The embodiment of security

The embodiment of security

One of the most fascinating aspects of bank construction is the bank vault – the sight of a bank vault being the epitome of security. Most bank vaults are custom built by specialist vault manufacturers. Because different banks store different items, ranging from money to valuables and documents, the bank vault is designed and built to the bank’s requirements and specifications, including the vault fire protection requirements which must be fully considered in the early design stages. 

The banking and financial services sectors are increasingly looking for flexible ways of banking and investment and as a result, often operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week with billions of financial transactions relying on a robust electronic infrastucture. Any interruption could have a dramatic affect on business continuity thus resilience to fire must be priority.

Most bank vaults are made with steel-reinforced concrete walls and doors. The concrete is a special, extremely dense mixture that contains metal fragments that make it resistant to drilling. Even though bank vaults built around the middle of the 20th century could have had walls up to 18 inches thick, innovations in materials and design have allowed vault walls built as little as 3 inches thick. Despite the walls being thinner, newer designs make these walls around 10-times stronger than their thicker predecessors.

The bank vault manufacturer first delivers the bank vault and its components to the bank construction site. The manufacturer assembles the bank vault on site and the rest of the bank is built around the bank vault. Other security and fire protection systems can be installed and integrated within the bank vault and lock during this time, ranging from cameras, sound-detection devices and fire protection systems. Other considerations that should be considered in the overall design include:

  • The inclusion of a state-of-the-art locking system. There are standard locking systems available from the companies that custom build these vaults, but the bank’s requirements are also taken into consideration.
  • Ventilators should be included on the inside of all vaults. This is necessary if someone should be trapped inside the vault. 
  • A telephone is usually another requirement, which will allow any trapped person to call people on the outside for help.
  • A day lock is included with all vaults and its main function is to prevent any employees from being locked inside the vault accidently.
  • An inside release allows anybody trapped on the inside to release the pre-set time locks of the vault. Afterwards the door is relocked on the outside.

There are numerous property types and uses that fall under the classification of a secure building. Each building needs to be assessed against the local fire code requirements and should include input from other key stakeholders to ensure all their requirements are included. 

The design, installation, maintenance and integration of the full fire and life safety package should be based upon, and recorded within, the fire strategy for the building. An important part of the on-going building assurance process is to continually assess the fire risk within the building and ensure risk reduction measures are implemented safely to protect the buildings users, structure and valuable assets contained within.

Compliant fire detection and alarm systems which alert all occupants to the presence of a fire so they can evacuate immediately are essential but to protect high-value items locked securely away need a fast, proven way to extinguish a fire before it grows out of control and a  sprinkler system  is often the answer. Whilst valuable files and electronic equipment are ideally protected by a  clean agent fire suppression, necessary to prevent damage from a water-based fire sprinkler system, and other automatic solutions that react quickly to flames, extinguishing them with chemicals or gases before they spread.

Of course fire extinguishers,  in the appropriate places, in the hands of appropriately trained employees, makes it possible to put out a small fire before it does anything but blacken a desk. 

Often a fire or other situation causes a power outage,  but with well placed emergency lights  and signage, a safe, calm evacuation is the key to saving lives in an emergency, meaning these backup lights are an essential part of your fire protection system.