The LWF Blog

Fire Engineering Design and Risk Assessment – External Access for the Fire Service – Part 44

June 3, 2019 12:15 pm

In LWF’s Fire Engineering blog series for Architects and others in the building design business, we have been looking at firefighting. In part 43, the issue of external access requirements for a building was discussed and it was ascertained that the external access provisions for a building should not be reliant on a prescriptive percentage of building area, but rather planned to work alongside the internal access requirements for the individual fire attack plan. In part 44, we continue from that point.

While many buildings require access for portable ladders, platforms etc. it may not be necessary under certain circumstances. If the building does not have windows, has windows which are double or triple-glazed, if the windows are fixed shut, or if the windows are windows are placed too high for the highest reach ladder or platform within 30 minutes travel distance of the site, then access is not required, as it would not prove useful. In addition, if the building has sufficient protected staircases or firefighting shafts, external access may not be required.

All buildings, whatever their purpose, size, height, occupancy or usage must be provided with means of escape allowing occupants to make their own way to a place of safety and in addition, the building must provide a place of relative safety within the building, for those people unable to evacuate in a safe time (e.g. people with mobility issues), to await the arrival of the fire service. 

A Fire Service appliance should be able to stop within one hose length (approx. 20 m) and within sight distance of each fire attack access door to building, as determined by the fire attack plan.

Internal access for the Fire Service should also be considered and within England and Wales, Regulation B5(1) states:

‘The building shall be designed and constructed so as to provide reasonable facilities to assist firefighters in the protection of life’.

Approved Document B, relating to Regulation B5(1) states that the requirements given shall be met, if:

 there is sufficient means of access into and within the building for firefighting personnel to effect search and rescue and fight fire

 the building is provided with sufficient internal fire mains and other facilities to assist firefighters in their tasks and

 the building is provided with adequate means for venting heat and smoke from a fire in a basement.

While such requirements are fairly standard, it should be noted that they are only required in order to protect the welfare of people in and around the building. The extent to which they are required will depend on the use and size of the building.

In part 45 of this blog series, LWF will look at the provision and design of firefighting shafts. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us. 

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact Peter Gyere on 0800 410 1130.


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.

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