Welcome to the Plumis fire protection blog. Stay informed about domestic fire safety, fire building regulations and ADB-compliant solutions for open plan living. Please feel free to browse through the posts and comment about what you read.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

New guidance on fire safety in residential care homes

New, additional guidance for operators of residential care premises has been published to enhance the existing government fire risk assessment guide for the sector.

The additional guidance, published by the National Association for Safety and Health in Care Services (NASHiCS) and the Chief Fire Officers’ Association (CFOA), is designed to deal with issues including:

  • evacuation of a protected zone in 2.5 minutes
  • rooms of residents unable to evacuate – upgrading to 60 minutes fire resistance
  • staff remaining with residents who are unable to evacuate
  • the use of external fire escapes by residents
  • the travel distance of evacuation routes
  • the use of by-pass routes.

The additional guidance has been published to provide operators with a better understanding of the existing CLG guide and how it helps to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

The new guidance has been devised with the underlying principles that the safety of occupants is paramount; that staff training on the awareness and reduction of fire safety risk and evacuation techniques is vital; that risk should be reduced as low as reasonably practicable, as required by law; that there should be sufficient levels of staff to effect the fire safety strategy for a premises; and that the fire safety strategy should always take into account the ability of the building to withstand the spread of fire and smoke travel.

“It was felt that certain parts of the CLG guide required further clarification to allow residential care operators to fully understand their role within the [Fire Safety Order],” said David Hulton, lead member of the NASHiCS fire safety working group. “NASHiCS are very pleased that this guidance document is now being launched as it will provide valuable additional information for residential care premise operators."

Chair of the CFOA enforcement group, Nick Coombe, added: "It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work from a number of people to get us this far. All at CFOA are delighted that the document is now complete."

Dowload the NASHiCS/CFOA guidance

Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs) are an integral part of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order. They are carried out to highlight fire hazards and often result in upgrades occupied dwellings. Sometimes issues can be addressed by refitting walls, installing doors with improved fire resistance for compartmentation, or even fitting specialist alarm systems. In cases where the fire risk is either localised (e.g. a high risk kitchen, inner room or occupant) or the means of escape must be improved by protecting a specific area (e.g. fire escape route or landing), alternative active fire suppression systems, such as Automist, are worth consideration.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Penhallow Hotel company admits fire safety breaches

The fire was described as the worst in the UK for nearly 40 years
A Yorkshire company that owned a hotel in Cornwall which was destroyed by fire in 2007 has admitted two charges of failing to meet fire safety standards.
Three people died as a result of the fire at the Penhallow Hotel in Newquay.
O&C Holdsworth Ltd admitted at failing to provide proper fire detection and alarm systems and failing to make a proper risk assessment.
Two employees, who pleaded not guilty to similar charges, were discharged by the judge at Truro Crown Court.
The company, which admitted the charges brought by Cornwall Fire & Rescue Service and Cornwall Council, is to be sentenced in May.
The two senior Holdsworth staff, John McMillan and Nichola Burfitt, denied six offences. Their pleas were accepted by the prosecution.
'Absolute hell'
The fire broke out on 18 August 2007. Flames reached 30ft (9m) into the sky and the building, in Island Crescent in the town, was later demolished as result of the damage.
The fire, which was fought by more more than 100 firefighters, was described as the worst in the UK for nearly 40 years.
About 90 people managed to escape from the 54-bedroom hotel, but Joan Harper, 80; Monica Hughes, 86; and her 43-year-old son, Peter - all from Staffordshire - died as a result of the fire.
Mr Hughes, a teacher from Cheslyn Hay, jumped from the third floor of the hotel after trying in vain to save his mother but died in hospital.
Joan Harper, Peter Hughes and Monica Hughes died in the blaze
An inquest into their deaths held last year returned an open verdict.
It heard that the fire was believed to have started in a hotel bar drink store and spread to the rest of the building.
Investigators could not say for sure what had caused the blaze, although evidence given during the inquest suggested it had been started deliberately.
After the case, John Hughes - brother of Peter and son of Monica - welcomed the pleas, saying his family had been through "absolute hell" since the fire.
He said: "To lose two members of your family is beyond most people's imagination.
"The best thing that could come out of this is that the tourism agencies and hotels sit up and take note. There are still premises and hotels around the country that are not complying with fire regulations."
Cornwall Council said it welcomed the guilty plea.
Judge Christopher Elwen adjourned sentencing of the company, based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, until May.
Source - BBC

Fire warning over DIY loft conversions

Nottinghamshire residents are being warned about the dangers of carrying out DIY loft extensions after crews struggled to access a fire.

The landlord of a house in Aspley was issued a prohibition notice for converting the loft into a bedroom without council permission. A prohibition notice means a loft space and/or property cannot be occupied until the loft meets building regulation standards.

The property caught fire and fire fighters could not access the loft as the hatch space was too narrow.

A Gedling Borough Council spokesman said conversions had to be safe.

"A loft conversion can be a cost-effective way of creating more space within a house but it is essential the room is safe for people to use it," said David Ewing, building control manager at Gedling Borough Council.

"Carrying out work without the necessary permissions may also invalidate their house insurance in the event of a fire or structural problems."

(Source – BBC)

What do I need to do to ensure my loft conversion complies with building regulations?

If I want to carry out a loft conversion on your home, you must ensure the appropriate requirements of the Building Regulations are applied.

The structural strength of the proposed floor is sufficient; the stability of the structure (including the roof) is not endangered; safe escape from fire; safely designed stairs to the new floor; and reasonable sound insulation between the conversion and the rooms below.

You will also need to consider whether your loft conversion project is subject to The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 under which you must give adjoining owners notice.

For more information on the full requirements download the Building Regulations Explanatory Booklet.

Alternative means of compliance

Homeowners often carry out refurbishment projects in order to create living spaces which look and feel better. Unfortunately, modern layouts are often at odds with the fire safety requirements of Building Regulations: the regulations are very prescriptive in nature sometimes mandate either unattractive compartmentation or costly and unwanted sprinkler systems. However, Approved Document B (ADB) does suggest an alternative: the use of innovative fire suppression systems such as Automist:

"0.18. There are many alternative or innovative fire suppression systems available. Where these are used it is necessary to ensure that such systems have been designed and tested for use in domestic buildings and are fit for their intended purpose."

Automist from Plumis is a new innovative, best value, fire protection solution to facilitate loft conversions and comply with building regulations and the RRFSO. The system is available in a unique mixer tap version for higher risk kitchen fire protection and an inconspicuous wall mounting version to protect stairwells or escape routes. And provides design freedom and flexibility for open plan spaces, in new builds, refurbishments or loft conversions. An automatic water-mist device, which has been extensively tested and proven by BRE Global in Watford.