Staying safe in high rise flats and apartments

High rise buildings such as blocks of flats and apartments have been designed with fire safety as a priority.  A flat's doors, walls and floors are all designed to stop fire and smoke from spreading to other areas of the building, but this relies on the doors being kept shut and not propped open.

Every building is different and your housing association or the building management team will be able to give you specific fire safety advice in relation to how and when to evacuate your flat.

No combustible materials or items of furniture should be stored in common areas such as stairways or corridors. By keeping these areas clear it will protect escape routes and reduce the risks of deliberate fires.

Emergency vehicle parking areas should be kept clear to allow firefighters to quickly access fire hydrants and the building in the event of fire.

In most high rise buildings the following advice would normally apply. However, you should contact your housing provider for further information, or if you have any concerns:

If there's a fire in your flat/apartment

  • Try to keep calm. Shout to let everyone in the flat know. Then get out and stay out. Don’t stop for valuables. Your life’s more important.

  • Don’t go looking for the fire.

  • Don’t open doors if they’re warm to the touch.

  • If there’s a lot of smoke, crawl on the floor. The air will be clearer there. Make sure your neighbours know about the fire. Bang on their doors on your way out.

  • Phone the fire and rescue service. It’s free to dial 999 from any phone.

  • If you're trapped, go to the balcony. But don’t think about jumping. Wait for the fire and rescue service.

  • Don't use the lifts. Tell everyone in your home what the escape plan is. Tell everyone where the door key is. Practice what you would do if you had a real fire.

  • If you can’t get out because the fire is blocking your escape, get everyone into a safe room. Pack cushions, bedding, pillows and towels at the bottom of the door to block the smoke. Open the window and wave a sheet to let the firefighters know that you’re there.

  • Make an escape plan, and ensure everyone knows it.

  • If there is a fire in your flat, you should always evacuate yourself and everyone in your flat by following your escape plan and shutting the front door behind you. You should then alert the fire and rescue service by calling 999 once you are in a safe place.

If there’s a fire in your building (common areas

  • Fire and rescue service advice is based on buildings being provided with effective fire protection arrangements, including the correct level of fire separation and a suitable means of escape.

  • In most cases if there is a fire elsewhere in your building, your flat should be designed to provide you with appropriate protection. However, if the fire, heat or smoke begins to affect you, you should stay safe. This might include considering the need to evacuate.

  • Details of the evacuation strategy for your building can be obtained by contacting your landlord, housing provider or the managing agent for the building.

Fire safety tips for your flat or apartment

  • Make sure that you’ve got a smoke alarm. Test it regularly - if the alarm doesn't work, contact your Housing Association/Building Management to get it repaired.

  • If the alarm has a battery, change the battery every year even if it is still working.

  • Never tamper with internal fire mains (dry riser) inlets on landings - these provide water to firefighters when there’s an emergency. It could cost lives if they’re not working properly when there’s a fire. If you see a dry riser vandalised or damaged, report it immediately to your Housing Association/Building Management.

  • Make an escape plan for your flat. If there was a fire, how would you get out during the day and at night?

  • No refuse bags, combustible materials or items of furniture should be stored in common areas such as stairways and corridors. Keeping these areas clear will protect the escape routes.

Information for landlords

Please visit Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022

Last updated: Monday, 29 April 2024