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Automist: Ensuring guest safety in two-storey holiday lets with open-plan ground floors or inner rooms

Automist: Ensuring guest safety: Effective from the 1st of October 2023, Section 156 of the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) made several amendments to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order to improve fire safety in all regulated buildings. This change created concern amongst many owners because a large proportion of premises are either:

1)        Two-storey small paying guest accommodation with an ‘inner room’ on the first floor (which cannot be reliant on escape windows as it was when its occupancy was a primary dwelling or tenanted accommodation), or

A room where the only escape route is through another room is termed an ‘inner room’. The occupants of an inner room could be at risk if a fire starts in the outer room (often referred to as an ‘access room’). Inner rooms should not be used for any form of sleeping accommodation unless the rooms are on the ground floor and the rooms have direct access to a door or “escape window” that can be used by the occupants to reach a place of safety clear of the accommodation.

Escape windows on the ground floor can only be considered acceptable if they are easily accessed and provide a clear opening of sufficient size to allow able-bodied persons to escape in the event of a fire in the access room. Mobility-impaired people should not be accommodated in rooms where the means of escape is reliant on escape windows. The use of escape windows for rooms on the first floor is not considered a safe means of escape for paying guests, as they are likely to be unfamiliar with the layout of the property.

Open-plan describes the elimination of compartmentation such as walls and doors that traditionally separated distinct functional areas, such as combining the kitchen, living room, and dining room into a single great room.

Both 1) and 2) require a 30-minute notional protected escape route and the property can not always be structurally altered with additional compartmentation or extended to provide an additional escape stair. Watermist fire suppression, such as Plumis Automist, can be considered as part of a performance-based, fire-engineered solution or ‘compensatory measure’. Exactly what you need will depend on your business and premises. The Fire Safety Order does not prescribe the specific fire safety measures required. What it does require is that you must identify and manage the overall risk and provide fire safety measures that are appropriate for the risk. NF19 and fire engineering research highlight the historical practice of applying performance-based analysis to open plan and inner room arrangements can be considered acceptable with the provision of a suppression system, depending on the exact arrangement of the dwelling.

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Why Automist is ideal for this situation?

·      Early activation - Fire engineering research shows Automist can operate 2 to 14 times quicker than a concealed sprinkler. Electronic activation helps to extend ASET by limiting smoke production from fire and by reducing heat exposure.

·      Ease of retrofit - Automist can be installed or retrofitted with minimal disruption to the fabric of the building, as spray heads are wall-mounted and connected using flexible hoses.

·      Minimal demand on the water supply - Connecting to the normal domestic water supply, there’s no need for a tank or water main upgrade, so it's cost-effective to retrofit and practical where water supply or pressure is an issue.

·      Track record of retrofit compatibility even with challenging heritage properties - Review some case studies which include most notably West Horsley Place whereby remote monitoring was added so that when any pump is activated it will alert a Red Care monitoring system. A tailored aftercare package for the system was also developed to ensure the integrity of the system could be simply managed following installation.

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If you are interested in learning more about Automist, speak to your local reseller installer. To make detailed decisions about your fire safety provisions, you might require further advice or need to consult the full standards and legislation. It should be noted that there may be specific additional requirements dependent upon local authority building regulations and/or fire authority. There is a range of fire safety measures possible in individual premises. As the person responsible for fire safety in your premises, you will need to use your judgement to decide what needs to be done to minimise risk. Nothing within this article should be deemed to overrule the Sleeping Risk Guide or requirements of the FSO, and the author accepts no responsibility or liability for actions taken against businesses or responsible persons by reliance on the information in this article. This includes whether or not advice has been sought from the relevant authorities, such as local Fire and Rescue Services, Building Control Bodies and Planning Authorities. Responsible persons are therefore recommended to refer to the Sleeping Risk Guide and seek consent from relevant authorities before embarking on any project.

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Reviewed: 25/01/2024. Our articles are reviewed regularly. However, any changes made to standards or legislation following the review date will not have been considered.

Articled provided by Plumis Limited

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