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what is fire water runoff and why is it important

What is fire water runoff and why is it important?

What is fire water runoff and why is it important?

The greatest environmental damage caused by fire is often created by the water used to fight it rather than the actual fire itself. Fire water runoff is the excess water used to tackle a fire emergency. Some of the water will evaporate but large quantities will often be released into local drainage networks and into the ground and drain away. Many industrial and commercial sites store potentially hazardous materials or chemicals which if exposed to fire, or the subsequent fire water can lead to a Major Accident to the Environment (MATTE).

Who is responsible for managing fire water runoff?

Business owners must have a standalone Fire Prevention Plan which contains procedures for controlling fire water runoff in accordance with CIRIA (736) Containment systems for the prevention of pollution. This may involve secondary, tertiary, and other measures for industrial and commercial premises and must detail the measures in place to collect, contain or store fire water in the event of an emergency and its safe disposal off site. Its safe management is also an essential requirement of Fire Prevention Plans which are required by the Environment Agency as a condition of an Environmental Permit.

Understanding and managing the risks

Water runoff pollution is very serious which is why the containment of fire water runoff is so important. It is essential to prepare and plan an emergency response and identify how to break potential pathways. Undertaking a full assessment of your premises will help you to identify and mitigate any potential risk associated with fire water runoff contamination.

Fire water must be managed carefully and not be freely disposed of into the wider environment. To prevent unwanted fire water from running into drainage systems, nearby rivers, or groundwater, you first need to determine the runoff source and the potential flow pathways. Once the pathways are understood, it is crucial to identify the potential volume that can be safely stored on site through secondary and tertiary containment. For example, using temporarily blocked drains or use fixed or demountable containment areas.

Water is unpredictable and has a habit of finding routes to flow across a site in unexpected directions, and may end up in a river, sewer or in the ground.  Such a pollution incident can lead to crippling costs to pay for the clean-up exercise, long term legal issues, loss of reputation not to mention the damaging impact on the environment and wildlife.

What support is available?

Engaging the combined advice of an environmental and flood risk consultant can help you to meet the required regulations and avoid potential enforcement action. We understand the complexities and regulations of fire water runoff.  We are experts in this field and can create a Fire Water Management Plan that works for your site. Added to this we can provide options to insure away many liabilities that are associated with environmental risk.

Having a clear plan to manage fire water runoff is essential to safeguard the future of your business and the surrounding environment. It can prevent potential liabilities from creating lasting financial impact on your business as well as the potential environmental damage.


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Fire water must be managed carefully and not be freely disposed of into the wider environment