Sometimes security measures can impinge upon fire safety provision, or vice versa, fire safety processes can have an effect on the efficiency of security. However, it is essential that both are equally balanced. People need to feel secure in their homes, but they must have a clear path of evacuation in the event of fire. Some types of building are more prone to issues than others, for example blocks of and basement flats.

The good news is that experienced security experts will be able to come up with an effective security plan that is also evacuation and fire safe, whatever the building type, so it is well worth seeking advice before embarking on any upgrades or works.

You may also find this post helpful, as we are taking a look at some of the property types that are more prone to clashes between security and fire safety, assessing the typical problems and offering suggestions on how they can be overcome.

Security & Fire Safety in Flats

Main entrance doors to blocks of flats are required by law to be self-closing and fire resistant and must be openable from the inside without a key or security code. If a resident unwittingly leaves the flat without a key and the door closes behind them, they will find themselves locked out. If dependants have been left in the flat who are unable to escape should a fire break out, obviously this is going to be a major issue.

Door closers

Some occupants take it upon themselves to remove the door closers; however this is going to pose a security risk. The solution is to replace the locks with an alternative that allows the door to be locked from the outside, but can be opened from the inside with a thumb turn or handle. Measures will need to be taken to protect the door being opened from outside, such as placing a security grille over any glazed parts of the door, and covering the letterbox with a hood or reflector. For fire safety purposes, any security grilles should be openable without the use of a key and must not affect the door closer.

Occupant’s own security

Occupants also sometimes have the bright idea of adding their own extra security, such as locks and bolts, to their individual flat entrance doors. If these bolts are placed high on doors or windows, or they become stiff, they could prevent younger or smaller occupants from being able to open the door from the inside, which of course could lead to catastrophic consequences in the event of a fire. The same goes for adding security grilles and gates to individual entrance doors, which again must be openable without a key.

Setting out the rules

It is important for freeholders to ensure that any additional security put in place by an occupant does not affect means of evacuation. It is a good idea to include a clause in the leasehold agreement setting out the restrictions on undertaking own security measures and stating that any such measures may be subject to removal should they impinge upon the safety of the occupants either in that flat, or in any of the others.

When upgrading or installing new security measures in blocks of flats, it is wise to talk with your local Building Control to ensure the arrangements are within the scope of the regulations.

Security & Fire Safety in Basement Flats

Throughout London it is fairly common to find basement flat windows fitted with external, permanent security grilles. These probably date back to Victorian times when the entire house was home to a single family living upstairs, and its servants occupying the basement floor.

No doubt today’s occupiers are content with the level of security offered by such measures, however it does mean that careful consideration will need to be given to a fire escape plan, and the London Fire Brigade website is a useful resource in this respect. You can also request a home fire safety visit.

Access gates

Many basement flats are also protected by an access gate at street level. Obviously for this to act as an effective security measure, it will need to be locked and many of these gates are fitted with mortice sash locks for this reason. However, this poses a risk in terms of evacuation.

A solution would be to use sash locks with shielded thumb turns on the inside of the lock rather than a keyhole. These cannot be accessed from the street side but will allow all the occupants of the building to use the gate freely. Using the services of a professional locksmith who is a member of the Master Locksmiths Association is a wise move as they will have excellent knowledge of the type of lock that works best in your particular set up.

Another option, if budget allows, is to have the gate fitted with an electronic lock that can be released by a remote access control fob. These can be directly linked to the fire alarm too so that they are automatically released in the event of it going off.

Basement flat windows

Basement flats with windows that have been fitted with external, fixed grilles would benefit from door locks that do not require keys to unlock them from the inside. British Standard 8621 locks have thumb turns on the inside rather than keyholes which offer a safe exit and will prevent occupants locking themselves in.

Fire resistant doors

In general, basement flat entrance doors will usually, in most circumstances, need to be fire resistant. Liaising with your local Building Control is therefore crucial before making any changes or upgrades to your security and entrance doors and they will be able to advise you on the requirements for your particular property.

As we mentioned in a previous post about entrance doors to basement flats being at a disadvantage security wise, basement flat security it a subject in itself, so we will cover all of this in more detail in a dedicated future post. You are also welcome to contact us for individual advice. We offer a free security audit and consultation.

If you are a freeholder or have responsibility for the security and fire safety of flats and would like some expert advice on viable solutions and the options open to you, please get in touch. Our London showroom is staffed by friendly security experts who are available to answer any questions and provide all the advice you need. You can also give us a call or drop us a line. We look forward to speaking to you.