Balcony fires - don't take the risk
Is your balcony a fire risk? Following the fire in June that raced through a block in Barking via wooden-clad balconies, the government now has an advice note to block owners and residents. Balconies must not compromise resident safety by providing a means of external fire spread, it says. Balconies must be included in fire risk assessments. If they contain combustible material then they should be removed and replaced.
So building owners need to understand the materials used in the construction of balconies on their blocks. This way they will be able to assess whether adequate fire protection is in place to resist a fire spreading both across and through the external wall. But owners aren't necessarily either fire or construction experts. So if there is any doubt over the materials used or the risk presented, they should seek professional advice from a fire safety specialist.
Revisions to the Building Regulations introduced in December address the risks posed by balconies. The new regulations require balconies on residential buildings over 18m high to be made of non-combustible materials. But balconies on existing blocks like the one in Barking, may be made from combustible materials, so it is vital for building owners to do their homework properly.
Property managers can play their part by setting out a few simple rules stating what can and cannot be stored and used on balconies by residents. Here?s our advice:
- Don?t use balconies as storage areas ? particularly for anything that might be flammable.
- If balconies are used as smoking areas, make sure that cigarettes are properly extinguished and disposed of. The same goes for candles.
- And most important of all, never barbeque on your balcony. A significant number of fires in flats start this way. Not only is it clearly dangerous but your block insurer will take a very dim view of any claim for fire damage resulting from an out-of-control barbeque.
Make sure residents know what is and isn?t acceptable ? and why. Use the block newsletter, website, the AGM or a social get-together to drive this message home. And don't forget anyone sub-letting. It could save a life.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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