Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Sheltered Housing Â– Part 22
Complete Fire Safety Management’s blog series on Fire Safety in blocks of flats turns its attention this week to sheltered housing and the ways in which it differs from and is the same as other blocks of flats in terms of fire risk. Many different kinds of living schemes can be placed under that one heading. Some schemes incorporate many individual bungalows on a site with no communal facilities, while others are flats within a building with facilities such as laundry rooms, lounges etc.
Although sheltered housing schemes may also be called assisted independent living schemes, it is often the case that a member of staff is not on the premises at all times. A system of buzzers or panic buttons is often installed which, once pressed, alerts a member of staff that a resident needs help on the premises. However, in the case of fire, the attendance of a member of staff is unlikely to be sufficient due to the response times and/or the conditions they are presented with.
Those sheltered living schemes which comprise a block of flats are subject to the same fire protection compartmentation system as other blocks of flats and so the ‘stay put’ method of evacuation can be implemented. This means that only those residents in the flat of fire origin should be evacuated and that the other residents can remain safely in their flats for sufficient time for the fire to be extinguished and the area made safe. This system is particularly helpful for building occupants who may have limited mobility.
When undertaking a fire risk assessment, issues such as potential lack of mobility of the residents and level of staffing on site around the clock should be taken into account. While, for the purposes of this blog, it is assumed that the resident of a flat would be able to evacuate their own flat and make their way through the protected escape route to open air, there may be individual schemes catering for less able residents and so increased fire protection may be required in order to protect them.
Additional areas of consideration for sheltered housing schemes include the changes often made by building designers to the escape route. Residents with restricted mobility can find self-closing doors an obstacle and this could be an issue in case of fire. Additionally, escape doors and windows can be equally difficult obstacles to negotiate for less physically able occupants. To help offset these issues, the designer may implement limited travel distances for evacuation or provide alternative exits, particularly in the case of ground floor flats.
Another way in which flats within a sheltered housing scheme may differ from a standard block of flats is in terms of fire alarms being installed within the flats. The layout of the block and the nature of the residents should be assessed and the standard of fire alarm system installed based upon those findings. In any case, the flat should have a minimum of Grade D Category LD3 system with smoke alarms in the entrance hall or circulation space. This may need to be upped to a LD2 system dependent upon the circumstances.
Next week’s blog will continue to look at Sheltered Housing and fire protection. 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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