Case study

How the retail sector can benefit from bespoke, intelligent fire solutions

Falk Ursinus

Country Manager Germany, Chubb Fire & Security

April 3, 2019

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Physical ‘bricks and mortar’ stores still account for nearly 82% of retail sales.

And despite the anticipated rapid growth of online shopping, more than 80% of all retail sales will likely still be done in physical stores by the year 2025, according to a recent Forbes article. Therefore bricks-and-mortar retail stores will continue to account for a significant proportion of fire safety management work around the UK and Europe.

The fire risks associated with crowds of people flowing through large-scale spaces can be significant, underscoring the need to implement effective fire systems and processes to protect tenants, customers and staff alike.

In addition to safety, the operational and cost-efficiency of a shopping mall is a high priority for developers and investors. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to fire safety solutions and older buildings can present architectural challenges and demand specialized solutions. Therefore, fire safety solutions must not only be tailored and bespoke, but must also be cost-effective, compliant and efficient.

One way to achieve this is through interfaced systems, which can offer clients a cost-effective solution for fire protection. Combining detection and fire suppression capabilities, they can offer faster response times to suspected fires.

As one of the best-known service providers of innovative fire safety and security solutions for business and organisations worldwide, Chubb works with many large retail chains across Europe, protecting customers and premises with essential systems, equipment and services.

Our network of more than 20 monitoring centres worldwide provides dedicated 24/7 alarm monitoring services to monitor alarms and the status of systems, and ensures rapid response to any alarm activation.

The changing face of the urban landscape has created a need for innovative alternatives to conventional systems used widely in traditional structures

The changing face of the urban landscape has created a need for creative and innovative alternatives to conventional systems used widely in traditional structures.

One example of a daring architectural design that proved challenging for fire and security protection is the shopping mall CentrO in Oberhausen, Germany. Its size and abundance of open spaces, combined with the enormous value of its 250-plus shops’ contents, demanded a tailored fire safety solution. CentrO’s fire safety requirements vary with the architectural features across the site, including the unique, no-roof design in some parts of the mall, presenting unusual challenges for fire safety strategy.

The customer needed rapid detection of any fire-related emergency, with quick activation of the fire suppression solution to protect retail and leisure customers, workers and assets.

Protecting open-top areas

Chubb developed an innovative, bespoke and unique solution to address CentrO’s needs that combined traditional water sprinklers with a high-pressure water mist system to protect the open-top areas of the shopping centre.

At CentrO, wall-mounted nozzles can discharge high pressure water mist into the entire area. The use of these side-wall sprinkler nozzles is paramount to the protection of open-top areas and cannot be found anywhere else in Europe.

A high pressure water mist systems uses significantly less water than traditional water-based sprinkler systems. It is also ideal for both new and older buildings, as it complements the visual beauty and structural constraints that buildings like CentrO present.

As with many retrofit projects, it was important not to disrupt the thousands of customers flowing through the mall throughout the day during installation. Therefore all development work took place outside of opening hours.

The unique shape and size of CentrO meant that carrying out this work could have been an arduous task. By using scissor lifts and scaffolding, Chubb was able to safely install the necessary fire systems while maintaining business continuity. Chubb continues to service CentrO today.

Retail centres come in all shapes and sizes and requirements can vary greatly. In the UK, Chubb works with retail giant Tesco to service and maintain fire extinguishers and security systems across its UK stores and Tesco’s head office, as well as fire extinguishers in its distribution centres. Tesco is the UK’s largest retailer with over 2,600 stores and has worked with Chubb for a number of years.

In addition to servicing and maintaining all of Tesco’s fire extinguishers and security systems in accordance with their service level agreements (ensuring that service and maintenance of systems and equipment, as well as calls, are responded to within specified timescales), engineers also sign in and out of all site visits electronically, giving Tesco real-time visibility of engineer attendance as well as reassurance that systems are fully maintained.

With the number of sites involved, effective communication, collaboration and robust organisation are as essential as having a nationwide team of competent technicians to be on the client’s site as needed.

The challenges facing the fire industry are multi-faceted and ever-changing. However, with new fire detection and suppression technology backed by third-party certifications and best practice guides for protecting buildings old and new, we now have the tools to protect occupants and assets from fire – all while helping clients maintain business continuity.

Chubb Fire & Security is now part of Carrier, a subdivision of UTC Climate, Controls & Security, which is exhibiting at FIREX International 2019, Europe’s leading fire safety event, taking place 18-20 June 2019 at ExCeL London (stand IF1220). Book your free ticket now.

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