Whale Fire provide the Howard De Walden Estate with their fire safety services carrying out fire risk assessments to over 200 properties in and around the Marylebone area.  This area is very busy and vibrant with many retail shops and restaurants located along the popular Marylebone High Street and Marylebone Lane.   The buildings vary vastly in their age, history, usage and complexity.  They range from very traditional purpose-built developments to modern and older converted and terraced buildings used for medical, office and commercial purposes.

Each building is different and has its own challenges so when we carry out fire risk assessments we have to take into account various factors such as the number of floors, reciprocal means of escape routes and shared usage.  Some buildings have dental surgeries and may have occupants under sedation whilst other parts of the building house commercial offices and residential flats.  The occupants may all share the same escape routes.  We have to design a fire alarm system and fire safety strategy which will ensure all occupants can safely escape and works for the building as a whole.

We also complete the emergency plans for the Howard De Walden Estate and have to ensure that buildings which are residential only have a management strategy in place to ensure the tenants can self-evacuate immediately.  Where dental surgeries and commercial offices are involved we need to ensure they have the right fire training in place to manage a fire evacuation.

Some properties may require a delayed system of five minutes before the system goes into full alert (two-stage fire alarm) which depends heavily on having competent staff members managing the situation when the alarm actuates.

Establishing a ‘cause and effect’ approach to fire detection systems can help identify the correct category of system designed to achieve the intended outcome on a building-by-building basis.

We have assisted with designing new fire safety guidance which deals exclusively with mixed use properties (residential, commercial and medical) and in varying combinations.  The factors that need to be introduced include how a fire alarm system deals with this mixed use and the compartmentation and separation between the different uses of the building.  The one-hour fire separation between premises can be deemed satisfactory from a life safety risk assessment perspective when combined with additional factors such as fire alarms, life suppression systems (when required) and reciprocal management procedures.

Our fire safety guidance deals with taller buildings of over 7-8 storeys high which impacts upon fire brigade access, water supplies, location of utilities to isolate, Automatic Opening Vent (AOV) and smoke control switches, etc.  The requirements may differ if the building has a mixed occupation but it is important that fire safety guidance and a comprehensive fire risk assessment identify how the height of a building, travel distance and building usage can impact upon the speed of evacuation.  This in turn can determine what is required to ensure that evacuation can be carried out in a safe and controlled manner.  

Working in and around the Marylebone area we need to be aware that many buildings are listed and within conservation areas.  This can severely limit what changes can be made to the compartmentation within a building such as replacing non-fire resisting glazing and fire doors.  Therefore we need a flexible approach and can consider introducing compensating factors which can be used as alternatives, such as AOV systems, fire curtains, sprinklers, etc., when the compartmentation within the building cannot be brought up to a satisfactory level.

This puts a greater emphasis on management and being highly dependent on staff members to implement plans.   Management systems need to be introduced in buildings of mixed use where there can be some human intervention (for example, by reception staff) and reciprocal arrangements need to be in place.  It must be understood by tenants that they cannot, for example, use lifts and ensured they have a clear understanding of how to evacuate their building, the location of escape routes and where to assemble.  We also need to ensure evacuation plans are in place when there are flats only and residents may need to evacuate by themselves, perhaps in the middle of the night.

Below is a list of items that we also consider when carrying out fire risk assessments to these properties, using a variety of fire safety guides such as the HM Government’s ‘Sleeping Accommodation’ Guide’, ‘Lacors’ and ‘Purpose Built Block of Flats’ guide.

·         Unoccupied basements/cellars

·         Surface finishes to escape routes

·         Buildings converted into self-contained flats

·         Flats in multiple occupation/mixed use buildings

·         Roof exits

·         External staircases

·         Dead end escape routes

·         History/risk of domestic fires

·         Law/legislation/overlapping

·         Means of escape specific to flats

·         Means of escape for flats not meeting current building regulations

·         Refuse/chute rooms

·         External fire spread

·         Engaging with residents


Other considerations include:

·         Medical premises with the possibility of bedbound or sedated patients

·         Disabled occupants in residential properties

·         Electrical safety/building works and the various impacts on risk

·         Managing risk, engaging with residents and the human element of sleeping/drunk/intoxicated residents, etc.

·         Dependence on AFA systems and AOVs, automated evacuation systems, fire service arrival without staff intervention, fire service access to zone maps, isolation points, disabled refuges, fire service switches, fire curtains, fire dampers, etc.


Introducing a framework on which to put together a fire safety design guide to suit a whole range of different buildings is good for the fire safety management in a building.  In addition to using a risk assessment approach for each building, we have established consistency and a reference point when making and justifying a decision based on the appropriate level of risk. 

Whale Fire carries out fire risk assessments and a whole range of fire safety solutions throughout the UK. For more information, email info@whalefire.co.uk or call free on 0800 772 0738.


Acorn Estate Agents
GQ Property Management
The Howard deWalden Estate
Hilton Hotels and Resorts
Kaz Minerals
Lismoyne Hotel
The Apartment Company
Alexander Property
Alfra TV
Carpenters Arms
Construction Youth
East End Homes
Harrys Bar
Marston Propertie
Money Corp
Performace 18
San Leon Energy
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