Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Inspection, testing and maintenance continued Â– Part 8
Last week’s blog began looking at inspection, testing and maintenance within blocks of flats as a part of your fire prevention strategy. The blog covered Emergency Escape Lighting and Smoke Ventilation Systems. This week we will continue in that vein, looking at other specific areas which should be subject to regular and appropriate testing and checks.
Fire Extinguishing Appliances – Although it is uncommon for equipment to be provided within blocks of flats for the extinguishing of fires by residents, it is not unheard of for extinguishers or fire blankets to be provided, as part of an overall fire safety strategy for certain occupancies. Additionally, portable fire-fighting equipment may be provided to common parts (particularly where building plant is sited). Where this is the case, they should be inspected for continuing suitability for purpose annually. While such inspections should be the job of a suitably qualified/trained fire specialist, it is still wise for housing officers or other staff to be aware of what is provided so that they can notice damage to those items, or if they are missing as they go about their day-to-day work or during formal inspections. Any missing or damaged items should be reported for further action.
BS 5306-3 can be consulted for more information on the content of maintenance schedules of portable fire extinguishers.
Fire Detection and Alarm Systems – Again, while the provision of a fire alarm system in a standard block of flats is unusual, where they are provided, they must be tested and maintained regularly. Fire detection systems can also be utilised in a block of flats for the operation of automatic ventilation systems, for instance, but this will be covered in more detail next week.
A fire alarm system should be subject to regular testing and periodic servicing. It should be broken down as follows:
Weekly – a simple test to check the function of the system. A manual call point should be operated from which a member of maintenance staff or a housing officer can establish that the system is functional. Where the system is responsible for the release of security doors, for example, that should also be checked on a weekly basis. It is not required that the person undertaking the weekly test is a qualified professional in fire safety, merely that they are familiar with the system and its function.
Quarterly or bi-annually (depending on how much is tested) - Servicing and maintenance of these systems should be undertaken by a relevant professional twice a year, as per the manufacturer’s instructions. The current version of BS5839-1 can be consulted for more information on the testing and servicing of fire alarm systems.
Next week’s blog will continue on the subject of Inspection, Testing and Maintenance, beginning with how this applies to Smoke and Heat alarms. In the meantime, if you have any queries about a project or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.
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