Standards for houses in multiple occupation (HMOs)

6. Means of escape from fire and other fire precautions

Detailed guidance on the fire safety standards to be achieved is contained in the publication Housing – Fire Safety.

This section provides general guidance in relation to fire safety arrangements for HMOs. It should not be used as definitive advice, merely a summary of the general principles to be used and applied.

6.1 Fire risk assessment

Under the Regulatory Reform Order 2005, fire safety arrangements should be subject to a risk assessment and any additional arrangements should be provided as a consequence of significant findings identified by the risk assessment.

Further guidance on risk assessment is contained within the more detailed document Fire Safety Risk Assessment Sleeping Accommodation.

All premises must be provided with an electrically operated fire warning system:

6.2.1 Fire warning systems - small premises with less than 3 storeys

An electrically operated fire alarm system should be provided. It may consist of domestic standard smoke and heat detectors which comply with BS 5839: Part 6. The grade and type of system will depend on the size of the premises and the risk posed to the occupants from fire.

The smoke alarms and heat detectors must be interlinked such that the detection by any one unit operates the alarm signal in all units. They must have integral battery back-up and be permanently wired to a separately fused circuit at the consumer unit.

6.2.2 Fire warning systems – 3+ storey premises

An electrically operated fire alarm system should be provided. In most cases the system should comply with British Standard 5839: Part 6 Grade A, Type LD1. The system must be clearly audible throughout all parts of the premises and provide a minimum sound level of 75dB at bed heads, with all intervening doors, shut.

Upon installation of any fire warning system a commissioning certificate should be provided by a Competent Person to confirm that the system conforms to the relevant British standard and type.

It is recommended that advice and information should be sought as to costs, maintenance requirements and the life span of various systems, prior to installation.

6.3 Emergency lighting

Emergency lighting provides illumination for the occupants to escape safely, when the normal premises lighting has failed.

Due consideration must be given within the fire risk assessment to the provision of Emergency lighting. British Standard 5266 provides guidance on the installation and provision of such.

Upon installation of any Emergency lighting, a commissioning certificate should be provided by a Competent Person to confirm that it conforms to the relevant British standard.

6.4 Fire resistance

The walls and partitions to all habitable rooms should be able to resist fire for at least 30 minutes to provide 30 minute fire resistant ‘protected route’ of exit from all lettings.

Doors to rooms which open on to the shared exit route (other than bathrooms or W.C.s with no fire risk) should be provided with 30 minute fire resisting doors.

A positive action self closing device should be provided on all fire doors to close the door fully onto its stops from all angles of opening. Fire doors are normally required to have intumescent strips and cold smoke seals along the side and top edges of the door.

Staircases used as the means of escape may need to be under drawn to achieve 30 minutes fire resistance.

6.5 Door fastenings

All doors (including doors to bedrooms or units of accommodation) that could be used in the event of fire to escape from the premises, should be secured solely by a security device capable of being operated by a single action and without the aid of a key.

Examples of such devices are: turn snibs, panic bolts or panic pads. Keys in boxes are not considered suitable in most situations.

6.6 Fire notices

Fire instruction notices should be provided in suitable locations throughout the premises.

All fire resisting self closing doors, should be permanently marked on each side at eye level with a blue circular notice bearing the words "FIRE DOOR - KEEP SHUT" in white letters.

Cupboard doors required to be of fire resisting construction should be permanently marked with a blue circular notices bearing the words, "KEEP LOCKED SHUT" in white letters.

6.7 Fire fighting equipment

A minimum requirement of a 1.0m² glass-fibre fire blanket, confirming to British Standard 7944 1999 or equivalent European Standard, in a quick release container hung on wall brackets at a convenient height, with the base of the container at about 1.5m above floor level, should be provided at all locations containing cooking facilities.