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
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
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.
Surface finishes to escape routes
Buildings converted into self-contained flats
Flats in multiple occupation/mixed use buildings
Dead end escape routes
History/risk of domestic fires
Means of escape specific to flats
Means of escape for flats not meeting current
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call free on 0800 772 0738.