Does Your Building’s Fire Safety Strategy Have the Golden Thread?

A golden thread is the gold standard when it comes to fire safety strategy in buildings

Whether your building is brand new or has its roots back in medieval times, to understand how to prevent or contain a fire or provide assurance that the fire safety measures you have in place are adequate, there needs to be an understanding of the through-line or ‘golden thread’ of your building’s evolution.  The materials the premises are made of, the formation of its compartmentation strategy, the means of escape, the fire safety measures taken and other crucial safety information should be recorded, kept safely and made available to those who might need the information.  There also needs to be consideration given to the management arrangements so that everyone is sure that the building is fit for its intended use or purpose.  

First Call Fire can build a report for your golden thread of fire strategy

Buildings change and evolve over time and old parts are replaced and new parts built or aspects of the building are updated or replaced using new materials.  This information needs to be collated, updated and maintained and will form part of a business’s fire safety strategy.  In the past, this type of information may have been missing or information only collated on a new part of the building to pass building regulations.  This information was not legally enforced.  Many building owners are now commissioning retrospective fire strategies in order to build a golden thread of fire safety to ensure the best outcomes in the event of fire.  These reports can be used alongside contingency plans that your business has in place to ensure it can continue to operate in the wake of, for example, floods, natural occurrences, such as tree fall, and fire.   Obviously, when a building is affected by such events, any business or businesses using the building, or domestic occupants in residential buildings, would want disruption kept to a minimum.  Resilience to such events are vital for businesses and for building owners.

Unfortunately, in the past, not all buildings were built to prioritise life safety.  Following the Grenfell tragedy in 2017, there has been a focus on accountability related to fire safety in buildings.  This has meant that the lifecycle of a building is now of paramount importance when it comes to fire safety.  When a building is modified, it has to pass any necessary building regulations.  If you have a building that is older, as the organisation or the person or collective responsible for fire safety within your building, you have a responsibility to make ‘reasonable enquiries’ about the historical information on the building.  If the building is a new construction, the initial responsibility for the choice of materials to construct the building lies with the principal designer or contractor.  This passes to whoever occupies the building such as a building safety officer.   Clearly, for a building, a flow of information is created that moves from one dutyholder to another.  It is this flow of information that is called the ‘golden thread’.  The golden thread starts at the design phase and continues through the lifecycle of the building and would also include the decommissioning of a building.  It is crucial that this is a single line of truth about the building.  This can become more difficult to establish if your building is not a ‘new build’.  Commissioning a report can help bring peace of mind.

The details of the golden thread may include, amongst other aspects:

  • The design of the building and the comprising materials
  • The way the building is compartmentalised
  • The fire protection systems the building has in place
  • Information about fire escape routes
  • Information about the emergency procedures in place should a fire occur

The golden thread of your building will help to mitigate fire safety risks, reduce or prevent a fire from spreading or a structural collapse of the building in the event of a fire. 

Storing the golden thread information for a building

Whenever a building is modified, the information on this needs to be stored on the golden thread.  The dutyholder needs to update the information and ensure it is stored digitally and securely so that there is no risk of the information going missing or being lost. 

The information must:

  • Be made available to the people who need it in order to do their job
  • Must be available when that person needs it
  • Be presented in a way that is easy to use

How can I maintain the golden thread of information?

In the same way your building changes, so too can the people who hold responsibility for maintaining its golden thread.  It is important to ensure that procedures are in place that collect the documentation of all design and construction details pertinent to the golden thread and that this is updated and disseminated throughout the lifecycle of the building so that relevant personnel always know where the information is stored.  The information contained should be transparent and easily accessible.  You are advised to keep the information digitally and be responsible for maintaining that information to the highest digital standards. 

Planning for a change management process will ensure that any further changes to the building are accurately documented.  Staff and other stakeholders should be trained on the importance of maintaining the golden thread.  For those who manage buildings, the maintenance of the golden thread should also include those who occupy the building.  The aim of the document is that it is a live document at all times and that there is a culture that strives to improve the way that the information is documented and stored. 

Don’t know where to start on constructing your building’s golden thread?  Commission our expertise at First Call Fire to build a retrospective report for the gold standard in golden thread.

This article is intended to give you a flavour of elements of fire safety strategy and the golden thread.  Call us at First Call Fire for the fullest advice to fulfil your requirements as a dutyholder.

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