My house is a back-to-back, the only way out is through the kitchen (which is not ideal). When we replaced the front door I wanted to be able to open the front door in an emergency without a key, but require use of a key to lock it from the outside. Our builder was unable to provide this type of mechanism so we have a key on a chain by the door.
Following the tragedy at Grenfell House, in Kensington, we should all review the safety of our homes to reduce or remove the risk of fire and ensure we can get out quickly and easily in an emergency.
When I first looked into the fire safety in offices (more than 20 years ago) I realised that most houses would be considered a serious fire risk if they were a place of employment. The current fire regulations (2005 SI/1541) and associated guidance on fire risk assessment of offices and shops include the following requirements:
- emergency routes and exits must lead as directly as possible to a place of safety;
in the event of danger, it must be possible for persons to evacuate the premises and safely;
- emergency routes and exits must be adequate for the maximum number of persons who may be present
- emergency doors must open in the direction of escape
- emergency doors must not be so locked or fastened that they cannot be easily immediately opened by any person in an emergency
- emergency routes and exits requiring illumination must be provided with emergency lighting in the case of failure of their normal lighting
- all doors on escape routes should be fitted with a vision panel (so you can see if there is a fire on the other side)
- if cavities and voids have been created which allow fire to spread unseen the doors and walls on the escape route must give 30 minutes protection
- in a low risk area where there is only one escape route the maximum distance to the exit is 25 metres, if the only escape route is through another room the outer room should not be an area of high fire risk.
My home is quite small and it is relatively safe, we can take action to reduce risk of a fire. But we cannot be certain that an overheating electrical appliance will not start a fire.
In a block of flats there is an increased risk that a fire will occur and the possible consequences are so much greater. There should be a fire risk assessment which is regularly reviewed and updated, all residents should have means of escape, they should understand what they must do in an emergency, and fire alarms (audible to all residents) must be regularly tested.