Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Fire-Fighting Facilities Â– Part 24
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 a new build, the facilities may comprise vehicular access for appliances, access for Fire Service personnel, fire mains (allowing the transportation of fire-fighting water supplies) within the building and the venting of heat and smoke from basements. These requirements may not apply to a small block of flats, which may only have a requirement for vehicle access and some level of smoke control for example.
The current standards for new build blocks of flats are as follows:
Where there is no internal fire main provided within the block, Fire Service vehicles must be able to get to a point which is no more than 45m away from any point within each flat.
Where a block has a fire main fitted, every point in each flat should be no more than 60m from a landing valve on the fire main in a fire-fighting shaft. If the landing valve is in a protected stairway, the distance decreases to 45m.
In the case of flats over 18m in height, a fire-fighting shaft which comprises a fire-fighting stairway and fire main within that stairway, in addition to a fire-fighting lift, should be provided. The fire-fighting lift can open into the common corridor where flat doors are situated, provided that the lift doors are no more than 7.5m away from the fire-fighting stairway.
The fire-fighting shaft, incorporating the fire-fighting stairs and lift areas, should be constructed of materials offering fire resistance to a high level. This means that it would provide minimum 120 minutes fire resistance from the accommodation side and minimum 60 minutes fire resistance from the shaft itself. Doors within that construction should offer 60 minutes fire resistance.
Construction within the common corridor - where the fire-fighting stairs or lift open into that area, but the walls are other than those which divide the common corridor from the fire-fighting shaft - should comprise minimum 60 minute fire resistant construction from both sides, with FD30 flat entrance doors.
Returning to the point initially made in this blog – that older blocks of flats do not have to adhere to current standards, as this is likely to prove impractical – advice should be sought from competent persons, likely to be dictated by the Fire Risk Assessment as to whether updates and improvements are required or necessary. It is usually the case that an existing block of flats should remain as it is, meeting the standards which were in place at the time of construction, and that the system in place should be maintained to a good standard.
Next week’s blog will move onto Managing Fire Risk in 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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