Q: Since our inception over five years ago, we have regularly carried out weekly fire alarm tests and monthly emergency lighting tests, recording the results These are in addition to the normal servicing requirements which are in place for both.
Recently, in our enquiries regarding a managing agent, an assertion was made that these need not be carried out, going against our view that these were a legal requirement.
FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies:
This issue has come in to real focus following the recent tower block tragedy. Therefore I anticipate I will be updating my advice in due course once the investigation and report have been completed.
As it stands, at the moment the current legal framework to follow is the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which makes the directors of a company responsible for managing fire safety risk in blocks of flats. In reality, in a block your size this would not be onerous and would essentially be keeping a ‘watching brief’ to ensure the alarm and lighting are working and maintained in accordance with the manufacturers’ requirements and that the means of escape is kept clear for use in emergencies.
Personally, I wouldn’t have thought sounding the alarm weekly is necessary unless you employ staff responsible for evacuating the building. The same for the lighting, as following manufacturer’s instructions would suffice and be proportionate.
Having said that, and especially in the light of recent events, the other residents may feel more reassured by these more regular tests. I was involved in the guidance note for Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks on behalf of the FPRA after the last fire in a block of flats and that guide is available to download from our members’ website.
This is an extensive guide designed to assist those with the legal responsibility of fire safety in blocks as all blocks are different.
The Fire Service used to have responsibility. Now this has been passed to the ‘responsible person/s’, However, the Fire Service continue to be responsible for enforcing breaches in the law. Therefore it is always best to discuss your own block’s requirements with the local fire safety adviser as any breaches could invalidate your insurance as well as potentially have more dangerous consequences.
[Submitted July 2017]