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Updated SEG Seeks to Discourage the Ongoing and Prolonged Use of a Waking Watch

18 August 2022

A new edition of the industry guide The Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance (SEG) for England was published yesterday (Thursday 18th August), coordinated by the NFCC in partnership with a range of stakeholders, including The Property Institute (TPI). The fourth edition replaces the third edition published in October 2020.

TPI and its Health and Safety Advisor, Mark Snelling, were a part of the NFCC steering group which produced edition four of the guidance.


Key documents include:


The SEG, which has been put together by fire safety professionals, seeks to actively discourage the ongoing and prolonged use of a waking watch. The latest edition makes a number of updates and improvements to avoid having onsite staffing where this may not be needed.

Key aims of the guide are:

  • Ensuring those with responsibility for buildings fully understand the decision-making process before deciding that a change in evacuation strategy is required
  • Clearer emphasis on resident engagement
  • An end to risk averse ‘one size fits all’ application of on-site staffing (Waking Watches or Evacuation Management) when this is disproportionate to the risk.

Mark Hardingham, Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) noted, “After consulting on the draft with a range of stakeholders and leaseholder groups, over 500 comments were received. The new edition is much clearer about evacuation management, and the difference between general fire safety actions, compared to full-time jobs or continuous activities like patrolling.”

“Data collected from English Fire and Rescue Services shows that buildings known to have a waking watch (of all heights) fell by nearly 63% between June 2021 and March 2022, from 773, to 288. I’m really pleased to see this tracking down, and hope this trend will continue”

Dennis Davis, Executive Officer of the Fire Sector Federation added “The decision-making process to be followed before any change is made to a building’s evacuation strategy, should be proportionate, reflecting the risk presented based upon a holistic consideration, inclusive of the Fire Risk Assessment. We hope this new guidance will help Responsible Persons (RPs) and Fire Risk Assessors to act proportionately, by ensuring they are following the most up to date guidance, and in so doing take the right steps before they change their evacuation strategy.”

Gavin Tomlinson, Chair of the NFCC’s Protection Scrutiny Committee added, “We have repeatedly called on building owners to consider a wide range of risk mitigations including the installation of common fire alarms to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches and onsite staffing, and this is the clear expectation for buildings where remediation cannot be undertaken in the short term.”

“I’m pleased that edition four reinforces the need to support the safety of all residents where the competent risk assessor’s advice confirms a change in the evacuation strategy is required; whilst ensuring the measures in place are proportionate, and backed up by plan for remediation as quickly as possible.”

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