Human error, faulty electrical installations and overheating have been among the most common causes of fires for many years. It is often supposedly minor incidents that cause millions of euros in damage, drive companies into bankruptcy and, in the worst case, endanger human lives. This makes a carefully developed fire protection concept all the more important. This article explains what this term means, when a fire protection concept is legally required, and what it entails.
What is a fire protection concept? A definition in a nutshell
A fire protection concept is the totality of all necessary structural, technical and organizational measures to prevent the outbreak and spread of fires and to enable the rescue of persons in the event of fire.
In other words, a fire protection concept includes all measures that prevent fires and minimize damage in the event of an emergency. It is important that it is individually tailored to the building in question and its use. This is the only way to ensure that the measures in question have the desired effect.
The fire protection concept is also the basis for the fire protection regulations. These represent a kind of operating instruction for the prevention of fires and the correct behavior in the event of a fire, and in some cases must be publicly displayed in buildings.
The fire safety regulations govern behavior in the event of a fire and measures to prevent fires for a business or public facility. It must always be adapted to the fire protection measures required on site.
When is a fire protection concept required?
A fire protection concept is based on various legal regulations. In principle, they are required for special buildings and in the event of deviations from the requirements of building law. Special buildings include, for example, office buildings and sales premises with a certain minimum floor area, as well as all high-rise buildings and hospitals.
The extent to which a fire protection concept is legally required for other buildings depends on the respective state building code, as building law in Germany is basically a matter for the states. In addition, insurance companies may require a fire protection concept.
Important: The term “fire protection concept” is often used synonymously for a fire protection verification in the form of a fire protection concept as well as for an operational, holistic fire protection concept. However, it does not always mean the same thing. A fire protection concept as a fire protection proof often only contains the fire protection measures required by building law and leaves out the requirements and protection goals of the workplace law, the company and the property insurance.
How is a fire protection concept structured?
A fire protection concept usually serves as structural engineering proof that the fire protection required by the building authorities is complied with in the present approval planning. The trigger for the need for fire protection concepts or proofs in Germany was the fire at Düsseldorf Airport on April 11, 1996, when it was discovered that although a sufficient number of fire protection regulations existed in Germany, their requirements, implementation, compliance and documentation were left to chance. NRW was then the first federal state to prescribe fire protection concepts for what were then still “large” special buildings. All other federal states followed this example.
Fire protection concepts often follow the following structure:
- A description of the building is given at the beginning. Materials, dimensions and use are described.
- This is followed by the classification under building law, for example deviations requiring approval.
- The fire protection concept concludes with structural, plant engineering and organizational fire protection measures.
Deviations in the structure result, for example, from country-specific requirements.
The first focus of a good fire protection concept is the question of how high the fire risk actually is or whether the existing concept needs to be adapted to the new hazards.
Your fire protection concept must also determine how a fire can be stopped in an emergency. How a fire can be quickly detected and fought, for example, the choice of extinguishing agent and the plan for fighting the fire, are stored in the fire protection concept.
In addition, a fire protection concept always includes all organizational, structural and technical fire protection measures that are necessary for fire prevention and fire fighting.
How comprehensive should a fire protection concept be?
For fire protection concepts that are to serve as structural proof of fire protection based on the approval planning, the level of detail usually corresponds to that of the approval planning. The fire protection concept must therefore contain all the essential information required for the inspection and approval or certification of fire protection.
Fire protection concepts should be written as concisely as possible. The point is not to write down or reproduce all existing codes that apply to the building. Rather, the point is to filter out only those building codes that are relevant to the proposed building and to mention and review only those requirements that affect the proposed building.
The fundamental question now arises as to what extent such more extensive building code requirements should and can be taken into account in the fire protection concept. This should definitely be discussed and precisely defined before fire protection concepts are drawn up.
Who is authorized to prepare Fire Protection Concepts?
A fire protection concept may only be prepared by a so-called “specialist planner”. What or who exactly is hidden behind this designation, however, depends on the respective federal state. Depending on the state, specialist planners must demonstrate practical experience in the field of fire protection in addition to a certain level of training. In North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, only a state-approved expert may prepare a fire protection concept.
Due to these state-specific requirements with regard to content, structure and authorization for preparation, we would like to discuss the peculiarities of the fire protection concept in North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria here.
Special Features of the Fire Protection Concept in NRW
The fire protection concept in NRW is subject to its own requirements with regard to who is authorized to prepare one. In NRW, according to §58 para. 3 BauO NRW, only a state-approved expert may prepare a fire protection concept.
Special Features of the Fire Protection Concept in Bavaria
In Bavaria, a fire protection concept (in accordance with Art. 62 Para. 2 Sentence 3 BayBO) must be prepared for buildings in building class 4 or lower special buildings. This must be carried out by an expert or engineer with proven and registered training.
Timing of the Creation and Review of Fire Protection Concepts
The early consideration of preventive structural fire protection already in the preliminary and design planning phase is an elementary prerequisite for a smooth and economical fire protection concept!
The concepts are reviewed at the following times:
- Before use: For a fire protection concept for a new building to be approved at all, a review by approved experts is required. Depending on state law, this may involve fire protection inspection engineers, for example.
- During use: periodic inspections are also required during the subsequent period. During these inspections, the building inspection authorities check whether the fire protection concept is being properly implemented. In addition, manufacturers of equipment such as fire doors must perform the prescribed maintenance.
Structures and building uses often change over time. Therefore, it is important to scrutinize fire protection concepts from time to time. If necessary, they need to be changed.
Only when the “right time” has been missed do you realize how important it actually is. If preventive structural fire protection is not taken into account in good time and professionally from the outset, it will become increasingly complex and expensive. In the process, those involved are often not even aware that high costs could have been avoided if only preventive fire protection had been taken care of properly and in good time.
When is there an increased risk of fire?
The fire protection concept must address the special circumstances in your company. An increased fire risk exists in principle if:
- substances with high flammability, low flammability or other fire-promoting properties are present (e.g. when storing paper, solvents or wood);
- the spatial conditions could favor the development of a fire;
- it is to be expected that a developing fire will spread quickly;
- flammable gases are present;
- there is a risk of spontaneous combustion of materials.
- flammable work such as welding, flame cutting, soldering is being carried out;
- flammable processes such as paint spraying or flame work are carried out;
Many companies, such as wood or electrical workshops, dry cleaners, printers or canteen kitchens, meet one or more of these criteria. However, there is also an increased risk of fire in facilities in which many helpless or unknown people are present, e.g. in hotels, hospitals or nursing homes.
The Implementation of the Fire Protection Concept and related Problems
Many companies see their obligations as fulfilled as soon as a fire protection concept has been drawn up. However, this is a fallacy. Because as soon as a fire protection concept has been drawn up, the house owner or the entrepreneur is obliged to implement the fire protection measures specified in the concept, taking into account the fire classes. A fire protection concept should therefore be read and understood. The formulations are often difficult to understand for non-specialists. This can lead to implementation errors. In particular, incorrectly implemented fire protection concepts can have serious consequences for the operator. Insurance payments may not be made, and there is also a risk of a lawsuit for gross negligence. Experience has shown the value of taking full precautions.
So when assessing fire hazard there are two categories: normal and increased fire hazard. The normal fire hazard describes a situation like in an office. Here only the basic equipment of the workplace guideline A2.2 has to be fulfilled. On the other hand, with the increased risk of fire, there is a high probability that a fire will start and spread quickly. Therefore, in addition to the basic equipment, additional fire protection measures must be observed.
Particular attention should be paid to these points in connection with fire protection concepts:
- Start as early as possible
- Determination of the purpose and level of detail in which the fire protection concept is to be created
- Keep it as short as possible and as long as necessary
- Naming and justification of all deviations and simplifications that require approval
- Supplementing the concept with a meaningful visualization
An external fire protection officer can act as the central contact for all fire protection issues in your company. We advise and support you in all questions of preventive, defensive and organizational fire protection.