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Passports to fire safety needed

11 October 2018

The Hackitt report on Grenfell may have found that the current systems of regulation and ensuring fire safety are broken and not fit for purpose, but do we really need to wipe the slate clean and start again?

That was the thought-provoking question posed by the Institute of Fire Safety Managers’ Dr Bob Docherty to delegates in the Fire & Evacuation Theatre at Fire Safety North this morning. “Or,” he went on, “do we look at what we’ve already got and tweak it so those systems are fixed?”

According to Bob, there is enough in the system already – legislation, guidance documents, British and international standards, academic studies, the Building Regulations and procedural guidance – but the problem is either people don’t bother to consult or comply with these or, if they do, there is no traceable history of the fire safety measures taken for particular buildings.

He said: “How hard is it for fire engineers and consultants, and fire risk assessors, to follow the fire safety history of a building from design to realisation to eventual demolition? Most building owners, if asked for such documentation, wouldn’t know where to find the fire safety strategy, even though it would certainly have been drawn up at the design stage. How and why is this so?”

To address this problem, Bob proposed a “passport to fire safety” for every building that would be readily available and contain all the necessary fire-related information for the building, such as: design and plans, the fire strategy (produced with a fire safety engineer/consultant), a holistic fire-engineering process (in consultation with a third-party fire safety engineer/consultant), preliminary fire risk assessment, evacuation strategy and emergency  plan, Regulation 38 information, the fire risk assessment, fire log and any notices, audits and inspection details.

In terms of what such a “passport” would do, Bob explained: “It would stay with the building for life and hold all the fire safety information relating to that building. It would provide a full audit trail and history of the building and nothing should ever be removed, lost or missing. That would mean there’d be no more searching for clues, no second-guessing and no back-engineering.

It would prove invaluable for future architects, fire and rescue service personnel and fire risk assessors,” he concluded.