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Greater care needed to protect buildings’ occupants

12 July 2019

Emergency evacuation is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach and greater care needs to be taken to protect all buildings’ occupants, a leading fire and safety specialist has warned.

 

Ges Wallace, managing director of manufacturing firm Evac+Chair, made the comments after the publication of Deloitte’s Regional Crane Surveys 2019

 

The survey predicts it will be a record-breaking year for office completions in Birmingham, with ambitious levels of residential units under construction, alongside preparations for HS2 and the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

Mr Wallace (pictured) said that although these developments are exciting, these buildings have to demonstrate they are safe in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

He said: “Like many major cities in the UK and the world, Birmingham is undergoing significant investment in both new and refurbished buildings.

“But in the excitement and anticipation of the rapidly changing city skyline, the need to create safe environments for all building users should not be overlooked.

“In December 2018, the Secretary of State for Communities, James Brokenshire, announced detailed plans to strengthen the regulatory framework for building safety.

“The plans followed the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt’s, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published last year in response to the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.

“Building a Safer Future: An implementation plan includes piloting new approaches to assist with the transition to a tougher and more rigorous regulatory framework, backed by stronger oversight and sanctions to enforce and improve accountability and ultimately save lives.

“Building owners will need to reassure residents by providing them with better information about the protection measures inside their buildings.

“Developers will need to be explicit about how safety is incorporated in to their buildings, provide a clear set of gateway points to engage with the regulators and offer transparent recording and handover of safety information.”

Further announcements on the new regulatory regime are due later this year and are set to include proposals for creating duty holder responsibilities written into law, who is responsible for building safety risks at different stages of a building’s lifecycle.

Mr Wallace welcomes this regime, and said: “This will create a stronger and more effective enforcement and sanctions regime.  It will also make fire and rescue authorities, statutory consultees in the planning of multi-occupied residential buildings of 30 metres (10 storeys) or more.

“This scrutiny of safety – not just in residential high-rises but in all multi-storey buildings – is very timely.

“Another trend is the transition of commercial lettings from long-term leases to short-term leases.

“Co-working spaces where you can rent a desk with allied meeting rooms and facilities by the week or month are booming, providing flexible and mobile workplaces for thousands of people.

“While the latest regulation changes are centred around fire, emergency evacuation plans should also consider building risks beyond fire, such as flooding, climate change, contamination, terrorist attack and persistent loss of utilities such as power for lifts and lighting.

“It is tempting to take a ‘wait and see’ approach, treating new regulations as a tick-box exercise to achieve compliance but, when it comes to protecting lives in a fast-evolving risk landscape, proactivity is vital.”

Recommendations in Evac+Chair’s White Paper: The Changing Nature of Risk calls for a more systematic approach – not just in planning a means of escape for mobility-impaired building occupants - but also in sharing those plans effectively and making sure all involved are fully trained and rehearsed in what to do in the event of an emergency.

Concluding, Mr Wallace said: “Emergency evacuation is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach and greater care needs to be taken to protect all buildings’ occupants now and in the future.”

 

To ensure your emergency evacuation procedures comply with best practice, find out more or sign up for a free site survey, visit https://www.evacchair.co.uk/ or call 0121 706 6744.

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