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Fire Safety in blocks of flats – Duties of the responsible person – Part 3

Posted: 26/03/2015 14:48

Last week’s blog began looking at the role of a responsible person in terms of fire safety in blocks of flats. This week, we’re continuing in that vein by looking at the duties they might be expected to undertake to ensure there is adequate fire protection.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order lays out the duties of the responsible person (the person who is either most senior within the company, or the person who is nominated to undertake the role as a part of their job) and a part of those duties is to co-ordinate their efforts with other relevant parties.
It may be that parts of the fire safety regime fall under the remit of different areas, people or departments within a company, and the responsible person must liaise to ensure that a cohesive fire safety provision is delivered. Equally, it may be that there are different organisations operating under the same roof – for example, shops or commercial premises. It is then the responsibility to liaise with the other business or organisation’s responsible person where each could have an impact upon the other.
It may be that there is significant separation and no shared escape routes, in which case, the fire safety plans of one party may not impact upon the other, but a co-ordination of fire procedures is often required in mixed-use buildings.
Even when a block of flats is part of a mixed-use building, it may be that the stay put policy relating to evacuation is still sustainable. This means that it is safe for only the occupants in the flat of fire origin to evacuate due to effective compartmentation between flats and between flats and the common areas.
In the case of mixed-use buildings where there are shared fire systems, for example, smoke detection, it is essential that one party has formal and contractual responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the system to avoid any lapses which may result in a fault. Without this agreement, there can be no legal recourse.
Another duty of a responsible person in relation to fire safety in blocks of flats is that of communications with residents about fire safety in their home. General fire precautions such as; how to avoid fire both inside the flats and in common areas; building security and the dangers of arson; safe storage of materials which may be hazardous, and what hazardous items are prohibited within flats, such as gas bottles, petrol or paraffin heaters.
Additionally, information which is specific to that block should be provided. This might include; what they should do if they discover a fire; safe evacuation from the building; explanation of a ‘stay put’ policy if one is in place; fire doors and the importance of closing them; information on compartmentation between flats and why they should not drill through it; explanation of any provided fire extinguishing equipment and testing of smoke alarms within the flats; keeping clear of areas for fire service vehicles and the reporting of any issues to management.
This information can often be provided in a residential handbook, but reminders can be useful, particularly in the case of long-term tenants. Attention should be paid to those residents who may not speak English as their first language or who may require a large-print or braille version of the information.
Fire Safety notices posted in appropriately accessible and relevant positions can also prove useful when reminding residents of the actions to take in case of a fire.
Next week’s blog will move on to look at liaising with non-residents over fire safety procedures. 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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