Matt Hodges-Long 11/05/2021
“Boss, the FSB has just passed. This brings external walls, flat entrance doors and GTIP1 recommendations into scope of the FSO. We’ll need PIBs for our FRAs and PEEPs. And we’ll need to make our EWS, AOV and lift test records available to the FRS and residents.”
This could be dialogue from the next series of Line of Duty, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a summary of the new Fire Safety Act 2021 and its impact on Responsible Persons (RPs).
The new Fire Safety Act 2021 will be aligned with secondary legislation to implement the Grenfell Tower Phase 1 (GTIP1) recommendations. Together, they will have a serious impact on Responsible Persons (RPs), residents and the Fire and Rescue Service (FRS).
The Government’s stated aim is to roll out the new regulatory framework by October 2021. But no details have been released about the exact wording of the regulations or timing. This summary is based on the Fire Safety Consultation report and long conversations with industry experts involved in the legislative process.
Key Fire Safety Act 2021 considerations
The National Fire Chiefs Council recently estimated 1.7 million residential blocks are subject to the Fire Safety Order (FSO) in England & Wales. As a result of the Fire Safety Act 2021, Fire Risk Assessments for these blocks must include the external wall, structure and entrance doors to dwellings.
This scope change creates a massive compliance challenge for RPs and their Fire Risk Assessors (Competent Persons).
Fire Risk Assessment
In addition to the common parts, as required by the FSO 2005, a wider-reaching risk assessment will be required. This must include the risks and mitigations provided by the external wall, structure (balconies etc) and flat entrance doors.
Finding competent professionals to assess the external walls and structure will be a challenge to RPs. This has already been evidenced by the chronic shortage of providers in the EWS1 market to service the 1.7 million blocks.
Inspections & Testing
The RP must regularly inspect and test fire safety systems and equipment as a direct result of the GTIP1 recommendations. This will definitely include flat entrance doors (frequency to be determined) and lifts. Potentially the scope will be increased to include alarms, risers and emergency lighting. Details of these checks and inspections will need to be recorded.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs)
The RP will be responsible for creating and maintaining PEEPs for vulnerable residents who may be unable to self-evacuate from each building. The implementation of PEEPs will require a major cultural change within the property management industry.
Premises Information Boxes (PIBs)
All buildings above 18m (and potentially 11m+) will be required to install and keep up to date a PIB. The PIB will be available to the FRS in the event of an emergency or routine inspection.
Work is ongoing to determine the exact contents of the PIB but we expect the following items (at minimum) to be included in paper form:
- Floor plans marked up with fire safety equipment
- Site layout plan
- Fire fighting lift overview
- Fire Risk Assessment
- Contact details of the RP
- Evacuation plan
RPs must give serious consideration to how they will keep hard copy documents up to date across a large number of PIBs. They must also have a process for regularly auditing the contents for compliance and assurance. For further information about PIBs, check out our article about Premises Information Boxes.
RPs will be required to routinely share, or make available, fire safety information for residents, FRS (digitally) and hard copy for the PIB at each property.
The finer details of what must be shared and in what format will be announced in the new regulations. We expect clearer guidance from the FRS very soon for how they plan to accept large numbers of documents from a wide range of RPs.
Even within the Government consultation response there is very little detail about the technical issues surrounding information sharing at this scale. This is not only surprising, but somewhat concerning.
Our advice to RPs is to prepare by holding organised digital documents in an evidential manner, Then, as soon as the FRS are ready, you can securely share access to your system, upload to theirs or even email attachments if required.
This table demonstrates the key information sharing responsibilities on the RP (please note this could be subject to change):