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Of that number, there have been 334 fire-related fatalities and over 3,000 non-fatal casualties requiring hospital treatment. According to Electrical Safety First Core Data, the majority of fires within England are caused by electricity and the misuse of household equipment or appliances.
Incidents can occur in both residential and commercial properties and within the 18th Edition of the IET Wiring Regulations for the first time recommendations have been introduced to mitigate the risk of arc faults. Known as a secret threat, arc faults consist of instances of electric micro lightning that can develop quietly over time, creating a hidden set of conditions that escalate without any obvious sign of danger.
Arc faults can be caused by a number of factors: faulty appliances, bent wires or plugs, wires crushed by furniture, loose connections or contacts, exposure to rodent bites or UV rays. Arc faults may also be due to the simple ageing of an installation or the pressure placed upon installation cables by increased usage.
Government action in support of fire safety
In response to fire-related incidents, the UK government has begun taking steps to not only build awareness of fire safety, but to make new recommendations – ensuring that the UK has a more robust system in place to protect buildings and those living within them.
The Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety – also known as the Hackitt Report – is a prime example, highlighting ways to support the construction of buildings that are safe, both now and in the future. And while such government initiatives are a necessary first step, it’s important to note that systematic change can take time. So in the meantime, it’s important for building owners and operators to take it upon themselves to mitigate the risks associated with arc faults and other potential causes of fire.
Short-term solutions to fire incidents
Recommended for the first time in the 18th Edition of the IET Wiring Regulations, AFDDs work by digitally monitoring cables for specific frequencies that indicate an arc fault. They’re flexible and can be installed alongside traditional circuit devices like miniature circuit breakers (MCBs) which use thermal and magnetic detection to identify short circuit and over-current hazards. They can also be installed alongside residual current devices (RCDs), which use a balance transformer to detect earth faults. New technological advances have even resulted in the introduction of new versions that combine all three devices, offering building managers and building owners a way to provide even greater protection.
Future proofing tomorrow’s buildings
While the UK has begun to evolve standards in recent months, it’s likely even larger changes are likely to come in the build environment. There is no silver bullet to building safety, but AFDDs provide a new layer of safety to complement existing technologies. Although it may be some time until further regulations evolve there is the opportunity for building owners and operators to look beyond current industry standards to provide innovative technology that enables safety for all.
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