Fire Safety in blocks of flats Â– Preparing for Emergencies Â– Part 5
This series on fire safety in blocks of flats has been looking at in-house practices recently. This week, we turn our attention to the requirement for an emergency plan. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order requires that a suitable emergency plan be in place for the premises.
In a purpose-built block of flats, the emergency plan can be as simple as a fire action notice. A fire action notice can be displayed within the block, but it can also be disseminated along with other fire safety information to residents through a handbook or provided information.
Where a notice is displayed, it should be relevant. A stock fire action notice can be purchased from many suppliers, but it may mention fire extinguishers, fire alarm call points, etc. which are not normally relevant to the fire safety plan within a purpose built block of flats. Equally, the call to gather at a pre-determined assembly point would be of no use in a block operating a ‘stay put’ evacuation system.
Therefore, it is important that your fire action notice accurately reflects exactly what a tenant must do if they have a fire in their own flat, or see one in another flat or common area. It should include such information as closing the door to the room with the fire as they leave, ensuring the flat front door is closed, raising the alarm for the fire service to attend and how that can be accomplished (i.e. if there is a fire alarm call point or if they should call 999).
If a fire notice is displayed, it should be at a place where visitors and occupants can read it as they enter the building.
In the case of blocks of flats or sheltered housing schemes which have a common fire alarm system, the fire action notice must mention the fire alarm system and tell occupants what they must do if the alarm sounds. Contact details of the person who can reset the alarm must be provided, as any delay in resetting the system due to a false alarm, for example, could result in the residents interfering with the system in order to stop the alarm sounding. It is important in these instances that the emergency plan reflects all actions required and so it may need to be more detailed than a fire action notice.
Within sheltered housing schemes, in instances where the occupants may have a physical or mental impairment, their ability to evacuate in case of fire should be individually assessed and arrangements made for assistance to be provided where necessary. These arrangements should be laid out in the emergency plan and the occupant made aware of those arrangements. It is important that this be reviewed on a regular basis, as the occupant’s needs may change over time.
Next week’s blog will begin by looking at how the information contained in the emergency plan can be of assistance to the Fire Service. 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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