Wednesday, 04 March 2015

Evacuation or 'stay put' policy?

Posted in: Need to Know | Ask the Experts

27/06/2011 3:26 pm

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29/06/2011 4:39 pm

Sure, which newspaper or television programme do you write/ work for?

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Rick Campbell

Rick Campbell

Location: Macclesfield CHESHIRE
Posts: 424

29/06/2011 7:41 pm

I would adhere to the experts' policy -- the Fire Service, that is .. which is, as far as I know very simple --- GET OUT, STAY OUT!

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Lee Page

Lee Page

Posts: 108

30/06/2011 9:17 am

I'd agree with Rick that the experts are the Fire Services rather than a housing forum.

The general advice has always been to get out if it is safe to do so and this is more problematic in high rise blocks. Here, traditionally the advice has been to stay put until the fire brigade advise you to leave having ensured a safe exit route. The Lakanal fire however showed the dangers of this where a block dosen't have the appropriate safeguards in place to prevent the rapid spread of the fire.

A good example was the fire in a Bermondsey tower block on Tuesday this week. The fire was reported around 2pm, the fire brigade were on site within 10 minutes and the block was evacuated safely by 2.30pm. Here though the preventative measures worked. The fire didn't spread beyond the flat in which it started and the stairwells were protected. Residents were all back in (barring two flats) by about 8pm.

Essentially therefore learn the lessons that Southwark Council did by speaking to the fire services and ensuring that a comprehensive  fire risk assessment is undertaken and all appropriate measures put in place. Part of this will be your emergency plan which will include how and when to evacuate.

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Blair Mcpherson

Blair Mcpherson

Posts: 57

07/07/2011 12:16 pm

My understanding is that in negotiation with the firer service some homes catering for very frail or disabled people have a stay put policy rather than a full evacuation of the building. The reasoning behind this is that it is dangerous for staff to go back into a burning building to get people out who can not get out because they are bed bound or because their mobility is poor or they can not transfer unaided in and out of a wheel chair. Attempting to evacuating a building with inadequate staff and  such dependant individuals might be a bigger risk to their safety ( think of a hospital) .
The saying put idea is that the fire doors and sprinkler system will buy sufficient time for the firer brigade to get their and assess the situation and evacuate those at risk. It does of course also mean that false alarms don't result in people being put at unnecessary risk.Clearly the evacuation policy for any building must be agree with the firer service. 

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Shaun Aldis

Shaun Aldis

Posts: 26

19/07/2011 11:32 am

When it comes to deciding on either an evacuation or stay put policy, housing service providers are reminded that no one solution fits all. Housing organisations need to make their own decision based upon key risk based criteria. Recognised fire safety experts are normally reluctant to give a definitive answer on this matter, as there is a general fear in providing advice that is either potentially dangerous or non-committal in nature.

Is ‘stay put’ a safe policy to adopt?

The basis of a stay put policy is based on the fact that when a fire occurs within one dwelling (or, less likely, in the common parts), it is normally safe for other residents to remain within their own flat.  Statistically, this principle is undoubtedly successful in an overwhelming number of fires in blocks of flats.  In 2009-2010, of over 8,000 fires in these blocks, only 22 fires necessitated evacuation of more than five people with the assistance of the fire and rescue services.

A decision for any organisation in terms of whether they operate a ‘stay put’ or ‘evacuation’ policy needs to take into consideration a range of factors. It is unlikely that an organisation would operate a blanket ‘stay put’ policy for all low, medium and high rise flats unless they are confident that they have a robust fire safety management procedure in place  

The following are only some of the fundamental questions that an organisation would be advised to consider:-

How effective is the organisations corporate Fire Safety Policy and Procedure?
Does the organisation have a designated Responsible Person for fire safety and what are their views?
How detailed and accurate are the Fire Risk Assessments (FRA’s) and have they been fully implemented and acted upon?
Were the properties in question originally designed and built with a ‘stay put policy’ in mind?
What level of fire safety was taken into consideration in the original design and what precautionary measures have subsequently been fitted?
Where are the evacuation points?  Are they well sign posted? How many are there and how close are the protected stairwells? What is the policy in term of the occupants using passenger lifts in the event of a fire?
What is the ‘fire history’ for the block?
Does the property have smoke alarms fitted and sprinkler systems fitted in both communal areas and individual flats?
What level of fire risk do individual properties represent in terms of size, height, and construction?
What confidence does the organisation have in term of their fire policy and procedures, concerning the structures ability to contain a fire within defined compartments? (The need to understand the potential for spread of flame contributes to a robust escape plan).
Obtain the views of the Fire Brigade and Rescue Service. As the enforcing body they will evaluate the risk and condition of the block, as well as ultimately determine how they would tackle a fire in the event of a serious outbreak.  Depending upon the nature and extent of the fire this procedure can either include controlled; partial (floor level by floor level) or full evacuation procedures.
Resident Awareness and Fire Safety Information: ‘not just about bricks and mortar’

·         Do you hold specific knowledge of the needs of your tenants/ leaseholders and the general public?

·         Do you place fire safety information into all tenancy handbooks or tenancy start-up packs and are Home Fire Safety Checks offered?

·         In blocks of flats or maisonettes, have all residents been made aware of the appropriate action to be taken in the event of fire? Do they know the evacuation process and procedure?

·         Have residents whose first language is not English been given access to clear and understandable fire safety information?

·         Is evidence available to demonstrate that you have fully assessed and responded to the needs of vulnerable residents in relation to fire safety?

In conclusion, in the event of a fire, the Fire Risk Assessment will form the basis on whether an organisation has effectively operated their ‘stay put’ or ‘evacuation’ policy for the individual block of flats. The challenge will be: - What would be the consequences and associated risks of operating an ‘evacuation’ of the block in preference to a ‘stay put policy’? Whatever the final decision it is critical that these are well managed recorded and communicated to staff and residents. In addition to this there is a plethora of new information available or about to come available in publications  from CIH, NHMF and currently in print CLG.

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Melvin Bone

Melvin Bone

Posts: 193

19/07/2011 11:53 am

Get out and don't use the lifts.

Unlike the firemen last week who went up in the lift to tackle a fire and got stuck...doh!

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Ruth Kendall

Ruth Kendall

Location: Stockport, Cheshire
Posts: 1

20/07/2011 11:44 am

We're guided by our own fire risk assessments.  As long as all fire protection/detection measures are in place in our sheltered housing we have stay put policies.  Anyone in communal areas such as the lounge or kitchen are required to evacuation to the assembly point outside (although some Fire Officer think the assembly point should be the communal lounge which has never made sense to me!)

It drives us nuts as our housing is spread across many difference regions and we therefore deal with numerous Fire Services who all have different opinions, even different opinions between Fire Officers within the same Fire Service branch.

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