Smoke Hazard Management Systems

Properties of Smoke

Smoke is ‘the airborne solid and liquid particulates and fire gases evolved when a material undergoes pyrolysis or combustion’ (i.e. when a material burns). Smoke is a product of incomplete combustion.

Smoke is hot and humid, toxic, dirty, corrosive, an obstruction to visibility, an irritant to the eyes and respiratory system.

Smoke and fire deaths

Most fire deaths are caused by inhalation of combustion products (smoke), not by direct contact with flame or exposure to heat.

Smoke may contain carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide, hydrogen chloride, acrolein, nitrogen oxides, phosgene, nitrogen and have reduced levels of oxygen from that in normal air due to its consumption in the burning process.

Other toxic gases may contribute to make the smoke more toxic than the sum of their individual hazards.

Smoke Hazard Management

Smoke hazard management systems are incorporated to keep escape routes free of smoke, heat and toxic gases long enough to allow the safe evacuation of the building occupants. This is achieved by either removing the smoke or limiting its movement to other parts of the building remote from the fire.

Smoke hazard management systems are essential in most large buildings since smoke presents a much greater risk to life than flames.

Smoke control assists firefighters in locating the seat of the fire because it provides a clear layer of air beneath the hot smoke layer so that firefighters can see the fire and thus efficiently direct their hose streams as opposed to blindly squirting water into a smoke screen which hides the fire. Smoke control also limits smoke and heat damage.

Smoke control is generally achieved by the use of natural ventilation, roof vents, smoke exhaust fans, air handling systems, sprinkler systems (which reduce the volume of smoke produced by controlling the fire size) and air pressurisation systems.

For further discussion or advice on this matter, please contact the Community Safety and Resilience Department.

The following documents are recommended further reading for guidance and information:

  • Australian Standard 1668.1 The use of mechanical ventilation and air-conditioning in buildings - Fire and smoke control.
  • Australian Standard 1851.6 Maintenance of fire protection equipment - Management procedures for maintaining the fire precautions features of air-handling systems.
  • Australian Standard /New Zealand Standard 4391 (Int) Smoke management systems- Hot smoke test.
  • Australian Standard 1670.1:2015 – Fire detection, warning, control and intercom systems – System, design, installation and commission.

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