Do Property Managers Need to Improve Their Fire Safety Knowledge?

This was the question which formed the basis of a recent survey we completed. We employ a team of over 40 fire risk assessors, who, in the previous 12 months, completed 4500 nationwide fire risk assessments in commercial and residential properties.

The survey involved asking our team of fire risk assessors the following question:

In your opinion, when completing FRAs in the previous 12 months, what % range of site-based property staff do you believe were not able to demonstrate to you a satisfactory knowledge / understanding of the fire safety systems, equipment and management controls in place at the properties for which they were responsible?

The survey responses were as follows:

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Our survey has highlighted that in the opinion of the majority of our fire risk assessors, up to 25% of Property Managers did indeed lack satisfactory knowledge / understanding of fire safety systems, equipment and management controls. Furthermore, a smaller yet significant number of our fire risk assessors perceived this % range to be even higher.

Whilst it is appreciated that a survey of this type has limitations with regards to the conclusions which may be reached, and in our experience the majority of Property Managers do possess a reasonable level of fire safety knowledge and understanding, there is a clear indication of a need for improvement.

In support of the above results, the fire risk assessors were also asked to provide examples to illustrate their responses to the main survey question. Some commonly occurring examples have been detailed below:

Fire Alarm Testing

General confusion regarding testing frequencies and the importance of escalating situations where testing has not taken place / overdue.

Lack of understanding of how to test basic systems such as weekly fire alarm tests and monthly emergency lighting tests.

Lack of appreciation in relation to the action to take when fire alarms show faults.

Fire Alarm Types

Limited knowledge of the installed fire alarm system and how it operates.

Link of Fire Systems and Physical Controls

Lack of understanding of the link between fire systems and physical controls (active and passive fire safety measures), in forming part of the overall protection to occupants and buildings.

Dampers

Lack of understanding of what fire dampers were and whether they were indeed present.

Property History

Lack of knowledge of the fire ‘history’ of the property, for example, not knowing the date of residential conversions or when parts of the property were significantly altered.

Fire Doors

Lack of understanding of the guidance on fire door standards, for example, gap tolerances.

New Properties

Property Managers not sufficiently knowledgeable of the fire safety arrangements in place in new properties or properties which change management company.

Fire Stopping

Lack of knowledge of fire stopping standards and specifically, when to organise fire stopping repairs when damaged or otherwise changed.

How significant are the survey findings?

We would suggest that there is a link with our survey findings and some of the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her final report – Building a Safer Future – Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety in May 2018 (The Hackitt Report).

One such recommendation was the need for dutyholders to improve how they currently discharge their responsibilities for maintaining the fire safety of high-rise buildings during occupation. In particular, dutyholders need to establish policies and operational procedures together with maintaining records relating to the design, construction and history of alterations.

As Property Managers will be performing an increasingly critical role in managing the day to day fire safety arrangements for their properties, they will also need to become increasingly knowledgeable of fire safety systems, equipment and management controls. This will also include:

1.    the fire strategies in place within the properties they manage; and

2.    the active and passive fire safety controls to support the fire strategies.

As the Government has confirmed that the recommendations of The Hackitt Report will be incorporated into the future legislative framework relating to fire safety, Dame Judith Hackitt’s current challenge to the sector is to avoid delay in their implementation where possible.

What can be done to help?

Property Managers continue to require additional help and technical support with regards to improving their knowledge and understanding of the fire safety systems, equipment and management controls in place in the properties they manage.

One of the ways to help and support Property Managers will involve the provision of clearly set out property-specific fire safety information and one such approach would be to develop property-specific fire management plans which accurately detail:

·      what fire safety systems are in place;

·      how the fire safety systems operate and interact;

·      what the evacuation strategy is;

·      why the fire safety systems are present and what they have been designed to do;

·      how fire safety systems are serviced, tested and maintained;

·      what fire safety records need to be made available;

·      how to deal with adverse situations e.g. system malfunctions; and

·      their role and responsibilities in dealing with emergency situations.

Click on the following link for more information:

https://www.qcompliance.co.uk/services/service-specifications/

In summary

We have concluded from our brief survey that there is a need for some Property Managers to improve the current level of their overall fire safety knowledge and understanding. This can be achieved through additional fire safety awareness training and in some situations, by Property Managers completing more advanced professional fire safety courses.

However, there are also additional property-specific tools which could and should be provided to Property Managers, which would sit alongside property Fire Risk Assessments, for example, the property-specific fire management plans mentioned above.

These plans would help structure information on all the property-specific fire safety management controls to enable Property Managers to improve the way in which they discharge their day to day roles and responsibilities with regards to protecting the occupants of the properties they manage.

Should you need help with developing property-specific fire management plans or indeed any other property fire safety compliance support, please do get in touch.

Phil Jones 07973735161

phil.jones@qcompliance.co.uk

www.qcompliance.co.uk