Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats

It is always intended that the occupants of a flat where a fire occurs should evacuate immediately. The concept of the ‘stay put’ strategy, where other residents remain in their flats, is explained here

Fire safety – how blocks of flats differ from other residences

The high degree of fire separation between flats and the common parts is achieved by making each flat a fire-resisting enclosure. This is known as compartmentation.

Key points

While escape within flats is based on similar principles to those for houses, reaching ultimate safety relies on using the corridors and stairs (common parts).

  • Most blocks of flats are designed on the ‘stay put’ principle. Although this relies on there being effective compartmentation.

  • Provided there is effective compartmentation and means of escape, ‘general needs’ blocks of flats will not normally require a communal fire alarm system.

  • Communal fire alarm systems should not be installed unless it can be demonstrated that there is no other practicable way of ensuring an adequate level of safety.

Inevitably,fires do occur in which, the fire and rescue service decides to evacuate others in the building. Fires have been known to spread beyond the flat of origin to involve other flats or to spread across the top of blocks through the roof voids. In these cases, total evacuation of the block has sometimes been necessary. Fortunately, these fires are rare. They are usually the fault of failings in the construction.

Stay Put

When a fire occurs within one dwelling (or, less likely, in the common parts), it is normally safe for other residents to remain within their own flat.

A ‘stay put’ policy involves the following approach.

  • When a fire occurs within a flat, the occupants alert others in the flat, make their way out of the building and summon the fire and rescue service.

  • If a fire starts in the common parts, anyone in these areas makes their way out of the building and summons the fire and rescue service.

  • All other residents not directly affected by the fire would be expected to ‘stay put’ and remain in their flat unless directed to leave by the fire and rescueservice.

  • It is not implied that those not directly involved who wish to leave the building should be prevented from doing so. Nor does this preclude those evacuating a flat that is on fire from alerting their neighbours so that they can also escape if they feel threatened.