1. What are the main causes of fires in blocks of flats?
Firstly it is important to point out that most fires in blocks of flats start in the individual flats, not in the communal areas. Here are the reasons and main causes.
There are cookers and various electrical appliances working in the flats, and these are ongoing risk factors.
Electrical faults from overloaded sockets are the top cause of fires in blocks of flats.
Smoking is also a major cause when there are discarded butts.
Chip pans and frying pans are also very dangerous if not monitored correctly.
Fragranced candles causing fires are also a growing trend.
Top Tip: If you are a management company bring in a no smoking policy and take steps to ensure this is requirement in terms of the lease itself.
Did you know? The Property Insurance Centre customers have had three major fires in 10 years. Two of these were due to Mobile Phone Sockets overheating and the third was because of a discarded cigarette butt that had been left on the couch.
The cigarette butt issue is well known, but the mobile phone socket overheating has resonated within the industry. We now all carry mobile phone and tend to charge them overnight and leave the plug switched on all day!
Top Tip – Try charging you phone during the day or at work if you can. Get a fast charger that can fully charge your phone, from the time you get up until you leave for work. This means you are awake during the charging process and can switch if off when it’s charged.
2. The principles of fire safety in flats
Most flats are designed with fire safety as the most important consideration. So be aware of the following important principles:
– Each flat should have a high level of compartmentalisation and also be compartmentalised from other neighbouring flats and the communal – areas. It should be a Fire Resisting box.
– Fire spreading from the source (the flat) is rare.
If the above design criteria is in place then the following fire safety principles designed by fire safety professionals will apply, subject to the risk assessment of each block.
– It is safest to stay in your own flat unless that is where the source of the fire is. This is the policy unless the Fire Service ask you to leave.
– Residents of the flat where the fire started should leave and call the Fire Brigade. Other residents should stay in theirs until advised otherwise by the Fire Brigade.
– Communal areas carry a low risk
– Emergency lighting is required in communal areas
– The landlord or managing agent has a legal duty to arrange a fire risk assessment to be carried out to communal areas. There are some practical tips that each flat owner can do to help:
– Don’t leave rubbish or furniture in communal areas. This can hinder any escape if required.
– Don’t wedge open any fire door in hallways
– Don’t leave anything that could catch fire on stairs or corridors of communal areas
– Do not leave bikes, prams or scooters in communal areas
– Stay vigilant – if something does not belong in the communal area call your landlord
– Do not put flammable liquids in a cupboard where there are electrical circuits
– Rubbish should be put in the bin and placed in the refuse area – not left outside in the corridor.
3. Fire Prevention
Prevention is better than cure!
Install smoke detectors in individual flats. Check that these are working at least once a week.
Doors will contain fires to an extent and give you valuable escape time. Make sure they are closed at night before you go to bed and don’t wedge them open!
Front Doors of individual flats
The front door will prevent a fire from spreading to communal areas which will cut off escape routes.
Do not alter your front door without getting proper advice first.
Never remove the self-closing device if there is one.
Cat flaps being added or even altering the letterbox can change the fire safety performance of the building – make sure you ask the landlord or managing agent first for advice.
4. Block of Flats Fire Safety for landlords & management agents
As a landlord or management agent, you should inform all residents about fire safety in relation to that particular block.
As a tenant you should expect this to be done. If it has not been and if you are having issues and can’t get a hold of them by phone, then write to them or email them requesting it. You will be surprised how quick a response will be when things are put in writing!
If you need to get a quote for block insurance, we can often get you a competitive rate. To discover more head over to Block of Flats Insurance.