Maintaining fire protection in University buildings

A recent survey of some of the University’s most valuable buildings (in insurance terms) found that around a quarter had this issue to some extent; in extreme cases, damage had significantly reduced the efficacy of the fire breaks designed into the structures.

This seriously increases a building’s vulnerability to fire. Fortunately, there are no known areas in which the damage would increase the risk of personal harm in the event of a fire. University buildings are still safe to work in and have well-designed fire alarm systems, fire corridors and access/egress points that would enable people to escape in the event of a fire. Unfortunately, damaged fire breaks do mean such a fire would spread throughout a building and cause much more extensive damage than would otherwise be the case before it could be brought under control.

A lot of the time, this was done in the process of installing data cables and other non-mains wiring. For this reason, and to avoid any further future damage, the University’s new policy on non-mains wiring states that only preferred electrical contractors may carry out these installations, and Dr David Prout (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Planing & Resources) has written to all departments to make the new requirements clear.

Estates Services has already had to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds repairing fire protection. In some cases we have fixed holes in fire breaks only to return and find more damage has been done. From now on, Estates Services will investigate the cause of such damage, seeking to recover costs of repair from the responsible department or project. So to avoid costly repairs in the future, departments should ensure they abide by the new policy and make sure any work in their buildings includes making good any damage to fire stops. This should enable more resources to be spent on improving the estate rather than restoring fire protection.

If departments discover any damage to fire breaks, please report it to the Estates Helpdesk estates.helpdesk@admin.ox.ac.uk in the first instance, or register it on Planon.

 
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