Is the”stay put” policy still relevant?

Is the”stay put” policy for fires in high rise buildings still relevant?

The fires in Grenfell tower in London earlier this year and the high rise fire in Dunmurry Belfast last week ( have brought about a discussion on whether occupants should evacuate or stay in their apartment, questioning the whole “stay put” policy!

This depends on a number of considerations. Firstly, what does the fire risk assessment say? Has the assessment stated whether the policy is still good or this building or has the assessor stated an evacuation is required upon activation of the fire alarm?
Who is in the building? Can they all self-evacuate? Persons who may have mobility issues may need to stay put or move to an after area as is currently the practice when fire alarm activate in hospitals.

What is the main risk of starting a fire in the common area (the escape route)? This area should be kept sterile for electrical items, rubbish and storage to limit fuel for the fire.

The need to keep fire doors and walls in a good condition is important to withhold smoke and fire for as long a possible. Damaged doors and walls with holes (or around pipes) with allow smoke to travel long distances from the fire, endangering occupants.

Fire alarms are not specifically required in the common area but if installed the occupants can be given the maximum time to escape if the stay put policy isn’t applied. The alarm can also alert someone to contact the fire service an early stage.

The recent talk on sprinklers needs to have some clarity. Sprinklers extinguish a fire at an early stage and will not cope with a major fire. These need to be used in conjunction with the fire doors, walls and alarms as a fire safety strategy rather than a one solution fits all!

So, should occupants stay put? I recommend that if all the systems, fire doors and compartmentation is working correctly, then yes the policy still works. Check the fire risk assessment for further details or ask the landlord or block management company

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