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4 Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter ASK THE FPRA


This issue we have a “bumper edition” of our popular question-and-answer section. The new fi re regulations are giving our members quite a headache. The admin offi ce has been fl ooded with queries on fi re safety, some of which appear here.


The Government has downgraded the offi cial level of threat of a terrorist attack – does that mean your block still needs to purchase terrorism insurance? Read on for answers to this and other pressing questions....


FIRE SAFETY Q A


We run a block of 56 fl ats on six fl oors, with basement parking too. We have had contradictory information and advice on what safety/hazard signs we should be displaying inside the building and in the parking area. The local fi re authority prefers the minimum, in order that those on display make an impact. We originally went with that concept. But now a company specialising in safety assessments has conducted at our request a fi re-based risk assessment and has suggested in their report that we should have yet more signs. They, of course, are paid to suggest that whatever our previous arrangements were, they are incorrect. Should we believe them (in preference to the fi re authority)? We do already have signage for fi re exits on every fl oor as well as fi re doors. Our preference would be to issue all residents with a copy of the emergency plan and what to do in the case of a fi re rather than plastering that information all over the corridors. Do you have a view/ guidance on this issue? FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman replies: As you know, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 became law from October 1, 2006. The main effect of the changes will be a move towards greater emphasis on fi re prevention in all non-domestic premises, including communal parts of blocks of fl ats but NOT the fl ats themselves. Fire certifi cates have now been abolished and have no legal status.


Responsibility for complying with the Fire Safety Order will rest with the ‘responsible person’. In a block like yours this will probably be the Company Directors, or any other person who may have control of the communal parts of the premises. If there is more than one responsible person in your premises, all must take all reasonable steps to work with each other. The responsible person will have to carry out a fi re risk assessment, which must focus on the safety in case of fi re of all ‘relevant persons’. In your case that will be residents and ALL visitors to your building. It should pay particular attention


Issue No. 90 Autumn 2009


Members of the committee respond to problems and queries sent in by members.


to those at special risk, such as the disabled and those with special needs, and must include consideration of any dangerous substance likely to be on the premises. Your fi re risk assessment will help you identify risks that can be removed or reduced and to decide the nature and extent of the general fi re precautions you need to take to protect people against the fi re risks that remain. ONLY if you employ fi ve or more people must you record any signifi cant fi ndings of the assessment. I would however, strongly recommend you keep records of any assessments that are made. You may want to contact your local council offi cers to discuss your specifi c requirements regarding signage, but my view is this would be your decision to make based on the advice from the various professionals which, as you described, are often confl icting. The short version of the Government guide to the new law and the full 127-page guide are available from the Department of Communities and Local Government. In our case we consulted our local authority fi re safety adviser, who provided us with free advice and made a number of recommendations which we considered along with the advice from building control offi cers and various contractors. The Directors balanced all of this advice and reached our own view as to how best to deal with any risk, but I tend to agree with you to give greater weight to the Fire Service advice. Your contact in London is Mr Dick Nye, Fire Safety Regulation, LFB/HQ, Union Street (2nd Floor) TEL: 020 8555 1200 extn 30808, FAX: 020 7960 3610


Q A


In your Spring newsletter, there is a reference (on page 8, First Landlord Imprisoned) to smoke alarms in the common parts of a block of fl ats. Are these now compulsory? Please advise. Robert Levene, FPRA Chief Executive, replies: The installation of any fi re detection or prevention equipment will be the subject of a recommendation contained within the Fire Risk Assessment. The Fire Risk Assessment Report is compulsory for the person or body having control of the building, in the case of an RMC or a self managed block the requirement falls to the RMC or the appointed manager. Recommendations contained within the report will vary from block to block but may contain a recommendation to install smoke detectors, fi re alarms and evacuation procedures. The recommendations are precisely that – recommendations. But if they are ignored and nothing done the person with day-to-day control is liable to prosecution. The local fi re authority are the prosecuting authority. There is no compulsory requirement to have smoke alarms but in the interest of safety they should be considered in light of


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