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Failure of smoke ventilation system at New Providence Wharf development, near Canary Wharf

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A flat fire on the eighth floor of the New Providence Wharf residential development near the Canary Wharf area London was allowed to spread smoke and products of combustion throughout common areas of the eighth floor, when components of the smoke ventilation system failed to actuate.

Activation of smoke detectors located in the common areas of block D should have activated Automatic Opening Vents (AOVs) and cross corridor doors should have closed. However investigators stated in their preliminary report that this was not the case.

Smoke control systems are a critical component of a building’s fire protection system. Designed to keep escape routes clear for building occupants and assist the Fire and Rescue Service in the event of a fire, it is essential that these systems operate in accordance with the intended design for the building.

Guidance set out in BS 7346-8 for service and maintenance of smoke control systems states “Regular tests should be carried out to identify any component or equipment failure that might prevent the smoke control system operating correctly in the case of an emergency.” Testing of smoke control systems should include ’cause and effect’ analysis to ensure the system responds correctly to initiation of detection devices such as smoke detectors, which it didn’t in the case of the fire at New Providence Wharf. This incident highlights the need for responsible persons to implement robust maintenance and testing procedures to ensure correct operation of life critical systems within their buildings.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RR(FS)O) requires that the Responsible Person maintains “equipment and devices” in “an efficient state, in efficient working order and in good repair”. It is yet to be determined if offences have been committed under the RR(FS)O and whether formal investigations will proceed.

The full fire preliminary report produced by the London Fire Brigade can be found here.

For advice and further information on how Regent Fire Consultants can help with assessing your existing smoke control provisions and potential deficiencies, visit our Fire Risk Management page here or contact us by email at