Fire Safety in blocks of flats - Inspection, testing and maintenance Â– Part 7
This week’s blog is looking at the importance of inspection, testing and maintenance of fire safety systems within the common parts of flats. All fire safety systems and equipment must be checked as a part of a regular inspection.
Although some checks are mainly visual in nature and can be carried out by an appropriate member of in-house staff, other checks must be made by a suitably qualified person and this would usually mean the hiring of a contractor. When hiring a contractor, it is important that their credentials are checked. There are various third-party schemes which assess a contractor, or a company, against a recognised standard, and this can offer a landlord confidence when hiring.
Where a member of staff may have spotted a deficiency in a certain area, a follow-up visit should be organised promptly with a relevant contractor who can make the necessary repairs to the system. This is particularly important in areas such as ventilation, where if a vent will not open, it would not be able to respond to a fire situation and smoke would fill the area.
Routine checks of fire safety systems can be broken down as follows:
Emergency Escape Lighting – Although some emergency escape lighting is self-testing, there is a need to test each fitting in cases where it is not. These tests should comprise firstly, a monthly test whereby the switch is flicked from normal electricity supply to standby supply to show that the fitting has not failed. Secondly, an annual check where a full duration discharge takes place, to test that the batteries can supply the light fitting for a sufficient length of time. When undertaking the second test, it is important that provision is made so that the building would not be without emergency escape lighting while the batteries are recharging.
BS EN 50172:2004, BS 5266-8:2004 is a dual numbered British Standard which can offer more information on testing of emergency escape lighting.
Smoke Ventilation Systems – Automatically opening vents, or those vents which are electrically controlled and manually operated require regular maintenance and servicing. AOVs and electrically operated OVs should be tested once a month using the manual controls to ensure they are working as intended. In addition, once a year, a full test should be performed which includes checking the functionality of smoke detectors and AOV controls. The manufacturer’s instructions will provide further details on what should be tested.
Smoke control systems such as smoke extraction systems and pressurisation systems should also be checked as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If these are not available, a copy may be obtained directly from the manufacturer, or a suitably approved fire engineer could ensure you are aware of what checks and maintenance is required.
In addition, BS 9999:2008 - Code of practice for fire safety in the design, management and use of buildings offers more guidance on the servicing and testing procedures of smoke control systems.
Next week’s blog will continue looking at inspection, testing and maintenance. 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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