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Changes to Fire Safety in England

On 23rd January 2023, new Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 came into force. These new regulations have placed additional duties on the Responsible Person in addition to what they had under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Our Property Managers attended new Fire Safety courses in January this year to bring their knowledge up-to-date with the new Fire Safety (England) Regulations.

The Responsible Person is typically:

  • The Freeholder/Landlord
  • The Residential Management Company (RMC)
  • The Managing Agent
  • The Right to Manage Company (RTM)

What are the new Fire Safety Regulations?

The new regulations apply to all buildings in England with two or more domestic premises and common areas that residents would need to pass through in order to evacuate during a fire.

The fire safety regulations cover blocks of flats and student accommodation, buildings with mixed-use residential and commercial.

The regulations do not apply to the individual flats themselves but to the shared building parts, including the doors.

  • Flat entrance doors
  • Corridors and stairways used by residents of two or more domestic premises
  • Walls and floors separating flats from other flats
  • Common areas and non-domestic areas such as tenant halls, offices, laundries, gyms, shops
  • External walls of the buildings, doors, windows and external areas such as balconies.

There are additional requirements for buildings above 11m and 18m because the taller the builder, the greater the fire risk. There is a major focus on building plans, external wall systems, essential fire-fighting equipment, PIBs (Premises Information Box) and wayfinding signage.

Fire Safety Regulations for all residential buildings

Fire safety instructions must be displayed where they can be seen and understood easily. These should include:

  • The evacuation strategy for the building – either stay put or simultaneous evacuation.
  • Instructions on how to report a fire. Which number to dial and the address to give the fire brigade.
  • Any other instructions if a fire breaks out.

These instructions must be given to new residents as soon as possible after they have moved in. The must be re-issued to ALL residents at least every 12 months and, when any major building change occurs.

Instructions for Fire Doors

Building occupants should be advised to:

  • Shut fire doors when not in use
  • Not tamper with self-closing doors or the mechanism
  • Report any fault or damage to fire doors immediately to the Responsible Person.

These instructions must be given to new residents when moving in and at least every 12 months.

Fire Safety Regulations for buildings above 11 metres or at least 5 storeys

Fire doors to be checked every 3 months by the Responsible Person. There is a right and a wrong way to check fire doors. These checks do no need to be carried out by a specialist, but any maintenance and repairs MUST be carried out by a qualified contractor.

Flat entrance doors need to be checked at least every 12 months, and Responsible Persons will need to arrange access with residents to carry out fire safety checks.

Records regarding access are now required. It is in the best interests of every resident that these checks are carried out.

Fire Safety Regulations for buildings above 18 metres or at least 7 storeys

Buildings above 18 metres are known as high-rise buildings and for each high-rise building the Responsible Person will be sharing the information with the nearest fire and rescue service.

This information will be sent electronically. If you want to find out your nearest service, visit the National Fire Chiefs Council website.

These are the details that will need to be provided are:

  • Details of the construction of the external walls.
  • An overview of the design of the external walls.
  • Brief information on the construction, insulation and cladding materials.
  • Any known defects in the construction (either as originally built or more recent defects)
  • Identification of the level of fire risk these materials pose, as gathered from a fire safety assessment.
  • Mitigating steps taken to reduce this risk.
  • Monthly checks on lifts and any defects that cannot be remedied within 24 hours to be reported to the Fire and Rescue Service
  • Wayfinding signage to assist the Fire and Rescue Service on each floor on a block of flats with a top storey more than 11m above ground level. This includes floor identification signs and flat indicator signs.

The information will be high-level and of practical value to assist the fire and rescue service with their fire performance and risk assessment.

Floor plans

Floor plans now need to be submitted identifying the location of lifts and firefighting equipment. If floors are materially identical, a single plan for these floors can be submitted but the plans need to be labelled with the floors they are related to.

Building plan

The building plan will be a single page showing:

  • The building and its immediate surroundings
  • How the building is used (commercial, residential or mixed use)
  • Building dimensions and number of storeys and basement levels
  • Any maisonettes or scissor section flats
  • Building access points
  • Inlets for wet and dry rising mains
  • Key fire-fighting equipment

The building plan should also show:

  • Main stairways
  • The secure information box
  • Firefighting shafts
  • Sprinkler system shut-off controls
  • Central controls for smoke control systems
  • Controls for evacuation alert systems

The copies of floor plans and building plans must be kept in a secure information box (see below). They should be A3 in size and laminated.

Secure Information Box or Premises Information Box (PIB)

The fire and rescue services attending the building need access to building information so a secure information box must be a lockbox that fire personnel have the key to access.

The box must contain the following:

  • The name, UK address and telephone number of the Responsible Person
  • The name and contact information of others who access the building on behalf of the Responsible Person
  • A copy of the floor plans and building plans

The box should be inspected annual to ensure it stays secure and accessible. The PIB must be located in a clear and obvious position for the Fire and Rescue Service. Clear signage should indicate where it is and the base of the box must be 1.4 m from the ground. Ideally, it should be fitted inside the property. A PIB can be unlocked using either a key system or a mechanically operated keypad.

Guidelines on the placement of the secure information boxes can be found on the Fire Industry Association’s website.

There are a lot more recommended guidelines than we can add here, which is why all of our Property Managers have attended additional courses in January to ensure a thorough understanding of the new Code of Practices.

There is a lot of new procedures with regard to the information supplied to the Fire and Rescue Services in advance.

Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW)

FRAEW surveys are recognised by the Govt and Fire Brigade as a life safety tool as of February 2022. They are not a replacement for the EWS1 forms.

The FRAEW survey is a highly specialised service offered by a fire engineer or building engineer.

Further information:

You can read more in this Government Guide

The full Fire Safety Regulations

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