2.14 Fire and rescue service facilities

Mandatory Standard

Standard 2.14

Every building must be designed and constructed in such a way that facilities are provided to assist fire-fighting or rescue operations.

2.14.0 Introduction

Facilities within a building are provided to assist the fire and rescue service carry out their statutory duties as efficiently and safely as possible. Fire and rescue service personnel are trained to enter buildings following the outbreak of fire to assist with any evacuation of the building occupants, effect rescues of any casualties and to fight fires. Fire-fighters operational duties are made on a statutory basis in the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 as amended, which states:

“Each relevant authority shall make provision for the purpose of –

  1. extinguishing fires in its area

  2. protecting life and property in the event of fires in its area.”

The extent of fire development will vary with each incident and in any situation, the fire and rescue service will assess the need to evacuate the entire building whilst the fire is brought under control. Sometimes, the fire can develop to such an extent that additional fire-fighting teams may need to be summoned from other fire stations or fire authorities.

Fire-fighters will normally enter a building through the main entrance and attempt to attack the fire. This is termed ‘offensive fire-fighting’ and is normal practice regardless of whether people are in the building or not. When conditions within the building become too hazardous for fire-fighters to remain, they will normally retreat a safe distance away from the building and implement ‘defensive’ fire-fighting tactics to control the spread of fire. In cases where a large fire develops, numerous fire-fighting teams may be involved using a combination of offensive and defensive tactics until the fire is brought under control and extinguished. Due to the high level of fire separation and containment within a building containing flats and maisonettes, it would be unusual to implement defensive fire-fighting tactics.

Whilst fire-fighters are professionally trained to deal with all types of fire condition, the fire and rescue service facilities within a building are important to reduce fire attack time which in turn, could save lives, limit the fire damage to property and improve fire-fighter safety.

Conversions - in the case of conversions, as specified in regulation 4, the building as converted shall meet the requirement of this standard (regulation 12, schedule 6).

2.14.1 Fire and rescue service facilities

Fire and rescue service facilities may need to be provided in a building to assist with any evacuation of the building occupants, effect rescues of any casualties and to fight fires. The time taken for fire and rescue service intervention is dependent on a number of variables. The time to contact the emergency services, the location of the building in relation to the fire station and the height of the floor of fire origin above or below the fire and rescue service access level.

Fires in tall buildings or in basement storeys may present additional risks to fire and rescue service personnel. Fire and smoke can suddenly change direction and intensity due to a number of factors which might induce reverse air flows. For example, the wind direction and velocity (which increases with height) could have a significant impact when fire-fighters open the door to the dwelling of fire origin. Similarly, limited ventilation available in a basement storey can lead to heat and smoke build up that is released through the opening the fire-fighters are using as an entry point.

It is important that the facilities to assist the fire and rescue services take account of the building design. The Building Disaster Assessment Group carried out extensive research on behalf of the UK Government to assess the interaction between building design and the operational response of fire and rescue services. The subjects covered by the research included:

  • physiological performance criteria for fire-fighting

  • fire-fighting in under-ventilated compartments, and

  • fire-fighting media in high-rise buildings.

The research is available on the UK Government website http://www.communities.gov.uk/fire/.

2.14.2 Number and type of facilities

Houses - facilities to assist the fire and rescue service need not be provided in a house. This is because the forward control point will be set up outside the building and the operations will commence from that point.

Flats and maisonettes - the further fire-fighters need to travel to reach the seat of the fire above or below ground, the greater the risk. Therefore, the number and type of facilities should be provided based on the height of the topmost storey above the fire and rescue service access level, the depth of any basement storeys below the access level and the distance from any fire mains outlets (see clause 2.14.7).

Facilities that may be necessary include:

  • fire-fighting stairs (see clause 2.14.3)

  • fire-fighting lifts (see clause 2.14.4)

  • fire-fighting lobbies (see clause 2.14.5)

  • heat and smoke control e.g. natural or mechanical ventilation (see clause 2.14.6), and

  • fire mains i.e. wet or dry risers (see clause 2.14.7).

Height of topmost storey - building design should complement fire-fighting and rescue capability. The 7.5m storey height above the ground is historically linked to the height at which fire and rescue service personnel can rescue occupants using the standard 13.5m portable ladder. Whilst this practice is no longer common, for health and safety reasons, fire fighters continue to carry out external rescues as a last resort and building design should recognise this.

The 18m storey height above the ground is also historically linked with the reach capability of fire and rescue service equipment such as wheeled escape ladders (now obsolete). The general intent is that buildings with a storey at a height of more than 18m above the access level, cannot be easily reached by fire and rescue service equipment and personnel. Therefore, at least 1 fire-fighting shaft (fire-fighting stair, fire-fighting lobby, fire mains and in some cases a fire-fighting lift) is provided within the building to allow equipment and personnel to be deployed as quickly as possible.

In addition, fire-fighters cannot apply water jets from fire hoses onto external walls high above the ground because of the limited reach capability. The guidance throughout this handbook including Standard 2.7, fire spread on external walls, recognises this limitation.

The fire and rescue service facilities recommended in the table should be applied on every storey however the lowest basement storey sets the level of facilities recommended throughout the basement storeys only. The depth of the lowest basement storey is measured from the fire and rescue service access level to the upper surface of the lowest basement storey. The height of the topmost storey of a building is measured from the fire and rescue service access level to the upper surface of the topmost storey.

Table 2.6. Fire and rescue service facilities

Height and depth of storey above or below fire and rescue service access level [1] Type of facilities [2]
Basements at a depth not more than 4.5m below access level

fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3)

ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6)

Topmost storey not more than 7.5m above access level

fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3)

ventilation to stair (see clause 2.14.6)

Topmost storey more than 7.5m but not more than 18m above access level

fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3)

fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5)

ventilation to stair and fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.6)

dry fire main located in fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.7)

Topmost storey more than 18m but not more than 50m above access level

fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3)

fire-fighting lift (see clause 2.14.4)

fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5)

ventilation to stair, and fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.6)

dry fire main located in fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.7)

Topmost storey more than 50m but not more than 60m above access level

fire-fighting stair (see clause 2.14.3)

fire-fighting lift (see clause 2.14.4)

fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.5)

ventilation to stair, and fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.6)

wet fire main located in fire-fighting lobby (see clause 2.14.7)


Additional information:

  1. The access level is the level at which the fire and rescue service enter the building to commence fire-fighting and rescue operations.

  2. Ventilation to stairs includes both escape stairs and fire-fighting stairs (see clause 2.14.6).

Figure 2.9. Ground Floor - One Escape Route

Ground Floor - One Escape Route

[Note] Note

For heat and smoke control see clause 2.14.6

Figure 2.10. Upper floor - One Escape Route

Upper floor - One Escape Route

[Note] Note

For heat and smoke control see clause 2.14.6

2.14.3 Fire-fighting stairs

At least 1 fire-fighting stair should be provided to assist fire-fighters to access the fire and if necessary escape from the fire in relative safety. The fire-fighting stair should be at least 1.0m wide measured between handrails to provide fire and rescue service personnel sufficient room to carry fire-fighting and rescue equipment.

A fire-fighting stair and where required a fire-fighting lobby and fire-fighting lift should be contained within a protected zone. The enclosing structure of the protected zone should have at least a medium fire resistance duration. The protected zone should have a long fire resistance duration where it serves a building where the topmost storey is more than 18m above the fire and rescue service access level. A self-closing fire door in the enclosing structure of a protected zone should have a short fire resistance duration and in the case of a high rise domestic buildings, a medium fire resistance duration. A fire-fighting stair can also be used as an escape stairs.

The wall separating the fire-fighting stair from the fire-fighting lobby (where necessary, see table to clause 2.14.2) should have at least a medium fire resistance duration and the self-closing fire door should have at least a short fire resistance duration. The wall separating the fire-fighting lobby from the remainder of the building should have a long fire resistance duration and the door should be a self-closing fire door with a medium fire resistance duration.

Figure 2.11. Building storey height more than 18m

Building storey height more than 18m

[Note] Note

For heat and smoke control see clause 2.14.6

2.14.4 Fire-fighting lifts

In high rise domestic buildings, a fire-fighting lift should be provided to assist fire-fighters to transport equipment to a floor of their choice as quickly as possible. The lift also allows fire-fighters to access several floors quickly to assess the situation and to rescue any casualties.

The fire-fighting lift installation includes the lift car itself, the lift well and the lift machinery space, together with the lift control system and the lift communication system. The lift control and communication system should be capable of being used under the direct control of the fire and rescue services. The lift installation should conform to BS EN 81: Part 72: 2003 and BS EN 81: Part 1: 1998 or BS EN 81: Part 2: 1998 depending on the type of lift.

A fire-fighting lift should be located within a protected zone and constructed within its own compartment having at least a medium fire resistance duration. The lift landing doors need only achieve a short fire resistance duration.

The fire-fighting lift should only be entered from:

  • a fire-fighting lobby with not more than 1 door to the room or storey it serves, or

  • an open access balcony.

A fire-fighting lift need not serve the top storey of a building where:

  • the top storey is for service plant use only, and

  • access to the plant room is from the fire-fighting stair from the storey below, and

  • the foot of the fire-fighting stair is not more than 4.5m from the fire-fighting lift.

2.14.5 Fire-fighting lobbies

A fire-fighting lobby serves a fire-fighting stair and a fire-fighting lift where appropriate. Where a fire-fighting lobby is required (see table to clause 2.14.2), it should be located within a protected zone and should be provided on every storey. The purpose of a fire-fighting lobby is:

  • to allow fire-fighters to set up a forward control point at least 1 floor below the fire floor where fire-fighters and fire-fighting equipment can safely be assembled before commitment to fire-fighting and rescue operations

  • to protect fire-fighters when making their final approach to the fire floor

  • to protect any evacuees or fire-fighters who might be using the stair from a fire in the lift well or lift machine room

  • to provide fire-fighters with a safe route of egress from the fire, or if the lift should fail or its reliability becomes uncertain

  • to protect fire-fighters who might accidentally arrive at the fire floor

  • to reduce the potential for fire-fighters to become disoriented due to poor visibility, and

  • to protect the lift from the effects of fire and smoke in adjoining accommodation.

Therefore, a fire fighting lobby should be provided on every storey, and have an area of at least 5m2 with all principal dimensions at least 1.5m. This allows fire-fighters sufficient room to lay out hose and connect to the outlet from a fire main.

In buildings where the topmost storey height is more than 18m above fire and rescue service access level a fire-fighting lobby should have not more than 1 door to the room or storey it serves.

However a fire-fighting lobby need not be provided where:

In these cases, the fire main may be located in the protected corridor, protected lobby or open access balcony provided an area of at least 5m2 with all principal dimensions of at least 1.5m is available at the fire main outlet which is located adjacent to the protected door leading to the fire-fighting stair.

Figure 2.12. One Escape Route - Storey height 7.5m to 18m

One Escape Route - Storey height 7.5m to 18m

[Note] Note

For heat and smoke control see clause 2.14.6

2.14.6 Heat and smoke control

The fire and rescue service should be provided with the facility to release smoke and heat from a fire during their fire-fighting and rescue operations. Ventilation should be provided to every escape stair, fire-fighting stair, fire-fighting lobby and to every protected lobby or protected corridor where appropriate (see table to clause 2.14.2). The efficiency of the ventilators depends upon the prevailing wind and it is important that fire-fighters can control the opening and closing of the ventilators on arrival at the building.

Ventilators should be fitted with a simple handle or lock that can be operated by fire-fighters. If ventilators are not easily accessible they should be operated by a mechanism positioned within the building at the fire and rescue service access point. In the case of an escape stair and fire-fighting stair, a local control should also be provided at the topmost storey. This will allow fire-fighters flexibility in their operations.

Escape stairs and fire-fighting stairs - ventilation should be provided to every escape stair and every fire-fighting stair by:

  • a ventilator of at least 1m2 at the top of the stair, or

  • an ventilator of at least 0.5m2 at each storey on an external wall, or

  • ‘Smoke shafts protecting fire-fighting shafts; their performance and design’ (BRE, 2002).

Protected lobbies, protected corridors and fire-fighting lobbies - ventilation should also be provided in protected lobbies, protected corridors and fire-fighting lobbies by:

  • a ventilator of at least 1m2 at each storey on an external wall, or

  • smoke shafts as described in the guidance to Standard 2.9, or

  • ‘Smoke shafts protecting fire-fighting shafts: their performance and design’ (BRE, 2002).

A natural or mechanical smoke ventilation system used to satisfy Standard 2.9 may also be used to satisfy Standard 2.14 with the agreement of the fire and rescue service.

2.14.7 Fire mains

Where there is an outbreak of fire high above the fire and rescue service access level, the time taken to set up a forward control point, assess the situation and carry hoses up several flights of stairs can be considerable. Therefore, in a building where the topmost storey is more than 7.5m, a fire main should be installed in the fire-fighting lobby to help reduce fire attack time. Fire mains may be located in a protected lobby, protected corridor or open access balcony (see clause 2.14.5).

A dry fire main is a pipe installed in a building for fire-fighting purposes, which is normally dry but is capable of being charged with water by pumping from a fire and rescue service appliance. A dry fire main is commonly referred to as a ‘dry riser’.

Dry fire mains should be designed and constructed in accordance with BS 9990: 2006 and boxes for fire mains outlets valves should conform to BS 5041: Part 4: 1975 (1987).

The inlets to the risers should be located externally to the building and not more than 18m from a parking space suitable for a pumping appliance. There should be a clear hose route between the appliance and the inlet.

Wet fire main - the pressure and flow rates delivered from fire mains reduce with height above the ground and may not provide an effective water jet from fire-fighting hoses. Therefore, where the height of the topmost storey is more than 50m above the fire and rescue service access level, wet rising mains should be installed. A wet fire main is a pipe which is constantly charged with water supplied from a suction tank and pump. The suction tank should have an inlet for the emergency replenishment of water and is clearly visible to the fire and rescue services. A wet fire main is commonly referred to as a ‘wet riser’.

Fire mains outlets should be provided on every storey of a building and the basement storey to permit fire-fighting operations to be conducted at any floor level when it is safe for fire and rescue service personnel to do so.

If an automatic fire suppression system is installed in the building, no point on the storey should be more than 60m from the fire main outlet, measured along an unobstructed route for laying a fire hose. If the building is not fitted with an automatic fire suppression system, no point on the storey should be more than 45m from the outlet.

Figure 2.13. Two Escape Routes

Two Escape Routes

[Note] Note

For heat and smoke control see clause 2.14.6