Fire safety guidance for existing premises with sleeping accommodation

Advice consolidating and superseding a number of existing fire safety guides.

Chapter 3: The Persons In The Premises

72. The number, nature and location of the occupants needs to be considered. This will influence the fire safety measures necessary. In some cases, the risk to persons will be influenced by their particular circumstances and by their location in, and familiarity with, the premises.

73. Fire can pose a serious risk to the occupants of premises providing sleeping accommodation. There are changes to people’s sensory perception while asleep and people can therefore be vulnerable to fire with a greater level of risk at night.

74. In some premises, such as premises where residents are vulnerable due to lifestyle factors or are undergoing rehabilitation, there may be residents under the influence of drugs, alcohol or medication. As a result, the nature of the residents often pose special problems in respect of fire as a result of their mobility, awareness and understanding may be impaired. This will directly affect their ability to respond to a fire. Where this is the case, then consideration should be given to the additional risks posed and the assistance which may be required.

75. Other than staff, the persons residing in premises to which this guide applies can generally be considered in three different categories:

  • short-term guests who are largely unfamiliar with the premises – residing in premises where there is some day-to-day management control or supervision, such as hotels, tourism hostels and bed and breakfast
  • longer term residents who have familiarity with their own part of the premises and who reside in premises with or without day-to-day management control or supervision, such as some hostels and other HMOs
  • short term occupiers of premises where there is no day-to-day management control or supervision - such as self-catering holiday accommodation

76. The category of resident and the presence or otherwise of management are factors to take into account in making judgements about fire safety.

77. Numbers of persons can be anticipated from the size of the premises, number of beds, occupancy levels and trading patterns. A guide to potential capacity of some rooms is to divide the area by an occupancy load factor. For example a common room of 30 m 2 with a load factor of 1 gives an occupancy of 30 persons.

Table 4 Occupancy load factor of rooms

Description of room load factor
committee room, common room, conference room, dining room,
lounge (other than lounge bar), meeting room, reading room,
restaurant, staff room, waiting room

78. Occupancy capacity is not used for determining capacity limits because it takes no account of means of escape or other fire safety measures. For example, exit capacity needs to be compared to occupancy capacity. The number of persons who can safely use rooms or storeys may be more or less than calculated because of the means of escape provided, or other fire safety measures in place.

79. Some persons who have a disability may have difficulty in perceiving or responding to a fire or in leaving the premises if there is a fire. In considering staff, guests, residents and visitors, any disability and associated difficulty should be identified. Any special assistance or personal evacuation needs can be identified when guests first register, residents are first accommodated or when tenants take up a tenancy. Information and guidance on the evacuation of disabled persons in the event of fire is available in Practical Fire Safety Guidance: The Evacuation of Disabled Persons from Buildings .

80. Residents and guests with mobility impairment should be considered in respect of whether their particular location in a building might pose evacuation problems and if they could be located to minimise their evacuation route or effort in the event of fire.

81. Where children or young persons are accommodated, account should be taken of the vulnerability and supervision needs and the lack of awareness and immaturity of young persons, including any young persons employed. In some hotels children might be otherwise left unattended in hotel bedrooms where there is a child listening or patrolling service.


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