Every night billions of people go to bed expecting they will wake up the next day but have we all eliminated any potential fire hazard that may prevent this? There are dozens of potential fire risks, fire safety is an extremely high priority for any property that provides sleeping accommodation and we all have a duty of care to ensure we all sleep safely at night.
The Fire Safety Order (FSO) sets out a number of regulations and guidelines that all businesses and building owners have to comply with to ensure the safety of property and persons. However, the way the FSO is interpreted is different in each case, as the idea is to identify and reduce fire risks associated with specific buildings. The HM Government website provides a guidance document on fire risk assessment within accommodation that provides sleeping risk but below we have provided the key points to include within any Emergency Plan.
The starting point for any fire safety plan is a comprehensive risk assessment, so if you haven’t carried one out within the previous 12 months do it now. The risk assessment should identify fire hazards and rate them in terms of high, moderate and low-risk. For instance, your kitchen would be considered a high-risk area, as would a chemical storeroom or refuse room. At-risk persons should also be identified, such as the occupants of family rooms, or disabled resident. For each risk you identify, a plan should be put in place to eliminate (if possible), reduce and protect people from that risk.
If a fire cannot be prevented, steps should be put in place to detect one as soon as possible should it occur, and to warn people in the premises or the local fire brigade that there is a fire. For an apartment block, a fire alarm & detection system should be installed to protect the communal escape routes of your building, individual flats should contain standalone smoke alarms to protect the sleeping risk. It may also be preferential to link the communal system directly to the local fire brigade so that immediate notification can be given.
Radio fire systems are quite common nowadays and these can be deployed extremely quickly providing a permanent fire detection solution to any building.
Every floor should have an appropriate number of fire compartmentation doors, with clearly marked escape routes from all points, and each apartment should be its own fire compartment. Check and ensure that each & every fire door has the correct cold smoke & intumescent strips installed, intumescent letter boxes fitted and that the door closer allows the door to close freely into the door casing against any resistance.
Has any building or modification works been conducted in the building? Has fire compartment been breached by installation of piping, cabling or other services? Check now and ensure all cabling, pipe work etc has the appropriate sealing to maintain fire integrity in the event of a fire.
Some building contain Automatic Opening Windows or Vents that are designed to allow the escape of smoke from the escape route allowing the residents to escape, don’t forget to ensure these operate accordingly.
Failure in any of these devices could potentially lead to the spread of smoke or fire into the escape route preventing other residents from escaping. Ensure all fire escape routes and exits from the building are free from any obstructions or refuse and that they lead to a safe point outside the building.
When a fire is detected, it is frequently good practice to shut down non-essential systems that could be damaged by fire or make one worse. Or, in other cases, a fire itself may cause the electrics in your building to fail. It is your responsibility to ensure that there is sufficient emergency lighting to make sure emergency routes and fire exits are adequately lit. This is especially important in areas where there is little or no natural light, such as communal escape corridors.
Your fire safety plan should include areas outside the building sufficient to accommodate all the building’s occupants, safely removed from any hazard (such as oncoming traffic, smoke, falling glass etc). These will be your muster points where people will congregate when the fire alarm sounds.
Depending on the size of your establishment and number of tenants you may need multiple muster points. For a small block of flats for instance it may be sufficient to have just one; but for a large highrise tower this may not be sufficient.
For every 200m² of floor space you should provide a water (red) fire extinguisher. Additional firefighting equipment should be supplied at other relevant points. For instance, if cooking oil (Class F) fires are a risk in your kitchen, you should install wet chemical (yellow) fire extinguishers. Carbon dioxide (black) or powder (blue) fire extinguishers should be provided where there is a risk of electric or gas fire. You may also have to include supplementary equipment, such as fire blankets or small extinguishers in the vicinity of the fire hazard, for instance in the residents kitchens.
New developments have been made within the fire extinguisher market and now specialist foam extinguishers are available that don’t require an annual inspection from a specialist company and can be used even on electrical fires. Please see our website for details on the P50 composite fire extinguisher.
Fire action notices should be clearly displayed so residents and visitors understand what action they need to take in the event that a fire is discovered, these are usually located adjacent Manual Call Points in communal areas and ideally in each property.
All fire escape routes should have adequate signage showing the escape route via the shortest available route.
The result of this risk assessment and planning process will be the Emergency Fire Plan, which will cover the previous seven points. This should be published as a hard copy and made available to all residents. You will also need to retain this plan for examination by the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) if you have a fire safety inspection. It’s vital that every occupant of the building knows just what to do if the discover a fire as any failure in fire protection measures of a building can lead to the potential death of other building occupants.
Engage with your residents and ensure they fully understand the emergency procedures in the building.
Simple advice like ensuring fire doors are closed when leaving the building, individual smoke alarms within their property function correctly, removing obstructions & refuse from the escape routes etc. all play a part in any emergency evacuation plan that may come into effect. Everyone has a duty of care when it comes to fire safety, but they can only meet this duty if they are informed. If the building contains residents of multi nationality ensure that any information provided is in a language they understand!
You must ensure all existing equipment is kept in working order and checked at regular intervals by a competent person, one way of achieving this is by using a third party accredited company to carry out these checks.
The final and one of the most important parts, review. When did you last carry out checks on the building and assessments on your residents? At a minimum this information should be reviewed annually and every time a new tenant moves in, especially if they are of high risk.
Safeguard your residents from fire risk
The safety of your resident depends on taking quick action when a fire occurs. Complying with fire safety regulations also prevents you being subject to Enforcement and Prohibition Notices for failing to take the necessary steps. Find out more about your statutory obligations in our Quick Guide to UK Fire Safety Regulations.