For many students going to university, fire safety in your new home can be the last thing on your list to think about. However, investigations following the fire at Grenfell Tower, London in June 2017, and the fire at the CUBE, Bolton in November 2019, which was purpose built student accommodation, shone a spotlight on the importance of fire safety, protection and recommended the removal of certain types of building cladding, specifically ACM (aluminium composite material) and HPL (high pressure laminate), in high-rise residential accommodation.
As a University, your health and safety is of paramount importance to us, and we want to make you aware of the different types of fire safety measures being used across our University owned and managed accommodation and various privately owned accommodation. So we have developed this useful guide to help you to make an informed decision when choosing your new home.
Firstly if you are in University owned or managed accommodation, or have chosen a property that is signed up to SNUG (the local Sheffield minimum standards mark) then you can rest assured that all these are fire compliant buildings.
For anyone in privately rented or any other large blocks of flats or student accommodation providers, then the below will help you in your decision making process.
British Standard: fire safety systems
According to British Standard BS 5839 which is a set of specific recommendations for fire alarm systems for all dwellings (new build and existing properties). There are three different types of fire safety systems used across all buildings. These types of systems vary in their levels of protection.
LD1 - Maximum protection
LD2 - Additional protection
LD3 - Minimum protection
All of the University of Sheffield owned and managed accommodation has LD1 fire safety protection which is classified as maximum protection and is the highest level of protection available, but this may not always be the case for accommodation that is not owned or managed by the University.
To help you understand in a practical sense, what fire safety measures and precautions are being applied in other accommodations, you should ask the following questions to the accommodation team:
Top 5 Questions to ask the accommodation team:
Q1. Is there a fully maintained and serviced interlinked British Standard fire detection and warning?
This means… A system within the property with smoke detection in the corridors, stairs and rooms (heat detection in the kitchen) – this is vital to ensure everyone gets an early warning in case of fire and can evacuate quickly and safely. The British standard they should comply with is BS 5839.
Q2. Are there well maintained fire doors with self-closers fitted to each living room, bedroom and kitchen?
This will...ensure that when closed, the escape routes are always protected and available in an emergency. The British standard they should comply with is BS EN 16034.
Q3. Is there a British Standard emergency lighting system fitted on corridors and stairs?
This will... illuminate the escape routes and allow safe evacuation of the building in an emergency should the power fail and the building is in darkness. The British standard they should comply with is BS 5266.
Q4. Are fully serviced portable fire extinguishers and fire blankets provided?
This means...If safe to do so, some fires can be tackled early and prevented from spreading, particularly the use of fire blankets in kitchens. However check with the provider as to what local arrangements are, as some recommend that they should only be used to egress (leave) the building. This will be detailed by the buildings FRA (Fire risk assessment).
Q5. Is there a ‘fire risk assessment’ available for the building?
This means...This assessment must be carried out annually by law and will provide information on the fire safety features within the building, any problems that have been identified, what testing of equipment has been undertaken and who is the person responsible for fire safety of the building.
If you are unsure there is lots of help on hand to advise, you can contact
Smartmove Sheffield - https://www.smartmovesheffield.com/Contact
Sheffield Student Union Advice Centre
Sheffield City Council’s Private Housing Standards Team - 0114 273 4680
South Yorkshire Fire ad Rescue - 0114 272 7202