NFCC welcomes Government announcement on 18 metre second staircase threshold

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has welcomed the Government’s announcement yesterday that all new high-rise residential buildings taller than 18 metres or seven stories must include more than one staircase.

In December 2022, NFCC launched the Single Staircases Position Statement, calling on the Government to adopt this position and establish a height limit on single staircases in residential buildings.

In March 2023, NFCC joined with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and other leading built environment and fire safety organisations to sign a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. This letter supported calls for the Government to lower the height threshold for more than one staircase in new residential buildings to 18 metres, from the Government’s then proposed 30 metres. They urged the Government to take more assertive measures in enhancing the safety of new residential buildings. They are pleased that the Secretary of State has listened to the united voices from across the sector in making his announcement yesterday.

Gavin Tomlinson, NFCC Protection and Business Safety Scrutiny Committee Chair said:

“NFCC welcomes the Secretary of State’s announcement that a second staircase will be mandatory for all new residential buildings above 18 metres in height. Following the launch of our position statement calling for this change, we are pleased that the Government has listened to voices from across the sector.

“This decision marks another significant step in improving the safety of residents and firefighters in high-rise residential buildings across England. We look forward to working with the Government on the details of the guidance to ensure that it delivers safe and well-designed protected staircases and buildings.

“We would urge the Government to also take existing buildings into account and make it a requirement to install sprinklers and install or replace evacuation lifts during major refurbishments.”

Incorporating multiple staircases will significantly enhance the safety of both residents and firefighters. A second staircase will help ensure that, in the event of a fire, the second staircase removes the risk of a single point of failure, buys critical time for firefighting activities, and provides residents with multiple escape routes. In Scotland, buildings above 18 metres are already required to have multiple staircases, so this announcement will bring greater consistency across the UK, as well as bringing England in line with many countries across Europe, Australasia and North America.

NFCC are actively engaged with Government on various building regulation reviews including the ongoing review of Approved Document B.

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