If there is a fire, does the legislation always fail?

When the news informs us about the event of a fire, we tend to think that the legislation is not adequate because there is a fire and more when there are victims involved. This applies even when fires occur far from us in countries such as China, Iran, United Arab Emirates, etc. In these cases, I usually listen to people to do comments about that the legislation should be changed because it does not work, without knowing its causes.

Obviously, when there is a fire it means that fire safety measures have failed. There will be one or several causes and if the fire has spread and there are also casualties, we will be able to say that many things have failed.

In these conditions, does have the legislation failed? At first glance, many voices will tend to say yes. At least and from my point of view, the answer is not simple and will depend on the circumstances. But the reality is that after a fire with or without casualties, causes and facts that may have helped to its spread are investigated. Unfortunately, the news does not always reflect the results of these investigations since many times it does not interest or on the contrary they are not made public. Therefore, the first thing that should be done is to know the legislation in depth, not only in a specific section, but in a global way since fire safety is only understood as the interaction between different protection measures that tend to minimize damage both personal and material in case of fire.

If the applicable legislation on fire safety is not met, the likelihood of suffering personal and material consequences in case of fire is very high. Therefore, the first thing is that all requirements should be met 100%, without excuses of any kind.

However, although it may seem strange, the regulatory requirements can be met 100% and a fire happens, not only in Spain, but in any country. The reason? They can be different causes as for example, a deficient installation of passive and active protection systems, ignorance about the operation of the systems, abandonment of the facilities, etc. The regulation in Spain, CTE DB SI, has the main objective of protecting the lives of people in buildings and therefore, the whole set of measures are focused towards that goal. In the event of a fire, people should be able to evacuate the building as quickly as possible in safe conditions. Up to here, all clear. But we must be aware of the different factors that are involved in our help in case of fire.

But if this set of measures are installed in an incorrect way, in case of fire they will not run the mission entrusted. Therefore, this is a crucial activity and should be assigned to qualified professionals who know the product or system and who are aware of the risk that a bad practice would involve. But do we know how passive and active protection systems work? Normally it will be said that yes but as an example, why do we have open fire doors with wedges in the floor, Compartmentalization with holes that allow to see the other room, etc? Surely someone who is reading my post, comes to mind similar cases, true?

Although it seems unreal, this is a great risk and in the particular case of open doors give as consequence that smoke can travel freely through evacuation routes or stairwells helping to spread the fire and preventing the evacuation of people. Therefore, prevention campaigns are necessary to show people the benefits they could find in those systems in case of fire and change the mentality that they are installed only because it is mandatory by the fire regulation.

These are just a few small examples to demonstrate that in addition to complying with the legislation, passive and active protection systems and the rest of the measures contemplated in any legislation they must be installed and maintained in an appropriate manner by professionals.


Antonio Galán Penalva

Consultor de seguridad contra incendios




Diseño de Instalaciones de Protección contra Incendios (PCI)