This week, we're looking at the provision of fire-fighting facilities in blocks of flats, what they might comprise and under what circumstances they might be required. The first point that should be made is that while a newly built block of flats of a certain size may require specific facilities to be provided for the Fire Service, those requirements would not usually be mandatory for existing blocks, which were built to comply with the fire safety standards of the day.
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.
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.
Whilst many purpose built residential blocks contain just flats, a number of blocks are deemed to be 'mixed use'. The most common configuration is residential units housed above retail space, but also restaurants, shops and offices are commonplace. Typically the commercial space has different entrances and exits, however, they remain part of the building and must therefore be considered from a fire safety point of view.
It is often, and most unfortunately the case, that fire safety provision and security precautions can impinge upon the other's effectiveness. In the case of blocks of flats, balancing the two is essential to afford the occupants security while also ensuring that fire spread or evacuation is not affected adversely.