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A guide to flat fire safety

  • 12, Oct 2020
  • Read time: 5 mins

Landlords have a duty to ensure that their property is safe and compliant with building regulations. Our guide to fire safety will help reassure your tenants and help protect your investment.

Fire extinguisher on the wall in a stairwell of a block of flats.

Fire risk assessments

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005 states that a fire risk assessment must be carried out in properties occupied for residential or commercial use. There are five steps to a fire risk assessment:

  1. Identify the fire hazards in the flat
    These include the potential sources of ignition, fuel and oxygen.
  2. Identify who is at risk from fire
    These are the people in the property and surrounding premises. Pay particular attention to those who are especially at risk such as elderly people, those with reduced mobility, small children and anyone with breathing difficulties.
  3. Evaluate and reduce the risk of fire
    Assess the risk of a fire starting and the risks it might present people with. Then remove or reduce fire hazards and introduce fire precautions.
  4. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train
    • Record any major findings. Discuss your findings and work with other responsible people to remove and reduce risk.
    • Plan out what happens in an emergency and make sure your residents know where to go in the event of a fire.
    • Inform and instruct the relevant people. Train the relevant people so that they know what to do in the event of a fire and how to minimise the risk on a day-to-day basis.
  5. Review your fire risk assessment regularly. There is no legal requirement for how often you should conduct an assessment, but a good guideline is to go through a review every two years.

Potential risks

In a residential setting, potential problems are fairly obvious, but should never be overlooked.

  • Cigarettes & Candles – If you allow smoking on your property, cigarettes are an obvious danger. Fires started by unextinguished cigarettes or unattended candles are responsible for a huge amount of fires every year. This is why smoke detectors are so important.
  • Kitchens – The combination of unattended flames, cooking fats and oils means that kitchens require special attention. Adequate ventilation (which may include installation of extractor fans) is essential. Make sure that gas appliances are regularly checked and maintained as part of gaining a Gas Safety Certificate.
  • Appliances – Make sure that all appliances have passed a PAT (Portable appliance test) to avoid liability should a fire break out due to faulty electronics.
  • Escape – In the event of a fire, it’s vital that all doors leading from the property to the outside are unlockable from the inside without use of a key and remain unobstructed.

Fire prevention in flats

Fire doors are a legal requirement in blocks of flats and it is important that they meet regulations for not only fire safety, but also sound, accessibility, ventilation, thermal efficiency and safety glazing. For more information see Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order: 2005.

  • Flat front doors must be fire doors with a half-hour resistance (i.e. a door that provides at least 30 minutes of protection against fires) and should be fitted with smoke seals and self-closing mechanisms.
  • Internal doors do not need to be fire doors if the flats are on the ground floor or less than 4.5 metres above the ground, providing the habitable rooms have a means of escape, such as a terrace or a window.
  • Self-closing doors will help contain the fire and protect the staircase, so that people can get out of the building.
  • It’s advisable to coat the walls with fire-resistant emulsion paint rather than wallpaper or other material, as this could help contain the fire.
  • Flats on floors that are higher than 4.5 metres will need fire doors between the habitable rooms and the hallway that leads to the entrance to the flat.
  • Landlords must provide suitable fire-fighting and detection equipment on the premises. Since 2015, it is a legal requirement for private landlords to have one smoke alarm on every storey of their premises and a CO2 alarm in any room that has a device that burns solid fuel, such as a coal fire or a wood-burning stove.

If you’d like further advice, consult your local Housing Officer at the Environmental Health Department or your local Fire Brigade. The Chief Fire Officers have a home safety scheme called CFOA BlueWatch which provides a whole range of useful resources and guidance. No matter what steps you take, sometimes there are things you just can’t plan for.

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