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Fire Safety in blocks of flats – Inspection, testing and maintenance continued – Part 9

Posted: 08/05/2015 13:29

This week’s blog on fire safety in blocks of flats continues looking at inspection, testing and maintenance of systems within the block, beginning with smoke and heat alarms.

Although it is true that the majority of blocks of flats do not have a common fire alarm system, due to their construction and use of the ‘stay put’ evacuation method, there are some blocks that do have automatic fire detection provided to the common parts, these may be required as part of the overall fire strategy, including activating other fire safety precautions. Where this is the case, it is important that these systems are tested regularly and are serviced as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

A more likely scenario, in a block of flats, is for each flat to have its own smoke alarm to provide early warning of fire in the premises. While it would be difficult for the Landlord to have full access to check these alarms regularly, and the responsibility to check the alarms and ensure they are working will naturally fall to the tenant or occupant, it is helpful for them to be checked if possible.

It may be that a member of staff visiting a flat for another reason can be asked to undertake a quick visual survey to see if the smoke alarm is present, or may have been disconnected, or the battery removed. In addition, a contractor who may visit each flat to carry out repairs or periodic testing (if this falls under the landlord responsibility) could be asked to undertake a basic visual assessment.
The most recent version of BS 5839-6 can be consulted for further information on testing smoke alarms.

Fire dampers are often used in refuse chutes and ductwork within blocks of flats. They are basically a mechanical system which shuts off the duct or chute when a certain temperature is detected, or when a fire alarm system sends a signal. Where the temperature method is used to operate the damper, this is via a fusible link. In systems using a fusible link, an inspection and service should take place at least once every two years, to ensure the system remains in good working order. Where the damper is spring operated, it should be tested and serviced annually or in accordance with installers instructions. BS9999 offers further information on the testing of fire dampers.

Sprinkler systems are another fire protection method which may be seen in a block of flats. Where a sprinkler system or water mist system is in place, it should be tested on a regular basis and serviced as appropriate. The sprinkler system is likely to have been provided with information on how it should be serviced and tested, but further guidance is available in BS EN 12845. The same is true of water mist systems, and further information on their testing and servicing can be found in DD 8489-1. As the maintenance and testing of a sprinkler or water mist system requires technical knowledge, it should only be undertaken by an appropriate contractor.

Next week’s blog will continue looking at Inspection, testing and maintenance of fire mains and fire lifts before moving on to look at fire doors. . 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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