The Grenfell Tower fire 2017 resulted in the greatest loss of life in a residential fire since World War Two. In the days and weeks that followed, it became apparent that many residential tower blocks had similar cladding to that which had allowed the fire at Grenfell to spread so quickly. People were worried that this would keep happening if fire safety arrangements in high-rise buildings did not improve. Temporary measures adopted included “waking watches” in case of fire alarm failures.
However, the other thing that became clear in the wake of the Grenfell disaster was that there was no central guidance on implementing these arrangements. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), in partnership with a wealth of other fire safety professionals, developed the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance (SEG) to impose a standard for fire safety arrangements in purpose-built blocks of flats.
In August 2022, the NFCC published the fourth edition of this guide. This blog outlines the key aims and changes to the fourth edition of the Simultaneous Evacuation Guide and what these changes mean for the responsible persons in affected buildings.
The key aims of the SEG are:
– Ensuring those with responsibility for buildings fully understand the decision-making process before deciding that a change in evacuation strategy is required.
– Clearer emphasis on resident engagement.
– An end to risk averse ‘one size fits all’ application of on-site staffing (waking watches or evacuation management) when this is disproportionate to the risk.
In August 2022, the NFCC updated the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance (4th edition) to:
– Address concerns raised about Responsible Persons (RPs) and Fire Risk Assessors failing to act proportionately and take the right steps before they change their evacuation strategy by clearly signposting readers to the newly-published PAS 9980.
– Reinforce the clear expectation that RPs will seek to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches as soon as possible by providing more detail within the timeline on what actions enforcing authorities expect RPs to take and by when.
– Discourage the risk-averse behaviour of having onsite staff where they may not be needed.
– Clearly signpost readers to a wider range of supporting information, including Article 50 guidance they may need to consider in respect of persons who might find themselves in vulnerable positions.
Include a published Equalities Impact Assessment.
– Respond to the learnings from the New Providence Wharf Fire by incorporating a previously separate amendment into the main guide.
– Include updates to relevant sections following the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 and introduction of the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022.
– Revise evacuation management content to:
– improve distinctions between where the phrase “evacuation management” is used to describe a job/role and where it is used to describe a general set of duties or activities;
– highlight that a decision to have onsite staff to manage an evacuation should be informed by advice from a competent person in conjunction with a holistic review of the Fire Risk Assessment;
– and clarify that any persons with appropriate training can perform evacuation management duties where they are recommended by the Fire Risk Assessment/Competent Person in place of a waking watch team.
NFCC Chairman Mark Hardingham said of the changes:
“The new edition is much clearer about evacuation management and the difference between general fire safety actions compared to full-time jobs or continuous activities like patrolling.
Data collected from English Fire and Rescue Services shows that buildings known to have a waking watch (of all heights) fell by nearly 63% between June 2021 and March 2022, from 773 to 288. I’m really pleased to see this tracking down and hope this trend will continue.”
How will this affect your fire safety strategy?
The recommendations provided in this guide are not legal requirements. Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance and any revisions made by the NFCC are intended to support building owners, RPs, fire safety specialists, Fire and Rescue Services, and other authorities by establishing a standard for evacuation procedure. For your statutory responsibilities, you must refer to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, the Housing Act 2004, and the Building Regulations 2010.
However, Dorset Fire Protection urges all Responsible Persons for affected buildings to review fire safety arrangements in line with the updated guidance and informed by the advice of a competent person to ensure it is compliant with the most recent standards for fire safety.
Not sure who to call? DFP offers comprehensive Fire Evacuation Training, fire risk assessments and fire safety solutions tailored to our client’s individual needs including fire evacuation training.
We believe fire safety is more than a tick-box exercise. A fire risk assessment should form the basis of all your fire safety arrangements. Call us on 0330 7000 555 or email us at [email protected] to book your free on-site consultation. Your fire safety journey starts now.