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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

New guidance on fire safety in residential care homes

New, additional guidance for operators of residential care premises has been published to enhance the existing government fire risk assessment guide for the sector.

The additional guidance, published by the National Association for Safety and Health in Care Services (NASHiCS) and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA), is designed to deal with issues including:

  • evacuation of a protected zone in 2.5 minutes
  • rooms of residents unable to evacuate – upgrading to 60 minutes fire resistance
  • staff remaining with residents who are unable to evacuate
  • the use of external fire escapes by residents
  • the travel distance of evacuation routes
  • the use of by-pass routes.

The additional guidance has been published to provide operators with a better understanding of the existing CLG guide and how it helps to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The new guidance has been devised with the underlying principles that the safety of occupants is paramount; that staff training on the awareness and reduction of fire safety risk and evacuation techniques is vital; that risk should be reduced as low as reasonably practicable, as required by law; that there should be sufficient levels of staff to effect the fire safety strategy for a premises; and that the fire safety strategy should always take into account the ability of the building to withstand the spread of fire and smoke travel.

“It was felt that certain parts of the CLG guide required further clarification to allow residential care operators to fully understand their role within the [Fire Safety Order],” said David Hulton, lead member of the NASHiCS fire safety working group. “NASHiCS are very pleased that this guidance document is now being launched as it will provide valuable additional information for residential care premise operators."

Chair of the CFOA enforcement group, Nick Coombe, added: "It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work from a number of people to get us this far. All at CFOA are delighted that the document is now complete."

Dowload the NASHiCS/CFOA guidance

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are an integral part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. They are carried out to highlight fire hazards and often result in upgrades occupied dwellings. Sometimes issues can be addressed by refitting walls, installing doors with improved fire resistance for compartmentation, or even fitting specialist alarm systems. In cases where the fire risk is either localised (e.g. a high risk kitchen, inner room or occupant) or the means of escape must be improved by protecting a specific area (e.g. fire escape route or landing), alternative active fire suppression systems, such as Automist, are worth consideration.

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