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Scope of "compartmentation" term

Martin B

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I'm a leaseholder of a purpose-built block of 8 flats built in 1985. The current managing agent had a FRA carried out in July which seems highly dubious in its recommendations.

It is a 3 storey block with a services riser shaft, where each access cupboard on ground/1st/2nd floors has a fire door. Leaseholders were misled in 2008 by a previous managing agent to have a communal fire alarm installed "to comply with new legislation". I have known for many years that this requirement was false. The alarm system has been depowered and non-operational since 2015.

For some inexplicable reason, the assessor failed to notice that the alarm system was not operational (There is no power, control panel is dead! It could literally not be more obvious...). The report says there is a maintenance contract in place for the alarm system, which is also false.

He says:

Whilst it would be normal for a purpose built block to adopt a stay put policy, a common part alarm system has been installed. It is noted that there are breaches in compartmentation in the accessible common parts with the service riser not being fire stopped at each floor and breaks in plasterboard finishes where gas and electric services are run through. For this reason, without the benefit of a fully invasive Type 4 fire risk assessment the simultaneous evacuation strategy is considered to be the right approach. However, to adopt that strategy effectively the common part alarm system will need to have heat alarms interlinked added to the inside of each flat entrance door that opens onto the common stair.


There is no vertical separation between the ground floor service riser and the top floor riser. There are small breaches in compartment walls where has and electric services have been run through.
The client should engage with a suitably accredited passive fire protection contractor to make good holes where services have been run through and provide fire stopping between floors in the service riser subject to advice being sought from a gas services engineer to confirm the ventilation requirements for the incoming gas mains.

Seems to me this is illogical. I can't see how the presence of a non-working fire alarm brings him to the conclusion that "simultaneous evacuation" is the correct policy when it is explicitly discouraged unless there are unusual circumstances (which there aren't).

He also seems to have a gross misunderstanding of 'compartmentation'. Everything I've read defines 'compartmentation' as ensuring there is sufficient fire-resistance between each flat and between flats and common parts. The 3 storey entrance hall and landings would therefore be a single compartment and I think this includes service risers. In total the block would have 9 compartments. But he's talking about gaps in the floor within the service riser (which is protected with fire doors anyway) and claiming that is a breach. There is NO breach of compartmentation between common parts and any flats.

Am I understanding this correctly?

many thanks

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Yes, they are completely wrong in many aspects

- The riser shaft will have been constructed as a 'protected shaft' as per Building Regulations (both then and now). It will be constructed of fire resisting wall material and access doors should be fire doors. There is no requirement to stop at each floor level
- Any horizontal penetration does need to be fire stopped to maintain the integrity of the shaft, this work would need looking into but is a lot less of an issue than trying to stop the floors (extortionate cost)

- The fire alarm was never needed, the standards in a purpose built flat block from a 1985 build would generally suit stay put. It is not by itself indicative of a need for a simultaneous evacuation procedure, just an indicator for a closer investigation of the premises.

- A lot of assessors try and cover themselves by asking for a Type 4, which is an unusual one off exercise where there appears to be serious issues with the structure (often in pre 60's builds and even then not too commonly needed)

Does the report show that they inspected a sample of flat front doors? Even the most basic type 1 communal FRA should do this (and should have done even before Grenfell). Does it address smoke control provision or lack of (which doesn't mean you need to retrofit). I'm just wondering what it's looked at.

For the record - Principle fire consultant for a BAFE SP205-1 third party certified life safety fire risk assessment provider, Individually registered Tier 3 (High Risk/Complex Premises) on the National Fire Risk Assessors Register and holder of Advanced FRA in Residential Premises certification - so I do have some experience with this!

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Hi Anthony

Many thanks for your detailed reply. Yes the flat doors were inspected:


When assessed in the closed position do fire doors appear to provide notional resistance to fire and smoke for a period of time?

Doors appeared to be sound, imperforate and well fitting.


Are all doors identified as being required for fire protection considered to offer notional fire resistance in that they are smoke stopping, tight fitting and self closed in line with relevant guidance?

As a relatively new purpose built block it is reasonable to assume that all flat doors were certified fire doors when built. If any are changed in the future they should only be changed for FD30s certified fire doors. On the day of the assessment doors were seen to be sound, imperforate and closing effectively onto their stops.




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