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SarahCK

Simultaneous evacuation

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Hi there,

 

I own a flat in a purpose-build block of flats with ACM cladding on some but not all of the facade. Remediation is still in the planning stages and we have been advised to change from stay put to a simultaneous evacuation policy.

 

The building has a communal fire alarm system in common parts of the building. Separately, each flat is fitted with a smoke and heat detector (not connected to the communal fire alarm system). We have received somewhat conflicting recommendations on the required interim safety measure.

 

The recent fire risk assessment recommends extending the communal fire alarms system by fitting additional detectors in each room facing ACM cladding. When we asked for proposals for such extension, we were advised that the communal fire alarms system should in fact be extended into each flat (regardless of whether they are facing ACM cladding or not) with one detector being fitted by the front door inside each flat.

 

I would very much appreciate to get objective expert advice on this. My questions are:

 

1. Does a simultaneous evacuation strategy require detectors and sounders as part of the communal fire alarm system within each flat?

2. Would it make sense to extend the communal fire alarm system only into those rooms facing ACM cladding (considering this only affects around 20% of the flats) as opposed to every flat?

3. The NFCC guidance for a temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation recommends to install a temporary common fire alarm system. We have been told that such temporary system does not exist to the standard required for purposes-build blocks of flats. Can you recommend a company who provides such temporary system?

 

Kind regards,

Sarah

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That's OK, I can answer then - it's similar to a situation I have across a few sites.

Traditionally the approach was to extend detection & sounders from the common system into every flat to facilitate full simultaneous or phased evacuation of the whole block - this was based on most ACM or HPL blocks being completely covered in the material.

Some blocks however only have selected strips of ACM only potentially linking a small number of flats, the greater part of the block being non combustible (e.g. brick) faced. In these there is an understandable reluctance to expand the system building wide (with the resultant cost to the flat owners on top of the already high remediation costs) when most flats remain both externally & internally structurally safe to retain a 'stay put' approach. In these proposals have been put forward to only put a temporary wireless linked system in each strip of flats with an ACM exterior with cover to the exterior facing rooms and the hall ways so that only the set of flats liable to be affected by an externally spreading fire that originated in one of them need to evacuate. This has been accepted and allowed a removal of the (very costly & unreliable) waking watch.

It's important the FRA and resultant mitigation strategy clearly defines which route is required and why.

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