The International Organization for Standardization ISO and fire-related activities

ISO is the world's largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 157 countries, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system. ISO is a non-governmental organization that forms a bridge between the public and private sectors. The technical work in ISO is carried out via technical committees (TC). A TC may have assigned Sub-Committees (SC) with working groups (WG) to cover certain areas of work. The actual standardization work takes place in the WGs and SCs.

Fire safety issues appear in several TCs, but the only one solely dedicated to the fire field is
ISO/TC 92 fire safety. The main objectives of TC 92 are to produce standards in the field of fire safety engineering, at the same time supporting the standards used for prescriptive purposes. The sub-committees are:

SC1 - Fire initiation and growth
SC2 - Fire containment
SC3 - Fire threat to people and environment
SC4 - Fire safety engineering

The fire safety standards addressing the use of combustible materials are mainly produced in SC1, while guidance related to toxicity and the environment is dealt with in SC3.

TC 92/SC 1 - Fire initiation and growth has developed many standards intended for prescriptive codes that are used in the European harmonization of building products, railways and in the International Maritime Organization IMO for sea going vessels. Some of the most important standards describing the reaction to fire of products were developed by TC 92 and are used on national and international scale: Non-combustibility (ISO 1182) and heat of combustion (ISO 1716), spread of flame (ISO 5658 and ISO 9239 for floor coverings), rate of heat release (ISO 5660), and smoke (ISO 5660 and ISO 5924).

TC 92/SC 3 - Fire threat to people and environment works particularly in the fields of toxicity testing of fire effluents, effects on people from toxic gases, smoke and heat, as well as on environmental effects of fires. The standards are mainly guidance documents and not used in fire regulations. The most important standards developed in SC3 are: lethal toxic potency of fire effluents (ISO 13344), and method for the determination of hazardous components of fire effluents (ISO 19700).

The SC3 projects for the coming years are:

  • Chemical species produced in fires (includes both gases and smoke)
  • Generation of data on yields of chemical species in fires
  • Acute toxic effects - incapacitation (inability of people to escape on their own)
  • Chronic toxic effects (later, following pre-normative work)
  • Heat effects
  • Smoke effects
  • Environmental effects of fires

While in the past SC1 rather addressed prescriptive fire safety standards, the focus of ISO/TC 92 is now more on performance codes and fire safety engineering. The SC1 and SC3 projects will help to achieve this objective.