Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Emergencies and Hazards Â– Part 6
Last week’s blog looked at the requirement for an Emergency Plan to be laid out for a block of flats. This week, we are looking at how the contents of that plan can be of assistance to the Fire Service when affecting a rescue, and in what circumstances that may arise, before moving on to look at potentially hazardous activities within a block of flats.
In a general use block of flats, it is anticipated that the profile of each tenant will vary. There may be very mentally and physically able occupants and there may be those who have restricted mobility or understanding of the emergency plan. While their individual abilities to escape from fire may differ, it is usually impractical for the landlord to make a ‘personal emergency evacuation plan’ for each resident, as such an undertaking would mean staff had to be on the premises to assist at all times. This means that the most likely form of rescue will come from the Fire Service, although it is noted that design does not rely on any third party rescue.
Even in a sheltered housing scheme, those residents who cannot escape by themselves will be reliant upon the Fire Service to effect a rescue. However, in sheltered housing, it is not uncommon to have some predetermined information, often termed a ‘premises information box’ at the entrance which is controlled by building management and is used for emergency conditions only. Contained within would be information on the building and each resident along with their mobility and any other issues which may affect their ability to escape a fire.
It would not be a practical course of action to have such information at the site of a general use block of flats, as the information may be inaccurate and out of date and could do more harm than good. Although information on each tenant may not be useful at a general use block, those buildings which are large or complex may find it useful to have such an information box for the Fire Service to utilise, containing information about the building itself including access, building layout and facilities available to assist fire fighting.
Although there are few hazardous activities which occur in the common areas of a block of flats, any building and engineering works should be considered a hazard.
There are precautions which must be taken, whether the work is undertaken by someone who works for the company owning the building or a contractor, as it is possible that the works themselves may start a fire or that they may impact upon fire safety measures for the duration of the works.
The Landlord or Responsible Person must therefore ensure that obligations regarding fire precautions are undertaken by the contractor prior to beginning work. It is likely that this should be laid out in writing and agreed by both parties, as a part of the contract or work instruction and that inspections should take place by the Landlord or Responsible Person during works.
In the case of large projects, the formality of those processes is essential and is found less commonly in the case of smaller works or in-house maintenance. However, it is still something which should be taken seriously and addressed as even smaller works have the ability to cause fire or problems which can affect fire safety procedures.
When ‘hot works’ are undertaken, such controls are essential. A ‘permit to work’ system is most often used which involves an undertaking from those carrying out the work that the area will be fully inspected both before the works are started and after they are completed, and that all necessary precautions will be taken, including the provision of suitable fire extinguishers.
Next week’s blog will begin by looking at the importance of the inspection, testing and maintenance of fire safety systems and equipment. 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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