Fire safety in high rise buildings

High-rise buildings are designed to resist fire, stop the spread of smoke and provide a safe means of escape. Most fires don't spread further than one or two rooms.

However, it is vital that people remember exactly what to do in the event of a fire so that they can protect themselves and their families.

This is particularly important for the more vulnerable members of our communities, such as the over-60s and people with mobility issues.


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Fire prevention advice for high-rise living

  • Be familiar with the escape plan for your building
  • Keep exits clear both in your home and in communal areas such as landings, corridors and stairwells
  • Front doors to flats and doors in corridors or staircases should be self-closing fire doors. Do not wedge them open
  • Ensure you have working smoke alarms within your flat and test regularly
  • Do not use barbecues on balconies
    Keep balconies clear of flammable materials

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Delayed evacuation with a 'Stay Put' policy

Surrey Fire and Rescue Service works with local authorities, building developers and management committees to help to ensure that the procedures in the event of an emergency are safe.

If you live in a building with a 'Stay Put' policy this means that:

  • If a fire starts within a flat, everyone in the flat should be alerted, make their way out of the building and call the fire and rescue service
  • If a fire starts in the communal areas of a block, anyone in these areas should make their way out of the building and call the fire and rescue service
  • All other residents, not directly affected by the fire, are asked to stay in their flat unless directed to leave by the fire and rescue service. It doesn't mean that if they choose to leave the building they can't, nor does it prevent those people leaving a flat that is on fire from alerting their neighbours so that they can escape if they feel threatened

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Is 'stay put' advice still valid?

The National Fire Chiefs Council's position on the stay put policy remains the same. If your property is affected by fire and your escape route is clear, get out, stay out, and call 999.

If there is a fire inside your property but your escape route is not clear, it may still be safer to stay in your flat or maisonette until the fire brigade arrives. Find a safe room, close the door and use soft materials to block any gaps to stop the smoke entering. Go to a window and raise the alarm and also call 999, ensuring you describe where you are and the quickest way to reach you.

If there is a fire elsewhere in your building, you are usually safer staying in your flat, calling 999 and telling the fire service where you are. Flats and maisonettes are built to give you some protection from fire and it is often safer to stay inside your property to avoid having too many people exiting the building at once while firefighters are trying to enter.

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Why is it 'usually safer to stay put'?

Guidance to 'Stay Put', unless fire or smoke is affecting your flat, is based on the fire protection provided in the building and the walls and doors of each flat. This has been the case for many decades and, although fires in flats unfortunately occur throughout the country every day, the fire usually only affects the flat on fire.

However, some smoke may enter corridors when the residents leave the flat on fire, or firefighters enter the flat to extinguish the fire. By 'staying put' it will reduce the risk of you entering a smoke-filled corridor unnecessarily. It will also allow firefighters to tackle the fire safely and quickly without being delayed by residents leaving the building.


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