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Fire reports need close inspection

05 September 2011

When it comes to the issue of fire, how you interpret the validity of a fire test report or assessment certification could make the difference between whether the fire protection measure in question succeeds or fails in its objective, states the Association for Specialist Fire Protection (ASFP).

To the uninitiated, who are faced with a very difficult and potentially expensive need to achieve a required standard of fire performance to comply with a specific Building Regulation, the offer of a simple ‘fix’ must be very appealing, says the Association. But the process of fire testing is a vigorous and often very costly endeavour and common sense dictates that not all potential configurations, to which a product of system is to be used, can be realistically tested. In such situations a range of tests may be carried out in different configurations, which in turn leads to an extrapolation of data contained in an assessment report.

Such comprehensive reports should not be confused with what has become known as the ’indicative’ or ‘ad-hoc’ test, says the Association who, along with many Certification Bodies, are now very concerned at the growing indiscriminate use of such very limited test reports that may well appear to solve a difficult dilemma, but in reality give little more than the illusion of a solution that has no foundation practice.

To be clear, says the ASFP, there is nothing wrong with any product manufacturer undertaking ‘indicative’ or ‘ad hoc’ testing as a way of observing and assessing how its products or systems may perform in conjunction with the type of configuration to which it may be used. However, the information gained is for the test sponsor’s benefit only and as such should not be used to demonstrate performance against the standard to which it would normally be measured. Nor should it be taken as a means to assess such a product or system against any regulatory requirement. Often, such tests are not conducted under the accreditation process and requirements of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and may not have complied with the full requirements of the given Standard.

When reviewing a test report, the ASFP suggests that you ensure you have been given the whole test report and not just the fire test data, as all of the conditions for the use of the fire test will be covered within the reports introduction. Secondly, if the data given is based on a small scale test alone, ask to see other evidence of full scale testing in compliance with the appropriate test Standard. Finally, if there are any doubts as to the validity of the data given for the conditions under which it will be used, advice should be sought from the testing body, or a confirmatory letter should be requested from the testing body via the product manufacturer. If the test data presented is insufficient, but the proposed solution is to increase the amount of fire protection to compensate, such a solution has no validity.

For further details on this subject, the ASFP has produced a Guidance Notice’ entitled ‘The use of ‘indicative’ or ‘ad-hoc’ testing – essential information’, which may be downloaded from the ASFP website at www.asfp.org.uk


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