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Meter Cupboard - Detection

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Hi all,
 
I’m after some thoughts on the below scenario
 
  • Block of 6 flats - 2 flats per floor across 3 floors
  • On the ground floor is an electrical meter cupboard in the Communal area opening onto the means of escape
  • Walls, floor and ceiling are concrete - the doors are not fire doors
 
I work for a provider of social housing and part of my role is to carry out Fire Risk Assessments. 
 
I recently carried out a fire Risk Assessment (so far I’ve covered about 60 blocks) and generally find that the meter room is being used for inappropriate storage by the tenants (from pushchairs to butane gas 🙈) or there’s evidence of the electrical equipment overheating. We can’t keep them locked as tenants need to read their meters and forget to lock the door afterward. 
 
At the start of my Assessments I was carrying out a visual inspection of flat entrance doors and identified there are no intumescent smoke seals. I was requested to stop doing this as the findings were becoming a ‘headache’ for my manager / organisation as they currently believe the doors are FD30S and don’t want to hear anything different due to cost implications.
 
One of my recommendations is to fit an FD30S door to the meter cupboard and to install some Detection in the cupboard as otherwise, how would anyone be alerted to a fire?
 
I appreciate Detection is not required as a benchmark however, by only fitting an FD30s door won’t it simply delay the spread? What’s 30+ Minutes when your asleep in your flat at night?
 
It has been suggested to me that any fire in the cupboard should burn itself out which is fair enough however, I still think a detector in the cupboard would ensure that we as a company are alerted to a fire, however minor, so that we can carry out the necessary remedial work to prevent it from becoming a bigger issue.
 
I’ve read the sleeping Accommodation guidance and the purpose built blocks of flat guidance. To be fair, both do not advocate for Detection in Communal areas of flats built to building regs unless there is an issue with compartmentation (which I suppose currently there is due to the flat entrance doors). 
 
Sorry for the long question but what would you do?
 
 

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Not very long ago a landlord and a fire risk assessor was jailed for not producing an adequate FRA I would suggest you include in your FRA all items you consider a significant finding, if the RP considers them not to be,  it is up to him/her to ignore it.

Deciding if a fire door meets the required standard is not easy, if you do not have written documentation, you could conduct research in this area, or get a FDIS inspector to provide it, but unfortunately it will cost.

Because of the location of the meter cupboard it should be enclosed to a FR standard and the fire door fitted with a lock, with appropriate signs fitted. If the tenants keep leaving it open then explain to them, the dangers of arson and the possibility their escape route, in a fire, could be impassable, try to educate them.   

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Hi Tom,

Thank you for the response, it’s great to know there are like-minded people who simply want to create a responsible fire safety culture and attitude.

Thats what I thought with regard to the meter cupboards

With regard to the flat entrance doors, I’ve been told a fire door inspector is being bought in to carry out a 100% check of our doors, all of which are composite. The company I work for are requesting that, as they are doing this, that I remove the flat entrance doors as a significant finding and place it somewhere else in the report as an advisory without a risk rating / timescale attached, which to be honest I won’t be doing as I’ve got no confidence in the doors having taken a look at them and I would rather they weren’t ‘buried’ in the report. This is another reason why I will be recommending a smoke detector in the meter cupboard also, unfortunately some of our blocks have historical issues with regard to housekeeping, storage and smoking within the block, we’re lucky if the door handles are still intact at the time of the FRA! Just to add to that, many of our blocks are never subject to fire safety checks to ensure that final exit doors work, housekeeping is to a good standard etc. (Another recommendation that’s been disputed 🙄

Appreciate the advice Tom.

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Being cynical is a good trait for a fire risk assessor in the past I have trusted those in control of the money and been let down, worst of all, if things had gone pear shaped, I know who would have been hung up to dry. 

I am not sure about the smoke detector in the cupboard, what type of system are you going to install, it could be fraught with problems. Although fire safety checks would be ideal to my knowledge it is not common, and the FRS inspecting officers rely on regular FRA's to maintain standards.

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I agree that the smoke detector is a little over the top and I would not usually make such a recommendation. My concern is that some of the significant findings I have raised were raised 8 years ago by another assessor and by the fire and rescue authority and they’ve not been actioned. 

With regard to Detection, I suppose it would have to be a Grade D LD2 System although I wouldn’t want Detection in the means of escape as I feel this could be detrimental to the safety of tenants in event of any fire in the escape route. I do appreciate its not an ideal situation and I’m not overly comfortable with it myself and I hope they carry out all other recommendations to further reduce the need for such detection. 

With regard to checks, I have recommended periodic checks as per the ‘fire safety in purpose built blocks of flats’ to include checking the operation of final exit doors and electromagnetic devices, Visual check of any Communal fire doors and nominal flat entrance fire doors for signs of damage and to ensure housekeeping is monitored. 

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Hi Guys

I operate a similar function to you SW and in the scenario you outline regarding meter cupboards on an escape route we would do as follows:

Ensure compart-mentation in the cupboard was good, i.e. seal around cables etc. passing through back, side walls etc.

Depending upon existing doors we may line them internally, or change them to be FD30s.  We would fit a lock often a simple square budget lock, as we have found that we have less issues with tenants being locked out or leaving them open etc.  and often get tenants locking up after others, It is very much about educating occupants and housing managers too.  We will on occasion fit closers too if they were full size doors.

In regards to seals we would ensure that they had intumescent strips fitted rather than Combined with cold smoke brushes to allow any smoke out of the cupboard to activate the protected escape route smoke detectors.

I have added detection to cupboards but dependant upon the cupboard size, use and location etc.

 

Cheers

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