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Fourth edition of Simultaneous Evacuation Guide published by NFCC

23 August 2022

A NEW edition of the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance, co-ordinated by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) in partnership with a range of stakeholders, has just been published and now replaces the third edition issued back in October 2020.

Put together by fire safety professionals and published on Thursday 18 August, the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance seeks to actively discourage the ongoing and prolonged use of ‘Waking Watch’. The latest edition makes a number of updates and improvements to discourage building owners from having on-site staffing where this may not be needed.

Ultimately, the key aims of the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance are to:

*ensure those with responsibility for buildings fully understand the decision-making process before coming to the conclusion that a change in evacuation strategy is required

*outline a clearer emphasis on resident engagement

*put an end to the risk averse ‘one-size-fits-all’-style application of on-site staffing (ie ‘Waking Watches’ or evacuation management) when this is disproportionate to the risk

Evacuation management

Mark Hardingham, chair of the NFCC, noted: “After consulting on the draft with a range of stakeholders and leaseholder groups, over 500 comments were received. The new edition is much clearer about evacuation management. Data collected from Fire and Rescue Services in England shows that the number of buildings [of all heights] known to have a ‘Waking Watch’ in place fell by nearly 63% between June 2021 and March 2022, from 773 to 288. I’m really pleased to see this figure tracking downwards and hope that trend continues.”

Dennis Davis, executive officer at the Fire Sector Federation, added: “The decision-making process to be followed before any change is made to a building’s evacuation strategy should always be proportionate, duly reflecting the risk presented based upon a holistic consideration inclusive of the fire risk assessment. We hope this new edition will help ‘Responsible Persons’ and fire risk assessors to act proportionately by ensuring that they’re following the most up-to-date guidance and, in doing so, take the right steps before they change their evacuation strategy.”

Range of risk mitigations

Gavin Tomlinson, chair of the NFCC’s Protection Scrutiny Committee, explained: “We have repeatedly called on building owners to consider a wide range of risk mitigations, including the installation of common fire alarms, in order to reduce or otherwise remove altogether the dependence on ‘Waking Watches’ and on-site staffing. This is the clear expectation for buildings where remediation cannot be undertaken in the short term.”

Tomlinson concluded: “I’m pleased that the fourth edition of the Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance reinforces the need to support the safety of all residents where the competent risk assessor’s advice confirms a change in the evacuation strategy is required, while also ensuring the measures in place are proportionate and underpinned by a plan for remediation as quickly as possible.”

*Access copies of the fourth edition online