Fire and evacuation | The 'Stay put' policy
Fire safety in blocks of flats is highly dependent upon fire resistant construction. When considering the construction of individual houses, the way they are constructed with party wall separation is a large part of ensuring that fire does not pass from one dwelling to the next. In flats, the concept is similar but is achieved through effective compartmentation of the individual flats within a block, and the protection of common areas and corridors to help ensure escape.
The inclusion of fire resistant compartmentation should help to ensure that fire is contained in its area of origin and does not endanger those flats nearby. This is the basis of the ‘Stay put’ policy which means that any persons in the flat of fire origin will need to evacuate, but that their neighbours should not need to evacuate and will remain safe.
This policy of non-evacuation of neighbouring flats has been in place for more than fifty years and has proved effective. In rare circumstances, where the fire resistant construction has been breached, it could be that fire may spread within a block, in which case, full evacuation is necessary and is usually instigated by the Fire Service.
The ‘Stay put’ policy follows simple guidelines; those occupants of the fire origin flat must evacuate the premises and summon the Fire Service. If a fire occurs in a common area, any persons in that area should leave the building and call the emergency services. The remainder of the building’s occupants are safe to remain in their flats, unless directed to leave by the Fire Service.
Some residents in surrounding flats may wish to evacuate the premises in any case, and of course, should not be prevented from doing so.
There are, of course, blocks of flats that do not or cannot follow the ‘Stay put’ policy. Sometimes, blocks which have been converted from other uses may not be able to achieve the required standards of compartmentation and so, in this case ‘Simultaneous evacuation’ policies are put in place.
Simply, this means that when a fire occurs, a purpose-designed system will sound to alert either all building occupants or a section of building occupants to the need to evacuate the building. These systems are not usually installed into purpose built blocks of flats.
In those blocks of flats where the level of compartmentation is unknown, or uninvestigated, it may be prudent to have a voluntary risk assessment undertaken by fire engineers to receive advice on the standard of construction and the advisability of the ‘Stay put’ policy. However, it is true that most purpose built blocks are sufficiently compartmentalised and fire safe to support the policy.
If you have any queries about this week’s blog or wish to receive advice on your own project, please contact Peter Gyere on 0208 668 8663.
The Complete Fire Safety Management Platform is the only fully comprehensive online fire risk assessment and fire risk management platform. Our aim, at CFSM, is to make the process of becoming fire safe, straightforward and, to use our expertise in fire risk assessment and fire safety management to guide you through each step, resulting in your premises meeting all legal, insurance and ethical fire safety considerations.