Essex County Fire & Rescue Service

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FOI / 4251 / 2021 - Waking watches


Thank you for your request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. We can confirm that Essex County Fire & Rescue Service does hold the information you have requested.

Please see below the answer to your request.

Questions and final response:

I am trying to understand the use of Waking Watches to support interim simultaneous evacuation plans and want to find the best way of submitting an FOI request so that it takes as little of your time as possible and also so that it is not automatically refused under S.12 and would really appreciate your help in having a better understanding of what kind of documentation exists.

Following the Grenfell Tower Fire, the DCLG (now MHCLG) issued an ‘Update on Interim Mitigation Measures Required Pending Remediation of Cladding’ (September 29th, 2017) 

It required that the competent person must notify the Fire Service that relevant assessments have taken place and whether a stay put strategy was still appropriate for the building. “In discussion with the local fire and rescue service…the assessment must be recorded so that it can be made available.” It also confirms that if the competent person decides that it is necessary to “temporarily change a stay-put strategy to one of simultaneous evacuation” then the local fire and rescue service must be informed “so they can update their operational procedures”

“Where simultaneous evacuation is adopted, it will need to be managed…This is likely to require the presence of a Waking Watch on a 24/7 basis.”

I understand that the adoption of a waking watch as part of a simultaneous evacuation plan is only intended to be a temporary or short-term measure and the NFCC guidance has now redefined short-term as “the time required to formulate a longer-term remediation plan, as soon as practically possible and no longer than 12 months.”

I am interested in understanding the following and wanted your advice about the most straightforward documents to request under FOI which would help with this.

Help with formulating an FOI request to understand the following

What is the process for alerting you to when an assessment has taken place and a decision made to change a stay-put strategy to one of simultaneous evacuation? Is there a particular document or form I should ask for (i.e., the assessment itself?) or would it be better to ask for how many of these notifications relating to how many buildings you have received in a given period?

The local fire station is normally informed/involved so that risk information can be updated, and we can ensure that the relevant departments within ECFRS are notified. 

What could I ask for to find out how long a simultaneous evacuation policy remains in place? Is there a record that the fire service keeps? Does the competent person have to notify the fire service at intervals? In each case what is it that I should be asking for?

Whilst the fire service will support/advise, the building owner is responsible for the evacuation plans. All the fire service needs to know is what the plan is and if it changes. This is where having a good relationship with the local station comes is useful.

Related to this – are you notified if/when they revert to a stay-put policy and what documents would demonstrate this?

Liaison with the local station would ensure that we hold timely and accurate information relating to the evacuation plans.

I know that a simultaneous evacuation policy will be likely to involve a waking watch but is there a document or piece of information I can request to confirm whether that is definitely the case?  

We are not aware of any such document or information, which is not to say that it does not exist.

And finally, are you informed if a building has a waking watch in addition to a stay-put policy? Again, what is the documentation that I could request to show this?

We try to ensure that the local station is made aware so that risk information can be annotated accordingly.

Additional information can be found on the two links provided below, as the guidance is continually being updated.

 Grenfell Tower - GOV.UK ( or  


Thank you for your interest in Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, we hope this satisfies your request.