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Storing Items in Stairwells


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I live in a three storey block of flats, and have just been informed that we are not allowed to have anything in the stair wells. My neighbour had a couple of kids bikes which she was being continually told to move, but didn't. I totally get that. We have now been informed that NOTHING can be in the stairwells, including door mats. 
I get the bike thing, but I am assuming the door mat is just the managing agents taking things too far, or is this official record regulations? 

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Messy will confirm things and probably correct me as he’s the resident fire safety expert.  However it’s about fire loading in a means of escape and they should also be clear of trip hazards and obstructions etc...

Another point could be that something as simple as a door mat could prevent a fire door closing properly so from my limited fire safety knowledge I can understand why door mats aren’t allowed.  

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Hi Trevatanus,

I sympathise with you - I really do - as I accept this ban can seem completely excessive.

By law - The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2006, the common parts of residential flats are required to be subject to a 'fire risk assessment'( FRA). The findings of the FRA will determine the control measures needed to maintain the risk (the likelihood of a fire and the severity of the outcome) to tolerable levels.

Control measures may include active measures such a fire alarm system and extinguishers and passive systems such as fire doors and management rules. For the FRA to be deemed suitable, it is possible to apply pragmatism and common sense.

I have been working in this field for almost 20 years and the skill & job satisfaction for me to  apply common sense to bring the risk to tolerable or acceptable levels. There are a range of guidance documents available to help me. Sadly many fire safety professionals have lost their way in applying fire safety in a practical and sensible way and apply 'guidance' ("you could....") as 'legislation ("you shall........"). 

 The issue of doormats is a good example. I would ask any operational firefighter on this forum to give me examples of when a doormat or series of doormats, contributed to fire spread in any meaningful way. It just does not happen. Yes, the risk of a trip hazard is real, but controllable short of a ban.

However, Jobsworth fire assessors will state 'No storage whatsoever' because its easy, and lazy FM managers will find it easier to say 'No Storage' rather than enter into disputes . But let's not forget these are peoples homes, not a bland office or workplace, so I believe a bit of homeliness should be accepted if possible. I regret the bone idle zero tolerance attitude adopted by some building managers.

I was involved with bidding for and winning a lucrative housing fire risk assessment contract. We sat down with the customer and local fire enforcement senior management and set a memorandum of understanding into how we would conduct FRAs in their flats. We agreed:

  • Doors mats - OK if not large and not causing a trip hazard
  • Plants - Small plants OK if not causing an obstruction, watered well and if necessary, fixed to walls to prevent trip hazards in an evacuation
  • Letter boxes - OK if at hip height and below , and it closes effectively ...etc etc

Unfortunately, there is very little that can be done to challenge the new rules in your block. The Managing Agents may well be the 'Responsible Person' -  so responsible in law for fire safety, and the buck stops here if anything goes wrong. They may argue we have had a FRA carried out by a competent persons, so must now apply its findings- and in many ways they would be right.

On the 14th June 2017, the ability to use pragmatism and apply common sense when dealing with fire safety in flats became an invisible victim of the awful Grenfell fire. Now there is an acceptance of a belt and braces approach is the norm and will be for many years to come.

I must point out that I am unable to comment directly to the circumstances in your building, nor am I saying the fire risk assessor or managing agents are acting unlawfully or excessively in the case of your home. I am saying I have seen some stupid and excessive decisions made recently - one reason why I do not work in residential fire safety now

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