Fire Safety and Code Consulting

Fire Safety Consulting
Quite often addressing a fire safety concern is a matter of understanding a situation and then making an informed decision to establish a direction. Our objective is to sufficiently educate you on the scientific and technical principles and code and standard requirements that relate to your specific concern to enable you in making those informed decisions. We specialize in reducing complex fire issues to a form that is understandable and instinctive allowing you to select a logical approach to address your concerns.

FIREPRO's fire safety consulting services include:

  • Fire safety risk evaluation and risk management
  • Fire Modeling
  • Fire safety procedures and evacuation planning
  • Construction phase interim life safety procedures

Fire Safety Risk Evaluation and Risk Management
With either new construction or existing building renovations, owners and property managers are faced with a number of fire risk management challenges. These include avoiding loss of life and injury, reducing fire loss, and maintaining the continuity of operations. The FIREPRO fire safety evaluation process can assist with the evaluation and mitigation of those fire safety issues.

The probability of where a fire may occur, what fuels may be involved, the likely ignition sources, and the potential fire growth can be analyzed. FIREPRO obtains an understanding of your potential burning materials, their location, and their environment, and develops a time study that can predict the probability of ignition, growth, and extinguishment of fires. With this knowledge, approaches can be created to define the use of various materials and their placement, and control their surroundings, to lower the risk of fire and keep it at your acceptable level.

A FIREPRO engineer will review your objectives and examine the basic construction features of your building early in your development phase, allowing you to make changes without being impacted by "change order costs" and late enough to see what impact code requirements have on your ideas. Our engineers will prepare a written report that assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the building's fire defense features, both existing and planned, and outlines improvements required to address your fire safety objectives. After construction, the report can be passed on to the building's operating personnel to help them understand how to use the facility as it was designed.

The fire safety evaluation process is guided by fire safety objectives assigned by you, based on concerns about your people, your property, and your mission. The report created by FIREPRO, provides your decision-makers with the tool necessary to make clear, well-informed decisions about how to cost-effectively achieve your defined level of fire safety. FIREPRO's objective is to save you money, lubricate the approval process, and serve your design and operating team.

Some of the common fire safety consulting activities that we perform are:

FIREPRO can assist in establishing fire safety objectives. We will interview decision makers, ask pertinent, thought-provoking questions, and incorporate the responses into a preliminary set of objectives. We will then coordinate your review of the preliminary objectives and guide you in establishing and adopting global objectives and more specific goals for critical areas.

FIREPRO can review a building's conceptual design in the early stages and present guidelines and alternative approaches for planning the structure. We will support your design philosophies and aesthetic criteria and propose approaches for achieving the fire safety objectives, considering the building's passive features, active systems, and operating fire prevention procedures. Each alternative approach will be presented with respect to its benefits and liabilities, code compliance or equivalencies, and relative initial costs and life cycle costs.

FIREPRO can evaluate an existing building to reveal its level of fire safety, and propose approaches to reach the desired level of fire safety. We will audit the facility, examining its passive features, active systems, and fire prevention procedures, and determine the existing risk level. We will then develop alternate approaches for meeting the fire safety objectives.

FIREPRO can develop probabilities of fire behavior. Using industry-tested models and tools, FIREPRO will analyze a potential fire scenario to predict if the fire will burn itself out, can be confined to one location, can be extinguished by automatic means, and what level of fire brigade or fire department response will be required. FIREPRO can predict the expected time ranges for spread, detection, and extinguishment, and determine if these time frames surpass the predicted time to cause injury, damage, or business interruption beyond your acceptable levels.

Fire Modeling
Whether your project involves a new building design, analysis of an existing building, or litigation after a fire, the fire modeling consultants at FIREPRO can assist you in understanding how fire will impact your situation, and help you make informed decisions.

Fire Safety Consulting Applications

The industry's understanding of the behavior of fire is continually advancing. Combining this knowledge with today's software tools has allowed the development of models that can help examine questions such as:

  • How will your building design perform under fire conditions?
  • How effectively will the egress system allow occupants to exit the building?
  • Will the occupants be able to exit the building prior to the development of a hazardous atmosphere?

Computer fire and evacuation models are engineering tools which approximate the fire environment within a building and how occupants will exit the building. When experienced personnel utilize the models, they can predict how a fire will affect the building and its occupants.

With the advent of performance based code concepts architects and engineers often ask the question, "How can we demonstrate that our design meets the intent of the Code for fire and life safety while providing design freedom?" FIREPRO analyzes building layouts and utilizes recognized fire models to provide insight into potential fire growth rates, smoke movement, and detector and sprinkler activation times to determine how a building will be affected by fire.

We also analyze the potential effectiveness of smoke control system designs, and we model building evacuations to determine how design features will influence occupant flow patterns. With the information provided by these models, we analyze and document alternative approaches to fire and life safety to show that an adequate level of safety will be provided. The design team can then make informed decisions and make changes to the design drawings prior to submittal to the reviewing authorities.

Litigation Support Applications
Attorneys and those interested in post-fire reconstruction typically have questions such as:

  • When did flashover occur?
  • When would a detector have activated?
  • How did the smoke move through the building?

FIREPRO uses computer fire models to reconstruct actual building fires. These models provide insight into the time line of the fire. By incorporating known events into the fire model, the model can provide a prediction of the unknown variables. These models can assist in determining such information as when flashover occurred, when an egress path became untenable, or when a detector should have activated. Fire models can also prove invaluable in testing hypotheses of fire origin and cause. The more sophisticated models can also approximate when an occupant would be overcome by toxic gases.

Building Fire Safety Procedures & Evacuation Planning
When developing a fire safety procedures and evacuation plan for a building, our fire protection engineers consider a multitude of details and factors. The engineers gain an understanding of the fire safety goals and objectives, and typically review the building's existing or proposed fire protection systems and its provisions for egress. The engineers also gather detailed information about the building's features and characteristics, its occupants, and activities occurring within the building. Additionally, they identify existing and potential hazards and determine how these hazards might affect occupants, operations, and the building itself. The engineers assist the clients with establishing policies and procedures that complement the built-in fire protection.

To develop a fire safety procedures and evacuation plan, FIREPRO engineers:

  • Conduct audits of the existing fire protection and egress systems.
  • Facilitate the setting of fire safety and evacuation objectives with facility management.
  • Establishment of evacuation policy and procedures.
  • Prepare easy to follow facility graphics for key floors and tenant spaces indicating fire protection features and egress routing.

FIREPRO organizes this material into a fire safety procedures and evacuation manual that presents the information in a logical structure. The FIREPRO Fire Safety and Evacuation Manual is written specifically for a particular building. Therefore, the actual topics and information included in the manual are adjusted to meet the needs of each client.

Once the manual is competed, FIREPRO engineers meet with facility management to assist with implementation of the plan. At which time FIREPRO can conduct facility staff and occupant training using the manual and site-specific graphics.

Construction Phase Interim Life Safety Procedures Planning
The potential for a fire is inherently greater during periods of demolition or construction than when all work is completed and all the fire protection systems are in service. As work progresses, accumulations of combustible building materials, wooden forms, scaffolding, scrap lumber, paper and plastic packaging materials, and other refuse appear throughout the building.

During construction the fire danger is further increased by the presence of a number of potential ignition sources, such as cutting and welding equipment, temporary heaters and lights, re-roofing materials, heating guns and torches, and carelessly discarded matches or cigarettes. In addition, the threat of arson is also greater during demolition and construction operations due to the availability of combustible materials on-site and open access to the building. Fire safety concerns associated with construction and demolition operations are made worse when normal occupant activities continue in portions of the building while construction or demolition operations occur in other portions of the building.

FIREPRO prepares the Interim Life Safety Measures, Policy and Procedures Manual which provides useful fire and life safety information for specific construction and demolition operations. The goal of the manual is to provide the building and its occupants a reasonable level of safety with respect to fire during demolition and construction operations. Many of the procedures and requirements in this manual are intended to reduce the potential for a fire during all periods of demolition and construction. Other procedures and requirements address the need to keep the fire protection system operational, install fire extinguishers, and keep normal egress paths undisturbed.

The manual is intended for use by construction and demolition contractors and provides specific requirements for job site and building fire prevention steps that must be taken before work begins, while work is in progress, and after work has been completed. The following topics are just a few covered by the manual:

  • Establishing a job site fire safety program
  • Responsibilities for general contractors, subcontractors, and fire safety supervisors
  • Procedures for the preplanned impairments of fire protection systems
  • Job site security
  • Special demolition safeguards
  • Code Consulting
  • Building and Fire Code Consulting

Code reviews help address questions such as the following:

  • What code requirements affect my design?
  • How can I provide protection for an innovative design concept?
  • What alternatives are available to meet the intent of the code?

Building owners, developers, architects, engineers, government agencies, and corporations need answers. These answers affect the planning, design, construction, and renovation activity encountered during the life cycle of a building. Failure to address code issues early can lead to costly change orders, major renovations, and even failure to receive a Certificate of Occupancy.

With an understanding of your design concepts, we will develop a report that can be used to guide the design team as the design progresses. We will then perform code and plan reviews, answer your questions, and develop cost-effective solutions to ensure your building will meet the intent of local, state, and national fire codes when it is completed. Our staff is well-versed in the development and interpretation of codes and standards and will apply them to your building.

When your design has difficulty meeting the "cookbook" code provisions, we are often able to find ways to provide compliance alternatives which will meet the intent of the code. If a variance is needed, we are experienced in developing an appeal package and processing the appeal to gain positive results.

Code Equivalency Analysis
Building and fire codes traditionally provide a "cookbook" approach to fire protection. This often conflicts with one's plan for a particular building design. FIREPRO can support the design philosophies and aesthetic criteria and propose equivalencies allowing freedom of design while meeting the intent of the code. Many "code consultants" typically say "NO" while FIREPRO likes to say "YES".

Equivalency is a principle recognized by all national building and fire codes. Many authorities will allow an equivalency if they are convinced that it will meet or exceed the intent of the code requirement. Most of these same authorities will require a fire protection engineer to be involved in the development of these alternatives. However, occasionally, an authority will require that the equivalency be presented to an appeal board for review and resolution. FIREPRO is experienced in preparing and processing these appeals. By properly preparing and presenting the appeal application, the probability of acceptance is enhanced.

FIREPRO engineers are experienced in the application of equivalency chapters of building and fire code such as:

  • NFPA 101A Alternative Approaches To Life Safety
  • International Building Code, Chapter 34
  • Massachusetts Building Code, Chapter 32