Fire Safety in Purpose-built Flats Guidance Notes

Following the tragic and terrible Grenfell Tower incident in London, it has prompted us to follow up on all of our premises that either manage their own fire safety risk assessments, or where they may not been completed annually.

As the tragic incident continues to evolve and I have no doubt we will continue to hear more and understand why this has happened from the authorities as the investigation progresses.

However, we are aware that the level of news coverage will undoubtedly raise questions and queries from residents, and is also likely to promote increased fire service attention to residential blocks of flats in forthcoming days/weeks/months.

Therefore, we have detailed below some guidance notes that we hope you may find useful; these benchmark the Local Government Group document “Fire Safety in purpose-built blocks of flats”; July 2011.

Understanding the Stay Put Policy

  • When a fire occurs within a flat, the occupants alert others in the flat, make their way out of the building and summon the fire and rescue service.
  • If a fire starts in the common parts, anyone in these areas makes their way out of the building and summons the fire and rescue service.
  • All other residents not directly affected by the fire would be expected to ‘stay put’ and remain in their flat unless directed to leave by the fire and rescue service.
  • It is not implied that those not directly involved who wish to leave the building should be prevented from doing so.
  • Nor does this preclude those evacuating a flat that is on fire from alerting their neighbours, so that they can also escape if they feel threatened.

Is Stay Put Stay Safe?

  • The basis for the ‘stay put’ principle is that when a fire occurs within one dwelling (or, less likely, in the common parts), it is normally safe for other residents to remain within their own flat.
  • As we have seen with today’s events, this policy is being brought into question.
  • Until investigations are completed and advice is provided from the fire and rescue services, the Stay Put policy is recognised and accepted.
  • However, residents may wish to evacuate instead of remaining within their flats and should not be prevented from doing so.

What Other Actions Can You Take?

Residents should be reminded of the importance of:

  • Making sure their smoke alarms work by testing them regularly
  • Making sure their front doors are well maintained and close fully to completion when released
  • Ensure that communal areas are kept clear and free from ignition sources and combustible materials
  • Ensure that escape routes from the building are kept clear and free from obstruction at all times
  • Ensure that waste and combustible materials are stored away from the building
  • Observe no smoking policy at all times
  • Know the emergency procedures for their building
  • Report any issues of concern immediately

Building Standards

  • Reviewing when you last checked the building for fire safety arrangements?
  • Are all fire doors working as they should be?

Fire Safety Systems

  • Check to make sure that any automatic fire detection systems (Smoke alarms, fire alarm systems) have been serviced/are maintained and up to date
  • Check to make sure that any automatic fire systems and emergency lighting are tested regularly in accordance with requirements
  • Check to make sure that all fire protection systems (extinguishers, sprinkler systems etc) have been serviced/are maintained and up to date

Fire

Risk Assessment Reports

  • Check to make sure they are current
  • Check to make sure that any outstanding actions are being followed up
  • Make sure fire risk assessments are reviewed regularly especially when there are building works or material changes to the building

Planned and Preventative Maintenance

Check to make sure that your PPM services are maintained in accordance with requirements and your records are up to date, this includes:

  • Electrical Installation
  • Gas Safety
  • Portable Appliance Testing
  • Lightning Protection etc.

Summary of The Law Governing Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats

  • Material alterations to existing blocks of flats, including alterations to individual flats, are controlled under the Building Regulations 2010, and need to be approved by a building control body otherwise an offence is committed.
  • All residents of flats need to be made aware of the importance of maintaining in place the fire safety measures required by legislation at the time of construction of the block. Alterations by residents within their own flats may not only put those residents at risk, but also other residents in the block.
  • Even if the block satisfied earlier legislation, proposed alterations must be considered in the light of the current Building Regulations; it is not sufficient to carry out alterations on the basis of the earlier legislation.
  • Under the Housing Act 2004, the housing authority must inspect properties if they become aware of significant fire hazards. Housing authorities have powers of entry for this purpose.
  • The housing authority may make requirements for improvements in fire precautions. In the event of serious risk, the housing authority has the power to take emergency remedial action.
  • The FSO applies to all parts of a block of flats, other than within the individual flats.
  • The FSO imposes duties on persons who may include freeholders, landlords, managing agents and contractors who maintain fire safety measures and those who carry out fire risk assessments.
  • All fire safety measures must be adequately maintained.
  • An offence is committed if inadequate fire safety measures place people at risk of death or serious injury in case of fire.
  • The FSO requires that the appropriate fire safety measures are determined by means of a fire risk assessment. The fire risk assessment must be ‘suitable and sufficient’ to ensure that the general duty of fire safety care is satisfied within the common parts. This fire risk assessment does not address the safety of residents from fire within their own flat.

I hope that the above provides you with some information that you may find useful.

However, if you have any questions or queries or would like any further support then please do not hesitate to contact us.