Fire Safety in blocks of flats – Flat Security and Fire Safety

It is often, and most unfortunately the case, that fire safety provision and security precautions can impinge upon the other’s effectiveness. In the case of blocks of flats, balancing the two is essential to afford the occupants security while also ensuring that fire spread or evacuation is not affected adversely.

This week’s blog will look at effective security provision which also is fire and evacuation safe, alongside some situations where changes must be made. We will begin with the flat front door.

As flat entrance doors are required to be self-closing, this can lead to instances where the flat occupant leaves the flat without a key, the door closes and they are locked out. As well as this being an issue for the occupant, it can be a serious fire risk if they, for instance, leave dependents in the flat who are unable to effect an escape in case of fire. The solution is not to remove the self-closing mechanism, or allow this to be done by the occupant, but rather to replace the locks with a design that allows the door to be locked from the outside, only with the use of a key, but that can always be opened from the inside by a lever or handle.

Another potential issue is where an occupant decides to add additional security to their flat. Additional locks, bolts etc. can have a serious impact upon an occupant’s ability to escape the flat in case of fire and, for example, a bolt which is placed high on the flat entrance door, or becomes stiff, can mean that children could not open the door from the inside.

It has also been known for occupants to add security grills and gates to the flat entrance door, or to any secondary exit. It is important that any extra security applied by an occupant does not affect the evacuation of the building, and so security grills or gates must be open-able without use of a key and must not affect the self-closing mechanism of the flat entrance door (or secondary exit door, if applicable).

Restriction or removal of these security additions may be necessary under the terms of the lease, where they would impinge upon the safety of the occupants and occupants of other flats, for instance, in the case of common escape via balconies, or where they would restrict fire service access to the flat of fire origin.

When considering the final exit doors in an escape route, all doors should be open-able via a lever or turn handle without the use of keys or a security code, for example.

In the case of flats which are empty and secured, the flat entrance door must remain self-closing and fire-resistant.

Next week’s blog will look at flats in mixed-use buildings. In the meantime, if you have any queries about a project or wish to discuss this blog series

The Complete Fire Safety Management Platform is the only fully comprehensive online fire risk assessment and fire risk management platform. Our aim, at CFSM, is to make the process of becoming fire safe, straightforward and, to use our expertise in fire risk assessment and fire safety management to guide you through each step, resulting in your premises meeting all legal, insurance and ethical fire safety considerations.