Introduction to what is the HMO Stay Put Policy In the Event of a Fire?
Historically, the HMO stay put policy has served fire services and tenants well in the case of fire in blocks of flats.
With HMOs now increasingly popular, this advice is still the go-to solution when a fire brigade is confronting a contained fire in a property with multiple tenants.
However, while stay put is a key caveat in fire safety for multi-occupancy buildings, the policy has come under intense scrutiny in light of the Grenfell Tower fire and advice has changed somewhat depending on the circumstances of the fire.
Ultimately, it is safest for everyone living in an HMO if they do follow the stay put guidance ahead of evacuating in the event of a fire, but it also understandable why tenants may feel anxious to exit the property if they hear fire alarms activate.
Ensuring that tenants know what to do in the event of a fire alarm or evacuation is an important part of a HMO landlord’s fire safety obligations.
Stay Put – What It Means
The first point to make with regards to HMO stay put policy is that the guidance is heavily reliant on the building having a quality, fire-resistant construction.
A good HMO will be designed with effective compartmentalisation of dwellings, with common areas and corridors filled with fire-resistant doors.
This type of construction will contain fires within their point of origin and help slow the spread of fire across the property.
This means tenants should be safe within their flat and need to seek egress, as long as basic precautions are adhered to by evacuating tenants according to the routes set out.
Ultimately, the stay put policy is very simple and easy to follow.
In the case of a fire, the tenants of that dwelling should evacuate the premises and call the fire service.
If the fire occurs in a common area like a kitchen, the tenants in that area should leave and call emergency services, doing their best to ensure that windows and doors are fully closed.
The remaining occupants should then remain in their flats and, if required, evacuate as instructed by a member of the fire service.
If you aren’t sure of the level of compartmentalisation in your HMO stay put policy, as a landlord you should conduct a HMO fire safety risk assessment – it’s a good idea to get outside, expert help here – and fully assess the merits of the stay put policy versus full evacuation in the case of a fire.
Is Stay Put Safe?
For many people, the idea of staying in place when there is a fire runs contrary to all their natural urges, and this is completely understandable.
It’s human nature to want to get away from any kind of danger.
But the numbers do back up the intended result of the HMO stay put policy.
Stay put has been used for over half a century when dealing with high rise fires and has shown remarkable effectiveness.
It is, on the whole, safe for you as a tenant to remain in your flat if another dwelling in the property is experiencing a fire.
Government guidelines have shown that of more than 8,000 tower block fires in the 2009 -2010 period only 22 required full evacuation.
This means that most residents of an HMO are safe staying where they are in the event of a fire, and that full-on, building-wide fires are exceedingly rare.
Research has shown that people living in even the highest floors of a tower block have the same level of risk from fire as someone living in a bungalow.
In short, if the construction and compartmentalisation of the building is sound, most residents will be safe staying in their own flat in the case of a fire.
What Does A HMO Stay Put Policy Achieve?
In the case of a fire in an HMO, the fire service – and those tenants who are told to evacuate – need the space to do what they need to do.
Tenants have to be able to reach their egress point from the building, whilst fire crews need quick and unobstructed access to the building, so they can contain and extinguish the fire.
Without a HMO stay put policy, the entire building could see even a minor fire as a reason to leave the building.
This could mean clogged stairwells and egress points, right at the moment that these areas need to be open and clear.
Even worse, the panic and anxiety of potentially dozens of people attempting to leave a building and finding themselves trapped could be disastrous – even in the absence of a truly threatening fire.
Multi-occupancy building landlords or building owners neglecting their fire safety responsibilities will likely find that a failure to educate tenants on the stay put policy and correct evacuation procedure causes major issues at the worst possible time; in the midst of a fire alarm being sound.
In short, the HMO stay put policy gives fire crews the best chance to act quickly and without hindrance to tackle the fire and assess if the building is safe overall.
If they don’t feel it is, it is likely the fire service will perform a phased evacuation.
What Do You Think?
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