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May 26, 2023


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“I’ve spent three years fighting for the right to escape from a burning building” – What’s next for PEEPs?

Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans – or PEEPs – have been high on the fire safety and evacuation agenda for several years now. At this year’s FIREX, attendees heard what bad practice and good practice looks like in reality, and where the debate is destined to go next. Julian Hall reports.  

This session provided an incredible contrast between bad and good practice in PEEP management.

In the first half, private leaseholders Liz Kimber and Joe Dowd explained their struggle to get their managing agent to put a PEEP in place.

Following this, Samantha Shimmon, Strategic Lead, Housing Services, East Suffolk Council presented what her authority had done in terms of putting PEEPs in place.


What’s next for PEEPs? The discussion took place at FIREX 2023 on Wednesday 17 May

Liz and Joe’s story – “Fighting for the right to escape a burning building”

Liz Kimber and Joe Dowd are private leaseholders of a new-build flat in West London since 2002. They rented their flat out while working overseas between 2005-2013. On their return Joe had a life-changing injury but where they were living adhered to what was required at the time in terms of fire safety, compartmentation and a stay-put policy.

After Grenfell, a cladding issue was identified and a fire risk assessment (FRA) in 2020 identified a high risk rating. A request for a PEEP was raised in October 2020. Six months later, the managing agent replied to say that they had no responsibility for PEEPs, quoting that LGA Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks of Flats, 2011 that “expecting MAs and Freeholders to carry out PEEPs is usually unrealistic”.

This wording was redacted the same year, but the managing agent of Liz and Joe continued to use it as a get out clause, even when it changed the fire evacuation advice for residents to “if in doubt get out!”

The managing agent changed in 2022, but after a positive start, Liz and Joe were met with “continual excuses” about the level of obstruction an evacuation chair would cause. A third-party FRA in August 2022 confirmed Joe would need an evacuation chair, at a cost of £1500.

After the managing agent offered to carry out the PEEP for £850+ VAT, Joe and Liz commissioned their own PEEP assessment, which was submitted in March this year, along with LFB recommendations about floor signage and an accessible exit door. There has yet to be a response.

Liz made the point that the cost of an evacuation chair would be £40 per leaseholder in their block of flats, a small cost compared to others they have had to bear.

Joe, meanwhile, expressed how grateful he is to have an advocate and spoke of the “unnecessary stress” he has experienced for “three years and counting to fight for the right to escape a burning building.”

Joe feels like his treatment is prejudiced because of his health difficulties and fears being “cremated alive” and is angry that a “fair and reasonable solution” can’t be reached.

A case study of putting PEEPS in place

The presentation from Samantha Shimmon from East Suffolk Council was a stark contrast to the frustrating story of Joe and Liz.

While admittedly a small social housing portfolio of 4,500 properties, PEEPs have now been rolled out across all of them, including high rise blocks, a temporary accommodation block, house flats and bungalows.

Council staff underwent a one-day course in PEEPs, which Shimmon admits was probably more suited to two or three days. However, from the training the council prioritised their Category 1s (evacuation by three or more persons/firefighters) and 2s (evacuation by two or more persons/firefighters with no additional equipment).

Using a one-sheet overview of each building, a sliding-scale of priority was constructed from highest to lowest, with the order of: high-risk blocks, retired living schemes and then temporary accommodation and general needs.

Through introducing PEEEPs the team learned that regular reviews and updates would be required. Meanwhile, from the tenant point-of-view, older residents felt reassured, though some had to face the reality that they needed to move.

Outcome for residents within three months:

  • Vibration pads and flashing light alarms for residents with hearing impairments;
  • Evacuation chairs for those identified as needing one and had a suitable buddy;
  • Evacuation chairs for each floor above ground in Retired Living Schemes;
  • Under mattress sheets supplied for bedbound residents;
  • Personal sprinkler/misting system provided for bedbound residents;
  • A programme of evacuation drills was started.

Medium-term outcomes (3-9 months):

  • Work with alarm out of hours contractor to develop plans for messaging to be pushed out via the alarm system in the event of an emergency
  • Redecoration of stairwells with yellow walls or strips of yellow behind handrails, and replace handrails with blue ones.
  • Handrails supplied to both sides of stairwells.

Elspeth Grant

Longer-term outcomes (within 2 years):

  • Investigate installing sprinkler systems to all Retired Living schemes and Temporary Accommodation blocks
  • Investigate installing emergency refuges with emergency voice control in High-Rise, Retired Living and Temporary Accommodation blocks
  • Investigate increased compartmentalisation in sections of any buildings with a high number of residents unable to self-evacuate.

“Not rocket science”

Rounding off the session, Elspeth Grant, CEO Specialist PEEPS Advisor and Trainer, reminded everyone that PEEPs – if planned logically and sensibly – were “not rocket science.”

She highlighted a few golden rules about reports noting the profile of the residents, including their ability to self-evacuate, whether there is a cognitive impairment and if a resident’s language is not English.

Finally, it’s imperative to ensure that arrangements have been communicated to residents and to the Fire Rescue Service.

Read more from Elspeth Grant in IFSEC Insider’s interview, here: ‘The Fire Service must enforce existing law’


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Plus, we explore the growing risks of lithium-ion battery fires and hear from experts in disability evacuation and social housing.


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