Since the appalling tragedy at Grenfell Tower, there has been a great deal of discussion about fire safety in blocks of flats. These discussions have placed great emphasis around the use of cladding to the exterior walls of buildings. Whilst this is, quite naturally, an important issue, David Black, of DB Fire Safety Ltd, believes that there are other important considerations when assessing the level of fire safety in a block of flats.
DB Fire Safety are involved heavily with building contractors converting disused office buildings into blocks of residential flats. David, therefore, has great experience in helping to develop the appropriate fire strategies and on-goiung fire risk assessments of such buildings.
The general rule is that all flats must be contained within a one-hour fire resisting border. This means that floors, ceilings and walls are of a substantial construction. It also means that if a partition wall is designed to provide one-hour fire separation, any door within that wall must also be fire-rated to 60 minutes. In addition, all fire doors must be installed using appropriately fire-resisting hinges. Entrance doors to flats should be installed with a suitable self-closing device; and intumescent strips & cold smoke seals must be rebated into either the door or the door frame. They should also be fitted with a single thumb-turn device to enable prompt and safe evacuation in the event of a fire emergency.
David also believes that all blocks of flats should have the benefit of a fire detection & alarm system with automatic fire detection throughout the common escape routes but also with a heat detector immediately inside the entrance to all flats. He also believes that manual alarm call points should be installed at appropriate locations throughout the building. All this will enable residents to easily raise an alarm in the event of a fire emergency (so alerting all occupants of the building immediately); it will also provide alerts to all occupants in the event of a fire occurring in an unoccupied flat.
Other considerations include the need for a smoke extraction system that will allow all escape routes to be clear of smoke and so provide reasonable visibility in the event of a need to evacuate the building.
Finally, David believes that procedures issued to residents in a block of flats should include the instruction to evacuate from the building if it is safe to do so. In other words, only to remain within the flat if evacuation from the building is impeded by the fire itself.
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