Stay Put: Fire Strategy for Flats

“Should I leave my flat in the event of a fire?”

A question that has understandably been on the mind of many block inhabitants following the tragedy that befell Grenfell Tower. Knowing the way in which your building has been designed for such instances can help put your mind at ease.

Stay Put Policy

Most new properties have now been designed to support the ‘Stay Put’ policy – something that has been widely applied in the UK after being recommended by the British Standards Institution. The principles of this policy are based on a flats ability to prevent the spread of fire for up to 60 minutes, before arrival of the fire rescue service. If your flat is on fire, then you should evacuate. If the fire is elsewhere in the building, it is normally safe to remain where you are.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) support the ‘Stay Put’ policy wherever possible, with the view that it has proved over the course of many years to be a safe strategy for occupants residing in purpose-built blocks that are built and maintained correctly.

Building Designs Supporting Stay Put Policy

Purpose built flats designed to support the ‘Defend in Place’ (Stay Put) policy often use the following design principles:

  • High degree of compartmentation between flats and common areas
  • Individual flats formed within own fire resisting enclosure
  • Low probability of smoke or fire spreading from original source
  • Arrangements for maintaining stairways clear of smoke
  • Low risk of fire in common areas due to precautionary management

If your building has the above design principles in place, fire alarms and extinguishers will be considered unnecessary unless in plant and service rooms. This is due to the high number of false alerts that communal fire detection can cause, burdening fire and rescue services and leading to residents ignoring genuine alarms.

Difference Between Stay Put and Simultaneous Evacuation

If your building supports the ‘Stay Put’ Policy, there are different actions you should take depending on where the source of the fire is:

  • FIRE IN YOUR FLAT – exit the building and alert the Fire Brigade
  • FIRE IN COMMON AREAS – only exit the building if you are in the same area.
  • FIRE IN ANOTHER FLAT/AREA – remain inside your flat

All residents not directly affected by the fire would be expected to stay within their flat unless directed otherwise by the emergency services. This does not restrict you from leaving or alerting neighbours to escape if you wish to do so, however, ‘staying put’ helps to reduce the risk of entering a smoky corridor unnecessarily and potentially being overcome by smoke. It also helps fire fighters to tackle the fire quickly and safely without delay from a large number of evacuating residents.

The ‘Simultaneous Evacuation’ policy is an alternative strategy. It is mainly used for older blocks or flat conversions that cannot achieve the required compartmentation standards. This policy requires a detection and alarm system, and states that all residents should exit the building and proceed to the assembly point upon hearing the alarm.

The choice of policy is based on the individual fire risk assessment for your building which evaluates the communal escape route and its ability to withstand the spread of fire.

If you are unsure of the strategy for your building, then please contact those responsible for the management of your building. If we manage your property, we will be more than happy to talk you through the fire strategy in place for your block.

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