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.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Scottish fire law guidance on selecting fire risk assessors

New guidance on selecting suitably competent fire risk assessors has been made available on a government website.

In its FAQ section, gives information on current fire risk assessor registers and schemes. It lists registers held by the Institution of Fire Engineers, the Fire Industry Association, Warrington Certification, Institute of Fire Safety Managers, Institute of Fire Prevention Officers, and provides direct links to them.

It states:

“If you are looking to employ a fire safety specialist, it can be difficult to judge the competence of companies and persons who advertise their services as fire risk assessors. The fact that a person or company is operating in the fire sector or that someone has previous fire service experience, does not mean that they are a fire safety specialist.

“There are a small number of fire risk assessor registration schemes in operation for persons and companies that carry out fire risk assessments.”

It adds a proviso, however, that the Scottish Government has no role in the administration or approval of these schemes, and that he information is provided solely to make duty holders aware of their existence.

It is believed that this is the first government guidance in the UK which mentions in detail the existing professional registers and fire risk assessor schemes, and provides links to them. It comes just a month after the news that the Scottish Government departed from previous practice and started promoting the benefits of using third party certificated fire protection products and services.

It is thought that the move towards recognising the value of third party certification and professional fire risk assessor registers came from recommendations given by Colin Todd, an expert witness in the fatal accident inquiry into the Rosepark Care home in Lanarkshire, in which 14 residents dies in 2004.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Don't Fan the Flames in your Flats!

Most people would accept that fire prevention is ‘common sense'. However, here are some true statements made by residents complaining about fire risk assessments -

"We've been living here for years without an incident why should we bother?"
"Fire Risk Assessments - This is just jobs for the boys"
"Risk Assessments are money for old rope"
"We haven't got enough money - it'll have to wait"

Focus on residential blocks and fire safety increased with the introduction of the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005 ("RRO") that became law in October 2006.

Like much legislation interpretation can be a nightmare. In simple terms the RRO means that those that have control of the premises ("the responsible person/s") have a legal duty to ensure that sufficient fire precautions are in place to protect relevant persons within the premises. In order to establish what fire precautions are required a fire risk assessment must be carried out. Within a residential block it is the communal areas that fall under the legislation not the residents flat.

In order to conform with the RRO, the fire risk assessment should be specific to the premises and ideally carried out by an independent and competent person. The risk assessment will provide you with details of any equipment or remedial works that you may need to ensure that there are sufficient fire precautions in place. To ignore the recommendations of an assessment is as bad as not having one carried out. Block Managers and RMC's should bear in mind that if an incident occurs and there has been no Fire Risk Assessment carried out or recommendations from an assessment have not been addressed then the consequences for the responsible person/s will be determined in a court of law.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Schools 'ignore' active fire protection advice

Around two thirds of new or refurbished schools planned for the capital have not been installed with sprinklers, the London Fire Brigade has warned.

It follows Government guidelines introduced three years ago that recommended that automatic sprinkler systems should be fitted in most new and refurbished schools.

Sprinklers stop fire from spreading and "greatly reduce the chance of death or serious injury", the fire service said.

The figures have been released to coincide with the publication of new guidance from the brigade encouraging builders and developers to install sprinklers in schools, residential care homes, social housing and commercial premises. Called Think Sprinkler, the booklet is to be sent out to architects, building managers, care home owners and social landlords

Fire chiefs are consulted on the plans for newly built or refurbished schools in the capital and, according to the service’s figures, 49 out of 75 schools that have proposed building work in the last three years were not going to install sprinklers.

A spokesman for the service said: “Every year, one in eight schools suffers a serious arson attack. The cost of school fires is around £65 million with London accounting for over a third of the cost.

“As well as having a huge financial impact, these fires cause disruption to students, teachers and families and can have a devastating effect on the wider community.”

Arson figures have been taken from The impact of school fires, a study undertaken by the National Foundation for Educational Research commissioned by Local Government Analysis and Research.
Chairman of London fire and emergency planning authority’s community safety committee, Cllr Susan Hall, said:

“It’s time for building owners and developers to stop playing such a high risk game and gambling that there will never be a fire in their building. For too long architects and developers have ignored the overwhelming benefits of sprinklers in reducing the damage and potential loss of life a fire can cause."

Active fire protection can be an excellent way of addressing fire risks.