London Fire Risk Assessments – Diary of a Risk Assessor May 2019

We had a phone call from a Gentleman who told us the following;

“I own one of Four Flats in a converted Three Storey House and I have asked the other Tenants if they have seen a Fire Risk Assessment for the Building, and they haven’t. I phoned the Freeholder and asked if there was one and they told me that there was. I asked if I could see it and although they said I could, it is not at the House and they haven’t sent it to me. I am worried because I want to rent my Flat out and I want to know that it, and the Building are safe…”

“Have you got any particular concerns?” I asked them.

“Well, I always thought that we should have a Fire Alarm and there isn’t one.”

“And it’s a Three Storey House converted into Four Flats?” I confirmed.

“Yes.”

“When was it converted?

“Oh it must have been in the early Eighties.” The Gentleman remembered.

“Well without seeing it, I can’t swear to it, but it is very likely that it does require Manual Fire Alarm and Automatic Fire Detection provisions.”

“Could you give me an idea of what sort of thing we are looking at?”

And so, I sent him the following…

LACORS. Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services. Local Government Regulations. Housing-Fire Safety. Guidance on Fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing. ISBN: 978-1-84049-638-3. Pages 46-47. Case study D11: Three- or four-storey building converted into self-contained flats has been used as an example.

LACORS. Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services. Local Government Regulations. Housing-Fire Safety. Guidance on Fire safety provisions for certain types of existing housing.

Fire detection and alarm system

A mixed system, Grade A: LD2 coverage in the common areas and a heat alarm in each flat in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route (interlinked); and Grade D: LD3 coverage in each flat (non-interlinked smoke alarm in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route) to protect the sleeping occupants of the flat. Subject to fire separation (above)

Management and maintenance of fire safety where the fire risk assessment identifies higher than normal risk, the BS 5839: part 6, LD2 interpretation of “rooms or areas that present a high fire risk to occupants” may include living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens within the flats, thereby providing automatic detection in these rooms in addition to the common parts and internal entrance hall/lobby within flats. Where this is the case, this additional detection would be an additional grade D system within the flat (i.e. a mixed system overall) so as to avoid whole-house false alarms.

What is required in this instance, in layman’s terms are Two systems.

One for the Communal area consisting of a Manual Call Point in the Hallway by the Entrance, exit door to the House and a Smoke Detector in the Entrance Hallway and on the First floor also a Heat Detector in the Entrance area of each Flat, These should be wired into the electricity supply and have a battery back-up. All of these should be linked to each other so that if one goes off, they all go off.

The Second system should, as a minimum, consist of a Smoke Detector in the Entrance area of each Flat and one each floor. These should also be wired to the electricity supply and have a battery back up but they are not linked to the system in any other Flat nor to the system that is in the Communal part. So, if you burn your toast the Alarm only goes off in your Flat. This Second system could have additional Detectors, perhaps another Smoke Detector nearer the Bedroom and a Heat Detector in the Kitchen. These should be linked together so that if the Detector in the Kitchen goes off it also sounds in the Bedroom and Hall and if the Bedroom one goes off it sounds in the Kitchen and Hall, and so on.

One of the reasons that you need the Two systems is that you want the First system to make you aware of anything happening in, or affecting the Communal parts, at the earliest opportunity so that you can escape from the Building. The Second system is so that you are aware of what is happening in your Flat, at the earliest opportunity, so that you can escape from the Flat but if it is the Toast, only you know about it.

London Fire Risk Assessments – always happy to help! Call 01689 890879 if you need Fire Safety advice or click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diary of a Risk Assessor – March

I was asked to “take over” a telephone call that came into our Office last week.

A nice French Woman who had been renting her London House to Groups of Students for the last couple of years had renewed her House Insurance, via a Telephone Call to a different Insurance Company, having become disillusioned with the previous one. The person on the other end of the line had taken some of her personal details and then had paused and advised her that the call was being taped, for, “training purposes and reference.”   Up until then the whole process had been casual and friendly, but she felt that the whole tone had changed as the person on the other end of the line told her that he would be asking a series of questions and said,

“It will help if you just give me a Yes or No answer.”

Because of the change in tone and a bad experience with the previous Insurance Company, the Woman concentrated on the questions and even more to her answers. She felt as if she was being unnecessarily cautious and then she was asked,

“Do you intend to meet all of the Legislative Requirements in regards to renting your property on a Commercial basis?”

“I don’t understand.” She said. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sorry.” The person on the other end of the line said, “Let me go through that again. Do you intend to meet all of the Legislative Requirements in regards to renting your property on a Commercial basis?”

“Are you talking about declaring the earnings?”

“And the other requirements in regards to renting your property on a Commercial basis.”

“Are you talking about those with Fire?”

“Yes, all Legislative Requirements.” The man said in exactly the same tone.

“Are you referring to one of those Fire Risk Assessments, as I am not sure that I need that?”

There was a silence from the person on the other end of the line before he said,

“Could I suggest that you research exactly what the Legislative Requirements are before we continue…”

“And so I hung up and called you.” She told me. “So I suppose I need a Fire Risk Assessment, Yes?”

“Yes you do.”

“So why didn’t he just tell me?”

Perhaps it’s more financially beneficial for the Insurance Company to speak in generalisations and not identifying the specifics of Insurance requirements until they do so in reply to a claim. But I only said that as an internal monologue and said to her,

“Tell me again the address of your property, Post Code, number of Bedrooms, Habitable rooms, Garden……………..”

If you need to talk through your Fire Safety responsibilities then call London Fire Risk Assessments on 01689 890879 or click here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIARY OF A FIRE RISK ASSESSOR – FEBRUARY 2019

Had an interesting visit last week after a nice couple Glenn & Debbie Hall had contacted the Office and asked if they needed a Fire Risk Assessment carried out on their “Garden Room” in Sunbury on Thames which they had just started to “rent out” through Airb&b.

So, there I was, sitting in the last of the sunshine, looking at the swans glide past in this idyllic backwater of the River Thames and explaining that ‘yes’, they most certainly do!

Back when the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was instigated and Mr Sadiq Khan was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Communities and Local Government his Department issued a Guidance Document entitled HM Government…Do you have paying guests?

This identified that the Law in regards to Fire Safety applies to guest accommodation in small premises, such as B&Bs, Guest houses, Farmhouses, Inns and Restaurants with rooms, Self-catering accommodation, such as Houses, Cottages, Chalets, Fats and holiday Caravans and Hostels and small Bunkhouses and therefore also this self-contained “Garden Room.”  If you have any paying guests, even in your own home, you must comply with the law on Fire Safety.

“A Fire in a Small premise is just as dangerous as one in a larger property.”

“Nearly all of the people who die in Fires in this Country are trapped in domestic premises.”

I explained that the law introduced in October 2006 – known as the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, made them responsible for taking steps to protect Guests from the risk of Fire and the foundation of this was to carry out a Fire Risk Assessment and, where necessary improve the Fire Safety measures and keep them under review.

The nice Gentleman Glenn said “But up until recent events, I hadn’t even heard of a Fire Risk Assessment and now you’re telling me that I’m breaking the Law if I don’t get one!” I did sympathise but what could I say other than, “Didn’t your Mortgage Company tell you when you took out your Mortgage? “No.”

“And your Insurance Company didn’t tell you when you took out your Insurance?” “No, they didn’t.” He said with the same exasperation I had seen several times before. “I am certainly going to take it up with them though!” He said staring at the River. “So, what happens if I don’t do an Assessment?”  “You are breaking the Law, and you could be putting people’s lives at risk.” I outlined the often repeated quote and went into my normal outline;  “The point of a Fire Risk Assessment is to reduce the risks and plan how to keep people safe if there is a Fire. If you fail to do it, you might be putting your guests, your property and your business at risk. Also, you may be inspected by the Fire Service, as part of its responsibility to enforce the law or, someone staying with you may report you to them if they feel at risk”.

“If the Fire Service visit and consider the measures you have taken or plan to take are not good enough to adequately protect people, they will give you a chance to put things right but if you fail to do this, the Fire Service may serve a ‘Notice’ on you that means you must put in place better Fire Safety measures. Ultimately, they could take legal action against you.”

Glenn took his responsibility seriously and said “Come on then, where do we start?”

I wonder how many other ‘Hosts’ on Airbnb are this responsible – perhaps Guests should check!