Fire chiefs call for more than one fire escape staircase in tall buildings

fire escape
(Image: Maxim Tajer, Unsplash)

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) is urging the government to require all new residential buildings over 18m, or seven storeys high, to have more than one fire escape staircase.

In England, there is currently no maximum height for residential buildings with only one staircase.

The NFCC called on the government to make a series of changes for buildings over 18m or seven storeys, including:

  • All new buildings to have more than one protected staircase.
  • All existing buildings retrofitted with sprinklers.
  • Lifts in existing buildings installed or replaced for use in an evacuation.

The NFCC said its recommendations could be reinforced by amending Building Regulations or Approved Document B.

Evacuations from tall buildings

While it is often safe for residents of tall buildings to “stay put” in the event of a fire, the London Fire Brigade reported 154 cases between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2022 of 10 or more people evacuated from a block of flats of at least six storeys. The NFCC said this meant 8,500 residents chose to evacuate rather than stay put either before, during, or after the fire and rescue services arrived.

Gavin Tomlinson, NFCC protection and business safety scrutiny committee chair said: “We are calling on the government to ensure that all new high-rise residential buildings over 18 metres, or seven storeys, have more than one fire escape staircase. In the event of a fire, a correctly designed second staircase removes the risk of a single point of failure, buying critical time for firefighting activities, and providing residents with multiple escape routes.”

NFCC chair Mark Hardingham added: “The government should be commended on the improvements it has made, such as banning combustible cladding and requiring sprinklers at 11 metres. However, we urge the government to now publish an updated workplan for the review of Approved Document B to give regulators, the public, and the wider fire safety industry confidence that the Government is still committed to reform.”

Story for CM? Get in touch via email: [email protected]


  1. I fully support the NFCC on this matter.
    However, in London I do not think that the LFB is equipped with ladders of sufficient height to get people evacuated from 18m above ground level.

  2. The NFCC have a valid point here. Moreover, I think there may be a case for triage of the principles suggested. A second staircase is probably the most important. A fire escape lift will be more valuable in taller blocks – so there may be a case for a higher limit requirement for this item. The traditional thinking in regard to sprinklers was not to use them in domestic situations. While that has clearly changed, there needs to be careful consideration as to the real benefits compared to the drawbacks. If sprinklers went off in every dwelling in a high rise block, then every resident would be rushing to evacuate – a situation which may not be desirable.

  3. Been calling for this myself for years. Fire safety in some buildings is woeful…. sadly the HSE are the tiger that’s had their teeth pulled out now there’s no state budget for them, and it’s not getting any easier to police fire safety… that coupled with expensive, ineffective training is not enabling people to consult easily on such matters.

Comments are closed.

Latest articles in News