Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Sheltered Housing, continued Â– Part 23
In the last blog we began to look at situations of sheltered housing in relation to fire safety. While in many ways, a block of sheltered housing flats share common factors with a general use block of flats, there are also special considerations to be taken into account in relation to fire risk and fire protection.
This week, we begin by discussing common means of escape in sheltered housing. The travel distance between a flat front door and a protected stairway, lobby or fire door that sub-divides a corridor should be limited in such a way that it allows residents to make their escape without aid. Although some sheltered housing has on-site assistance, it is often not available 24 hours a day and cannot be relied upon to be on hand to help the resident to safety. It is for this reason that the current benchmark standards should be used in these cases.
Fire-resisting doors are an essential part of fire separation in any block of flats. In the case of sheltered housing, notional FD30 doors may be suitable in some smaller schemes, but it is likely that upgrading to FD30s doors would be more prudent, particularly in larger blocks.
While self-closing fire doors are usually an important part of a block of flats fire defence, it is often the case that elderly residents or those with limited mobility may find self-closing doors difficult to negotiate on an everyday basis, and most particularly in case of a fire when visibility may be limited by smoke. In these instances, there is a potential for the fitting of ‘hold open’ devices on suitably placed doors to allow easier egress, although such provision should be subject to assessment by a competent person.
Stairs are another area which may be an issue to an elderly or limited mobility resident and in cases where stairs are provided as a part of the escape route, consideration should be given to refuges where residents can be safe until assistance arrives. Where lifts are provided, the provision of evacuation lifts which are safe to use during a fire derive great benefits.
Any and all communal facilities, such as lounges, kitchens, service rooms, laundry etc. should be separated from escape routes, lobbies, stairways etc. with a minimum of 30 minute fire resistant partitions and fire-resistant doors.
As many communal facilities are placed at ground level, where possible, an outside exit should be provided from any lounge or communal area, direct to open air. Any soft furnishings provided in a communal lounge, for instance, should be risk assessed to ensure they are suitably fire-resistant.
The inclusion of chairs or soft furnishings in escape corridors is generally considered not to be best practice. Escape corridors should be kept clear of furniture, trip hazards and recycling waste/charity collections.
Next week’s blog will take a look at Fire Fighting Facilities within blocks of flats. 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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