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Means of Escape – Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats – Part 3 - 2nd floor and up

Posted: 22/08/2014 15:17

Last week’s blog looked at fire safety in blocks of flats concentrating on the basement, ground and first floor flats, which have an advantage over flats on higher floors in that occupants can make escape to outside ground relatively easily through escape windows or additional doors.

This week we will look more closely at the fire safety provisions for those flats which are on the 2nd floor and above. These are classified by being more than 4.5m above ground or access level.

In flats on one level, all the rooms and exit doors are on one level, of course. Flats of this design were usually subject to common approaches to ensure adequate means of escape.  These would be that the travel distance within a flat is limited, that the entrance hall is protected (fire resistant construction with fire doors) or there is an alternative exit.

Currently, prescriptive guidance states that travel distance limitation is set at a maximum of 9 metres. This means that a person could be at any place within the habitable areas of the flat and be no more than 9 metres away from the flat exit door, or the entrance hall if it is protected. Additionally, where flats are not provided with a protected entrance hall, these must bedesigned so that the cooking area is situated away from the main flat exit door and is not in a position to jeopardise the escape route.

It may be that a fire engineered design solution could deviate from those parameters in order to accommodate other features or design. The departures would have to be substantiated or compensated for as appropriate. For example, a slightly increased travel distance may be considered acceptable where building occupants will be young and have adequate mobility, but this can limit the building use in the future and so it is more likely that compensatory measures would be put into place. These may involve automatic detection, fire suppression or increased use of fire doors.

The provision of a protected entrance hall in a flat is an important tool in ensuring adequate means of escape. It also allows for travel distance from the door of a habitable room (which would lead directly onto the protected hallway) to the exit door within the protected hallway to be limited to 9 metres. This is based upon the protected entrance hall comprising 30 minute fire resistant construction and 20 minute fire resistant doors. As mentioned above in existing buildings, a slightly increased travel distance of up to 3 metres more than the prescriptive 9 metres may be acceptable with the appropriate fire resistant construction and doors in place. However, any increase over 3 metres must be subject to compensatory measures. 

Next week’s blog will look at the types of compensatory measures which may be used to improve upon the fire safety and means of escape provision of a flat over 4.5m above ground

In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish 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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