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Many shops, offices, restaurants and takeaways have flats above them. Business owners need to ensure that their fire safety plan takes into account those living above.

There are the three key questions for those with sleeping accommodation above their business:

Q1. Have I made sure the people in my building can be warned of a fire? How I can do this?

• If you shout 'fire' loudly, can all the people in the building hear? This includes the flat(s) upstairs.
• If people in the flat above may be in danger from a fire when the business is closed – is there a detector at ground floor level with a sounder in the flat above?

NOTE: A fire alarm can be required if the ceiling in your business is in poor condition and would not contain a fire for one hour.

• The ceiling needs to be two sheets of plasterboard thick with a 5mm skim of plaster.
• If you are not sure, you should always be extra cautious and fit mains powered linked detectors.

Q2. Can everyone get out of my building in an emergency? How can I be sure of this?

Make sure all people can walk away from thefire to escape from all areas of your building? This includes storage areas at the back of your business.

• Ensure that any storage, including that in outside areas, does not affect the escape route from your business or the flat above.
• Make sure all exits are easily openable from inside without the use of a key.
• If open when it’s dark outside, you may need some form of emergency lighting. This can be as simple as a suitably placed torch.
• If the escape route from the flat goes past a door from your business this must be a self-closing fire door to the following standard:

  • Solid wood door – minimum 30 mins fire rating
  • Fire and cold smoke seals
  • 3 x fire rated hinges
  • Fire approved self closer
  • Fire rated glass

NOTE: The escape route from a flat or sleeping area should be separate and not come down through the business area.

Q3. If a fire does start have I made sure it can’t spread to the sleeping accommodation above? How can I be sure of this?

  • Try and make sure as far as is reasonably possible that a fire does not start in the first place.
  • Turn off as much electrical equipment as possible.
  • Ensure that any heating, particularly any open flame type, is off. Any processes which involve heat as part of your business should, where possible, be turned off and checked prior to you leaving the property.
  • The ceiling separating your business from sleeping accommodation should be in good condition. It must be able to contain a fire and prevent deadly smoke spreading for one hour.
  • The ceiling needs to be two sheets of plasterboard thick with a 5mm skim of plaster.
  • There should be no holes where pipes or cables have been run. You should not be able see the underside of floorboards.
  • Pipes and wires going through the floor should have fire proof sleeves.
  • The underside of the ceiling might be hidden by a suspended ceiling.
  • NOTE: Unless this has been properly installed and certified, it cannot be considered as fire proof in any way. It may hide all kinds of problems that will allow fire and deadly smoke spread to the flat above. You need to have a good look and put right by carrying out repairs.
  • Doors opening onto the escape route from the sleeping accommodation above should be firedoors as per the spec above.