Fire Strategy - what is it and do I need one?

 

The fire safety industry now has a focus on fire strategy documents forming an essential basis on which to conduct the fire risk assessment. This will allow the ‘responsible person’ to plan, manage and co-ordinate the appropriate fire safety precautions to minimise the risk of fire and keep the occupants safe. It also helps the fire risk assessor to establish any differences in the way the building is used, or how it has been adapted, compared to what is stated in the fire strategy which could impact upon life safety.

What is a fire strategy?

A fire strategy is a technical document that sets the basis for fire safety control measures from the design of a building.  It is not a fire safety plan, or an evacuation plan/procedure. It is required to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations, covering:

  • Means of fire detection;
  • Warning and escape;
  • Internal fire spread (linings and structure);
  • External fire spread; and
  • Accessibility and facilities provided for the fire service.

Typically, a fire strategy will be produced at the design stage of a building in conjunction with architectural plans and is required as part of a building control submission. The document will also provide details of occupancy levels permitted within the building, against the provision of horizontal and vertical means of escape and levels of compartmentation.

The requirement for a fire strategy is not only applicable to new builds; they can also be produced for existing buildings. These are often known as ‘retrospective fire strategies’. As mentioned above, a fire strategy document forms an essential basis on which to conduct the fire risk assessment and it is important to note that a fire risk assessment cannot deviate from the fire strategy.

Who can create a fire strategy?

Fire strategies can only be produced by qualified and competent fire engineers. Fire engineers must have advanced knowledge in control and spread of fire and the associated products of combustion, in-depth understanding of building materials and equipment for both passive and active fire protection and a balance of knowledge on life safety, property protection and the environmental impact of fire. 

What to do next?

1.        Locate your building’s fire strategy (whether you are a tenant, sole occupier, or managing agent);

2.       If you cannot locate an existing fire strategy, commission a ‘retrospective fire strategy’;

3.       Confirm it resembles the building’s current use and construction and act upon this if it does not;

4.       Keep the fire strategy document under review; and

5.       Make this fire strategy document available to your fire risk assessors.

Having a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment for the properties you own, manage, or occupy, whereby the risk assessor has had visibility of the fire strategy to formulate their significant findings, is fundamental in managing fire safety.  Remember to keep the fire strategy under review, so it reflects the buildings current use, fire safety features and construction. This will assist the responsible person in demonstrating their duties as outlined in The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO).