FQA - Fire Questions Answered

Means of Escape and Evacuation

Disabled evacuation - During a recent H&S audit of a ground floor building I discovered the electronic swipe access/egress door emergency exit button (green button break glass) was positioned at about shoulder height. Perfectly suitable for anyone standing up but would be difficult to operate for anyone in a wheel chair. Can you point me in the right direction to find out if there is a min/max height for these switches, I have looked through the DDA regulations but unable to find anything to confirm.

Security versus means of escape - My daughter is renting a flat in Glasgow which was broken into recently. The landlord was asked to fit additional locks on the sash windows but said he couldn't due to fire safety regulations. Is this correct, if so, are there any products on the market which would be deemed acceptable by the fire department and current legislation pertaining to fire safety with regards to hotels, care homes and rented property.

My wife works in the public sector. She is visually impaired and wears hearing aids but can see well enough to get around her 9 storey office building OK and on the last fire drill was able to exit the building within 8 minutes from the 9th floor using the stairs. The contractor in charge of fire matters has at a recent assessment decided that there should be 2 'buddies' on each floor available to accompany her at all times if her work takes her to another floor. Presumably they would 'help' if an evacuation was to take place. On arrival at work she can go to her place of work using the lift to the 9th floor without being accompanied by 2 buddies though! She has worked there for 9 years and now feels she is being singled out. Comments like the worst case scenario is 'if all the lights went out' are not very constructive.

Register of staff in the building - I am hoping you can provide me with some advice and information. I work for a housing association based in Northern Ireland. We are expanding and I am seeking guidance on how best to monitor which staff are in the building. In particular I am thinking of instances of a fire and needing to know who we are responsible for/need to account for.

Register of staff in the building - Can you please let me know if it is a legal requirement to have staff signing in when they arrive at our practice and signing out when they leave?

How often do external metal fire escape stairs have to be checked for integrity? Who would be classed as competent to do this? Where are these requirements written?

Final exit doors - I recently undertook a fire risk assessment in a children’s nursery. The nursery is housed in an old school building, circa 1800’s, and is not fitted with proprietary push bar final exit doors, other than in a more recent extension, 1980’s.

All final exit doors are fitted with a key lock and bolts top and bottom. My concern is that at the start of each day the Nursery Nurse designated as Fire Warden unlocks all doors and removes the keys but leaves all the top bolts locked. This for security reasons and there is a history of theft from the building during working hours, the primary concern clearly the security of the children.

I know that this is far from ideal from a fire safety view point but also know it is not an uncommon practice. In this case I believe the greater risk is a security risk to children. All staff are aware of the situation and fire drills are undertaken with the doors bolted.

I am considering accepting the current position with a recommendation that all bolts are maintained in a free condition and that consideration is given to the replacement of doors over a period of time as funds permit. The nursery is a registered charity so they are not over funded.

What would be the FPAs definition of Ultimate Place of Safety please.

Assembly point location - I have looked for Guidance on the siting and location of Fire Assembly points for a building and was enquiring what guidance is given to determine an assembly point location for a building. I understand some of the principles relating to this but wanted reference guidance.

Number of exits - I have been asked whether one fire exit from a department where 14 staff members work can be blocked off. This would leave 3 exits leading to other parts of the building and eventual final exit points, but only one exit leading directly to a final exit point. This exit is a double door, opening inwards. I'm looking for some guidance about how to assess the acceptability of this.

Securing final exit doors - At a recent internal inspection of our church property by a local Met Police Crime Prevention Officer, we were advised that thieves were finding it easy to force an entry through panic bar emergency exit doors and advised that it would be a good idea to install an easy to release chain lock system on the inside of these doors. Can you advise if that would be recommended as best practice from an emergency exit point of view with these panic bar doors? I have not yet spoken to our insurance company.

Compartmentation and Basement Fire Doors. I need some advice on the required regulations for a fire escape in the basement of an office block such as minimum door width, thickness. Also does the door have to open outwards? Are there any other important factors that need to be addressed in the installation of the door?

Keeping means of escape clear. Could you please advise me what rules exist regarding the placement of furniture near to a fire exit in domestic (hostel) premises?

Lobbies and refuges - Please advise when a smoke stop lobby is required in building. Smoke stop lobby is a small lobby created between the exit access path and a staircase in order to create an area of refuge.

Must all of the exit routes in my building be indicated by signs?

What do you reckon on the requirement for 'attendance sheets' for staff as a record of who is in the building? We use then for our main office but not for our sister company’s premises where the maximum number of staff is 5. We have a manager in the same building telling us we must have then and to get all clients to sign in and out.

It is an open plan office so everyone knows when people are in or out and people are responsible for their own clients who are in the diary, except for those just calling in to drop off letters which, it is being insisted, we must also get to sign in. (I have pointed out I don't sign in when I go in Tesco!)

Could you shed some definitive light on the following matter with regard to fire risk assessment in the common/communal areas of purpose built flats please?

The local Fire & Rescue Service have adopted a stay put policy from www.local.gov.ukFire Safety in purpose-built blocks of flats recommends that fire alarm and detection systems need not be installed at common areas and that front doors to flats that are to be FD30 or FD30S need to have a closer fitted. Is this the current document to adopt when conducting fire risk assessments in purpose built flats or do we need to also consider Approved Document B and other British Standards?

Can you please explain the legislation regarding the use of fire exits for general use. My query is directed at a commercial premises whose staff use the fire exit as access to a smoking area at the rear of the building, where the fire exit is then left open for the duration of each smoke break. However, at my workplace, we are instructed that fire exits are not to be used for anything other than an emergency.

I have been asked to verify the maximum capacity of a sports hall within a leisure centre and logically this should be based primarily on the available exit widths (less discounting of the largest exit of course).

I understand and grasp the logic of the capacity of different width exits as contained within the CLG guides, but was then puzzled by the different capacities given in Approved Document B (ADB). For example, for a place of normal risk within the CLG guide a 750mm exit should cope with 100 people (40 x 2.5mins). However, in ADB a 750mm exit is indicated as suitable for only 60 people? Which is correct?

We have a board room within our London office that is being refitted and will be used on occasions for holding training session’s theatre style. For the Fire Risk assessment I need to know the legal limits in relation to how many people can attend at one time theatre style. I am guessing that this will be some sort of calculation involving the size of the room?

I am looking for some advice about the fire safety of a nursery. We are looking at a potential site in Harrogate but it is over 3 floors and the building currently only has one staircase. Are there any factors we must consider when opening a childcare business in a building over 3 floors? do we need specific fire safety in place other than the alarm system? Are we allowed to house the babies (0-2 year olds) on the top floor? We have recently met with the local fire officer but the advice was non-specific and they haven’t given us any definitive answers as yet. Please advise if you can or pass me onto someone who may be able to help. All of the information we find on the internet tends to be specifically for schools rather than children’s nurseries. Many thanks.

We currently have an attendance register which people tick in and out which assists with fire drills etc. We have designated people who carry out a ‘sweep’ of the building in the event of a fire/fire drill. We have now invested in access fobs for people to enter the building via other doors, and therefore they don’t tick in an out now. Is it still necessary to have a fire register?

We were under the impression that as we carry out a sweep system in the event of an emergency evacuation being required that perhaps a register wasn’t necessary?