Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance Update

September 26, 2022
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Traditionally purpose-built blocks of flats are generally designed and built to support a stay-put evacuation strategy. In the event of a fire, only residents from flats directly affected by fire, heat, or smoke should need to evacuate.

Residents in unaffected flats should be protected by general fire precautions provided in the building and should, therefore, be safe to stay put during a fire in their building, unless affected by heat or smoke or otherwise directed by the Fire and Rescue Service.

A stay-put strategy relies on the fire separation between each flat, and between flats and the common parts, such as escape corridors and stairs, to ensure that the fire and smoke does not spread throughout the building unrestricted and uncontrolled in a way that affects the safety of occupants.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy a number of high rise buildings were identified as having unsuitable external wall systems, or other fire safety defects and building managers moved from a stay put o a Simultaneous Evacuation strategy e.g. using waking watches to mitigate the risks.

The National Fire Chiefs Council’s (NFCC) recently updated their guidance for Simultaneous Evacuation strategies in purpose built blocks of flats.

The updated Guidance outlines options for mitigating the risks within unsafe buildings by utilising a series of interim measures once the decision to change evacuation strategy has been made. Where there is the option of remediating the risk in the immediate term, this should take priority, rather than installing longer term mitigating measures. The aim of the Responsible Person’s actions should be to make the building safe without incurring unnecessary, significant additional costs to residents. Safety solutions should look to minimise these costs where possible.

Guidance to support a temporary change to a simultaneous evacuation strategy in purpose-built blocks of flats and supporting Frequently Asked Questions can be downloaded from the NFCC’s website at:

Separately, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has published a circular to various government bodies and others addressing concerns about design proposals for tall residential buildings with single stair wells due to the potential risk and fire safety issues. A copy of the letter can be found at:

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