Many devastating building fires have been the sum of small unfortunate coincidences. A good example of this is the fire that broke out in September 2011 at the A-hospital of Turku University Central Hospital. We were simulating the development and progress of the fire as part of an investigation team.
The Turku hospital fire originated from heating caused by a small short circuit in the control unit of the nurse call system, which was accidentally fed by an oxygen leak that occurred at the same time. What followed was a violent fire that spread along electrical cable insulation and cable shelves destroying the other end of the A-hospital first aid clinic and the emergency laboratory with all its equipment on the third floor. 168 patients were evacuated from the fire.
Accident investigation showed that the fire safety of the hospital building was deficient, as there was no fire compartment for the fire doors. However, this was not required at the time of construction as a condition of the building permit.
In addition to the causes and consequences, the purpose of an accident investigation is to find out what can be learned from what happened. From the investigation, the insurance company receives basic information on the insurance terms and claims handling of similar properties, as well as comprehensive material on the fire safety of the Finnish building stock. It is important information for us too. An understanding of “how things should have been done in the past” can be applied to future construction projects. Once the causes of the fire and its spread have been identified, the information gathered in the fire investigation may serve as a basis for new fire technology solutions, even new regulations and ordinances, and will save valuable lives in the future.
After the Turku hospital fire, Helsinki and Turku, and later other Finnish cities, began to demand the preparation of fire stop plans. Before that, they were practically never done.
Our services for insurance companies
Our main tasks in the assignments of insurance companies are to find out the causes of a fire and its progression, to review structural solutions and defects during construction in accordance with the rules and regulations at the time of construction, and to investigate omissions and deficiencies related to building operation and maintenance:
- We perform structural fire investigations, as well as fire progress simulations as part of the investigation.
- We examine structural solutions on the basis of regulations and interpretations at the time of construction and find out what errors have been made.
- We review documents related to the fire safety of the building, such as fire inspection protocols and explosion protection design and explosion protection documents in accordance with ATEX regulations.
Our experts are familiar with construction techniques and materials typical of different decades, so we are able to model structures and interpret structural drawings and plans taking into account the time of construction.
We also consult clients of insurance companies upon request. Among other things, we prepare fire risk analyzes that affect the determination of insurance premiums through the expected value of damage.