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Shopping mall installs suppression solution

13 March 2020

Falk Ursinus, country manager Germany, Chubb Fire & Security, explains how the retail sector can benefit from bespoke, intelligent fire solutions.

About 91% of all retail sales last year were still transacted in physical stores and, despite the anticipated rapid growth of online shopping, more than 80% of all retail sales will likely still be done in actual physical stores in the year 2025, according to a Forbes article. The shopping mall’s bricks-and-mortar remains a key format for the traditional retailer and, therefore, commercial building managers need to remain ahead of the curve from a health and safety (and specifically, fire) perspective. The fire risks associated with crowds of people flowing through large-scale spaces can be heightened, underscoring the need to implement improved, effective fire systems to protect tenants, customers and staff alike. 

In addition to safety, the operational and cost efficiency of a shopping mall can be 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. By combining capabilities in detection and fire suppression systems, there can be faster response times while ensuring the safety of shoppers. 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. Its network of more than 20 monitoring centres worldwide provide dedicated 24/7 alarm monitoring services to monitor alarms and the status of systems, and ensure rapid response to any alarm activation.

The changing face of the urban landscape has created the need for creative and innovative solutions, unlike what’s been seen in more traditional structures. One such 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 value of the contents of the 250+ shops, resulted in the need for a tailored fire safety solution to protect tenants and customers alike. 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 which can present challenges for the fire safety strategy.

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

Chubb developed a bespoke 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 the 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 the installation process. 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, but 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 the requirements can differ greatly. In the UK, Chubb works with retail giant, Tesco, to service and maintain fire extinguishers and security systems across its United Kingdom stores and Tesco’s head office, as well as the fire extinguishers in the business’ 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 periods of time), 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, good 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 from fire – all while helping clients maintain their business continuity and keeping their customers, employees, assets and daring architecture safe.