Given that residential buildings are the typical location of fires, fire safety in apartment buildings with many households is a very significant issue.
As a result, it’s crucial that every person knows the fire safety precautions in their building, and how to flee if a fire breaks out in their flat or building. Additionally, building managers and tenants alike have legal obligations with regard to fire safety. Tenants should be aware of these obligations and fire safety measures.
Everyone finds the idea of a house fire terrifying, but those who live in apartments or blocks of flats frequently experience this fire risk anxiety more intensely. Multi-unit residential structures may provide particular fire safety issues. Many flat dwellers don’t even consider the possibility of confusion in the escape routes out of the building and the strain on management companies to balance tenant safety against a number of conflicting interests.
However, if you reside in a flat, being aware of the dangers and coming up with a strategy to prepare for a fire could save your life. A little planning and observing fire risk assessments can prevent a small incident from turning into a major tragedy.
This guide will provide some ways to improve fire safety in communal areas of flats.
What causes fires in blocks of flats?
The majority of flat fires are typically blamed on irresponsible behaviour by its residents. Among them are cigarettes that are not properly extinguished, ignored, and thrown out of windows.
A block of apartments and a lifetime’s worth of possessions can quickly be destroyed by overloaded sockets, resulting in financial misery, disturbed lifestyles, and incurred costs.
Residents can take safety precautions to make sure that no fire starts as a result of an overloaded electrical socket.
An additional reason for electrical fires in apartments is outdated wiring. The wiring in older homes is insufficient to store the increased number of electrical equipment that typical families use today. These include widescreen televisions, computers, microwaves, and air conditioners.
When a circuit is overloaded by too much electricity, breakers are designed to trip. However, obsolete, old breaker boxes frequently have connectors that are worn out and rarely function, overloading the systems and leading to an electrical fire.
Who is responsible for undertaking a fire risk assessment?
The building manager or landlord should bear the most responsibility. This is because each building owner can influence how their apartments are laid out, and fire safety needs to be a top focus, especially in shared spaces or common areas inside the blocks. These include stairwells, hallways, etc.
However, there may be a Residents’ Management Company in some tower blocks, that chooses a member to be in charge of the building’s fire safety. The person in charge of ensuring that the common areas of your block are fire-safe is typically referred to as the “Responsible Person”, and or the “Accountable Person(s)”.
Such a person is accountable for making sure the flat complies with UK law and has a current Fire Risk Assessment for the building. Additionally, they must make sure that the communal rooms are adequately protected from fire and that each tenant of the apartment block is informed of the building’s fire safety procedures and standards.
5 ways to improve apartments and flats fire safety
1. Smoke alarms
Smoke alarms should be fitted in your apartment. Your landlord should be responsible for ensuring the correct fitting of these alarms; however, it is your responsibility as a tenant to change the batteries if needed and to test them regularly, ideally once per week.
The building may have a fire alarm system fitted. This will depend on the level of risk presented to occupiers when needing to evacuate the building. Where a fire alarm is fitted, it is generally the responsibility of the residents’ management company and/or landlord to maintain the system and carry out regular testing.
2. Fire-resistant doors
When the doors are closed, fire-resistant doors act to stop a fire from spreading from one room to another. Depending on the material, they typically lower the heat from the fire by around 90%, making it safe for anyone trapped in adjacent rooms to leave and call for help. In case of a fire, it is highly recommended to have fire doors in your home.
3. Clear escape routes and corridors
All protected escape routes should be sterile of unnecessary fire loading (things that can burn), and clear of any obstacles that present a trip/fall hazard. The protected escape routes should be clear of these items to allow safe escape for occupants, and safe access for the emergency services. In the event of fire where an escape route is filled with smoke, any items within these areas are unlikely to be visible to escapees and the fire service.
4. Maintain dry risers if you have them
‘Dry risers’ are installed on tower blocks that are taller than a specific height. Regular maintenance is required for these empty pipes, which the fire brigade utilises to pump water to various levels in the case of a fire.
5. Fire risk assessment
The common sections of the building, such as the stairwells, entrance halls, corridors, fire doors, riser rooms and bin stores are inspected during a Fire Risk Assessment. They will assess the building’s fire protection and that of the occupants as well as those adjacent, noting any areas that require improvement.
Depending on the height and number of floors of the block will depend on whether the apartment entrance doors are inspected. See “Fire safety in communal areas of flats FAQs” on the next page for further information on fire doors.
There is no legal deadline to meet, therefore how soon a fire risk assessment is assessed will totally depend on the specifications of your structure.
Need help with fire risk assessments?
It’s crucial to be informed of your legal responsibilities in regards to fire safety regulations before starting any necessary evaluations because landlords and property managers are legally required to complete fire risk assessments.
Scanlans provides fire risk assessments and inspections as a part of our property management services. Our team can help you ensure that your premises are secure and in accordance with all relevant legislation.
Fire safety in communal areas of flats FAQs
- What is a fire risk assessment for a communal area of flats?
Common stairwells and entrance halls, as well as other areas of a building that are used by everyone, are typically included by a fire risk assessment. The evaluation takes into account a building’s “general fire precautions” in the communal areas.
- Who is responsible for fire safety in flats?
Residential building landlords, property managers and freehold owners have a legal obligation to see that a fire risk assessment is done to find and eliminate any fire risks and hazards, or to limit these as much as feasible.
- Are fire doors a legal requirement in flats?
Fire doors are a legal requirement for flats which open onto communal areas shared with other tenants.
- What are the legal requirements of The Fire Safety Regulations (England) Regulations 2022?
The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 have been introduced. The Regulations that apply to England only are being introduced under Article 24 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Fire Safety Order) and came into force on 23 January 2023.
Below is a useful Government link for you to check your fire safety responsibilities. This will depend on the height/number of floors of your apartment block.
Check your fire safety responsibilities under the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)