More than £3 billion to be spent on Life Safety Systems

Fire, smoke inhalation, getting trapped. These are the three killers when a building is on fire. A life safety system is a comprehensive solution for buildings that is designed to protect life in the event of a fire by covering all possible dangers. 

What should a well designed life safety system include?

  1. A fire-detection system with both heat and smoke detectors and multi-sensors
  2. Fire extinguishers and building sprinkler systems
  3. A process that automatically shuts down lifts and ventilating systems and divides the building into smokeproof sections
  4. An evacuation plan for residents through protected exits (including exit corridors and smokeproof sections in high-rise buildings)

The RRO and life safety systems

The recent RRO and Fire Safety Act 2021 has attempted to increase fire safety in buildings after a decade of preventable fires. It sets out compliance regulations for which the Responsible Person for each building will have to bear the cost. This will prove expensive--G15 alone estimates they will be spending £3 billion over the next decade. But partnership with the right fire consultant who you trust can save you money in the long-term.

What changes have been brought about by RRO?

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government pledged to make fire safety a priority. Westminster is committed to delivering the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s Phase 1 report, and the RRO and Fire Safety Act 2021 is the fruit of their effort. 

It brings several changes to existing regulations. Importantly, the Responsible Person (the building owner, a landlord, or building manager) is now in charge of managing fire risk for residential buildings by carrying out a fire risk assessment, which includes the following areas:

  • The building’s structure
  • The building’s external walls 
  • The building’s common areas (cladding, balconies, and windows) 
  • Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common areas

But the problem has not disappeared

Despite RRO receiving royal assent on 29th April, 2021 it is clear that it is not a panacea to solve fire safety regulations in the UK. Only nine days later, the New Providence Wharf fire occurred, which, according to the London Fire Brigade, shows serious fire safety issues in buildings.

London Fire Brigade Deputy Commissioner Richard Mills commented that:

“The New Providence Wharf fire needs to be an urgent wake-up call to all building owners and managers. Look at the fire safety solutions inside your building and take action if they are not performing correctly. It is too late to wait for a fire to see if they work.”

Greater fire safety in the UK remains a crucial issue. 

What are likely additional future changes?

At this point, it is clear that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is likely to make further changes to the Act, and it would be prudent to assume that the compliance burden is likely to weigh heavier on the Responsible Person. 

RRO is just the starting point as the legislation can be amended at any time to include a larger number of qualifying buildings. Additionally, building owners may be made responsible for a wider number of issues such as lifts, evacuation plans, disabled refuge systems, and safety information for residents.

How to future-proof a building’s fire safety with a life safety system

While it is unclear exactly what future regulations will look like, a solid life safety system--in addition to other measures--will be able to future-proof a building’s fire safety. Progressive and forward thinking organisations will be looking to implement life safety systems that will provide their residents with more rigorous fire protection measures.

What are the four key elements of a life safety system?

1. A fire-detection system 

Fire detection systems are designed to discover fires early while there is still time to safely evacuate residents. Early detection can lead to reduced damage to property as the Fire and Rescue Services (FSR) are more likely to be able to keep the fire under control. A good fire detection system should automatically inform FSR of the location of the fire, making the rescue more efficient.

This system should include multi-sensors and both heat and smoke detectors together with fire alarms that alert residents. Efforts should also be made to install alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing.

2. Fire extinguishers and building sprinkler systems

Choosing the correct fire extinguisher is an important part of your overall fire plan. There are five main types of extinguisher and four different types of fire sprinkler systems--which makes it difficult to choose the right product. 

It is important that you contact a trusted fire consultant to assess the needs of your building and advise you as to the equipment that is right for your needs.


3. Shutting down lifts and ventilating systems

A process that automatically shuts down ventilating systems must be established. You should also consider whether the particular ventilation system is for structural fire separation or for escape standards. 

Additionally, there needs to be a system for shutting down lifts. Although a correctly maintained lift is safe to use at the beginning of a fire, after a considerable period of time, lifts can become dangerous by trapping anyone in them and putting them at risk of exposure to heat and smoke.

Large residential buildings must also have smokeproof enclosures, which are essentially exit stair enclosures. They provide a higher degree of protection against the movement of smoke into the stairway during a fire. 

4. Evacuation plan

There should be an evacuation plan for residents to leave the building through protected exits (including exit corridors and smokeproof sections in high-rise buildings). The plan must include:

  • A clear passageway to all escape routes
  • Clearly marked escape routes that are as short and direct as possible
  • Enough exits and routes for all people to escape
  • Emergency doors that open easily
  • Emergency lighting where needed

Depending on the type and purpose of the building, building managers and owners will need to have a Fire Emergency Evacuation Plan (FEEP), Evacuation Alert Control & Indicating Equipment (EACIE), or a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEP). Find out the difference between these evacuation plans in this blog.


The specifics of fire regulations may be uncertain, but we do know that the weight of the many large fires in high-rise buildings over the past five years is hanging heavy over the authorities. 

Compliance with the many regulations is confusing, and the risk of getting it wrong is catastrophic. A fire consultant will be able to help you navigate compliance, advise you what type of fire extinguisher you need for your building, and help establish the correct life safety system for your building.

RRO & the Fire Safety Act 2021

Kevin Burraway
Written by Kevin Burraway

Kevin is a fire protection and fire suppression specialist and Director of Ace Fire & Security.