Common parts fire risk?

Common parts fire risk?

by Readers Question

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8:49 AM, 18th July 2022, About 2 years ago 4

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Hi, I have several flats in conversions in two-storey buildings. Yes converted pre 1991 Building Act. On viewing properties to buy I notice several now have a wired fire alarm and emergency lighting to the common parts.

However, in my opinion, as an experienced architect and chartered surveyor (retired) where the staircases/escape routes are very simple, the staircases have a window for natural light and smoke relief plus the staircases do not contain combustible furnishings and all flat doors are half hour nominal FR. The law/buildings acts don’t require such installations.

I was trained that:

1. emergency lighting is not for fire but for panic situations – as long as the wiring is buried in the wall or is PIR then it will last 30 minutes in a fire. Further that people would be familiar with the way out in their own home ( as opposed to a hotel or night club say). Plus emergency lighting is not much use in a smoke situation fixed to the ceiling!

2. A fire is unlikely to start in a staircase as there should be no combustible materials. The half-hour requirement relates to holding back the fire for 30 minutes for “if you not out in 30 minutes the fire is likely to be too intense and you’re dead anyway”. Thus the importance of flat doors being FRC and above the first-floor flats to have a ventilated smoke lobby with all rooms accessed off this lobby and to have 30min fire doors

Can anyone please direct me to the act/law requirements to install these systems to the common parts? Yes on my flats I have fire risk assessments that don’t say there is a need to install but these assessments are getting old.

Has there been a change in the law, please?

I am reluctant to check with installers on such as their advice is biased.


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11:17 AM, 18th July 2022, About 2 years ago

Dear Blair
Although I rely on my specialist installers tospecify they use BS5839 Fire Alarm System Category Guide to determine which system is the most appropriate.

In situations like yours (pre1991) I use L! to help compensate against the lack of separtation between floors.

Unfortunately, all the bells and whistles did not make a difference when an arsonist struck in a ground floor flat. However fortuitously an overboarded lath and plaster ceiling stopped the vertical spread, but melted the wiring and damaged the soldering in the floor space above.

So for the few pounds extra the L1 might cost me a life or injury is more important. My view is not what is the minimum specified but rather what is the best.


11:50 AM, 18th July 2022, About 2 years ago

I had an inspection last week in a 2 storey purpose built block of 4 and wired alarms were not mentioned as required. Emergency light was mentioned as priority 2 but deemed unnecessary as there is a street light outside.

As to new law - the Fire Safety Act 2021 is now in force following the findings of Grenfell


13:18 PM, 18th July 2022, About 2 years ago

It sounds as though your flats are in s257 HMOs. If that's the case then the 2006 HMO Management Regulations and the 2005 Fire Safety Order would apply, (presumably with recent amendments). This means that the freeholder is responsible for having and acting upon a Fire Risk Assessment. Depending on the extent of the communal area and the circumstances, I would have thought that recommendations arising would include at least Fire doors to the individual flats and interlinked alarms.


14:22 PM, 18th July 2022, About 2 years ago

Wired smoke alarms and 30 minute fire doors for flat front doors are required by Fire, Health & Safety Risk Assessments these days. See ARMA guidance to managing agents, etc.

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