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Fire Safety in blocks of flats – Inspection, testing and maintenance continued – Part 11

Posted: 19/05/2015 10:15

This week’s blog continues on the subject of inspection, testing and maintenance of fire protection and fire prevention elements within a block of flats.

We’ll begin by looking at fire-resistant construction. As you are probably aware, the fire safety procedures for a block of flats usually rely upon fire-resistant construction. The ‘stay put’ evacuation method, where only occupants of the flat of fire origin evacuate the building, relies upon fire-resistant walls, floors, ceilings and doors to contain the fire in the place of fire origin and does not allow it to spread to other parts of the building.

While an in-depth inspection of fire-resistant walls etc. can prove difficult on a regular basis, visual surveys can be made quite easily by a member of staff who has been appropriately briefed on the subject matter. Damage to any part of the construction should be visible, as well as any signs of D.I.Y. or drilling by residents. While a resident may not understand that drilling a dividing wall, for instance, could cause fire to spread and endanger life, it is important that staff are made aware that any such changes are very dangerous and must be dealt with immediately.

Fire Safety Inspections and Risk Assessment reviews, while incorporating the checking of fire-resistant construction, should also take into account the possibility of damage inside building riser cupboards, plant rooms etc.

Each time the opportunity arises to inspect the construction within a flat, for instance, during routine maintenance or when a tenancy ends, it should be taken and any changes noted and action taken.
One area of fire safety inspection that could be left out in the cold, literally, is that of external fire escapes. When an external route is a part of the means of escape, it should be a part of the inspection and maintenance schedule. Where an external fire escape is in place, it often includes metal escape stairways which particularly require maintenance.

Some of the things to look for when undertaking these checks are:

- Damage or Corrosion to construction or metal parts

- Moss, ice or other slip hazards

- Anything that could obstruct the stairway or become a trip hazard

While basic checks of this kind can be undertaken by appropriately briefed staff, a full maintenance inspection should take place at least once every three years by a suitably qualified specialist, to ensure structural integrity.

Finally, where manually openable smoke vents are provided (this includes openable windows), they should be opened by a member of staff once a year to check that they do not stick, require force to be applied to open them, or that they are not sealed shut. In cases where they do not open easily, maintenance or repair is required to correct the problem.

Next week’s blog will look at hazards in the common parts of a block 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.

The Complete Fire Safety Management Platform is the only fully comprehensive online fire risk assessment and fire risk management platform. Our aim, at CFSM, is to make the process of becoming fire safe, straightforward and, to use our expertise in fire risk assessment and fire safety management to guide you through each step, resulting in your premises meeting all legal, insurance and ethical fire safety considerations.


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