Temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation strategy in purpose-built blocks of flats
This month the National Fire Chiefs Council (FCC) Led Stakeholder group have updated the guidance on simultaneous evacuations and introduced key changes.
Following extensive consultation, the NFCC-led stakeholder group have updated the guidance on simultaneous evacuation and introduced key changes. This guidance provides fire safety advice in respect of purpose-built blocks of flats where a stay put stragety was part of the original design, but is no longer considered appropriate owing to significant risk issue such as combustible external wall systems (e.g cladding) being identified. Where such issues exist a temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation strategy is likely to be necessary until the failings have been rectified.
A simultaneous evacuation means that the residents of a number of flats are asked to leave together. It requires a means to alert all of these residents to the need to evacuate the building, for example, a full building fire detection and alarm system.
Changing from a stay put to a simultaneous evacuation strategy, due to the risk of rapid fire spread from combustible external wall systems and/or other serious building defects, has a serious impact on residents. This impact, which can be felt both emotionally and financially, should not be taken lightly. It should only happen when the Responsible Person, in conjunction with a competent person, determines through the fire risk assessment process that the issues with the building mean a stay put strategy cannot be sustained until the building has been remediated.
The guidance sets out measures to support the immediate safety of residents, whilst fully accepting that the principle way to reduce risk is to urgently remediate the non-compliant external wall systems.
The main changes are outlined below:
Advises consultation with residents and leaseholders to explore cost/benefit options
Emphasises the need to consider the installation of common fire alarms where measures are now, or are likely to be in place for the longer term.
Provides a clear distinction between waking watch and evacuation management as separate roles.
Emphasises that residents can carry out waking watches and/or evacuation management duties so long as they are appropriately trained
It also provides new definitions:
Short-term: the time required to formulate a longer-term remediation plan, as soon as practically possible and no longer than 12 months; and
Temporary: non-permanent measures implemented to mitigate an unacceptable risk in a building, as an interim measure, adopted for the safety of residents while works to rectify the identified fire safety failings are carried out.
Following the publication of this guidance we have reviewed the portfolio ensuring the buildings evacuation strategy meets the updated guidance.
A link to the full guidance is set out below: