Fire protection is addressed worldwide as a topic of utmost importance in terms of day-to-day security, but it is not quite like this in Brazil. In this article, we will learn about what the requirements for residential fire protection are in Brazil.
History of fire safety in Brazil
In 1940, the Brazilian Association of Technical Regulations or ABNT was created, which would turn out to be the tipping point for fire safety measures in the country. Special attention to fire protection was only given after two major fires, one occurred in 1972 and the other in 1974 in the city of São Paulo, which left more than 350 people dead and over 600 people injured.
In Brazil, the enforcement of fire safety measures are conducted by each state by the Corpo de Bombeiros da Polícia Militar, which is Portuguese for State’s Fire Brigade of the Military Police.
It was only in the early 90’s that the Comitê Brasileiro de Segurança contra Incêndio, which is Portuguese for Brazilian Committee for Fire Protection was created by ABNT. The Committee’s responsibilities include:
- Development of fire safety programmes
- Standardization of the manufacturing of products and equipment involved in fire safety
- Analysis and evaluation of construction materials as to their resistance towards fire
- Terminology of fire safety concepts
Authorization by the State’s Fire Brigade of the Military Police
All buildings, except for single-family homes and areas that may be endangered due to the construction, renovation, regularization or change of occupancy are required to be approved by the State’s Fire Brigade of the Military Police.
Need for regular inspection
One of the main ways to be compliant with the fire regulations is to have the building inspected regularly by the State’s Fire Brigade. The Auto de Vistoria do Corpo de Bombeiros, which is Portuguese for the State’s Fire Brigade Inspection Certificate, is a certificate created in order to determine that a building follows the requirements for residential fire protection.
The following items are evaluated by the State’s Fire Brigade in order for the certificate to be granted:
- Valid Fire Brigade Certificate. The building’s administration has to organize, at least once a year, firefighting exercises and institute a fire brigade composed of residents of the building. The training must be conducted by a qualified fire brigade professional
- Lightning-rod ART. When installing lightning-rods, the building will receive an ART, which stands for Technical Responsibility Annotation, confirming that the lightning-rods function correctly. The lightning-rod ART must be renewed every year and the process must be supervised by an electrical engineer
- Gas piping ART. The gas pipes must be regularly inspected, checking also any storage locations - in case of use of LPG. Equipment like block valves and pressure regulators are also inspected
- Certificate of Proper Functioning for the generator set
- Certificate of Staircase Pressurization System
- Electrical installations Certificate. All the electrical installations must be inspected every five or 10 years, depending on the age of the building. The inspection works are to be supervised by an electrical engineer
- Finishing and Coating Material Test Certificate. This certificate confirms that the carpet, paint and other materials used in the condominium are fire resistant
Although all the other documents are important in terms of compliance to fire prevention, the most important document is the Certificate of Fire Fighting Systems, which is also checked when the building is inspected by the State’s Fire Brigade.
This Certificate inspects all equipment involved in firefighting or in the evacuation of premises. The firefighting equipment is mandatory for every condominium with an area greater than 150m² or ceiling height above 12 meters:
- Hydrants and fire hoses
- Fire extinguishers - at least two per floor
- Handrails on emergency stairs
- Emergency signaling equipment - emergency lights and illuminated signs on the floor
- Fire doors
- Fire alarms. The automatic ones are mandatory, but the manual ones can also be present
Sprinklers are not required in residential buildings, only in commercial buildings and in other premises with capacity for more than 1.000 people.
The process of issuing the AVCB takes an average of 60 days. It is important to mention that the Fire Brigade Inspection Certificate is valid for three years.
Most common irregularities
The most common irregularities found by the Fire Brigade when inspecting residential buildings are:
- Objects blocking stairways
- Expired fire extinguishers
- Hydrants without a hose or other items
- Excess of diesel for the generator set
In these cases, the Fire Brigade grants a provisional certificate, valid for six months. After six months, the Fire Brigade will inspect the building again.