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In this new landscape, safety teams can increase their efficiency through a combination of innovative products and integration, connecting devices and processes, which before were isolated or watched over by a single operator. For example, if fire detectors across the site are integrated with the latest CCTV technology, operators will be better able to aid the early detection and verification of fires. In the case of false alarms, CCTV cameras can help to aid the early detection and verification of fires by allowing users to view the area to gain a fuller picture of the situation – acting as a secondary investigation strategy.

A more intelligent approach Aside from better efficiency, the greatest benefit of IP-connected safety devices is the data that comes with them. By connecting sprinkler systems to intelligent devices throughout the building, safety teams can gain access to monitoring data from offsite and receive regular updates on any anomalies or alerts. This has multiple benefits - the obvious increased safety for people and assets in the building, a reduced need for on-site teams to physically investigate incidents and improved convenience for on-duty safety personnel.

For example, a connected sprinkler system could perform basic analysis on an activated unit in tandem with other safety systems to establish whether it is, or was, a real fire, and if so, how severe it is. This is currently a hypothetical ability in most facilities, but with internet of things technology advancing at pace, it won’t be long before increasingly sophisticated sprinkler systems become widespread.

It won’t be long before

sophisticated sprinkler systems become widespread.

Current incarnations can incorporate intelligent alert systems, which are particularly useful for facility managers’ night rotations. As an example, in a warehouse that is manned by operational staff during the day, an alarm sounding or a sprinkler activating will be quickly noticed. During unmanned hours, though, an alarm may not be noticed for a much longer period of time, increasing the chance of a fire getting out of hand. Connected and intelligent sprinkler systems can send signals out to the responsible persons’ iPads or phones, via text message, app alerts, or however is most useful. That in turn helps to provide an early warning, enabling site teams to catch a potential fire before it develops into a large blaze.

Comply with regulations No amount of technology is enough on its own, however. It’s essential that safety teams and building managers carefully consider how the equipment and installations will help them achieve regulatory compliance. After the Grenfell tragedy, it’s also key to note that regulatory compliance should never be a box-ticking exercise, concerned only with the letter of the law - regulations

are designed to point building managers towards best practice. The ultimate aim is to reduce health and safety risk to building occupiers to the lowest level possible.

Sprinkler regulations are under close scrutiny in 2017. In their current form, there is a requirement that buildings above a certain size and application must have sprinkler

It doesn’t have to mean

that there is a black and white choice between safety and a satisfactory balance sheet.

systems built in from the earliest stages of planning. There have been calls from the London Fire Brigade for this to be extended to all residential tower blocks, and as the Grenfell inquiry progresses and brings its recommendations to parliament, there is a significant possibility that a far larger proportion of public buildings will be required to have sprinkler systems installed in time.

As a result, building managers need to make sure that they are aware of all areas of responsibility covered by the relevant regulations. It’s not just a matter of installing sprinkler systems: servicing, maintenance, system design and operation must all be properly attended to. Safety teams must ensure that all sprinkler systems are kept in full working order, checking components on a regular basis and running simulations where possible.

There should also be an attitude of openness when it comes to upgrades and change - if a system fails to meet regulations, or has degraded over time, then costs must come second to compliance.

Choosing the right provider On the other hand, that doesn’t have to mean that there is a black and white choice between safety and a satisfactory balance sheet. By working with an expert fire suppression provider, businesses can achieve regulatory compliance at a workable price point through a combination of intelligent integration, admin reduction and personalisation.

In the scramble to avoid repeating the mistakes of Grenfell, there is a risk that some building management teams may settle for less well-resourced suppliers, or those without the expertise required to sufficiently future- proof essential sprinkler systems. Instead, companies should be looking for professional organisations with a proven track record of successful installation, who can be product agnostic if needs be, installing and servicing the correct equipment for the job.

In short, a full-service offering is the sign of a good provider - facilities managers should be looking for a consultative organisation that can assess its needs and match the solution accordingly, providing installation, servicing and maintenance, across the entire facility. TOMORROW’S FM | 39

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