Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats Â– Means of Escape - External Stairways and Escape over rooftops Â– Pt 11
This series of blogs has been looking at means of escape in blocks of flats and the current regulations. This week’s blog concentrates on those blocks which may have external stairways or access to the rooftop of the block.
Current benchmark guidance for new blocks of flats states that external stairways should not be used at heights over 6m from ground level. However, in older blocks, the stairways may be already installed and available for use, and so will be incorporated into any means of escape plan.
In this situation, it should be ensured that the stairway is safe for use in the event of a fire and additional protection may be required to make them so. These protective measures include fire-resisting partitions, fire resistant glazing and self-closing fire resistant doors. These will all ensure that the spread of fire onto the stairway during evacuation is avoided.
Escape across a rooftop of a block of flats may be encountered where more than one escape route is available from a storey of the block. In some cases, it may be that upward escape is required in order to access the roof and so fire resisting doors must be provided across the stairways to effectively separate the route upwards from the route downwards.
Should escape across a roof be a viable option in a block of flats, it should be ensured that there is reasonable access. An example of unreasonable access would be where the roof can only be accessed by a ladder, which would not be appropriate for a person with limited mobility. Additionally, the roof itself must be flat and the roof escape must lead to a protected escape stairway or to an external stairway (which should be protected as mentioned previously).
Where the escape route leads to a second building, the building should either be owned by the same person or a legal agreement must be in place to facilitate escape via this route.
There are further conditions which make a rooftop escape route viable. The route itself should be clearly defined and safe (railings are usually in place to define and protect those travelling along it) and emergency lighting must be available, along with adequate signage.
The part of the roof forming the escape route and the supporting structure must be fire-resisting.
Next week’s blog will look at those blocks of flats which do not meet the current design benchmarks for means of escape. 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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