While the idea of improving your fire protection provision in a block of flats might sound expensive, it may be that there are ways of doing so without breaking the bank. In this blog, we will take a quick look at that and then move on to look at examples of good practice, which can be implemented without capital outlay and allow you to demonstrate due diligence.
When undertaking repairs or improvements to the block because they are necessary, or because something has ceased to work, replacing the item with an updated and more fire safe option can boost your fire protection provision while costing a negligible amount more. One example is that if it is necessary to replace a lift in the premises, upgrading that lift to current fire-fighting lift standards would vastly improve the protection offered to firefighters should they need to enter the building in case of fire.
It should also be noted, of course, that in cases where upgrade is not possible, the current standards should be maintained. Windows and doors within your block must achieve certain fire protection standards and should be replaced with a window or door of at least that standard and, where possible, upgraded to the most up to date version available.
If you are undertaking a renovation project on a block of flats and wish to know more about which areas could be upgraded in terms of fire protection, it may be wise to seek the advice of a suitably competent and experienced contractor in that field. A fire engineer could inspect your premises and offer a report on areas which could be improved upon before your building works commence, allowing you the opportunity to maximise your investment by improving your fire safety provision. Of course, the same report could contain information about potential hazards during building works and how these can be mitigated, so overall, a small investment can reap sizeable rewards for your building and its occupants.
When contemplating how to illustrate due diligence, record-keeping should be near the top of the list of methods to employ. It is good practice to keep records of all fire safety training which is undertaken with members of staff and also, what tests and maintenance have taken place within the block. These records can help to illustrate and prove due diligence in the case of an inspection or where a fire has taken place and you are being scrutinised.
The method of record-keeping is a matter of choice, with some organisations preferring to keep a physical log book and others recording their fire safety training and testing on a computer.
When a new block of flats is purchased for use, the Building Regulations 2010 states that information on the fire safety design must be passed to the people managing the building for use, so that they can meet their obligations under the FSO. Where fire-engineered methods have been employed instead of code-compliant solutions, this is especially important, to ensure effective maintenance and codes of practice within the block. If you purchase a new block, you should receive this information. However, in the case of older blocks, it is unlikely that this information will have been documented or passed on to the previous owner (although it’s always worth asking).
As an agent, landlords or tenants rarely ask me about fire safety. I make it my business to check for myself because, selfishly, it makes no sense for me to risk our business reputation. once we are satisfied that adequate building fire protection is in place, we then recommend a “landlord pack” is placed in a rental unit, which comprises various CO and CO2 detectors, fire extinguisher and blanket, torch and first aid kit. We firmly believe it is in the best interests of both landlord and tenant that we go beyond the minimum health and safety requirements. This will protect the tenant’s safety and the landlord legally in the event of an accident or emergency.
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