of clause 15 of the PAS 79 redraft is a requirement for “ adequate fire safety signage” and for suitable and sufficient emergency lighting for premises other than housing.
Currently within the fire and life safety market there are differing views on what is considered suitable or sufficient and the fact that this is so misunderstood means that you can never be sure that what is one persons considered opinion is actually good enough.
The phrase “adequate” is also open to some misinterpretation as to some the glass will be half full and to others half empty.
When making appreciations for a customer site there are some issues that must be addressed to ensure that what is provided meets these basic minimum requirements an, just as important an understanding that the recommendations of the standards are the minimum so this becomes the start of the conversation not the end of it.
To be able to qualify what is actually appropriate you need to be able to take full account of the occupancy issues, disability and special needs, business activities and the general appreciations within the site.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is the fact that in the majority of the cases emergency lighting work will be undertaken by the clients electrical contractor which, without being disingenuous will be sourced from an electrical wholesaler and based around cost not performance, this also means that in most cases there will have been no photometric data calculations nor an appreciation of overall lux requirements, directional signage likewise will fall into the same category, this with little attention other than the obvious.
For emergency escape and anti-panic lighting the whole question of what is required needs much greater appreciation.
In the last 12 months and over 200 assessments I have seen only maybe really 5% that were compliant, little understanding of what is actually relevant is taken by the installer or incumbent, questions over disability or special needs use are exceedingly rare as are questions over business activities.
Most sites have insufficient EL at the fire alarm and electrical controls and most sites with Refuge systems have only localised fittings.
Sites with efficiencies in EL also tend to follow a pattern with poor and insufficient DS, this tends to be looked at right at the end of a project and given scant regard in respect of cost with only what is left being allocated and this at the cheapest cost available.
It is the responsibility of the installer or incumbent service partner to ensure that compliance is the expectation and all aspects of the EL and DS provision are site specific and suitable, it is their responsibility to inform the FP of what is required and to document this along with the response.
On sites with no fire alarm package (residential high rise) the need to correct EL and DS is even more critical being the principal means of aiding evacuation.
In summation therefore there is a vital need for the next draft of the standards to make a greater degree of expectation and knowledge on the site RP and risk assessor to evaluate the need for EL and DS to be appropriate and specific to the building and its need.
Design for new installations needs more case specific and the client aware of both the standards and the need for some forward thinking.
Currently most FRA reports give a cursory appreciation of both EL and DS without digging too deeply which leaves both the client and the assessor open to criticism for both deficiencies and non compliance issues.
The need for a fresh approach to both what is required and qualification of how this is delivered is essential and for existing sites a better understanding of both testing * and ongoing provision of EL/DS as it will likely not be the same as it was at the time of installation.
Current testing for EL under BS 5266 asks for an annual discharge test which, on larger sites compromises the escape if an evacuation takes place during the recharge period (24hrs) so in most cases the incumbent should be asking for a bi-annual test with the odd numbers on the 1st test and the even numbers on the second so there is always 50% redundancy available for a potential evacuation.
Poor provision of sufficient escape and anti-panic lighting is not acknowledged by most assessments as the assessor cannot tell good from bad through ignorance, both of the standards and the performance of the fittings in situ.
Most sites do not have an accurate and up to date asset list to allow both sides to evaluate what is on site and what has (or has not been tested) so the use of technology to validate this should be embraced with the likes of Tio and Nimbus giving this a platform.
The provision of assisted signage for floors and escape routes in both high rise and more complex buildings has to more thoroughly considered, the risk of disorientation in larger sites (schools and hospitals for example) is high for temporary visitors and thus the need possibly colour coded routes and more defined escape direction is a must and thus should also be included.
PAS79 needs to include more depth in these areas, for more specific actions from the incumbent and risk assessor to bring to the fore deficiencies and non-compliance issues especially now that these issues if not corrected, as required, are now a mandatory disclosure to the clients commercial insurance provider.