Fire risk assessments
A fire risk assessment is where a property is checked to see what hazards could cause a fire, the likelihood that there will be a fire and what would happen if there was a fire.
An assessment looks at the buildings and materials, what fire safety provisions there are, and the level of fire safety management.
By law, every block of flats and all business premises must conduct a fire risk assessment.
Unfortunately, they are often overlooked. This can result in buildings being unnecessarily exposed to fire risk and potential loss of life.
A block of flats includes houses converted into two or more flats. They must have a fire risk assessment of the communal areas only. This must include the front doors of individual flats. The landlord is responsible for the fire risk assessment, for keeping it under review, and for maintaining the fire safety of the communal spaces.
See the fire safety order 2005.
Fire risks are sources of ignition. This means anything that can get very hot or cause sparks. This includes:
- naked flames
- electrical equipment
- smokers' materials - for example, cigarettes or matches
Assessment aims and the 5 key points
A fire risk assessment aims to:
- identify the fire hazards
- reduce the risk to as low as reasonably possible
- decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are needed to ensure the safety of people in the premises if a fire does start
There are 5 key points that the assessment will cover:
- Identify the fire hazards.
- Identify people at risk.
- Evaluate, remove, reduce, and protect from risk.
- Record, plan, inform, instruct and train (if needed).
- Review regularly.
How fire risk assessments are done
A fire risk surveyor thoroughly looks around a premises.
They are assessing the building condition, age, layout, and its material contents to identify potential fire hazards.
They are also looking for:
- possible ignition (heat) sources
- combustible materials (able to catch fire and burn easily)
- ways to escape if there is a fire
Fire safety equipment is checked to see its condition and how well it is maintained. This includes access appliances, local hydrants, and other equipment.
The assessor will also note what fire safety signage there is, as well as what current systems there are for fire prevention and management.
How often they are needed
A fire risk assessment should usually be done at least once per year, but this depends on the type of building and can range up to once every 4 years.
An assessment also needs to be done when there has been a significant change in the environment, as mentioned in Article 9, (3) of The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Who’s responsible for them
Anyone who has control over the premises is responsible for completing fire risk assessments, whether that's an individual or part of a team for one area.
This could be an employer, or the owner or managing agent for any premises.
Storing equipment and materials in corridors
You should not store any items in corridors, as these are the main escape routes for anyone within a building.
However, depending on circumstances, small or temporary items may be allowed in corridors.
You should contact your fire safety team for advice.
Fire doors and self-closing doors
A fire door is a door with a fire-resistance rating.
They are used as part of a passive fire protection system to reduce the spread of fire and smoke between separate compartments of a structure.
They also allow for safe exit from a building, structure, or ship.
It is important that self-closing devices are not tampered with or modified. They play a vital role in closing the fire door.
Evacuation policies and plans
Stay Put Policy
A Stay Put Policy is an evacuation strategy used in purpose-built blocks of flats. It aims to keep people safe when they are not in an area directly affected by a fire.
It is used depending on the type of walls the property has. It must have walls that are fire resistant for 60 minutes and above and have compartmentation, which means the building is divided into areas that can contain fire. This reduces the risk of flame and smoke spread and gives the fire rescue team an opportunity to respond.
A simultaneous evacuation is when all parts of a building are evacuated at the same time when there is a fire.
PEEP - Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan
Residents that need help to leave a building in an emergency need a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan.
They might be needed by someone with a:
- mobility impairment
- sight impairment
- hearing impairment
- cognitive impairment
- medical condition or injury which might cause them to need assistance to evacuate safely
Properties in buildings without cladding: EWS1
Owners of flats in buildings without cladding no longer need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage their property.
Systems and devices
Fire alarm system
A fire alarm system is several devices that work together to warn people in a building that carbon monoxide, fire and smoke are present and that they need to evacuate straight away.
The alarm system will usually combine sound and visual warnings to bring attention to the emergency.
Smoke vent or AOV
AOV stands for Automatic Opening Vent. An AOV system is an
opening in the roof that is designed to open and vent the heat and smoke developed by a fire inside of a building.
Emergency lights are used when normal lights stop working.
This type of lighting can be either:
- standby lighting – a backup used when normal mains-supplied lighting fails
- emergency escape lighting – lights up areas to help people exit a building safely
Fire Action Notices
Fire Action Notices tell all residents about the fire safety arrangements for their block of flats.
In simpler blocks, a standard fire safety notice in the communal areas would be enough.