Jan 31, 2024
How a Waking Watch Helps Evacuation Management
Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017, property owners have been strongly encouraged to make improvements to tower blocks with dangerous cladding and other fire safety issues. Years on, many still haven’t done enough to ensure the safety of the residents in the buildings they own.
In London alone, there are over 1,000 residential properties with fire safety failings. It’s time for responsible persons to step up, implement remediation plans, and put better fire safety systems in place. While this critical change occurs, property owners should put interim fire safety measures in place, such as a waking watch. Such measures mitigate risk in the short term.
What Is a Waking Watch?
A waking watch is when trained professionals, such as fire wardens or marshals, patrol a building’s interior and exterior 24/7. Their job is to detect fire, raise the alarm in case of fire, and manage an evacuation. This is mostly carried out in high-rise tower blocks and the practice has grown since the Grenfell Tower fire of 2017.
Property owners and responsible persons must consider a waking watch a temporary measure while work is done to improve fire safety in the long term. For instance, they might deploy a waking watch due to an alarm system failure or while dangerous cladding is replaced on a building.
How Does a Waking Watch Work?
When the warden detects or is alerted to a fire they attend the incident immediately for the purpose of assessment. If necessary, they will alert the fire brigade before implementing an evacuation plan to evacuate all residents from the building. There should be enough wardens in place to evacuate all residents within 10-15 minutes.
Government Guidance on Waking Watches
The latest edition of Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) outlines key guidance on evacuation management and waking watches. Some important points to note are as follows:
If there is a change in the evacuation policy, those responsible must engage with residents to explain the new protocols.
If a responsible person introduces a waking watch, they should explain the reasons for this measure and outline the evacuation strategy to residents.
A waking watch gives responsible persons the time to introduce a sustainable fire safety plan without forcing residents to leave their homes.
Responsible persons shouldn’t rely on a waking watch for the future. Dangerous cladding and other building defects that could cause fire-related issues should be remediated as soon as possible.
If remediation is delayed, an automatic fire detection and alarm system is the best mitigating measure.
When Do You Need Waking Watch Services?
Waking watch services are an option for residential buildings that have dangerous cladding or other fire safety issues that have forced a change in their evacuation policy.
The previous fire safety policy for some high-rise tower blocks was to “stay put”. This meant if the fire was confined to one residence, only the occupants of that residence needed to evacuate as the fire was contained.
However, we now know that this is extremely dangerous in buildings with combustible cladding and other fire safety issues as fires can spread rapidly. So, some high-rise residential buildings now require a “simultaneous evacuation” policy in which every resident and person in the building must evacuate to a safe space away from the building if a fire is detected.
A waking watch service is also required in response to an alarm system failure or update.
In any of these instances, a waking watch should not be considered a long-term solution. But rather it is an important interim solution while issues are fixed or a sustainable fire safety solution is put in place.
The Benefits of a Waking Watch
When carried out by a highly skilled team, a waking watch is an effective interim safety measure. Here are some of the ways waking watch services benefit property owners and residents:
Protection - A waking watch not only ensures residents are safe, but also protects staff, your assets, and the building. Knowing that a trained professional is present at all times will give you and residents peace of mind. Along with evacuating residents and staff, fire marshals are able to keep residents calm in an incredibly stressful situation.
Experienced Professionals - Waking watch wardens patrol the building constantly so they can respond rapidly in the event of a fire. These professionals are trained, experienced, and can support an evacuation plan effectively.
Coping with Unexpected Circumstances - If a fire alarm system fails unexpectedly, a waking watch can be deployed quickly to maintain the safety of residents while the system is fixed.
A Tailored Plan - Fire service professionals are able to carry out site assessments and offer a fire contingency plan catered to the unique needs of each building and its residents.
What to Look for in a Waking Watch Service
Ideally, fire marshals should consist of current or former firefighters with experience in the field. The reason for this is that these individuals are trained to be vigilant, respond rapidly, and protect the public at all costs, all of which are qualities required for an effective waking watch.
Also, look for a company that values high standards, high levels of commitment, and attention to detail. Wardens must be incredibly competent and always alert to do a job like this successfully.
Waking watch services must possess extensive knowledge of evacuation management. When this is the case, they won’t just turn up to do a job. Instead, they can assist with fire safety strategy and organisation to ensure you get the most from the service.
A waking watch provides an immediate and interim response to fire safety issues in tower blocks. It’s important to keep residents safe with a functioning, up-to-date fire alarm system and waking watch while sustainable changes are made to the fire safety plan.
If you’re curious about how a waking watch might work for your premises, contact Fire & Evacuation Services. Our experts are happy to advise and answer any questions you may still have.