The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 sets out new minimum fire safety standards which came into force on 23 January 2023 and as the title suggests, apply to England only.

There is now a legal requirement for responsible persons of high-rise blocks of flats to provide information to fire and rescue services to help them to plan for any emergency response that may be required. You might be surprised to read that these regulations do not only apply to large blocks of flats: they apply to some extent to all residential buildings where there is more than one residential unit e.g. a house that has been converted into two flats.

The regulations are split into three main categories:

1. In high rise residential buildings at least 18 metres above ground level or a building that has at least seven storeys the responsible person must:

Building Plans: provide their local fire and rescue service with up-to-date electronic building floor plans and place a hard copy alongside a single page building plan which identifies key firefighting equipment, in a secure information box on site.

External Wall Systems: provide to their local fire and rescue service information about the design and materials of a high-rise building's external wall system and to inform the fire and rescue service of any material changes to these walls. They will also be required to provide information in relation to the level of risk that the design and materials of the external wall structure gives rise to and any mitigating steps taken.

Lifts and other Key Fire-Fighting Equipment: undertake monthly checks on the operation of lifts intended for use by firefighters, and evacuation lifts in their building and check and maintain other key pieces of firefighting equipment. They will also be required to report any defective lifts or equipment to their local fire and rescue service as soon as possible after detection if the fault cannot be fixed within 24 hours, and to record the outcome of checks and make them available to residents.

Information Boxes: install and maintain a secure information box in their building. This box must contain the name and contact details of the Responsible Person and hard copies of the building floor plans.

Wayfinding Signage: to install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions that identifies flat and floor numbers in the stairwells of relevant buildings.

2. In residential buildings over 11 metres high the responsible person must:

Fire Doors: undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts.

3. In all multi-occupied residential buildings, regardless of height, the responsible person must:

Fire Safety Instructions: provide relevant fire safety instructions to the residents, including instructions on how to report a fire and what a resident must do once a fire has occurred.

Fire Door Information: provide residents with information relating to the importance of fire doors in fire safety.

It is important to note the new regulations are in addition to the fire checks required by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 which defines the meaning of a responsible person and contains their further duties.

The government recognise that these new responsibilities will in some cases be quite a large and expensive task and so they have set up a prioritisation tool for responsible persons which asks a series of weighted questions about a particular building and then provides a priority rating for taking steps to assess the fire risk of a building. You can find a link to that tool here.

The new regulations will be monitored and enforced by the local fire and rescue authorities who have the power to carry out fire safety inspections and enforce compliance with the regulations by issuing fire safety notices, fines and even prosecution in severe cases.

In order to comply with the regulations, it is important that landlords carry out a comprehensive fire risk assessment of their properties, install and maintain appropriate fire safety systems and equipment and provide their tenants with clear and comprehensive fire safety information.

It remains to be seen whether landlords choose to take up the responsibilities under the new regime themselves, or whether we will see a rise in demand for the outsourcing of these responsibilities. There will certainly be costs implications which will need to be considered in making those decisions.

Originally published 15 Feb 2023

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