Every flat owner should have a fire escape plan and know what to do in an emergency. You can also make sure your flat is as fire and smoke proof as it can be. Always ensure the close and stairs are kept clear of hazards and obstructions.

What to do in an emergency

There is excellent advice on the firescotland.gov.uk website:

  • leave immediately if there is a fire, not stopping to gather up your possessions
  • close doors as you leave
  • call 999
  • alert as many of your neighbours as you can safely manage

If you cannot get out safely:

  • gather everyone in one safe room that can be accessed by the Fire Service, is not above a fire in a flat below, and has a phone
  • protect yourselves from smoke by putting wet towels or bedding across gaps below doors
  • open windows for fresh air and to attract attention
  • keep low to avoid smoke
  • don’t jump from high windows
Have an escape plan

Make a plan for what you will do if there is a fire. It should cover:

  • how you will warn your own household and neighbours, particularly the vulnerable
  • which rooms have suitable fire escape windows (opening area of 850 x 450mm)
  • where your safe room could be
  • your fire escape route

You can get guidance on how to make an escape plan from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service website.

Compulsory fire and smoke alarms

Recent legislation requires all homeowners to have interlinked fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors fitted (as of February 2022). These can be interlinked, battery operated alarms or ‘hard wired’ into your mains wiring.

The legislation requires:

  • a smoke alarm in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes
  • a smoke alarm in the hallway (and in the upstairs hallway, if you have a double flat)
  • one heat alarm in every kitchen

All alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. The requirement for interlinking is to ensure that occupiers hear alarms regardless of where the fire starts.

Where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as a gas boiler, gas fire, open fires, wood burner etc. or a flue, a carbon monoxide detector is also required). The carbon monoxide alarm does not need to be linked to the fire alarms.

Which alarms can be interlinked?

There are two types of alarm that meet the legislation:

  • Tamper proof long-life lithium battery alarms, which can be fitted by householders themselves
  • Mains-wired alarms, which are cheaper than long-life battery alarms, but need to be installed by a qualified electrician in accordance with BS7671 (note that if you live in a flat, you may need a Building Warrant for installation and rewiring)

Smoke alarms need to meet the BS EN14604:2005 standard. The heat alarm needs to meet the BS 5446-2:2003 standard. Carbon monoxide alarms should have the British Kitemark (EN 50291-1).

What will this cost?

We have seen sets comprising two heat alarms and a smoke alarm that meet the Scottish Standard for £107, including VAT and delivery. A carbon monoxide alarm will cost about £20.

Financial help to install?

Older and vulnerable owners may be able to get help from their local Care and Repair Service.

Will anyone check?

It’s most unlikely that anyone will call at your door to check you have complied with the legislation, however, your insurer may ask, and if you lie about what fire alarms you have installed, this is likely to impact on any insurance claim. The Home Report is also due to be updated and you are likely to be asked to certify that you have such alarms then.

Request a free Home Fire Safety Visit

Contact the fire service to arrange a free home safety visit and persuade your neighbours to have one at the same time.

Preventing fire spread in your block

The close and stair is your main route of escape in a fire. Make sure there are no fire risks there, such as rubbish left on the stairs. Make sure the close and stair is kept clear. Buggies and bicycles left on landings can prevent safe escape.

Make sure your flat front door is fire proof to give you maximum protection from fire in the stairs or close. The door should be ‘one-hour rated’, have intumescent seals at the edges, and a self-closing device.

Make sure there are no air gaps between flats that will allow smoke to penetrate.

When you next inspect the loft, check that there is a proper wall between your block and the next door loft. Make sure the wall is well pointed with any gaps well filled with fire proof materials such as brick. This will also help reduce fire spread. Fireproof your close ceiling and loft access hatch.

Multi-storey flats

Since 2007, any flat in Scotland above 18 metres from the ground must be built from non-combustible materials, and that includes any cladding. In such cases, the fire protection between flats (walls, floors, and ceilings) should give two hours fire protection.

The specific type of aluminium cladding that is thought to have contributed to the Grenfell fire was banned by Scottish Building Regulations some years ago and extensive checks have found its presence in only a very few blocks in Glasgow.

However, investigations subsequent to Grenfell have identified further types of cladding, and the way in which they are fixed, to be potential fire risks. Problems have also been identified with balconies made of combustible materials.

You should note that gas cylinders, flammable liquids or fuels should not be stored or used within any high-rise building.

Further info

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