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Fire Safety, Multiple Occupancy Implications
Fire safety management plays a significant role when achieving life safety requirements within a building. There are however, a number of issues that can make management more difficult. One such factor is when a fire risk assessment is undertaken in a specific area or building that is not solely occupied i.e Multiple Occupancy Buildings.
Multiple occupancy can take a number of forms - it can range from an office block, divided up into a number of tenancies, for example, all utilising a floor each; to a purpose built, mixed use development, e.g. ground floor retail outlets, with upper floors forming both office/commercial space as well as residential accommodation.
Therefore Managers of organisations who operate in multi occupancy buildings and who have a responsibility for fire safety must be mindful of the other uses within the building. The effect of one use upon another must be taken into account and this is clearly seen with the retail / residential example. Retail units typically operate within daylight hours and are empty at night, with the residential accommodation above likely to be the opposite. Should a fire occur within the retail unit at night (when no one is within the unit to raise the alarm), this could put the residential occupants at risk as they are likely to be sleeping. For this reason, fire precautions such as enhanced fire separation / automatic fire detection is likely to be required to ensure the risk from the retail to the residential occupancy can be mitigated.
Another area that is commonly overlooked with multiple occupancy is that many organisations only undertake assessments of their own areas/demise and do not adequately consider the common areas. The common areas are likely to form the escape routes from the property, and in this respect they can in fact become more important than the individual accommodation areas. It must be noted that under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, that co-operation between occupancies is a requirement that should ‘fall out’ of the Fire Risk Assessment (FRA) process.
Within the FRA other items need consideration. The responsibilities for fire safety systems must be clear, for example, the fire alarm system may be the responsibility of the landlord / managing agent, however the servicing of fire extinguishers may be the responsibility of each tenant as part of their contractual agreement. Failure to have a clear understanding or definition of such matters is likely to lead to systems not being appropriately tested and / or maintained, which not only contravenes the relevant standards, but also puts life safety of the building occupants at risk. It is clear that items could be overlooked by a lack of understanding, however it is also noted that the opposite may also be true, in that fire safety maintenance could be duplicated by different tenants which is not necessary.
Emergency procedures must be understood by all persons. Failure to communicate and understand these procedures can lead to confusion in the event of an emergency and could delay the evacuation and / or calling of the emergency services. Emergency procedures should also ensure an understanding of the evacuation procedure for disabled occupants.
It is clear from the above commentary that a centralised approach is required to ensure that all fire safety information, including significant findings of the FRAs are collated and communicated to all relevant persons. Failure to manage fire safety within multiple occupied buildings can lead to significant problems, the worst of which is considered to be compromising the safety afforded to occupants.
If you would like to know more – or would like to arrange an appointment with one of our senior fire safety advisers – simply call Peter Gyere, Marketing Director on 020 8668 8663.