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Means of Escape – Escape Routes within Common Parts, Internal Corridors, Lobbies – Part 7

Posted: 16/09/2014 13:06

Leading on from our blogs about fire safety and escape from individual flats within a block, it is logical that we should now look at what happens next. Of course, the escapee would then find themselves in a common area of a block such as a common lobby, stairway or corridor.

The two main considerations in this regard are horizontal escape – i.e. from the external flat door along a common corridor or through a common lobby area to the staircase – and vertical escape down the stairway to the ultimate exit door leading outside.

Horizontal Escape

It is, of course, essential that common areas of a block of flats are subject to adequate fire protection measures to ensure that they are not compromised by fire in a flat or other room off the common area. It is important to ensure that fire cannot spread into the common areas, but it is also vital that smoke spread is controlled to maintain visibility and safety for those exiting the building.
While block design will vary, it is usually seen that individual flats access the main outside entrance via use of the common corridor/upper lobby area, followed by the staircase. Each design and building must be subject to individual consideration, as all situations vary.

When considering the design of a new block, it should be noted that the common corridors and lobbies within a block, which are to be used for means of escape, must be constructed with at least 30 minutes fire resistance in place. Walls between flats and walls within the common parts must be constructed as compartment walls. It is also important that rooms such as plant rooms, offices and common lounges must have fire resistant construction and that any risers between floors are enclosed within protection of this type.

Doors leading onto the common area from flats or ancillary rooms must be fire resistant. The current benchmark indicates that 30 minutes fire resistance should be provided by these doors. While flat entrance doors which lead onto common areas must be self-closing, ancillary and riser doors do not, but must be fire resistant in any case. It is accepted that such doors will be kept locked shut when not in use.

Vertical Escape

Stairway walls must be enclosed in fire resistant construction, as mentioned above for common corridors, with doors leading onto the stairwell being self-closing and having 30 minutes fire resistance.

A stairway in a block of flats should lead either directly to fresh air or to a protected route which leads to the outside. No obstructions should be placed in the stairway, which should contain nothing but lifts or limited building services which are appropriately protected.

The width of a staircase in a block is not normally an issue, as there is usually no mass evacuation procedure. It is likely that in the event of a fire, only the occupants of that flat would be evacuating the premises. Therefore, for a new build block, it is acceptable to have a staircase width of 1m. In some existing buildings, it may be that the staircase is even narrower and that still may be considered acceptable.

Next week’s blog will continue on the subject of fire safety in blocks of flats and will look at smoke control. In the meantime, if you have any queries about this blog or would like to know more about the Complete Fire Safety Management online fire risk assessment platform, 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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