Fire safety is such an integral part of our society that it’s easy to think that it has always been here. And while people have always had a healthy respect for the destructive powers of fire, there haven’t always been agreed safety standards and enough knowledge to keep everyone safe. That’s exactly what fire safety legislation is for: it is a set of rules set out by experts to ensure everyone stays safe. As we like to dispel the myths about fire safety here at K & D Systems, and to help all our customers and readers better understand fire safety, we’d like to give a brief overview of fire safety in the UK.
Dating Back Before the Union
UK fire safety legislation is as old as the United Kingdom itself, but it goes back further, back to England, Wales, and Scotland from 1707 to 1800, and was only the UK fire safety in 1801, when the United Kingdom was formed.
Scottish fire safety legislation dates back to the late 17th century after a series of fires caused a lot of damage. In 1698, the ‘Act Regulating the Manner of Building with the Town of Edinburgh’ was passed. There were several features of this act, but the most notable was that no building was allowed to be taller than five stories.
In England, the Great Fire of London of 1666 is arguably the most famous fire disaster in history. In the wake of this epic fire, London discovered that 13,200 houses and 87 churches had been destroyed. Afterwards, King Charles II made a royal proclamation that required houses to be built from stone instead of wood and that the roads throughout London were to be widened to create more space between houses, to make it harder for fire to spread.
Focusing on Human Life More Than Property
The UK can hold its head up high as the first country to put forth fire safety legislature that prioritised saving human lives. Previously, it seems that all fire safety legislature concerned itself with was keeping buildings and property safe. The Fires Prevention Act 1774 stands out as it stipulated that certain measures must be made to help people escape a fire. This act made many other stipulations regarding the different kinds of buildings, the thicknesses of walls, and the floor areas of stores/warehouse space. This act also required appointed surveyors, not unlike modern fire safety inspectors.
This act is a landmark in fire safety legislation. It shows how careful and considered fire safety standards were becoming. Fire was being taken seriously by the people at the top, and this knowledge was filtering down to the common people.
The London Building Acts and Building Bylaws
As part of the London Building Acts 1930–39, more nuanced bylaws were introduced to various buildings in London. These bylaws brought in carefully considered rules and regulations about building height, how a building was used (domestic, commercial, factory, etc.) and various other reactions to the change in building materials and building technologies. Although these bylaws were a good move, they were not legally binding, and many local authorities ignored them.
The Public Health Act 1961
Perhaps the biggest fire safety landmark in the UK was when the Public Health Act 1961 was introduced. This act made a huge number of changes to over 1,400 local bylaws, offering an overarching set of safety laws and guidelines. This act allowed new technology and understanding of fire safety to spread throughout the entire country.
The Fire Safety Order 2005
The Fire Safety Order 2005 introduced a new principle: for each building, a responsible person must carry out a fire safety assessment, ensuring that the building is as safe as possible within legal parameters. How new occupants use an old property is a factor, and how a new building is made to suit its occupiers is considered more carefully than ever before. Introducing this idea of a fire safety officer or responsible person has helped highlight certain problems and has hypothetically saved hundreds of lives as a result.
There have been dozens of fire safety acts issued in between those included in this brief history. They have gradually built on the foundations of those before them, and sometimes completely replaced them. Fire safety is constantly progressing as our understanding grows and our technologies evolve. That is why our automated fire curtains and fire shutters have proven so useful to modern industrial and commercial premises. Here at K & D, we will continue to promote fire safety and to try to learn as much as we can about it. Please get in touch if you have any questions for us about our fire safety products.