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March 28, 2023


Lithium-Ion batteries. A guide to the fire risk that isn’t going away but can be managed

Fire safety guidance

Fire safety guide: Fire hazards and safety procedures for flats

John Davidson, the National Security Inspectorate’s Approval Schemes Manager, provides practical help to those responsible for fire safety in flats and their residents on how to avoid hazards and implement important ‘housekeeping’ measures.

Multi-occupied residential buildings, namely those containing flats, are subject to increasingly stringent fire safety measures. The 2017 Grenfell tragedy has been a catalyst for the introduction of positive and important measures to better protect tenants from potential hazards. But what are the main risks involved, and how can they be minimised?


Credit: elxeneize/AlamyStock

One of the biggest dangers in any purpose-built block of flats, or a building that’s subsequently been sub-divided into flats with communal areas including hallways and staircases, lies in the risk of fire breaking out within one of the flats. Containment of any such fire is essential, to ensure it doesn’t spread into communal areas and impede the safe exit of tenants, residents and visitors.

Fire doors

Recognising the importance of such measures, the Fire Safety Act 2021 (applicable in England and Wales) requires mandatory fire risk assessments for buildings containing two or more flats to include any entrance doors to flats opening onto communal areas. In practical terms, this means specifying, installing and maintaining an FD30 (30-minute fire resistance) front door. Depending on the circumstances, an FD60-rated (60-minute) front door may be required instead.

Fire-rated doors comprise elements including a self-closing mechanism, three hinges, and intumescent seals that expand when exposed to heat – thus closing any gaps between the door and the frame to protect those evacuating a building. Fireproof letter boxes are also required, using similar intumescent seal flaps. All fire doors fitted must have the appropriate proof of performance for the ratings they carry, tested by a UKAS approved certification body to either BS 476 Part 22 or BS EN1634-1.

On 23 January 2023 the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 legislation took effect in England, which includes a requirement affecting those responsible for fire safety of residential buildings over 11m in height to carry out annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts.

Communal areas’ ‘housekeeping’

Good practice practical fire safety ‘housekeeping’ measures adopted within any building containing flats will help ensure that hazards are avoided. These actions should be combined with effective maintenance regimes, including regular testing of emergency lighting.

To optimise safe and speedy evacuation of residents and visitors from a building, there should not be any obstructions and/or trip hazards within communal areas. These can include the accumulation of potentially combustible uncleared rubbish and inappropriately stored items, as well as unsafe storage of material within cupboards. These areas must therefore be regularly monitored and any items removed when required.

Depending on the building’s height, automatically opening smoke vents may be installed and their operation should also be regularly tested in accordance with any manufacturers’ recommendations.

Equally, an appropriate inspection and maintenance regime for dry and wet risers should be overseen by a competent service provider, given the vital role these systems of valves and pipework play in providing a readily available means of delivering considerable quantities of water to extinguish or prevent the spread of fire.

Firefighting lifts may also be installed in larger or complex buildings, as a dedicated means of assisting firefighters. Specific regulations apply to equipment including an independent power supply and smoke extraction capability. In such circumstances, it’s important to ensure that specialist lift maintenance schedules are in place covering their operational capability in the event of an emergency. Monthly checks are now required by law, in England, for firefighters’ lifts within high-rise residential buildings.

Charging of e-scooters and e-bikes in flats


Credit: Perry van Munster/AlamyStock

Mobility and other e-scooters/bikes represent a potential fire safety issue, since they require regular electrical charging. Charging of this type of equipment should only take place in dedicated charging areas or within the tenant’s flat.

By contrast, the inappropriate use of extension leads trailing through front doors and charging of mobility scooters and e-scooters/bikes cannot be allowed in communal areas, given the fire safety implications – particularly from potentially combustible lithium-ion batteries.

According to the London Fire Brigade, the majority of fires related to e-bikes and e-scooters have happened in homes and are often caused when charging batteries, due to factors including overcharging and use of batteries and chargers not compatible with the equipment in question.

Read more about the fire safety risks of e-vehicles in additional articles below…

Fire risk assessments for flats

Where ‘life safety fire risk assessment’ (LSFRA) for flats, or communal areas in blocks of flats is required by national legislation it underpins fire safety arrangements across the board.

These assessment findings are implemented by a legally identified ‘Duty Holder’ (sometimes called ‘Responsible Person’), who may be one of a number of possible persons, e.g. the contracted residential managing agent, to help ensure people and premises are kept safe. In reality, any freeholders’ company director(s) will also ultimately be responsible in law.

In practice this means fire safety shortcomings identified by a LSFRA must be carried out in full, as specified, with their recommendations being completed within the stipulated timeframe. The results of an LSFRA may require, for example, the implementation of fire safety protections including fire detection, extinguishing and alarm systems, and emergency evacuation procedures – depending on the size and height of the residential building involved.

Competent service provision

Fire safety requirements, and the need for providers to demonstrate their competence, are becoming more stringent every year as post-Grenfell weaknesses and loopholes in previous measures are addressed.

Third-party certificated providers, who are independently approved/assessed, can provide significant reassurance for flat owners, tenants and landlords, as well as those tasked with managing buildings containing flats. Holding approval from a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service)-accredited independent certification body such as NSI demonstrates fire safety providers’ competence, clearly verifying their services are compliant with current appropriate industry standards and best practice.

Choosing independently approved service providers who meet required ongoing legislation and insurance stipulations safeguards all those involved in protecting flats and those who live in them.


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