VIEWS COMMENT Compartmentation streets

Richard Sutton of Horbury Property Services looks at fire safety in healthcare environments, and why it is of critical importance that fire compartmentation is properly inspected


n summer 2017, the Government ordered more than 17,000 care homes, private hospitals and hospices to carry out checks on the fire safety of their buildings. A number of hospital trusts were found to have serious breaches, whilst some had failings in basic fire standards and others were warned that a failure to properly compartmentalise areas was putting patients at intolerable risk if fire broke out (source: Health Service Journal). Fire safety continues to be a concern, particularly in hospitals that have had refurbishment work carried out, with managers now starting to question whether the buildings are as safe as they should be.

Government guidance on the issue of fire safety risk in healthcare

states: “Where the building has recently been constructed or significantly altered, the fire detection and warning arrangements, escape routes and facilities for the fire and rescue service should have been designed, constructed and installed in line with current Building Regulations, by following Health Technical Memorandum 05-02. In such cases, it is likely that these measures will be satisfactory as long as they are being properly maintained and no significant increase in risk has been introduced.” Health Technical Memorandum 05-02: refers the building designer to Part B of Schedule 1 of the Building Regulations, which details the requirements to provide for fire safety.

Fire compartmentation Building Regulations’ Approved Document B requires that the building be sub-divided into a number of discreet compartments or cells. As the dividing walls are filled with specialist materials, this prevents the passage of fire from one cell to another for a given period of time. This compartmentation offers essential protection, especially in larger buildings, such as hospitals or care homes, which rely on it to ensure the safety of occupants. It is essential that fire compartmentation is installed correctly and regularly inspected to ensure it has not been breached. This is best done as part of a fire risk assessment, which is required under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. The fire risk assessment must be carried out by a Responsible person and must be detailed and rigorous, covering many aspects, one of which is ensuring the integrity of fire compartmentation, including fire doors. Compartmentation – when it has not been breached and has been properly installed – should be able to contain large fires and limit the amount of damage to a building and its contents. As hospitals are occupied by many vulnerable and immobile people who may find it very hard (if not impossible) to be




Compartmentation offers essential protection, especially in larger buildings such as hospitals or care homes

It is essential that fire compartmentation is installed correctly and regularly inspected in order to ensure that this has not been breached

evacuated quickly in the event of a fire, special consideration needs to be given to fire prevention – and fire compartmentation, to ensure it is meeting patients’ needs.


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