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Managing Fire Risk in blocks of flats – Ongoing Control – Part 1

Posted: 12/03/2015 13:25

Fire Safety in blocks of flats can be brought down to two distinct areas – physical fire safety measures (fire protection measures) and management and maintenance (fire prevention practices). While physical fire safety measures are important, they cannot be relied upon without effective fire management and maintenance practices.

There are documents available which give guidance on fire safety management – BS 9999 is one and the HM Government produced guide ‘Fire Safety Risk Assessment: sleeping accommodation’ is another. However, there are differences between a block of flats and other types of building or accommodation which must be taken into account, and that is what we will begin to look at in today’s blog.

Firstly, there is usually no member of staff present in a block of flats on a full-time basis. This means that whatever systems are in place must work effectively without staff supervision. Equally, residents cannot be expected to learn or carry out complicated fire safety management practices.
In case of a fire, most blocks of flats are constructed and maintained to sustain the ‘stay put’ non-evacuation policy, where only the occupants of the flat of fire origin should vacate the building in the first instance. In other buildings, complete or phased evacuation is considered the standard.

Some or all flats within a block may be leasehold and therefore the landlord or management company has even less control over fire safety practices than they would with tenants. This is compounded by landlords having limited access to flats and even in cases where access can be gained, limitations or restrictions may apply.

Residents of flats are usually not a community, but separate households who operate as singular units, rather than as a whole – as might be the case in a university hall of residence, for example – and each residential unit will have different knowledge of fire safety. It may be that flat occupants can be encouraged to take fire safety initiatives on board, but the level of co-operation and understanding will vary.

With these variables, it is easily perceived that fire safety management and maintenance are not simple to organise and implement. However, if the fire risk in a block of flats is to be managed, the task must be approached and carried out.

Those responsible for fire safety in a block of flats can also vary and can include owners, providers, managing agents, social landlords, local authorities, housing associations, private sector landlords and residential management companies. The term ‘responsible’ has become the official term under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, where the ‘responsible person’ has obligations under the law. The responsible person may be the most senior executive in a given organisation, or it may be a nominated employee, who is suitably trained and experienced, and whose job it is to oversee fire safety requirements.

Next week’s blog will continue on this subject with ‘Fire Safety in blocks of flats - Who is responsible for fire safety within the building?’ 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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