Simultaneous Evacuation

Simultaneous evacuation guidance

Guidance: to support a temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation strategy in purpose-built blocks of flats

In early October 2017 the National Fire Chiefs Council published ‘Waking Watch/Common Fire Alarm’ guidance, to provide advice to building owners, their professional advisers and Fire and Rescue Services (FRS) to support a temporary change to simultaneous evacuation.

 Following a commitment to review the guidance after six months, in February 2018 the National Fire Chiefs Council invited user feedback and held a workshop with external stakeholders to assess if the document is still fit for purpose. The guidance has undergone some amendments based on stakeholder feedback to make it clearer and more user-friendly.   

 The new version - published today - is titled ‘Guidance: to support a temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation strategy in purpose-built blocks of flats’. This document replaces the original Waking Watch guidance published in October 2017.   

 It is to be used where a decision has been made to adopt such a strategy - based on a comprehensive risk assessment - carried out by a competent person.

The main edits are:

  • Amendments to clarify and highlight the intention that a Waking Watch is only a short-term solution and a fire alarm system should be installed if the risk cannot be removed quickly
  • There is further guidance on the information a competent person should consider in a risk assessment.
  • To clarify that the risks to persons should be considered regardless of whether the building is above or below 18m in height.

NFCC supports the principle of a Stay Put strategy whenever possible, as it has been proved over many years to be safe for residents of purpose-built blocks of flats. NFCC believes that a Stay Put strategy is the correct advice in a purpose-built block of flats that is built and maintained correctly. In a building that was originally designed for a stay put policy, a change to simultaneous evacuation should only be temporary until the risk has been removed.

This guidance applies to premises in England and Wales. It was produced to support FRSs, building owners/responsible persons and associated fire safety specialists, including fire risk assessors.

This guidance is applicable to buildings which have been fitted with an external wall system which failed the large-scale tests commissioned by the then Department for Communities and Local Government (now the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) following the Grenfell Tower fire, carried out at the Building Research Establishment (BRE).

Although written for those responsible for the safety of residents in purpose-built blocks of flats, the principles of this guidance may, in certain circumstances, be applied to other premises.

NFCC supports the Fire safety in Purpose Built Block of Flats’ guidance hosted on the LGA website and developed by a wide range of stakeholders. The guidance remains appropriate for all purpose-built blocks of flats. 

Simultaneous Evacuation guidance