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Evacuation strategy in the event of a fire

If you live in a block of flats, make sure you are familiar with the escape plan or strategy for your building in the event of a fire. The managing agent or building owner should provide this information.

  • Keep exits clear both in your home and in all the communal areas.
  • Ensure front doors to flats and doors in corridors or on staircases should be self-closing fire doors. Never wedge them open.
  • Ensure you have working smoke alarms in your flat and test them 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.

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Living 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 brigade 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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Simultaneous evacuation

Simultaneous evacuation means that the residents of a number of flats are asked to leave together.

It requires a means to alert all of these residents to the need to evacuate the building, for example, a full building fire detection and alarm system. Most purpose-built blocks of flats are not fitted with these systems because they can lead to false alarms and be vandalised. This means that Fire and Rescue staff have to ask residents to leave in the event of an emergency by visiting each flat.