Fire Risk Assessment

ALMO to Review Safety Measures

An arm’s-length management organisation is considering putting smoke alarms in the communal areas of a 12-storey block after a fire broke out in a children’s play area.

Twenty residents had to flee from their homes in Overstrand House in Hornchurch. The fire was contained in the children’s play area, also used as a store room, and 20 London Fire Brigade fire fighters had the blaze under control in an hour. The room itself was smoke damaged but no flats were affected and the residents were allowed to go back to their homes.

The 48-flat block in Sunrise Avenue is managed by PETRA Tenant Management Organisation while ALMO Homes in Havering is responsible for fire safety. A Homes in Havering spokesperson said: ‘All the flats within the block are fitted with smoke alarms though, in line with current fire regulations, fire/smoke alarms are not currently installed within the communal areas of the building. However, consideration will be given to installation of these in future.’

Our Response

Regarding the proposed installation of smoke detection in communal areas of purpose built flats.

The comments from Havering Homes regarding consideration of the  installation of smoke detection in communal areas of purpose built blocks of flats demonstrates a misunderstanding of  the evacuation strategy for this type of building. It is the case that   purpose built flats are designed as one hour fire resistant modules so that the safest place to be in the event of a fire is in the flat. To ensure that this is the case, attention needs to be given to the standard of fire doors and self closing devices.

A stay put evacuation strategy is recommended  in all purpose built flats where the compartmentation is sound. Introducing fire detection in communal areas will operate an alarm in all flats resulting in residents attempting to evacuate. This will result in staircases becoming overcrowded and more residents being put at risk. A full evacuation strategy does not work in this type of building.

Roger Balderstone, Head of Compliance, Safety Management (UK)

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