Fire Safety Engineering – What is it?
There is no single definition for fire safety engineering. Still, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) has previously defined fire safety engineering as “the application of engineering principles, rules and expert judgment based on a scientific appreciation of the fire phenomena, of the effects of fire, and of the reaction and behaviour of people to” (ISO/TR 13387-1:1999 Fire safety engineering — Part 1: Application of fire performance concepts to design objectives):
Save lifes, protect property and preserve the environment and heritage
Quantify the hazards and risk of fire and its effects.
Evaluate analytically the optimum protective and preventative measures necessary to limit, within prescribed levels, the consequences of fire.
Fire Safety Engineering in regulatory approaches
Traditionally, in Europe, regulations on building fire safety have been largely prescriptive. Fire Safety Engineering was an approach limited to complex buildings where prescriptive approaches could not apply. However, Fire safety Engineering is increasingly being used, and some countries have transitioned from prescriptive approaches to using more performance-based approaches.
A sign of this evolution is that the European Commission’s Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP) has identified Fire Safety Engineering as one of the workstreams for the platform.
On one hand, this is positive, as Fire Safety Engineering, when used appropriately, can contribute to a better appreciation of fire safety in buildings.
On the other hand, this poses a significant issue: the misuse of Fire Safety Engineering (be it deliberate or unintentional) in order to reduce costs or to change a building’s use after completion is a safety risk that needs to be kept in mind.