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Means of Escape – Fire Safety in Blocks of Flats – Part 4 - 2nd floor and up compensatory measures

Posted: 26/08/2014 10:24

Our last blog looked at fire safety in blocks of flats, particularly those flats on the 2nd floor and above (more than 4.5m above ground or main egress). Extended travel distances within flats can sometimes be compensated for with a fire engineered design. Today, we will look at some of the compensatory measures that might be employed to ensure fire safety where the design does not fall within prescriptive guidelines.

One such example would be that in older flats, it is common to find that the doors and partition walls which lead to the kitchen or living room from the hall are fire resistant, but that the doors and partitions leading to bedrooms are not. A decision must be made, dependent upon other factors, such as travel distance and if automatic fire detection is installed in the hallway, as to whether the partitions and doors to bedrooms need upgrading.

If, for instance, the travel distance within the hall is more than 12 metres, automatic fire detection should be further installed in the kitchen and living room areas and, if it is not feasible to fit fire resistant doors and partitions to all doors leading from the hallway, that additional automatic fire detection should be installed to cover all rooms except bathrooms or toilets. It is paramount however, that each building is reviewed on merit, with a fire risk assessment basis employed, which will in turn decide on the provisions required, the example above is for illustrative purposes only.

Commonly, within older flats, fire-resistant doors with self-closing devices were utilised as a feature of an adequately fire protected flat until recent years. The current Building Regulations do not suggest the use of self-closing devices on internal flat doors, in part because it was common for residents to remove or disable the devices in any case, rendering this provision redundant. Where fire resistant doors are in use within a flat, as in the example given above, it is wise to ensure tenants know to close these doors when they are sleeping as a minimum. While it is not a regulation to have self-closing doors under current building regulations, if a high risk room, such as a kitchen, was near to the flat exit door, it may be wise in any case to consider a self-closing fire resistant kitchen door.

It is common for occupants who are leasehold, or long term rental tenants to make alterations to the inside of the flat which are unapproved by the owner or landlord and, in most cases, not seen until the tenant leaves the premises permanently. Unaware of the possible repercussions, an occupant can remove fire resistant doors or even fire resistant partition walls and endanger themselves. Effective communication about fire safety and prevention is therefore necessary between landlord/owner and leaseholder/occupier.

Next week’s blog will look at flats with an alternative exit and how their placement within flats is important to a fire safe dwelling. 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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