London Fire Brigade

Landlords

My responsibilities

If you are a 'responsible person' you have a legal duty to keep your property safe from fire through the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

You have to ensure there is a comprehensive fire risk assessment that details the fire safety provisions that are in the property. This is usually carried out by a professional fire risk assessor and might identify additional measures that should be carried out as appropriate.

You should also develop an emergency evacuation plan for residents and ensure they know the actions they need to take in the event of a fire.

This plan must make sure residents and others are safe, that a fire can be detected and residents are warned if they need to evacuate. The structural protection provided within the building must protect residents or allow them to safely escape from fire or smoke using the corridors and staircases if necessary.


Resources for a 'responsible person'

Guides to help councillors scrutinise the safety of purpose built flats in their constituencies.

Audit tool to help examine whether the right measures are in place and ensure that refurbishments of blocks don't negatively impact fire safety.


Issues that need particular attention

Based on our past experience and recent incidents here are some is some additional guidance on specific fire precautionary arrangements and other issues that need particular attention.       

 

Fire doors

Fire doors stop the spread of heat and smoke in the event of a fire. All flat front doors and doors on corridors and staircases must be ‘self closing’ fire doors.

Poor adjustment of self closing devices or inappropriate choice of closer type can cause fire doors to close very quickly and bang, disturbing residents. To stop this, residents wedge fire doors open to stop the door fully closing  and banging. This can weaken the door closing device and stop the door from properly closing, making the door less effective at stopping the spread of fire.

  • ensure ‘self closing’ fire doors are fitted on all flats, corridors and staircases

  • make sure doors don’t bang shut, to avoid them being wedged open

  • regularly check door closing devices haven’t been tampered with or become defective

Without this fire protection residents won't be able to evacuate when necessary due to smoke logging and high temperatures in escape routes.

 

Fire protection and ‘fire stopping’ in service risers; between flats; and between flats and means of escape routes

Fire protection and fire stopping to service risers, and between individual flats, corridors and the means of escape routes prevents the rapid spread of fire throughout blocks of flats and is essential. This is often breached when utility companies (gas, electricity, TV cabling etc) run new services between flats, or between common parts and flats. In our experience these breaches are often not resealed correctly with fire resisting material/stopping to maintain the fire protection. 

 

Fire stopping barriers within wall cavities


Fire stopping in wall cavities can help to stop the spread of fire from one room to another. It is required by Building Regulations, but we do see this problem in some modern buildings.
Older timber frame construction often doesn’t include fire stopping in wall cavities. Although such structures are safe if correctly constructed, the lack of fire stopping in some older structures is a cause for concern. In more than one case this has resulted in total loss of the building.

If you’re concerned about fire stopping in wall cavities:

  • have all walls checked by a surveyor

  • implement any changes recommended by the surveyor

 

Storage and security


Tenants storing belongings in communal areas can pose a real risk to safety. Items can accidentally be set alight, or be set alight deliberately. In the event of fire items in hall ways and on stairs can stop people escaping, and stop firefighters doing their job.

  • corridors, stairs and stairwells are clear

  • electrical and gas riser cupboards aren’t used to store anything

Building, refurbishment and redecoration


The Fire Safety Order stipulates that risk assessments should be reviewed if any material change is planned within an occupied building.  This includes changes to compartmentation arrangements, refurbishment and redecoration works particularly if these works affect the common parts of the building. These will require:

  • complete risk assessment

  • implement the findings of the fire risk assessment and ensure adequate general fire precautions continue

  • include an update to your evacuation strategy as part of your risk assessment

Your tenants should be safe to remain in their flats in the event of fire elsewhere in the building, providing the premises continue to comply with both the Building Regulations and the Fire Safety Order, and suitable management and maintenance procedures remain in place.


If, for any reason, you feel that your property may not comply with Building Regulations and the Fire Safety Order the emergency plan and evacuation strategy for the building needs to be changed and you should provide tenants with appropriate advice about the evacuation strategy and actions to be taken.

 

Replacement windows


Replacing windows, particularly uPVC window units can contribute to fire risk, if they’re not properly installed.
uPVC window units are often not as deep to the original units and create gaps. In the event of fire these gaps can allow fire into the wall cavity, increasing the damage to the building and increasing the risk to people in the building.  Building Regulations require fire stopping around windows, but the problem may exist in many properties with windows that were replaced before April 2007.

  • have all windows checked by a surveyor
  • implement any changes recommended by the surveyor

Non-fire resisting uPVC panels as part of replacement of window units can contribute to total failure of the windows during a fire. This can allow the fire to pass upwards across the exterior wall to the windows of flats above.

 

External spread of fire - cladding


Carefully consider your arrangements for specifying, monitoring and approving all changes to facades of buildings you are responsible.

When installation and replacing elements of a building’s facade, including insulation, replacement double glazing and associated spandrel and in-fill panels you must:

  • comply with all parts of the Building Regulations

  • document any changes and make information easily available for fire risk assessors

  • update your evacuation plan and ensure your residents know the plan during the works and after the work is complete

  • review your risk assessments for your premises during and after changes have been carried out 

develop a strategy to prioritise these risk assessment reviews based on building characteristics such as height. Where necessary implement short, medium and long term actions to address the risks.

your risk assessment must take into account other fire safety measures already in place, as well as potential mitigation measures to ensure that any potential fire spread does not pose a risk to health and safety.

All Local Authorities and Housing Associations received an instruction from DCLG on 18 June 2017 to carry out safety checks on cladding.

Any queries about this should be sent to: housingchecks@communities.gsi.gov.uk

 

Smoke ventilation systems


It is important that the ventilation strategy is fully understood for your building; including its purpose and function. This information should be included in the fire risk assessment and included in a fire strategy for your building. In order for any ventilation system to fulfil its function it is critical that flat front doors are maintained in good working order, are a minimum of FD30 and have a functioning self closing device.

Fire incidents and Brigade fire safety audits of premises have demonstrated that in some cases smoke ventilation systems installed in residential buildings are not operating correctly. In some cases, natural smoke ventilation of common corridors, lobbies and staircases by windows or permanent vents is also being removed, obstructed or otherwise compromised. In the event of a fire there is the potential that smoke can be contained and spread within a building rather than being vented to the atmosphere via these dedicated smoke ventilation provisions.

Smoke ventilation of escape routes, combined with limitations on travel distance in corridors and lobbies, is designed to assist means of escape for both the occupants who have escaped from the flat that is on fire and for others who may choose to escape subsequently. It may also be there to assist fire-fighters to gain access to the floor of the fire incident. As a result it is extremely important to design, install, and maintain these smoke ventilation provisions so that they operate correctly and safely.

We recommends that as part of your on-going maintenance and fire risk assessment programmes you arrange to have the smoke ventilation arrangements within your buildings checked and maintained by a competent person. Where relevant, any automatic systems should be checked to ensure that the only vents that open are on the floor where the fire is first detected and those at the head of any smoke vent shaft and the stair. Vents on all other floors remain should closed (even if smoke were to be detected subsequently on those other floors).

Some smoke ventilation shafts have electromagnetic holding devices to secure/ release vents. These  can have an unpredictable performance due to a loss of power to the devices, or through the magnetic fields of the devices being weakened as temperatures rise. This increases the likelihood of fire and smoke spread in a building, with no means to remotely re-set the vents that have opened.

If there is any doubt as to whether a smoke ventilation system has been designed and installed correctly in the first instance, or you require further guidance in relation to the above mentioned issues, we recommend that reference is made to the current industry best practice document:


‘Guidance on Smoke Control to Common Escape Routes in Apartment Buildings (Flats and Maisonettes) - First published Nov 2010; Revision 2 published 12 October 2015

Fire Fighting Facilities

The facilities provided to support fire fighting in high rise blocks are critical, particularly if a ‘Stay Put’ emergency plan is in place.

Fire fighting facilities must regularly checked and maintained to ensure effective operation

  • access for fire appliances,
  • fire fighting lifts,
  • fire main inlets and risers,
  • smoke control systems,
  • Premises Information Boxes
  • clear signage for firefighters.