The dangers of neglecting smoke control

One crucial aspect of building safety that is often overlooked is the maintenance and repair of smoke control systems. Tom Archer from Colt explores the hidden dangers and why proactive maintenance is essential

As a responsible building manager, ensuring the safety of your occupants should be your top priority. However, one aspect of building safety that is often overlooked is the maintenance and repair of smoke control systems – as these systems are often hidden in walls and ductwork, they are frequently forgotten. Due to patchy record-keeping, some building managers may not even realise that they have these types of systems installed in their buildings and therefore inadvertently overlook their maintenance and repair.

Smoke ventilation systems are installed in a wide range of building types (most typically multi-storey and large, open-plan single-storey) and are designed to protect lives and property in the event of a fire – ignoring their maintenance can lead to catastrophic consequences. Smoke ventilation systems are used to remove heat and smoke from buildings during a fire. They keep escape routes clear for people evacuating the building and also make access routes into the building safer for the firefighting service and first responders. This enables them to reach those in need and the source of the fire more quickly.

Compromised life safety

Perhaps the most significant danger of ignoring smoke control system repairs is the compromised life safety of building occupants. Smoke control systems play a vital role in managing smoke and toxic gases during a fire, allowing occupants to evacuate safely and providing time for firefighters to control the blaze. Without properly functioning systems, smoke can spread rapidly, obscuring exit routes and making it difficult for people to escape. In a worst case scenario, this can result in injuries or even fatalities.

Legal and regulatory compliance

In the UK, building managers must follow the guidance and regulations laid out in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO). It states that the “Responsible Person” (typically a building owner and/or operator) must ensure their smoke control systems are maintained in an efficient state, are in efficient working order and in good repair at all times. Neglecting smoke control system repairs can lead to violations of these regulations, potentially resulting in legal consequences and fines for those responsible. Moreover, insurance companies may deny claims if it is determined that the building owner failed to maintain the smoke control system properly.

Increased property damage

In addition to compromising life safety, a malfunctioning smoke control system can also lead to increased property damage during a fire. Smoke can damage building materials, equipment, and valuable assets, resulting in significant financial losses. A properly functioning smoke control system can help contain the fire and minimise damage, saving both lives and property.

System degradation

Smoke control systems, like any mechanical equipment, degrade over time due to wear and tear. Ignoring necessary repairs can accelerate this process, leading to more frequent breakdowns and higher maintenance costs in the long run. Regular inspections and repairs can extend the lifespan of your system, ensuring it operates effectively when needed most.

Loss of public trust

Building safety is paramount for gaining and maintaining public trust. Ignoring smoke control system repairs can erode this trust, as occupants and visitors may become concerned about their safety. A reputation for inadequate safety measures can negatively impact the reputation of the building and its developers, deterring potential tenants, visitors and future business opportunities.

Increased liability

In the unfortunate event of a fire-related injury or fatality in your building, failing to maintain smoke control systems can increase your liability. Negligence in maintaining safety systems can lead to costly lawsuits and damage your business or organisation’s reputation.

In conclusion, ignoring smoke control system repairs may seem like a cost-saving measure in the short term, but the hidden dangers it poses can have devastating consequences for both life safety and property.

Building managers must prioritise regular inspections, maintenance, and repairs of smoke control systems to ensure they function optimally in the event of a fire. By doing so, you not only meet your legal obligations but also safeguard the lives of occupants and protect the valuable assets within your building.

If you think the smoke control systems in your building have not been recently serviced, reach out to a maintenance expert. They can carry out a free building survey and provide a list of recommendations and actions to take to ensure your systems are safe and compliant.

Tom Archer is UK Sales Manager at Colt