The National Fire Chiefs Council states, “Building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches.”



The National Fire Chiefs Council states, “Building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches.”

The quote above is from a report produced by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) in response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy that resulted in the greatest number of lives lost in a residential fire since World War Two. The disaster proved that no central guidance on consistently implementing a waking watch had existed, and this need had to be met urgently. Responsible persons must be supported to carry out measures consistently and efficiently. According to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, a ‘responsible person’ is defined as the owner or a person who controls or has a degree of control over the premises. This person is responsible for the safety of occupants in the building during a fire by identifying risks and taking suitable measures where necessary.

Read more on the guidance here.

Why was this report produced?

The UK cladding crisis, or the cladding scandal, arose because of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The fire brought attention to the fact that many buildings have been built with combustible materials, either flammable cladding or flammable insulation. Many leaseholders have been affected by this who live in buildings with cladding, and expensive charges to cover remediation costs are enforced on them.

The fire separation between flats normally prevents the uncontrollable spread of fire and smoke, enabling the stay-put strategy. Fire separation is enabled by several means like fire-resistant walls and doors, walls, ceilings that separate flats, and external walls that resist the spread.

Buildings that do not have outer walls that adequately resist the spread of fires would require a simultaneous evacuation strategy. The NFCC states that the adoption of simultaneous evacuation should only be considered as a temporary measure taken for the safety of residents while the procedures to fix the fire safety concerns are urgently carried out.

The guidance recommends the installation of a temporary fire alarm and detection system as it is more cost-effective than the prolonged adoption of waking watches. A waking watch may be required in the first instance until other arrangements are made.

Detection of fire at the earliest, alerting the occupants, and managing the evacuation are crucial while shifting to a temporary simultaneous evacuation strategy. This calls for careful consideration of the way occupants are warned of fires.

Waking watch utilising trained personnel to assist fire detection and evacuation should only be used as an interim measure in the short term. A common fire alarm system with heat detectors throughout the buildings is the best option if temporary measures are likely in place for more extended periods and it protects against false activations from the likes of cigarettes, toasters, or ovens.

Evacuation management is a critical aspect while adopting a simultaneous evacuation strategy. On-site personnel are required 24/7 to assist with an effective and well-coordinated evacuation while contacting the Fire & Rescue Service. The Responsible Person’s review of the properties’ fire risk assessment should specify the level of personnel required.

Who produced the report?

NFCC produced the guidance along with other industry experts and regulatory bodies.

The different regulatory bodies involved in producing the report are:

NFCC: The National Fire Chiefs Council is the official representative of the UK fire and rescue service. The NFCC supports strong leadership and aims for continual improvement in the Fire Rescue Service. Everyone works alongside to offer leading industry solutions in the NFCC.

ARMA: ARMA embodies firms of managing agents. Their members include small-scale family businesses that look after a few blocks to national companies that manage several thousands of flats across various sectors. The types of these buildings range massively in size and design. ARMA launched its Consumer Charter and Standards in 2015 to protect consumers and the best approach to managing residential leaseholds. All ARMA members are vetted.

The Fire Protection Association (FPA): The FPA is the United Kingdom’s national fire safety organisation. They identify the risks of fire and help clients reduce these dangers. Their expertise in fire protection, such as research and publications, training, and risk surveying is unmatched.

OPTIVO: They are one of the UK’s largest housing providers and a member of the G15 group of London’s most significant housing associations. Their Strategic Plan 2020-2025 aims to have begun the construction of 7000 new homes by 2025. They also make substantial investments in helping residents with career, finance, and community programmes to live their best lives.

Institution of Fire Engineers: The IFE is a worldwide professional membership body for the fire sector. With a history of over a century, they seek to develop the knowledge and understanding of fire and professional recognition. The IFA aims to improve the practice and science of fire engineering, leading the path to a future of fire safety.

Installation of a common fire alarm is the best solution to the cladding crisis as it is the most efficient and cost-effective. However, as cladding removal procedures and installation of a common fire alarm take time, waking watch fire marshals are required in the meantime to ensure the safety of residents. V360 offers both.

For information on waking watch, V-Fire common fire alarm system, or building fire safety, get in touch with us today on 0345 88 88 333 or by clicking the button below to email us.