Commercial buildings - fire protection engineering:
The term 'commercial buildings' refers to any buildings that are not residential buildings and that do not fall under the more specific headings of, hospitals, hotels, airports, Qatar Foundation, educational buildings, railway premises, high rise buildings,
industrial buildings or shopping malls. These buildings include offices, shops, restaurants, clubs, museums, exhibition centres, conference centres, buildings for worship, stadia and performance spaces.
This is a diverse range of buildings and whereas there are thousands of office buildings in most cities, at the other end of the spectrum there are few stadia. On this course it is necessary to concentrate on the areas that can deliver the most benefit and these are buildings used as offices, shops, restaurants and clubs.
In all these buildings people will be awake. In some buildings, such as offices, it is very likely that the occupants will be familiar with the layout whilst in shops, restaurants and clubs it is likely that most people will be members of the public and will not be familiar with the building.
Whether or not occupants are familiar with the building is an important factor in assessing the adequacy of the fire safety provisions in the building.
Where occupants are familiar with the building they will know the best ways out, they will know what the fire alarm sounds like and they should have received basic training in the action to take when discovering a fire or when hearing the fire alarm.
Where occupants are unfamiliar with the building they will only know the way they came in (if they can remember), they will not know what the fire alarm sounds like so probably will not recognise it if it sounds. They are unlikely to respond to the fire alarm unless directly instructed to evacuate by a member of staff or by voice alarm. They will have received no training in fire procedures and rely heavily on the actions of the staff.
When assessing a commercial building, we have the usual requirements for means of escape, fire alarm system, sprinklers, emergency lighting, etc.
For commercial buildings where all the occupants are familiar with the building we also need to see evidence of satisfactory fire safety management and of fire safety training. The training should primarily be based on procedures that are required in the event of a fire and, also, it should include everyday matters such as not introducing additional hazards into the workplace and being alert to fire safety faults and taking action to put them right. These buildings do have visitors and contractors coming into them and these people may not be familiar with the building. If this is the case then the visitors should always be accompanied by someone familiar with the building or they should receive, when they first arrive at the building, some brief instructions regarding what the fire alarm sounds like, what exit routes should be used and where the assembly point is.
For commercial buildings where many of the occupants are not familiar with the building we need to see evidence of staff training and this staff training is particularly important as it will be the staff who have to motivate people to leave the building in the event of an emergency.