Fire Risk Assessment
Blocks of flats and apartments are generally large and complex buildings, with the leaseholders relying on the landlord or Residents Management Company to fulfil their responsibilities, which are significant. Fire safety is essential in every environment, none more so where people live, often in multiple level and even high-rise buildings.
Emphasising their importance, there is a legal obligation to undertake a Fire Risk Assessment of residential block of flats, considering ever aspect of fire safety of the common parts.
A good apartment block management company or appointed block manager will have an awareness of fire safety and must ensure that the Fire Risk Assessment is provided to the right standard. Areas covered might include (not exhaustive).
- Electrical safety. Has the landlords fixed wiring installation been tested within the last 5 years and were any issues raised fixed and recorded?
- Are the fire alarms/smoke detection systems adequate for the circumstances and to standard?
- Appropriate signage is essential. Clearly identify routes to exit doors. ‘Keep Locked Shut’ stickers on cupboards, ‘No Smoking’ signage and a fire action plan is prominently and conveniently displayed.
- Prevention is a culture. Combustible items should be managed and kept from stairwells, cupboards and all communal areas. Cupboards kept locked/secure.
- Voids are weak points so ensure that firestopping where needed.
- Make sure that apartment front doors and designated fire doors have fire seals / smoke brushes and are maintained to the right standard.
- Is emergency lighting installed in the stairwell, halls and landings, if so is it adequate?
- Are emergency lighting systems tested and maintained correctly, are these tests documented?
A Fire Risk Assessment should be regarded effectively as live document, to be regularly reviewed and developed.
Over the years building regulations are changed, but retrospective fire safety improvements are generally not made.
If areas of concern are highlighted it is essential that they are acknowledged and appropriate action planned. Standard of work, equipment and system design are critical, often with regulations and legislation to comply with. Ensure things are done right.
‘Stay Put Policy’
Whilst it may be a natural action, leaving a flat in the event of a fire may mean you enter an area containing smoke or flames. A ‘Stay Put Policy’ hopefully helps prevent this risk. However, this policy is not appropriate to all buildings and the professional fire risk assessor will be able to provide appropriate advice in individual circumstances.
Fire extinguishers are often found in stairwells but it is likely that a fire risk assessor will advise their removal because:
- Resident of the flats are not trained in the appropriate use of extinguishers with the potential risk using the wrong extinguisher on the wrong fire.
- The public shouldn’t be encouraged or tempted to fight large fires. The safety of human life is paramount.
- Potentially fire extinguishers in stairwells may be unmaintained, creating a false sense of security.
On consideration of the circumstances the fire risk assessor will advise on the right plan.
Fire Alarms / Smoke Detectors
An integral part of any block of flats or apartments and can be of a variety of designs, as technology develops. The alarm will be triggered when smoke or a fire is detected in the stairwell, hall or landings to warn residents. These should be tested and maintain these a minimum of twice a year in addition to regular tests frequently carried out by the property manager or a contractor on an ongoing basis.
An essential feature is emergency lighting, installed within all communal stairwells, designed to come on when there has been a power cut, having rechargeable batteries inside. Annual testing requires that the lights are turned on for three hours and if there are component failures replacements must be made. Annual inspections should supplemented throughout the year by continually checking various parts.
What is a Dry Riser?
This is where a water pipe is built into the building. The Fire Service can connect a hose at one end to save reeling a hose up the stairs of a block of flats. Hopefully never used these should have an annual flush test and service.
Smoke Ventilation Systems
Typically vents on the roof, windows or cupboards that can be opened to clear any smoke from a stairwell. Smoke vents are generally found in buildings with high travel distances, for example where a building is over three-stories or in lobby doors with large travel areas to and stairwells. Typically, these should be serviced twice a year.
Fire safety is critical in every respect. The priority is always the safety of residents and visitors; then add the value of all the apartments and the personal stories behind each one, you can soon see the huge responsibility and critical importance. oh yes, then there is compliance with the law and insurance obligation.
Talk to a fire safety expert. Talk with our sister company Peninsula Fire Safety 01271 442 411