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Friday, 5 August 2011

Fire safety for blocks of flats guidance released

A new guidance document on fire safety for blocks of flats has been published.

Fire Safety Guidance for Purpose Built Blocks of Flats, now available for download, will run alongside existing advice on housing.

The 192–page document covers topics ranging from escape routes, door insulation and fire prevention, to firefighter access, the needs of older and disabled people, and combating vandals and arsonists. As well as general apartment complexes, it also covers flats in sheltered housing schemes and accommodation for students or workers.

The document’s release follows a meeting last year between the Local Government Regulation body (formerly LACORS), the Department for Local Government and Communities (CLG), the Chief Fire Officers Association, the Tenant Services Authority and social and private accommodation providers.

Commissioned by CLG, the project was led by the Local Government Improvement and Development body. The guidance, drafted by CS Todd & Associates, aims to follow a similar format to existing guidance on fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing.

Councillor David Parsons, chairman of the Local Government Group’s Environment and Housing Programme Board, said: “Clear and comprehensive fire safety guidance can mean the difference between life and death. This innovative project brought together all aspects of the housing world to share experience and expertise and has resulted in common sense advice. This will be of great use to landlords and fire officers, helping to keep people as safe as possible and protect property.

“The existing guidance covers most types of property very well, but it was never meant for blocks of flats and it became apparent some landlords were unsure of their legal responsibilities in such buildings. This was compounded by fire risk assessors being unclear about the level of investigation required when carrying out risk assessments.

“These extra guidelines should resolve these issues and help make sure everyone involved in the housing sector knows exactly what they have to do so lives aren’t needlessly put at risk.”

Recommendations include:

  • Vigilance against people smoking in communal areas and providing cigarette receptacles by entrances
  • Effective locks on doors and windows, CCTV systems and, where appropriate, caretaker/concierge presence to protect against vandals and arsonists
  • Ensuring escape routes and exits are well signed and lit, clear of clutter and have as few ‘dead ends’ as possible
  • Monitoring modifications of flats by tenants which may affect fire safety
  • Promoting the ‘stay put’ principle where appropriate for residents whose flat is not on fire, rather than instigating a full evacuation of the building
  • Regular inspection of electrics, heating, ventilation and lightening protection systems
  • Making sure firefighters have easy access to buildings and internal firefighting equipment.

To download the free guidance, click here.