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When you Might Need a Fire Strategy

If you are carrying out a development (large or small) you may be required to gain approvals for the purposes of structural warranty. Part of that approval process will require you to comply with Building Regulations and produce a Fire Strategy Report.

A Fire Strategy Report assesses ways to prevent internal and external fire spread in order to be compliant with Building Regulations. This can be achieved by adjusting the size of buildings and openings, the distance between buildings and the use of non-combustible materials. The report therefore includes calculations to justify an architect’s design in areas such as smoke control and specification for materials.

For some buildings, Fire Strategy is an after-thought and only addressed after design is complete. As such, some of the client’s objectives can fail to be achieved because retro-fitting a Fire Strategy can have adverse impacts on design and costs.

We have worked on a number of buildings where compliance with codes of practise cannot be achieved. In such instances our fire engineers provide a range of options for our clients to consider.

A Fire Strategy Report assesses ways to prevent internal and external fire spread in order to be compliant with Building Regulations. This can be achieved by adjusting the size of buildings and openings, the distance between buildings and the use of non-combustible materials. The report therefore includes calculations to justify an architect’s design in areas such as smoke control and specification for materials.

For some buildings, Fire Strategy is an after-thought and only addressed after design is complete. As such, some of the client’s objectives can fail to be achieved because retro-fitting a Fire Strategy can have adverse impacts on design and costs.

We have worked on a number of buildings where compliance with codes of practise cannot be achieved. In such instances our fire engineers provide a range of options for our clients to consider.

Why Choose Us

Vemco Consulting is an engineering consultancy company that specialises in assisting developers (large and small) to gain the necessary approvals for their development through the planning and building control process. 

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

A fire strategy is a type of complex document that’s tailored to one specific building. This strategy document is used to assess every aspect of a building’s fire safety. It analyses key elements to find out how protected the premises are against fire and smoke damage.

A fire strategy document assessing the building’s key fire safety features. These include the way it is constructed (for example, how flammable the materials used in its structure and decoration are), its compartmentation strategy, and the premises’ means of escape (this means how and where people would be able to safely evacuate in the event of a fire).  

In essence, a fire strategy is used to determine how safe a building currently is against fires starting and spreading through it, as well as the features/measures put in place to protect occupants’ safety and lives. 

A fire safety strategy document is also often used for new-builds, with home designers, architects and civil engineers using them to assist their designs and construction.

According to the 2005 Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order, all businesses are now required by law to have a fire strategy. Prior to this time, it was not a legal requirement to have one, but since this Order was put in place, it has been enshrined into UK law. 

Every business or commercial property is legally required to have a fire strategy in place, and this must be created or informed by a professional company.

Creating a fire safety strategy means that a business is not only abiding by these laws, but also that its staff, clients and customers are all safeguarded in the event of a fire at the businesses’ premises. If a business can show that they have done everything in their power to protect these people, they can ensure they have met their legal duty and are legally protected.

There is also a legal requirement of property owners and property managers to implement a fire strategy, where they own or are erecting a building that is/will be shared by multiple tenants (for instance a block of flats).

A fire safety strategy should include: the means of warning and escape; likely pathways of internal and external fire spread; access and facilities for the fire service; along with the fire safety management requirements for the building.

A good fire safety strategy report should include a thorough assessment of each of the following areas: means of warning, means of escape, likely pathways of external and internal fire spread, facilities available for fire services; access routes for fire services; the construction of the building. 

  • Means of warning. This refers to the analysis and assessment of the standard fire detection features (such as smoke and heat detectors and installed alarms). A fire strategy would ensure these features are installed/there is room for them to be installed and that they are in proper working order.
  • Means of escape. All building designs and architectural plans should include provisions for a realistic means of escape in different fire scenarios. This means people inside the building would be able to safely exit in the event of a fire.
  • Assessment of fire safety features. A fire strategy assessment would also analyse/design features to help prevent the spread of internal or external fires. For example, this might be sprinklers, smoke ventilation or fire doors.
  • Fire service access and support. A fire strategy includes an assessment of what facilities are/will be in place to help support fire services, such as fire extinguishers. It also includes a report on all possible access points for emergency services. If the fire strategy is being used in tandem with architectural designs and plans, this may be used to advise on how to include these within blueprints.

A fire strategy drawing looks like a birdseye map or blueprint of a building. These can be used by architects with new building plans, or can be made of existing properties. 

A drawing used in any official fire strategy must follow all compliance requirements for building regulations. This includes an assessment of the following fire safety measures and features:

  • External fire spreading
  • Internal fire spreading 
  • Means of warning
  • Means of escape
  • Fire safety facilities
  • Means of entry for fire services

Regulation 38 of the Building Regulations —  put in place in 2010 — is a legal requirement, which states that where building works involve a ‘relevant building’ being built or extended, those in charge of the building works must give fire safety information to the ‘responsible person’. According to Regulation 38, this must be done no later than the date the building work is completed, or the date of occupation — whichever is earlier.  

In this context, a ‘relevant building’ is a building to which the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 applies/will apply when the building is complete (i.e a commercial building or business premise). 

A ‘responsible person’ is defined here as the person who has ultimate control of the premise (including as an occupier) for the use of trade or the conduction of business, or as the person who is the owner of the premise, in the event that the person with ultimate control of the premise is not using it for business. 

The person responsible for overseeing and implementing the fire strategy changes depending on the use of the property. 

According to Regulation 38 (2010) of the Building Regulations, the person responsible for fire strategy planning is either the person with control of a commercial property or business premises (whether they occupy it or) , or the owner of a non-commercial property which is occupied by multiple tenants, such as a residential home or an apartment block.

There are a number of fire prevention strategies which property and business owners, architects and civil engineers must also consider when conducting any kind of assessment of a new or existing building. 

These include:

  • Hazard consideration. Fire prevention involves spotting and minimising potential fire hazards. These could be anything from cookers, electrical equipment and lights to  fuel tanks, chemicals, or factory equipment.
  • Designated internal fire safety officers. Business-owners and managers can help to prevent fires by training a group of staff members and designating them roles within the fire safety team. This can encourage employees to be more aware of hazards and the prevention of fires.
  • Regular inspections and checks. Businesses and property owners should regularly update their fire strategies, as well as inspect current properties to ensure all fire safety strategies are properly enforced.
  • Reporting near misses, incidents and fire hazards. Reporting any incidents or near-misses is highly important to help prevent future fires. These reports should be thorough and should show how the near miss, incident or hazard arose, what was done to manage it at the time and in the aftermath, and how the same scenario can be minimised and prevented in the future.