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Fire Separation :


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I recently visited a purpose built small block of flats (Ground & 3 over). Block was built around the early part of the 20th century, maybe 1920's. Consists of a main front door from the street leading to a small open lobby and 1 central staircase serving all floors. The doors to individual flats open directly onto that staircase with no additional fire separation. They appeared to be quality constructed doors but, for various reasons, I was unable to verify if they were fitted with intumescent strips & cold smoke seals. The block as a whole is fitted with automatic fire detection in the the communal areas and within each flat. A coupe of questions :

1/ Given the age of the block, is the lack of a protected staircase acceptable bearing in mind that it is the only egress from the upper floors ?

2/When I had a look at the back of the block there was clear evidence that at some point in the past an external metal fire escape had given additional egress from each flat by way of their balconies. The external fire escape had been removed possibly through deterioration but I cannot be sure. Should it have been replaced ? Should they have consulted the local fire & rescue authority ?

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It appears at first to be a major problem but if you study the LGA guide and LaCors guide things are not that bad.

The LGA guidance states, 58.26 Current benchmark design guidance for small, single stairway blocks is as follows,

• in single-stairway buildings with only two flats per floor, the lobby between the stairway and the flats is not essential, providing the flats have protected entrance halls – in these circumstances, the vent at the head of the stairway should be an AOV operated by smoke detectors.

The LaCors guide has a similar building, page 47 but is converted flats and your premises would meet that guidance.

You haven’t mention AOV or permanent ventilation in the staircase which would most probably be required. I do not think there is need for the external escape staircase but the balconies would act as waiting place for rescue by the FRS as a last resort.

If you are not familiar with the above guides, study them and I am sure they will provide the answers you are looking for.

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