Giving tenants greater confidence in a building's fire safety

Our latest blog looks at how landlords can build the confidence of their tenants with regards fire safety in tall buildings.

Student residential building

Richard Sutton, General Manager, looks at how to regain the confidence of tenants in the fire safety of multi-occupancy buildings.

“Research by the BWF (British Woodworking Federation) in September revealed that three quarters of tenants would ignore the fire brigade’s guidance to ‘stay put’ if there was a fire in their building and their particular flat was not affected by fire or smoke.

When residents were questioned as to why they would not follow the ‘stay put’ advice, 39% said they do not have confidence in their building’s ability to stop the spread of smoke and fire, 28% said they do not understand why the “stay put” advice is in place and 61% stated they would rather take care of their own safety.  The same research also found that only 25% of tenants had discussed with their landlord about fire safety in their building.

The ’stay put’ guidance is issued by all UK fire services when dealing with high-rise blazes. It is based on the premise that high-rise buildings can be expected to contain a fire in the apartment where it started, which is known as compartmentation.  By ‘staying put’ in an apartment which is not affected by fire or smoke, the risk of being overcome by smoke in a corridor is reduced, as well as keeping access routes clear to allow fire crews to tackle the fire safely and quickly.  However, the policy does rely on buildings having a robust and well-maintained fire protection system.  Fire doors are an essential part of this, as is fire compartmentation to ensure stairways, corridors and escape routes are protected, giving firefighters safe access to the building to put out the fire.

A properly maintained and regularly inspected fire door is often the first line of defence against fires, helping to hold back smoke and flame and to protect residents until the situation can be brought under control.

After the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there was a sudden increase in activity with many local authorities and private landlords reviewing their maintenance and replacement programmes for their existing fire doors.  However, as the months passed, this has lost momentum somewhat and, as a result, we are finding that fire doors are now increasingly being neglected. 

Every day, our fire door team come across doors that are being propped open or damaged, which is leaving tenants at risk.  Often there is confusion about who should be maintaining the fire doors – which is clearly the responsibility of the landlord of the building.

In recent years, as shown by the BWF’s fire safety survey, tenants have lost confidence in the ‘stay put’ policy and indeed in the fire safety measurement of their building.  It found that they would rather risk their lives trying to make an escape than seeking refuge in their flat.  This is obviously fraught with dangers - if residents enter the corridor or stairwell they could easily be overcome by dangerous smoke or fumes.  If all residents have the same idea to try and escape at once then it can cause chaos or panic and the amount of people on escape routes can hinder the fire service as they try to bring the fire under control.

The 2017 home office figures show that the number of fires in high rise buildings has increased from 713 to 801.  The message very clearly needs to go to building owners, to restore tenants’ faith in the building they occupy through better communication about fire safety information.  Residents need to be provided with clear guidance about the fire safety measures in their building and encouraged to report any concerns they may have about damaged or mis-used fire doors.

If there is any doubt about the fire safety of a building, including the credentials of its fire doors, there is no substitute for partnering with a specialist company, like Horbury Property Services.   Following an audit of your building and its passive fire protection (including fire door and fire compartmentation inspections) we can produce a schedule that details actions that need to be immediately addressed and those that can be covered in a planned programme of works.

Horbury Property Services provides specialist inspection services for fire doors or fire compartmentation to ensure that a building is meeting requirements and remains compliant, in the interests of occupants and building owners.”

For more information about our services, including fire door inspections, fire stopping and fire compartmentation services, visit

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