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Managing Fire Risk in Blocks of Flats – Managed Use in Common Areas

Posted: 26/06/2014 14:34

Last week’s blog looked at the two main methods of controlling resident placing of objects in common areas and corridors that may become a fire hazard or an escape hazard. We established that the “Zero Tolerance” method was the simplest in terms of keeping areas clear, but we also looked at how many landlords wish to adopt a more flexible approach. This week we will look more closely at those situations where a managed use policy can be implemented successfully and how to accomplish it.

A managed use policy, when implemented correctly and maintained, can provide a much more pleasant living environment for the residents. Equally, it creates a nicer ambiance for any potential residents, making empty flats more easily filled by the landlord. However, the dangers of incorrectly implementing such a policy can be considerable. Fire safety must be at the core of its parameters and regular checks must be made.

Risk Assessment
The first stage of considering a managed use policy is to undertake a risk assessment to ascertain the likely and potential impact of additional objects in the common areas and corridors. Although it is not possible to list all relevant circumstances, particular attention should be paid to the construction of the block – concrete or brick construction is the least flammable – and the policy should only be applied to blocks with a suitable standard of fire protection. Single stairways and ‘dead end’ corridors can pose a particular hazard when combined with a managed use policy.

Consider the resident profile; are they inclined to keep ‘rules’. If not, a managed use policy is not appropriate. Longer term residents and those who take a pride in their surroundings are more likely to embrace the managed use policy and adhere to any restrictions put in place.

Even in those cases where the resident profile is ideal, it is important that the policy is simple and easy to understand. An example would be to list items under a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ column. ‘Yes’ items may include pictures in frames on the wall, a doormat, a potted plant and ‘No’ items might be tables, dressers, chairs, pushchairs etc.

It is also worth noting that, in those blocks where mobility scooters or pushchairs in the corridors is an issue, there may be a practical solution if you are able to offer a storage area accessible by residents.

Particularly dangerous items
Alternative storage arrangements or a complete ban of some items would prove prudent. One such example is any petrol or diesel driven item. This could be a mini motorbike, scooter or even a lawn mower. Proper outside storage of any such item is essential to a fire safe block of flats. Consider providing a lock-up or shed on the premises which is accessible by the residents.

Items that require charging also pose an additional fire risk and so the charging of electrical scooters, for example, should never be allowed in the common areas of a block of flats. Again, a suitable storage area should be provided wherever possible and that area should be sufficiently fire protected, via compartmentation for example.

Flammable and combustible items cannot be stored in communal areas, or in other storage rooms within the building. While each flat may be compartmentalised, common areas must be kept clear of items that could cause or contribute to the growth of a fire and prevent escape or cause fire spread.

Regular Inspection
Finally, a managed use policy is not something that can be left to run itself, the situation must be monitored carefully and regular inspections should take place. Any items falling outside the terms of your policy or which cast any doubt upon it should be dealt with immediately.

Next week’s blog will look at recycling and electrical hazards. In the meantime, if you have any queries about your fire risk assessment or wish to know more about Complete Fire Safety Management’s online fire risk assessment tools, please contact Peter Gyere 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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