Improving Fire Safety
Safe and sustainable construction is a priority for our industry. The Modern Building Alliance explains why a holistic, data-based and performance-oriented approach is key to advancing fire safety, and its aims to inspire improvements in fire safety practices across Europe.
As such, we are fully committed to work with authorities and fire safety professionals, notably at local level, to enhance the fire safety of buildings.
Enforcing the existing legal framework
Fire safety of buildings depends on various elements and therefore requires a holistic approach that addresses both preventive and constructive fire protection.
Preventive fire protection focuses on avoiding fires, whereas constructive fire protection includes fire performance of materials and systems solutions for the building and its envelope.
In that regard, fire-safe buildings need construction materials and products to be approved, installed and maintained responsibly and in accordance with all regulations. At the EU level, there is a rigorous and harmonised testing framework in place to ensure national authorities can set requirements for construction products on their market.
According to the European Commission, there is no evidence suggesting that the current framework is ineffective, even in environments where there is increased penetration of modern materials. Find out more about fire statistics.
What fire disasters have taught us is the importance of compliance with existing regulation and manufacturer’s instructions, and that national competent authorities must ensure that laws are adhered to.
Listen to what MEP Bendt Bendtsen (EPP) said about what could be done to improve fire safety during our roundtable event ‘Fire safety: setting the scene for fire safe European buildings’ in the European Parliament on 28 November 2018.
Collecting more comprehensive and harmonised data will help drive policy action
Fire safety statistics are gathered in many different ways across Europe. Of the 28 EU countries, only 10 have complete datasets for the years 2000-10, which outline the number of fatalities from "all fires", while a further 15 EU countries have "almost complete" datasets.
Existing national fire statistics fail to give a holistic view on the fire casualties or incidents per country, although they do provide a suitable indication of the relevant concerns related to fire safety for each country.
Presently, no Europe-wide standard or methodology for gathering and analysing data related to fire and fire safety exists. Consequently, the EU has no common data on the topics. Fire casualties and sources can only be fully analysed with common reliable data.
The Modern Building Alliance would therefore recommend compiling a collection of fire safety statistics to be included in the Eurostat mandatory program.
On 28 November 2018, during our roundtable event ‘Fire safety: setting the scene for fire safe European buildings’ in the European Parliament, Chris Addiers, president of the EU Fire Officers associations, presented the perspective of the fire services, stating that a crucial link was missing between data collection and research and that without common definitions and harmonised data, we don’t have a clear overview of fire fatalities. He added that fire safety at EU level should no longer just focus on construction products but must broaden the scope. He called to organise risk assessment, data collection, R&D and fire safety science at EU level. Read more about the event on here.
There is room for improvement with easily and readily implementable solutions
In 2005, only six European countries (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, UK and the Netherlands) had made smoke detectors mandatory. Smoke alarms provide a critical early warning of fire, allowing additional time to escape. Fire statistics in Sweden reveal that two thirds of fatal fires between 2000 and 2004 occurred in homes with no or non-functioning smoke alarms.
In the U.S., similar statistics point out that almost a quarter of civilian fire deaths occurred in homes where smoke alarms were present but not operating. This highlights the importance of training and public awareness. Better communication on the usefulness of detectors, the need for their maintenance and how to behave in a fire situation and respond to alarms are also essential.
What is the industry doing to improve fire safety?
Recent tragic events have rightly triggered renewed attention on how to improve fire safety in Europe. The industry represented by the Modern Building Alliance takes fire performance very seriously when designing, manufacturing and marketing their products across different applications. The Modern Building Alliance is ready to contribute scientific expertise in order to explore ideas and solutions.
The construction plastics sector is committed to further improve fire safety in buildings through working with authorities and fire safety professionals in order to improve knowledge and share best practice.
The Modern Building Alliance believes that building safety is a joint responsibility, and that all actors in the construction value chain-including market surveillance authorities, have key roles to play.
 European Commission study to evaluate the need to regulate within the Framework of Regulation (EU) 305/2011 on the toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires, published 17 January 2018, p.37.