Fire Risk Assessment for Block of Flats in Peterborough

DB Fire Safety Ltd are involved in carrying out the fire risk assessment on a multi-storey building in Peterborough that’s recently been converted from offices into flats.

Fire safety design in new blocks of flats is governed
by the Building Regulations 2010.  This legislation requires that landlords carry out fire risk assessments in all common areas of properties which will identify any fire hazards and who could be potentially at risk.

Blocks of flats differ from other residential dwellings in respect of fire risk assessments.  Because there are more people living in a block of flats, they will experience more fires than people living in houses.  However, a fire in a block of flats is no more dangerous than in a house.  High rise, therefore, does not mean high risk.

 

• To keep fire risk to a minimum, it is just as important to prevent fires as to provide
measures to protect people when fire occurs.
• The most significant influences on fire risk are social and lifestyle factors and advanced
age, not the type of dwelling in which people live.
• All dwellings should have working smoke alarms.
• Very few people die as a result of a fire in a neighbour’s flat or the common parts. Nearly all
fire deaths occur in the flat in which fire starts.
• In blocks of flats, each flat is designed to be a fire-resisting ‘box’. It is important to maintain
the integrity of this compartment, particularly when building work and alterations take place.
• It is important to ensure that fires cannot start in the common parts or common facilities.

Given that most fires occur in domestic dwellings, it was recognised
that a block of flats as a building containing many such dwellings –
has the potential for a higher risk to people should a fire break out.
Accordingly, the fire safety standards that were developed to address
this risk sought to afford the same level of safety found in houses to
those living in blocks of flats.
At the very least you should ensure that there is an adequate means
of escape in case of fire, and landlords of shared and Houses in
Multiple Occupation (HMO) properties will have additional obligations,
both under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order (2005) and the
Housing Act 2004.
Just like employers, landlords have certain obligations when it comes
to fire safety and protection in their properties. However, it is not as
simple as ensuring there is a couple of fire extinguishers to hand – fire
safety largely depends on the potential risks and the different types of
buildings can cause confusion. For example, a building that is used for
a single tenancy will differ to one which is shared across commercial and residential lettings

 

This is the basis for the ‘stay put’ principle (discussed later in this guide): when a fire
occurs within one dwelling (or, less likely, in the common parts), it is normally safe for
other residents to remain within their own flat. This principle is undoubtedly successful
in an overwhelming number of fires in blocks of flats. In 2009-2010, of over 8,000 fires
in these blocks, only 22 fires necessitated evacuation of more than five people with the
assistance of the fire and rescue service5.

The assessment of risk from fire also needs to take social factors into account,
particularly in the case of accommodation provided specifically for certain highrisk
groups.

While escape within flats is based on similar principles to those for houses, reaching
ultimate safety relies on using the common parts.
• Most blocks of flats are designed on the ‘stay put’ principle. Although this relies on there
being effective compartmentation, it is a principle that should be adopted wherever
possible.
• Provided there is effective compartmentation and means of escape, ‘general needs’ blocks
of flats will not normally require a communal fire alarm system.
• Communal fire alarm systems should not be installed unless it can be demonstrated that
there is no other practicable way of ensuring an adequate level of safety. If such a system
is provided, it must be possible to manage it.
• However, it should not automatically be assumed that constructional standards will be
inadequate in the absence of evidence to that effect.
• Proposals to upgrade fire protection in an existing block should aim to ensure, or restore, a
satisfactory standard of compartmentation in order to maintain the original ‘stay put’ policy.
• More generally, application of current benchmark standards to an existing block of flats is
not normally appropriate.
• Certain developments in fire safety technology and practice (eg smoke alarms within flats)
should be adopted. However, other developments such as automatic suppression systems
will only be appropriate if the cost and effort of adopting them is proportionate to the risk.

Front doors to flats need to be fire-resisting and self-closing.
• Corridors leading to stairways need to be enclosed in fire-resisting construction.
• Where there is only escape in one direction along a corridor, the extent of travel in such
‘dead ends’ needs to be limited.
• Open decks and balconies need to be limited in extent if escape is only possible in one
direction, with fire-resisting construction to protect people passing other flats to reach a
stairway.
• Stairways need to be enclosed in fire-resisting construction, with fire-resisting, selfclosing
doors.
• Any external stairways need to be suitably separated from the building by fire-resisting
construction and doors.
• Any areas, rooms or risers opening onto communal escape corridors and stairways
need to be fitted with fire-resisting doors that are self-closing or kept locked shut.
• Arrangements for maintaining stairways clear of smoke need to be provided (through
means such as openable windows and vents).
• Additional protection is needed where there is only a single stairway for normal access
and for egress in an emergency, normally comprising lobby approach and permanent
openings or automatically opening vents for clearing smoke.
16.11 Older people and people with certain disabilities may require particular consideration

www.local.gov.uk

David Black, the Managing Director of DB Fire Safety Ltd has been involved with this project from its outset, and says that now the building is ready for occupation.

For information on how DB Fire Safety Ltd can help with your fire risk assessment; call 0800 772 0559 OR

Email: enquiries@dbfiresafety.co.uk

Fire Risk Assessments in Solicitors’ Offices

Recent surveys of solicitors’ offices have highlighted a number of issues that could have a serious adverse effect on staff and visitors in the event of a fire.

David Black, of DB Fire Safety Limited, has observed Server Rooms with no automatic fire detection, fire doors being wedged open, combustible waste being placed immediately next to printers and missing ceiling tiles.

DSCN2642 DSCN1375 DSCN2618 DSCN2625

Holes in walls and ceilings mean that the room is not contained. Holes will allow fire to spread throughout the building to a much greater extent than if the room was confined, thus placing occupants in potentially greater danger.

A fire door that’s wedged (or propped) open is likely to remain open when evacuating a building. Fire doors are designed to hold fire back for a minimum of 30 minutes when closed. Fire doors should also be installed with fire-rated hinges and rebated with intumescent strips and cold smoke seals. In general, a fire door should be installed to comply with Building and Fire Regulations. There are, however, suitable devices available that will hold a fire door open whilst still allowing it to close automatically in the event of a fire alarm activation.

Printers operate at extremely hot temperatures. If paper jams inside the machine and catches fire, any combustible items placed alongside are also likely to catch fire; again placing employees in danger.

A fire risk assessment carried out by a professional company such as DB Fire Safety will highlight any of the above issues and will provide suitable resolutions.

Fire Risk Warning of Charging Mobile Phones in Bed

Children in Lincolnshire could be putting their lives, and the lives of their families, at risk by charging their mobile phones in bed.  Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue are recommending that parents are to check where their children are charging their mobiles phones at night.

Mobile Phone Charger

Research has revealed that 53 per cent of children are charging their phone or tablet either on their bed or even under their pillow. This is an extremely dangerous practice.  The heat generated cannot dissipate and the charger will become hotter and hotter. The likely result is that pillows will catch fire – thus placing the child (as well as everyone else in the property) in great danger.

In the event that a fire should start, the chances are that the smoke generated will render your child unconscious before he or she wakes up. If there is no smoke detector in the bedroom, others in the property are unlikely to be aware of the danger.

Best practice is that phone chargers should not be left switched on overnight. However, if it is necessary to charge your mobile phone up overnight (and many of us do), ensure the charger and phone are not placed under pillows, on beds, or on papers or magazines. In other words, not on, or near to, anything that could easily catch fire.

The advice given above also applies to chargers for electronic cigarettes. REMEMBER – mobile phone batteries and battery chargers and chargers for electronic cigarettes do get hot.

If your older children own their own mobile phone or laptop, DB Fire Safety advice is to make sure that chargers are turned off and unplugged when not in use.

Another recommendation to parents is to keep chargers downstairs and not in their children’s bedrooms.

DB Fire Safety Contact

For more information in respect of mobile phone and electronic cigarette chargers or fire risk assessments, please give David Black a call on 0800 772 0559.

Peterborough based DB Fire Safety provides businesses and organisations with comprehensive fire safety support and specialises in carrying out fire risk assessments on behalf of landlords of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupancy).

Wildfires in the countryside

We tend to think that wildfires only occur in countries such as Spain, Canada and Australia.   If you can take your mind Wildfireback to April 2015, a grass fire a little bit closer to home in the South Wales Valley destroyed 222 acres of countryside.   Only this year in March, there was a fire in Shetland which ripped through 70 acres of grass and heather.   The Upton Heath fire in Dorset in 2011 damaged approximately 250 acres of the heath and required the mobilisation of 30 fire engines and 11 Land Rovers.

Wildfires and grass fires can occur because of the carelessness of people when discarding lit cigarettes or leaving their campfires unattended.   The deliberate setting of wildfires is, of course, illegal and a criminal offence.

What a relief to hear that wildfires are thankfully a rare occurrence.  But when they do occur, they cause massive devastation to our beautiful countryside and the eco-systems which have taken many years to develop.  If a fire encroaches on farmland, then crops, buildings and animals can be consumed.

The cost of a wildfire is immense and the affects are that:

  • nests and the young of birds that nest on the ground are destroyed
  • mammals such as red squirrel lose their forest homes
  • small animals like the common lizard are killed
  • landscapes are scorched and less attractive until they recover
  • peat-land can be damaged and that is important as a carbon store to help combat climate change

As with the Upton Heath fire, a wildfire will take up valuable resources which impacts on resources which could be required to tackle property fires and emergencies.

Fire Engine 2There are, however, things you can do to protect the countryside and keep you safe.

  • If you must have a fire, then make absolutely sure that it is in a designated safe area.  Never leave the fire or barbeque unattended.
  • Extinguish cigarettes and smoking materials properly BEFORE leaving your vehicle.
  • NEVER EVER throw cigarette ends out of car windows.  This recklessness could start a fire and destroy the surrounding crops and countryside.
  • Take home or dispose in a waste or recycling bin your bottles and glass – the heat generated from sunlight shining through the glass can start a fire.
  • Report it immediately if you see a fire in the countryside.  Leave the area as soon as possible – preferably downhill.  Fires spread more quickly uphill. A fire also creates its own wind and achieve a speed far faster than you can get out of its way.
  • Ensure that you know your location or landmark so that you can direct the fire service accordingly.

DB Fire Safety Contact

 

Barbeque Fire Safety Advice

It’s hot and sunny and it’s barbeque time. Summer 2016 has finally arrived. Forecasters are reporting that we could well be enjoying two weeks’ of sunshine.  With temperatures rising to 30 degrees, Britain is on its way to exceeding the temperature in Nairobi.

Not to put dampener on this, DB Fire Safety would like to share some advice in respect of staying safe – barbeque Barbequewise.

Barbeque fires are usually caused when hot ash and coal are not discarded correctly.   As we have previously warned in this blog, fire can spread very quickly. Imagine the scenario of hot, discarded charcoal in a typical waste bin.  The bin will easily catch fire and the fire could quickly spread to a nearby fence and shrubs. Your neighbour’s property could now be involved.

The fire service has given the following advice to keep barbeques safe:

  • Disposable barbeques.  Yes, they are disposable but only when the coals are completely cold.  Only then can they can be thrown away safely.
  • Before lighting your barbeque, find a clear, level area on which to set up, making absolutely sure that it will not tip over.
  • How many times have we seen this stupidity – lighting a barbeque with petrol or paraffin.  Only use approved Waiting For A Burgerbarbeque fuel or firelighters.
  • Keep barbeques well away from the house, shed, fences, garden furniture or overhanging trees and shrubs
  • Keep control of your pets – the burgers will smell very tasty but the barbeque could be tipped over by hungry pets taking an interest in the mouth-watering treats.
  • Your barbeque should never be left unattended.
  • Last, but by no means, least, when the food has been cooked and enjoyed and the festivity is over, remember to empty any spent ash on to bare soil, not into a dustbin.

Peterborough-based DB Fire Safety would like you to enjoy your alfresco dining….. but safely.

DB Fire Safety Contact

 

Are You Using The Correct Charger?

Way back in 1831, British scientist, Michael Faraday, discovered electromagnetic induction.  This process is pretty much the same principle in respect of how we make use of electricity today.

Electricity is a reliable form of energy that’s essential in our modern and technology-filled lifestyles. It provides light, it cools our homes on hot summer days and heats them in winter.  And, where would we be in our digital world if we were unable to charge our devices.

Electricity can be hazardous and research states that two-thirds of all accidental house fires involve electricity. According to http://www.fireprotectiononline.co.uk, in 2013-14, accidental dwelling fires caused by electrical appliances resulted in 680 non-fatal casualties and 18 deaths.  Cheap replacement chargers are a common source of fire in our homes mainly because they don’t conform to our strict safety standards.Mobile Phone Charger

Don’t be taken in by a cheap price. If it seems too good to be true, then it usually is. Criminals are clever. The chargers may look like the real thing but will be low in quality and the appliances will not have gone through the rigorous checks required to meet British safety standards. Not only could the appliance present a fire risk but there is also the chance of electrocution.

 Safety Checks To Keep You & Your Family Safe
  • Switch off all electrical items before you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Do not leave a charger on overnight.  You will you be wasting energy and the charger will overheat and this is where things can turn nasty.
  • There are visual checks you can make – make sure that all plugs, sockets and cables are in good condition.  Any concerns, unplug them immediately.   Before re-using, get a professional in to check out the problem.
  • Do not overload sockets.  Do not exceed the rating of 13A – any doubt, again, ask for professional advice.
  • Only use electrical appliances within the manufacturer’s guidelines.  Register your product with the manufacturer because, as with the recent tumble dryer scare, you will be advised of any product recalls in the event of a product defect.

What to do in the event of an electricity fire.  If there’s time and it’s safe to do so, turn off the electricity supply.  If you have a CO2 extinguisher then this is the extinguisher to use for electrical fires.  Powder fire extinguishers can also be used. The best and safest option, however, is to dial 999.

DB Fire Safety recommends that it’s best to prevent a fire in the first place by being responsible.

For more information on the history of electricity, please visit – http://instituteforenergyresearch.org

Law on smoking in residential care homes

In today’s blog, DB Fire Safety Ltd. would like to bring you up-to-date in respect of how the law affects residents who want to smoke in residential care Care Homeshomes.  As may already know, it is an individual’s right to continue to smoke when in care.

According to the law, residential care homes are exempt from the smoke-free legislation. Although it is not a legal requirement, designated indoor smoking rooms and/or bedrooms can be made available for use by those residents wishing to smoke indoors.  It is, however, not a legal requirement to provide a bedroom.

If a residential care home designates such a smoking room, the following requirements must be met.

  1. The manager/owner has to designate a room where smoking is permitted.
  2. The room must be completely enclosed apart, of course, from the doors and windows.
  3. The ventilation of the room should preferably be outside of the care home or to other designated ‘smoking rooms’ which have external ventilation.
  4. The doors must close either mechanically or with closers to prevent smoke drifting to smoke free rooms or corridors.
  5. The room should be clearly marked as a room where smoking is permitted.

There does, however, remain a ban on staff smoking within the Care Home and, therefore, a suitable outdoor area should be designated for staff and any visitors, wishing to smoke.

Fire risk assessments take precedence over the rights of a smoker and a risk assessment will have to be taken to ensure the safety of all the residents, care workers and visitors.

If you are unsure of the legislation, then please feel free to contact Peterborough-based DB Fire Safety Limited to arrange a free consultation – call 0800 772 0559

 

Fire Safety Concerns at Peterborough Hospital

DB Fire Safety was interested to read recently in www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk that Peterborough City Hospital has still not Peterborough City Hospitalcomplied with instructions from the region’s fire service to make the hospital safe.

According to Peterborough Today, the Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued an Enforcement Notice on the Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust after becoming aware that defects at the hospital are four times worse than previously found.

The Enforcement Notice was issued on the 22nd March.  There is remedial work to be carried out but, in the meantime, the fire service will work with the hospital managers to ensure that the risks are reduced as far as practicable.

The hospital was built in November 2010. It would now appear that problems in respect of ceiling voids have become apparent.  The structural issues of the hospital do not increase the risk of a fire but they could increase the risk of it spreading.

The work to rectify the situation will have to take place at the same time as the hospital continues to perform its duties to its patients.  With this in mind, the work will not be completed until February 2019.

You will be pleased to learn that the hospital has a fire detection system in place and its evacuation process has since been reviewed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Does A Fire Spread?

To enable DB Fire Safety to evaluate the risk to people in your premises, I thought you would be interested to hear the way fire can spread.

There are three ways this can happen; convention, conduction and radiation.

Convection

First of all, let’s cover convection which is the most dangerous and causes the most deaths and injuries. When a fireHouse Firestarts in an enclosed space. such as, for instance, a residential care home, the smoke rises and is trapped by the ceiling.  The smoke has to go somewhere and will spread in all directions.  An ever-deepening layer will form and eventually cover the entire room space. Smoke will pass through any holes or gaps in the walls, ceiling and floor leaching out into other parts of the building. As you can imagine, the heat from the fire then gets trapped in the building and the temperature rises.

Conduction

Secondly, conduction. Certain materials are perfect conductors of heat.  Metal shutters and ducting, can absorb heat and transmit this heat to adjoining rooms and corridors.  There is the possibility that combustible items in contact with the heated material will also catch fire.

Radiation

Last of all, we have radiation. Radiation heats the air very much in the same way as an electric bar heater heats a room.  Any close combustible material will absorb the heat, it will then start to smoulder and eventually burn.

Fire ExitAs a result of a building fire, we hear that the casualties have been taken to hospital because of smoke inhalation. You might be thinking that this isn’t so bad.  But this isn’t the case because smoke contains toxic gases which are injurious to people. A building with modern fittings and materials generates smoke that is thick and black.  The smoke will obscure vision and will cause great difficulty in breathing.

With vision impaired, it will be very difficult for people to find the escape routes.  For this reason, it’s essential that the means of escape, together with other fire precautions, are adequate to ensure that everyone can escape to a place of total safety before the fire and its effects take hold and trap them inside the building.

DB Fire Safety Contact

To arrange a fire risk assessment, please contact Peterborough based DB Fire Safety Limited