Fire protection – the silent success factor

‘Reducing fire protection to a complicated cost factor is the most common mistake made by investors, operators, architects, product manufacturers and many other decisions makers,’ explains Christian Chojnacki, fire protection expert in the DMT GROUP.

He can explain the most important information in few words. With its Centre for Fire and Explosion Protection, DMT has, in its own way, reduced high construction costs for many investors, shortened construction times, made system processes more efficient, promoted environmental development, prevented extensive damage and ultimately saved lives. It all begins with the right fire protection concept and only ends with proactive support in construction supervision (fire protection management), inventory audits or dismantling. It’s so extensive in fact that many fire brigades dial DMT’s phone number for complicated operations such as silo fires. But that’s a different story.

It usually takes the fire brigade eight minutes to reach any location in the city, at which point it can analyse the situation. It doesn’t take them very long to understand – at least in principle – how to safely tackle even the most complex fire protection tasks in the industrial environment.

The expertise has to outweigh the danger

You can now make everything easier for yourself by commissioning DMT to cover all these things with a modern, legally compliant and effective fire protection concept, assume responsibility for fire protection management and ultimately ensure system fire protection with expert inspections in accordance with the states’ test regulations. Planning offices, owners and operators of power plants are happy to pass these tasks on to us as a comprehensive package. For example, we’ve been overseeing the Datteln coal-fired power plant since 2007, from the advanced planning and construction phases to ongoing operations support since the plant was commissioned in 2019. We also support the chemical industry with general explosion and fire protection as well as with special consulting services and studies on system-related water pollution control, use of contaminated extinguishing and waste water, and suitable extinguishing systems.

But you can also turn to DMT as a service provider for many different sectors, unique requirements and unprecedented tasks, like those of Emschergenossenschaft, a waste water management company established in 1899. Together we’ve ‘invented’ the three largest pumping stations of their kind. If the term ‘pumping station’ doesn’t sound exciting enough for you, you may want to consider the fact that high-rises here with their high-performance technologies were built into the depths, representing the most important milestone in a work of the century. It’s all about ensuring attractive riverside environments with healthy water cycles for future generations. Whether water pollution, climate change or the evolving energy market, modern water management requires innovative solutions for a whole host of challenges. Even in a European context, the result is projects which develop promising new concepts for water purification, energy generation and responding to a changing climate.

DMT had to provide the owners with answers to questions which had never been asked before and, on this basis, develop a comprehensive concept. What do safe escape routes look like at a depth of more than 40 metres? How do you go about ensuring effective extinguishing at every imaginable location? How do you get the extinguishing agent back out? How do you respond to smoke production? How do you guarantee an overview and access for fire brigades? How do you ensure fire protection early on in the construction stage? And those are only the most obvious tasks in our area of specialisation, which have to be reconciled with other disciplines in each phase of construction and operation.

‘Fire protection management’ which monitors and confirms implementation of the fire protection concept was ultimately required for approval for the three pumping stations in the Emscher project in Gelsenkirchen, Bottrop and Oberhausen – a demanding task which DMT had the pleasure of successfully fulfilling on behalf of Emschergenossenschaft. The fact that we as part of the TÜV NORD GROUP also know what we’re doing and can offer the associated capacities is also sure to give the operator peace of mind regarding the prescribed system testing intervals.

Tested safety for state-of-the-art technology

But fire and explosion protection is, of course, a much broader field, encompassing all technologies and areas of life. Just about every construction project and structure type requires inspection during the approval process. We also enable manufacturers and operators of all kinds to do just that, from assessment of fire resistance ratings for doors and fire protection reports for photovoltaic systems and wind turbines to the ever-changing world of electric mobility. In accordance with all the recognised regulations on lithium-ion battery technology, we assess the causes of fire, burning behaviour and alternative approaches to firefighting. You’d be hard-pressed to find a newsroom that hasn’t yet reported on the difficulties of extinguishing a burning electric vehicle. Despite current efforts to boost the percentage of electric cars on the road, this issue of firefighting on public roads has yet to be sufficiently resolved and will only get bigger. In future, we’re sure to have more and more opportunity to explore and assess what kind of effects, beyond mere vehicle fires, this will have on multistorey and underground car parks, tunnels and the ability to extinguish fire inside them. There are likely going to be many changes, from new fire protection methods in building permit processes to insurance conditions for property operators adapted on the basis of risk. Reports provided by our experts can go a long way in eliminating much of the uncertainty in the situation (e.g. for insurance companies).

Digital fire protection is more efficient

Ongoing digitalisation can also be helpful here. Even though building information modelling (BIM) is already established in the building industry, the associated legally binding regulations are still under development for fire protection planning, but that hasn’t prevented us from exploiting the opportunities. We view this path as much more efficient and believe that the error rate can be reduced and, more importantly, that the issue of fire protection can be integrated earlier into comprehensive planning, once this can be done with a click. As demonstrated by a current FeuerTrutz Verlag study which targets planners, experts and providers of fire protection, we’re not the only ones who think this way, even if we are pioneers in this area.

The results of the ‘Branchenbarometer Brandschutz’ fire protection study reveal a consensus among experts:

  • Approximately 88 per cent of those surveyed are of the opinion that digitalisation will increase efficiency
  • More than 80 per cent of participants believe that BIM increases planning reliability and productivity
  • Approximately 60 per cent are of the opinion that BIM will replace most of the other planning methods

Very few clients have special requirements in terms of the degree to which fire protection planning is digitalised. In other words, BIM-based planning is often carried out without the support of fire protection planners – a situation we view as the first form of negligence in all modern fire protection efforts. We’re also more than happy to share our knowledge regarding this specific point.

We see it as our mission to make fire protection as innovative as possible. For example, DMT already carries out initial and follow-up inspections in remote mode on a daily basis. And with the recommendation of integrating tailored fire protection concepts into projects at an early stage, we not only achieve optimal fire protection, but also generate economically attractive added value, for example, by reducing operating costs. That can simply be the suggestion that 360 doors which were installed years ago do not necessarily need to be replaced if we assess one of them and can confirm to the authorities that they fulfil today’s requirements. But that can also take the form of the somewhat more involved construction supervision for special industrial structures: for example, the different disciplines of different specialist companies are structured in a way to eliminate any follow-up work and even errors, and monitoring at the right locations increases intervals and even prevents damage.

Give us a call before it all goes up in smoke

Since our special fire protection unit was founded at the end of the 19th century, an informal conversation with DMT has never gone amiss. So don’t delay and give us a call. Ideally before it all goes up in smoke or your plans are too far advanced to exploit all the potential of modern fire protection measures.

But if you’d first like to look more closely into the topic yourself, you can find further basic information and links here. Our first free service, if you will.

Fire cause statistics from the IFS damage database:

Key components of modern fire protection

Fire protection generally refers to all the measures which are designed to prevent fire and subsequent spread of the fire and smoke and ensure the efficacy of increasingly essential extinguishing measures.

Here we differentiate between defensive and preventive fire protection. Defensive fire protection represents the services provided by the fire brigade and is primarily an issue of responding quickly to save lives and extinguish the fire.

Fire protection is a people business

Preventive fire protection encompasses all measures designed to prevent fire and smoke from occurring and spreading. Here we talk about personal precautionary measures as well as organisational, structural and system-related measures for fire prevention, damage limitation and fire brigade safety.

The success of these measures is largely dependent on the experience of the fire protection specialists, as it all comes down to even the smallest technical detail and a nearly incalculable number of building regulations, laws and guidelines, which in Germany alone are different for each state. While a federally applicable model building code does exist, it serves more as a recommendation. Special structures and even listed buildings require additional, tailored consideration. There are thus a whole host of aspects that need to be taken into account in order to achieve individual fire protection targets. In this respect, maximum fire protection quality is entirely dependent on the required knowledge and personal expertise of the person in charge.

Three fields of fire protection

Organisational fire protection encompasses all operational and person-related measures for fire prevention. If you’ve already read everything up to this point, you’re probably well acquainted with them.

Structural fire protection primarily aims to restrict a fire to a single section of the building for a certain period of time and thus prevent the spread of fire and smoke into additional spaces. Factors such as the burning behaviour of building materials, the fire resistance ratings of components and the arrangement of fire zones play a key role.

System fire protection encompasses all technical equipment, including fire detection systems, (automatic) extinguishing equipment such as sprinkler and gas extinguishing systems, hold-open systems for smoke and fire protection doors, emergency lighting, supply of extinguishing agent and much more.

Engineering Performance

We’re also fired up for a few other topics that we didn’t have the time to go into here. But more importantly, we promise to deliver outstanding engineering performance in everything we do. This is something we take so seriously that we display it under our brand. Especially when it comes to fire protection, explosion protection, system-related water pollution control and training, you can rest assured that we won’t compromise on the results. We would be delighted for the opportunity to prove ourselves to you.

Further information about our areas of expertise can be found at the links to the right.


Want to know more? Find all of our Engineering Performance stories on this and other exciting topics here.

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