Updated guidance launched: Simultaneous Evacuation  

Following extensive consultation, updated guidance from the NFCC led stakeholder group on simultaneous evacuation introduces key changes.

 Advises consultation with residents and leaseholders to explore cost/benefit options

  • Emphasises the need to consider the installation of common fire alarms where measures are now, or are likely to be in place for the longer term.
  • Provides a clear distinction between waking watch and evacuation management as separate roles.
  • Emphasises that residents can carry out waking watches and/or evacuation management duties so long as they are appropriately trained
It also provides new definitions:
  • Short-term: the time required to formulate a longer-term remediation plan, as soon as practically possible and no longer than 12 months; and
  • Temporary: non-permanent measures implemented to mitigate an unacceptable risk in a building, as an interim measure, adopted for the safety of residents while works to rectify the identified fire safety failings are carried out. 

This is the third edition of the technical guidance on arrangements to support a temporary change to the evacuation strategy. Such a change should only be considered when all other interim risk mitigation measures, as set out in the consolidated advice note, have been found to be insufficient in managing the risk.

Following the increasing number of buildings being identified with combustible cladding and without any known guidance on changing from stay put to simultaneous evacuation, in 2017 NFCC and other sector stakeholders produced guidance to avoid people being removed from their homes.

The guidance sets out measures to support the immediate safety of residents, whilst fully accepting that the principle way to reduce risk is to urgently remediate the non-compliant external wall systems.

Edition three of the guide is published in conjunction with ARMA; Fire Protection Association; Fire Industry Association; OPTIVO; and Institution of Fire Engineers

NFCC Chair, Roy Wilsher, said: “Waking watches have been used prior to this current building safety crisis as a short term measure in buildings with increased fire risks and should only be used temporarily.  It is clear that waking watch should not be the first measure to mitigate risk and the Consolidated Advice Note provides guidance on this.

"We share the very real concerns that residents have about how long some of these measures have been relied upon, and how waking watch is being implemented by responsible persons around the country.  We also do not believe the costs of serious building defects should end with leaseholders, and have called on Government for support and to consider more ways of how costs can be recovered from those who design and construct buildings.

“These key changes to the guidance reinforce both the stakeholder group and NFCC’s firm and long held expectation that building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches and the arrangements for existing buildings should be reviewed regularly. This is the clear expectation for buildings where remediation cannot be undertaken in the ‘short term’.

“This approach should, in almost all circumstances, reduce the financial burden on residents where they are funding the waking watches. 

“Our advice issued to fire and rescue services has been to ensure that close attention is paid to all buildings with these measures in place, and this is supported by the Building Risk Review Programme. However it remains that the best way to remove the risk is to fix the building.

“We have expressed frustration on the pace of remediation and continue to call for measures to make all homes safer places to live. NFCC recognises that some progress has been made but more needs to be done and we will continue to work with the Government on the reforms to fire safety, to ensure that buildings are built, refurbished and maintained safely.”

Notes to editors:

The Full guidance is published here.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) released on 20th January 2020, consolidated guidance, “Building safety advice for building owners, including fire doors” which has superseded the previous published Expert Panel (EP) Advice Notes 1 to 22.


A waking watch is a way of detecting a fire and then warning residents by constantly patrolling the floors and common areas, including the perimeter of PBBF, listening for smoke alarms actuating in flats and identifying signs of fire. They then call the fire service and will knock on every door to ensure an evacuation has commenced within 10-15 minutes

Waking watch has been used in the past where fire alarms have not been working and it is a short-term measure. Since Grenfell there have been a few incidences where the waking watch has been successfully utilised.  However, it should be tested regularly to ensure it meets the criteria.

Following the increasing number of buildings being identified with combustible cladding and without any known guidance on changing from stay put to simultaneous evacuation, NFCC and other sector stakeholders decided to produce this guidance.

This guidance makes the following clear:
  • As set out in law it is the legal duty of the responsible person along with their competent person in conjunction with the fire risk assessment that makes the decision to change strategy, not the Fire and rescue service.
  • The Responsible Person should consult with residents and especially leaseholders about the options available to mitigate the building’s deficiencies. Cost options should be provided to leaseholders, and leaseholders should be involved in the choice of interim measures that is made.
  • The change of evacuation strategy should only be temporary.
  • The change of evacuation strategy should be based on the risk to residents.
  • Remediation is the best way to achieve the safety of residents.
  • A common alarm should be installed to reduce or remove the need for a waking watch.
  • A waking watch should only be short term.
  • You may still need evacuation management even if you have a common fire alarm.
  • Residents if competent can carry out waking watch and or evacuation management duties.
  • The fire safety arrangements for buildings, particularly those which have changed the evacuation strategy, should be kept under regular review. In the coming weeks NFCC will be working with stakeholders to ensure the revised guidance is understood and that existing arrangements are reviewed.
Back to news