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Means of Escape - Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats - Flats with an alternative exit – Part 5

Posted: 03/09/2014 17:41

Flats having an alternative exit are commonly found in instances where habitable rooms do not open directly onto the main flat hallway or exit corridor. The format and destination of the alternative exit can vary significantly from design to design, but all exits should lead to a suitable and fire safe environment.

Current guidance, including the Building Regulations and Approved Document B, states that an alternative exit should be provided remotely from the main flat exit door and that it should lead to a final exit or common stairway.

The alternative exit route can be a lobby leading to a common stairway, a common corridor, a balcony that leads to a common stairway or common corridor or an internal or external private staircase leading to common parts on another level of the block, or escape over a flat roof.

In order to facilitate fire safe access to the exits from all habitable rooms, especially those which lead directly on from another habitable room and not via the main fire resistant hallway, it may be that fire resistant partitioning should be used. An example would be where a bedroom is accessible through a living room and fire resistant partitioning should be used between those two rooms.

It was commonly found that an alternative escape route was provided through the use of linking balconies. This would mean that a linked or shared balcony was provided between two or more flats, allowing the occupants of one flat to travel along the balcony and gain egress through the next flat. In some blocks, this remains the case, but this arrangement is no longer approved for new builds as the safety of one flat’s occupants can be endangered if access is not possible to a neighbour’s flat.

In many existing flats, provision of a suitable alternative escape route is simply not practical and where the situation calls for one, but it is impractical, it is suggested that other measures are taken to mitigate the circumstances. This could be through a protected hallway, as discussed in more detail in previous blogs or through limiting travel distance. Compensatory measures may be required and these may be automatic fire detection to LD2 or LD1 standard, fire suppression such as sprinkler systems or pass doors between rooms to access a protected fire exit route.

While reliance on a system such as shared balcony would be impractical in terms of the fire safety of occupants of a flat, it is not suggested that the provision be removed or blocked. There simply needs to be sufficient fire protection provision while assuming that option is not viable, as may be the case if the neighbour is not in or has mistakenly blocked access.

Next week’s blog will look at the challenges faced when considering fire safety in flats which have more than one level. 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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