Why Fire strategies form the foundations of a safety case

Creating a Building Safety Case is not a new challenge faced within the sector. It has been a few months since more information was released by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) and the HSE around Safety Cases.
An article we wrote a few months ago went into further details about what you can be getting on with while we wait for more information to be released. After doing some research, we discovered that The HSE had recently released information around creating a Safety Case. They outlined that while the exact format and detail required hadn’t been published, there are things to be getting on with in the meantime. To read more, follow this link.
One of the services that will make up the supporting documentation for the safety case is a Fire Strategy. But what makes a Fire Strategy so special, and how can it help us build your safety case?
The Five key reasons a Fire Strategy is needed:
  1. The Fire Strategy will be part of the corroborating evidence to show that the key risks to the safety of the building have been not only identified (that would be in the Fire Risk Assessment) but have been assessed. The Fire Strategy will then detail those risks and evaluate what ‘reasonable steps’ can be taken to ensure those risks are reduced and controlled.
  2. The Fire Strategy provides a clear definition of active and passive fire services. Why is this important? If a fire were to break out, both active and passive fire services would be required to stop the spread of fire and smoke. The Fire Strategy analyses the level of internal protection needed to determine how safe the evacuation process will be for residents. It will evaluate how adequate the compartmentation is along escape routes.
  3. Means of warning is another crucial part that a fire strategy goes over. The Safety Case requires ‘the identified risk to be assessed to ensure the risk is controlled and reduced on an ongoing basis.’ The Fire Strategy will consider whether a means of warning will need to be linked to an alarm receiving centre. This covers the safety case requirements about controlling the ongoing risk and ensuring it is reduced.
  4. The Fire Strategy analyses the means of escape for the residents in the building. It assesses whether the existing escape routes are suitable and sufficient for all persons at risk in the premises. The Fire Strategy will also evaluate the provision of emergency lighting and signage to aid escape. This analysis determines whether the building has the means to assist the evacuation of the occupants if the need arises.
  5. The spread and control of the fire are assessed. Buildings are holistically evaluated to determine risk and what influence that risk will have on the surrounding areas (other buildings, apartments.) This is another piece of evidence required in the building safety case.
The Building Safety Case report has been mentioned in recent weeks to summarise the details of the Building Safety case. The report can be submitted to cover a site rather than a building. However, this depends on the buildings on that site and how similar they are. For example, if two buildings on a site were the same size and had the same outward appearance but had a vastly different layout internally, the fire strategies would be very different. One safety case report would not suffice for that site and two separate reports would need to be submitted to the HSE for approval.
The other point that has been consistent ever since Dame Judith Hackitt’s report is the continual need for competency. Accredited Fire Risk Assessors have been earmarked as the ones who should be developing the fire strategy as the ‘competent person.’ Creating the Building Safety Case without a high quality and detailed Fire Strategy will be akin to creating a building with poor quality foundations. The first steps in creating the safety case should not only be done now, before the Building Safety Bill has received Royal Assent, but should be done correctly by a competent person.

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