Practical fire safety for existing specialised housing and similar premises: guidance

Guidance for those who are responsible for specialised housing and for those who provide care and support in such premises.


Definitions to assist readers in understanding some of the technical terms used in this guidance. In some cases, the definitions relate specifically to this Guidance and may therefore differ from other definitions.

AOV (automatically opening vent) A vent provided for smoke control in common areas, which opens automatically when smoke is detected by smoke detectors.
Cavity barrier A construction provided to close a concealed space against penetration of smoke or flame, or provided to restrict the movement of smoke or flame within such a space.
Common areas Those parts (whether in blocks of flats or houses), used by occupants of more than one dwelling unit for access and egress.
Competent person A person with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to enable them properly to assist in undertaking the fire safety measures recommended in this Guidance.
Emergency escape lighting Lighting that provides illumination for the safety of people leaving the building when the normal lighting fails.
Escape route Route forming part of the means of escape from any point in a building to the final exit.
Evacuation lift A lift that may be used for the evacuation of people with disabilities, or others, in a fire.
Extra care housing For the purpose of this Guidance, any housing of a similar nature to sheltered housing (though sometimes including residents with disabilities that are not age related), but with managed on-site care and support service, commonly on a 24-hour basis. This includes premises described as very sheltered housing, “housing with care”, “assisted living” and “integrated care and housing (ICH)” or, where support is linked to a care home, “close care housing”.
Fire damper Mechanical or intumescent device within a duct or ventilation opening, which is operated automatically in the event of fire, to prevent the passage of fire. Where there is a need to prevent the passage of smoke, the fire damper needs to satisfy additional criteria.
Firefighters lift A lift, designed to have additional protection, with controls that enable it to be used under the direct control of SFRS.
Firefighting shaft A fire-resisting enclosure containing a firefighting stair, rising fire mains, firefighting lobbies and a firefighters lift.
Fire resistance The ability of a component or construction of a building to satisfy, for a stated period of time, some or all of the appropriate criteria of relevant fire test standards.
Fire safety measures Measures to prevent fire and to protect people from the effects of fire, including actions to be taken in the event of fire.
Fire stopping A seal provided to close an imperfection of fit or design tolerance between elements or components, to restrict the passage of fire and smoke.
Fire-resisting door A door which, with its frame and furniture, and when closed, is intended to restrict the passage of fire and smoke to a specified level of performance Fire-resisting door – Notional FD30 door A door assembly that satisfied the current specification, or fire resistance test, for 30 minutes at the time of construction of a block of flats or manufacture of the door. Fire-resisting door – Upgraded FD30S door A ‘notional FD30’ door, fitted with intumescent strips and smoke seals, and with any other necessary work carried out, such that it may reasonably be anticipated that it would satisfy the relevant test requirements for the 30 minutes integrity and control of the passage of smoke at ambient temperature. Fire-resisting door – Replacement FD30S door  A door assembly that has been independently certificated by a UKAS-accredited fire test laboratory as satisfying the relevant test requirements for the 30 minutes integrity and control of the passage of smoke at ambient temperature.
General needs housing Accommodation intended for occupation by members of the general public and not those of a specific demographic or vulnerability.
Inner room A room from which escape is possible only by passing through another room (the access room).
Means of escape A route or routes provided to ensure safe egress from the premises to a place of total safety.
Mixed system A fire alarm arrangement whereby two different Grades of fire detection and alarm system are provided within the same premises for the purpose of satisfying two different fire safety objectives (e.g. in sheltered housing, a Grade D system within each flat to give a warning to residents of a fire in their own flat, in conjunction with a Grade A communal fire alarm system to give a warning of fire within common areas).
OV (Openable vent) A vent provided for smoke control in the common areas, that can be opened by SFRS by means of hardware or a control (which may be located remotely) provided for the purpose.
Person-centred fire safety risk assessment An assessment of the risk that fire poses to a specific individual.  It should involve the person and take into account behavioural factors such as their physical and cognitive characteristics and their lifestyle, as well as fire hazards in their own private accommodation. The outcome is a proportionate person-centred action plan which reduces risk to a tolerable level.
Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP) A PEEP is an individual escape plan for people who require assistance to safely evacuate a building in an emergency. This may be in the form of help, guidance or special equipment.
Personal protection system (PPS) or Personal protection watermist system An automatic fire suppression system, fitted with one or more watermist nozzles and intended to suppress a fire in a defined area of a dwelling.
Premises based fire safety risk assessment An assessment of the risk that fire poses to all occupants in the premises as a whole.  The aim is to reduce risk as far as is reasonably practicable.  Existing fire safety measures are evaluated to determine if they are appropriate or if more needs to be done.
Protected corridor or lobby A corridor or lobby that is protected from fire in adjoining accommodation by fire-resisting construction.
Protected route An escape route that is protected from the rest of the building by fire-resisting construction.
PV (Permanent vent) A permanently open vent provided for smoke control in the common areas.
Rising fire main A water supply pipe installed for firefighting purposes, fitted with landing valves at specific points. The main may be ‘dry’, in which case it is fitted with inlet connections so that it can be charged with water from a fire service pumping appliance. In taller blocks, the main is ‘wet’ and is permanently charged with water from a pressurised supply.
Self-closing device A device that is capable of closing a door from any angle and against any latch fitted to the door.
Separation (fire separation) Sub-division of a building by fire-resisting walls and floors for the purpose of limiting fire spread between different occupancies.
SFRS Scottish Fire and Rescue Service
Sheltered housing For the purpose of this Guidance: any housing in which each dwelling is designed and constructed for the purpose of providing self-contained residential accommodation for older people, and where some form of assistance is available at all times, though not necessarily from persons on the premises. This includes premises sometimes described as retirement or amenity housing and similar blocks of flats, regardless of whether flats are rented or are owned.
Simultaneous evacuation A procedure in which all parts of a building are evacuated after the actuation of a common alarm of fire.
Small care home For the purpose of this guidance: a premises similar to supported housing in which a “care home service” is provided, as defined by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 in which only a small number of residents are accommodated (typically no more than 6).
Smoke containment A method of smoke control involving physical barriers to the spread of smoke, usually in combination with vents, primarily to prevent the passage of smoke into escape stairways.
Smoke dispersal A method of smoke control used in older blocks of flats (now deprecated). Vents are sited to achieve uninterrupted natural cross-ventilation of corridors and lobbies in an endeavour to dilute and disperse smoke in these areas.
Social alarm system A system that provides facilities for alarm initiation, signal transmission, alarm reception, reassurance and assistance, for use by older and other persons considered to be living at risk. These are commonly described as “Telecare” systems, but other terms, such as community alarm systems, are also sometimes used.
Solum space The sub-floor space located between the containing walls of a building
Specialised housing Accommodation for occupants who live independently, or with an element of support, and who are wholly or mainly limited to a specific section of the population and are likely to require additional measures to secure their safety in the event of fire, including, but not limited to, accommodation provided for older people, physically disabled people, people with cognitive difficulties and people with mental health problems.
Stay put An evacuation strategy based on the principle that only the residents of the flat of fire origin need to escape initially, while other residents may remain in their own flats.
Structural element Part of a building which is part of the structural frame (beams and columns), loadbearing (other than a part which is only self-loadbearing), a floor, or supports a floor.
Supported housing Housing (excluding sheltered housing and extra care housing) designed for vulnerable people with common characteristics, living as part of a community with support that is normally, but not necessarily, provided on a 24 hour basis. This includes housing for groups of people with learning or physical disabilities and mental health issues, but not “hostel”-type accommodation for groups such as homeless people, victims of domestic violence or ex-offenders. Residents may live independently or as a single group.
Third party certification Schemes which offer independent verification that a company or person has demonstrated an ability to meet specific criteria and standards for a specified service or product.
Travel distance The distance to be travelled by a person from any point within a specified area, to the nearest exit leading to a place of relative safety.
Very sheltered housing See “Extra care housing”
Visual alarm device A component of a fire detection and alarm system, not incorporated in the control equipment, which incorporates a flashing light that is used to give a warning of fire.
Voice sounder An audible fire alarm device that contains all the necessary components, except normally a power supply, to generate and broadcast recorded voice messages. Voice sounders cannot normally be used to broadcast live speech.



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