In the light of recent events in the Grenfell Tower block in London it is important to revisit fire safety in your property and particularly if it’s a leasehold property. If you live in a flat and are unsure about the best way to review this you may want to consider the policy we have introduced in our managed properties:
The sterile area:
- Most of our properties have a single staircase (relatively few in the UK have alternative fire escapes). The policy therefore is that the staircase needs to be protected wherever possible from the risk of fire (a so called sterile area).
- This protection is achieved by the use of fire doors to the flats which are intended to provide up to 30 minutes resistance to fire and the avoidance of inflammable materials being present in the stairwell.
- If a fire breaks out in a flat the integral alarm system will alert residents. Systems we have installed have detectors within the flat with alarms fitted within bed rooms to provide the necessary alarm.
- It is important that upon detecting a fire or the alarm going off the fire service is summoned using the 999 system. Whilst false alarms may be deemed a nuisance it is better that the fire service are alerted rather than a fire allowed to develop.
Should we stay, or should we go?
- Clearly in the light of current events this is a contentious issue. on balance, if you or your tenants are not being directly affected by the fire (e.g. the fire is not in the flat or immediately adjacent to the source of the fire) it is safer to stay within the flat, protected by the fire door.
- This advice is reinforced if the occupier has any mobility issues or for example there are young children to be managed. If however the occupier feels safer by leaving the premises then they must check that the staircase is clear of fire and smoke, they must follow the exit signage and should exit using all reasonable haste, but not to the detriment of other evacuees.
Should we fight the fire?
- The general advice is that fighting fire should only be done where there is a high confidence of success. On balance swift and safe evacuation from the fire must be the priority
- Having exited the property it is essential that residents gather in a designated location and do not re-enter the building until told to do so by an authorised party, normally a member of the fire service. If it is believed parties are still in the building it is vital the fire service are advised immediately.
Fire safety within your flat:
- It is important that all necessary checks are made to wiring and appliances within flats to minimise the risk of fire breaking out. Also, you should ensure furniture is modern and has the necessary fire safety standards assigned to it.
- Consider the presence of fire blankets within the kitchen and fire extinguishers to allow prompt damping of fires. The importance of fire safety must be emphasised by landlords to their tenants.
- Particularly important to stress is that if a fire breaks out and a flat is evacuated the door MUST be closed upon exit, stopping the fire spreading to the rest of the building.
- As described above the staircase should not have flammable material present, so again stress to your tenants (and indeed adhere to it yourself) that there must not be items such as cardboard boxes or clothes in the stairwell; recycling is of particular concern. Such items can combust, leading to fire and or smoke.
PM Property Services take the risk of fire very seriously, though the general enthusiasm towards implementing solutions is often low, given the cost versus the low likelihood of occurrence. We recognise that this advice is quite generic, but common sense and initiative are more important than rigid rules.
If you feel more specific advice is required, you have concerns about the quality of the safety arrangements in your property or you have concerns about the behaviour of fellow residents, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be willing to come and discuss the matters with you.