Blocks Of Flats: Purpose Built or Converted:
There is some confusion as to the correct protocols for persons with mobility issues to follow. The fire risk assessment, whilst covering the common areas, must also address the potential evacuation requirements for persons with mobility challenges.
This may involve addressing refuges, or places of relative safety, addressing fire door issues to enable any smoke vents positive pressure systems to allow disabled persons to be able to open their doors in an emergency or, whether fire-fighting lifts are able to be used or are shut-down in an emergency.
Furthermore, discussing and organising the provision of suitable emergency escape equipment, albeit an evac-chair or an evac-sledge, especially so if an stay-put policy has been deemed not practical, or limited in time, therefore:
An suitably trained & qualified + DBS Approved - Responsible person/s 'Building Manager ' or 'Legally Approved Family Member' to assist in an legal evacuation 'may be required'?
Remember, disabilities can affect anyone at anytime. Whether it be a mobility concern such as a wheelchair user, an injured person or old age person with limited mobility, someone with reduced vision, hearing impaired or psychiatric conditions (to name but a few), an PEEP or GEEP must therefore be introduced and implemented to protect the safety & welfare of ALL within the building.
We have heard quotes on several occasions stipulating, "We do not have any disabled people, so we are not going to put a PEEP in-place". Whilst that may be the case, the above list can show - that scenario can change 'overnight' therefore, it is imperative to plan for this event beforehand and be kept up-to-date by regularly reviewing the building safety requirements.
We assessed one high rise block of flats and found the building was adopting an 'stay-put policy'. However, on further investigation, we found the common areas had an fully functioning fire alarm system, indicating simultaneous evacuation. Furthermore, all flats were provided with gas mains supply - therefore, the PEEP required was not only required under a fire scenario, but also required for an gas leak scenario - was stay-put suitable in a gas leak - No it wasn't. There were many persons on-site with mental health conditions and as such are deemed as 'vulnerable persons'. An PEEP was most certainly required and eventually implemented after our comprehensive guidance and legally binding advice.
The same rules of courtesy and respect apply to disabled people and non-disabled people alike. Disabled people should not be treated as a health & safety problem, to be resolved.
See the person, not the disability.
The needs and preferences will vary between individuals. Disabled people should be meaningfully involved at all stages in the development and review of their PEEP.
Ask, don't assume, when determining what assistance he or she may need.
Individual Plan (IP) - Workplace PEEP
A plan for employees & regular users of a building such as;
Residents, Contractors or Students who require special provision to ensure their safety in the event of a fire - this is written by management on a case by case basis in-conjunction with the individuals concerned and is tailored to their individual needs and includes detailed information of their movements during an evacuation.
It may be necessary to provide a plan for each building or room that they visit. Once agreed, a copy shall be kept by the disabled person concerned, the duty holder & any other person who is legally required to know the content of the plan.
So, PEEP or GEEP?
PEEP = Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan -
An PEEP is developed where disabilities 'are known' and aided by the business or committees individual plan for the premises such as;
Staff Workplaces, Residential Care Homes, Universities, Colleges & Schools, Social, Sports or Hobby Clubs & Residential Blocks Of Flats or HMO's (to name but a few).
GEEP = General Emergency Evacuation Plan -
An GEEP is developed where disabilities 'are not known' initially such as;
Hotels (that may manage & assist multiple disabilities), Shopping Centres, Cinemas, Nightclubs & Restaurants, Places of Worship or Blocks of Flats & other places with managed Residential Communal Areas (to name but a few).
With further regards to Blocks Of Flats & HMO's:
It would be deemed suitable for the Freeholders or Management Committee to implement an professional GEEP (general emergency evacuation plan) for the building. This guidance may assist in the specific site risks identified, enabling suitable management and monitoring.
In-turn, the GEEP might also advise an PEEP be developed where necessary by the individual person depending on the nature of vulnerability or disability. For example: The NHS or care managers may also be required to be consulted in terms of the content and capabilities of any person with disabilities in formulating an PEEP.
This information could be sensitive in nature and require discretion or legally binding statements put-in-place to enable the legally required provision of life safety & personal emergency evacuation plans & measures to be suitably implemented.
Who Should Provide ANY Emergency Escape Equipment Deemed Required?
Freeholder? Leaseholder? or Landlord? Tenant? NHS? Local Council?
We advise this is addressed on a case by case basis.
Remediation or mutual benefit may assist 'ALL' in deciding who foots the costs.
In many instances, financial HELP can be provided by the NHS or Local Council Authority.
It must be noted that provision to manage LIFE SAFETY in ANY building is required for ALL.
Providing an alarm but not providing escape equipment can be deemed discriminatory.
An flat owner in an residential block of flats, let-out the flat and became an landlord.
The tenant required hard-of-hearing devices and as such, an PEEP was required.
The PEEP determined added equipment was indeed required to be linked to the buildings
fire safety measures already in-place.
In this instance, the landlord is required to provide the added LIFE SAFETY provisions.
Costs may indeed be assisted by the NHS or Local Council Authority.
However, the landlord is required to provide an safe and secure premises.
As such, the landlord is initially responsible for the extra costs to meet these functions.
The freeholder/ management company had an fire risk assessment conducted on the communal areas of a block of flats. It was determined on inspection that an PEEP was indeed required and as such added equipment would also be required to address these individual plans (Person Centred Risk Assessments).
However, whilst it was deemed suitable for the freeholder/ management company to provide an GEEP, the PEEP was a matter for the persons affected as the freeholder had provided an safe premises in the form of communal areas. The PEEP was person centred and required much more detailed information that was personal to the resident leaseholder.
(A) Who should pay & provide the evac-chairs or vision impaired signage in this instance?
An person centred risk assessment will determine the level the freeholders have in this instance. It is likely in small cases the responsibility will be the leaseholder/ landlord.
In larger instances where the freeholder is benefiting from providing accommodations for persons with disabilities, then it is expected to be the freeholder that pays for and provides the life safety equipment as part of providing an safe home or safe escape route (as is required by law).
As also discussed, in many instances, committees funds may also cover the costs if it is deemed that it will benefit many by providing escape provisions for the block.
Alternatively, if the added escape equipment would only be deemed safe in the residents premises, such as sprinklers or escape chair, then the person centred risk assessment would be able to guide on this in more detail (with NHS or other care provider assistance).
Saving LIFE is paramount in ANY fire risk assessment and LIFE SAFETY affects us ALL.
MG Fire Safety Group
Tel: 0800 999 8595