Fire safety

Flats and maisonettes

Planning means of escape from flats and maisonettes involves a number of inter-related aspects which must be considered as a whole and not in isolation.

  1. Planning and protection of escape routes leading to safety both horizontally and vertically allowing people confronted by fire to turn their backs on the problem and make their safe escape without outside assistance.
  2. Fire resistant separation of escape routes.
  3. Segregation of risk areas.
  4. Means of detection of fire.

As there is a high degree of compartmentation in blocks of flats - the spread of fire from one dwelling to another is unusual.

It is therefore no longer assumed that in the event of fire it is necessary to evacuate the whole building, whole floors or even houses next to the fire.

However occupants of other dwellings in the building on fire may feel a need to escape especially if they live in dwellings close to the affected one. This is why the same emphasis is placed on the safety of escape routes outside of the dwellings as is within the flats.

Means of escape in the flat

A fire starting in the dwelling must not prejudice the escape of the occupants of the same dwelling.

It is essential, particularly in open plan dwellings, that kitchens are located remote from the flat entrance door so that occupants when escaping can turn their backs to the fire in these areas.

Main design features are:

  • Protected entrance halls / private stairs in maisonettes.
  • Limited travel distances in entrance areas.

Means of escape from flat entrance door to final exit

The aim is to make sure that a fire in any one dwelling will not obstruct the escape route of the occupants of any other dwelling.

This is achieved by providing fire protected stairways / corridors to make sure that fire / smoke does not spread to this part of the escape route.

In design, consideration has to be given to:

  • Number of stairways.
    Level of fire protection to the escape route.
  • Travel distance from flat entrance door to the staircase.
  • Risk areas.
  • Emergency lighting in the shared escape routes.
  • Smoke clearance in the staircase enclosure.

Means of early warning

The provisions indicated for single family dwellings all apply to flats with the following additions.

  • No provision of detection in common areas.
  • No requirement for the interconnection between installation in separate flats.
  • Maisonettes to be treat similar to two storey houses.

Fire spread / compartmentation in flats

The spread of fire within these buildings can be restricted by dividing them into compartments separated from one another by fire resistant walls and floors.

The object is two-fold:

  • To prevent rapid fire spread which could trap the occupants of the building.
  • To reduce the chances of the fire growth.

This applies to every wall and floor separating individual flats from each other and also from other unoccupied parts of the building.

Careful consideration has to be given at both the design and build stages to maintaining the fire separation around the individual dwellings by:

  • making sure that there are no weaknesses at the junctions of all fire compartments and
  • making sure that all openings in fire resistant walls / floors for services to pass through are adequately sealed.

Loft conversions

Many households choose to extend into their loft space.

This provides specific problems in relation to fire.

Please refer to the guide to extending your home.