Do you have high rise properties?
Yes we do. We classify high rise blocks as those of six storeys and above – these will be our immediate focus. We have a register of all these properties and are undertaking inspections of all them.
What do the inspections involve?
The fire safety and housekeeping arrangements in each block are being checked and reviewed.
The findings are being collated and any concerns will be addressed as a priority over the coming days and weeks.
We are in communication with the fire authorities, including London Fire Brigade, and will implement any recommendations they offer in their guidance.
Are you checking cladding?
Yes, where there is cladding on the buildings we will be checking it and have appointed a specialist contactor – Ridge, to do this. They will send samples to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) for testing. BRE are the organisation being used as part of the Government’s testing programme.
What will you do once you’ve finished the inspections and tests?Once we have the results of the inspections and the tests we will update residents with block specific advice based on the findings.
Have evacuation arrangements changed?
No. The evacuation plan for individual blocks has not changed following the fire in Grenfell Tower.
What if there is a fire within my flat?
If there is a fire inside your flat or maisonette the advice is to alert all the people in your flat and leave, closing your doors behind you. You should follow the escape plan and if there is lots of smoke, crawl along the floor where the air should be clearer. Always use the stairs rather than the lift and call 999 as soon as you are in a safe place.
What if there is a fire elsewhere in the building?
If there is a fire elsewhere in the building then the structure of the building (walls, floors and doors) are designed to give you a minimum of 30-60 minutes protection, enabling you to remain in your flat whilst the Fire Service extinguish it.
If there is a fire elsewhere in your building then you are usually safer to stay in your flat unless the heat or smoke from the fire is affecting you, in which case you can leave via the stairs if safe to do so. If it is not safe to leave and you do remain in your flat, call 999 and tell them which flat you are in.
If at anytime you are concerned about your safety, and it is safe to do so, you should evacuate the building to a place of safety.
Why don’t I have a fire escape in my building and only one way out?
Many residential tower blocks are constructed with a single staircase. This design for high rise buildings dates back to the 1950s, and it is still an accepted method of construction under current Building Regulation guidance.
The principle, in single staircase blocks, is that each individual flat forms a fire resistant compartment to contain the fire and the communal stair is protected by fire doors to enable it to be used for prolonged periods of time.
In the UK there have been fires in housing blocks over many years, and the principles of containing the fire in a single flat has been proven to be a strategy that is successful in restricting fire spread throughout the building.
What if I don’t have a smoke alarm in my flat?
If you live in a high rise don’t have a working smoke alarm inside your flat please contact us on 0300 100 0303 and we will send you one.
Why is there no communal fire alarm in my block? There was a fire alarm in my block but it was removed, why?
As landlords, we are committed to complying with the advice and guidance provided by the fire authorities in relation to the facilities we have in our buildings. It has been consistent and clear advice from fire authorities that there should NOT be fire alarms fitted in the communal areas of purpose built blocks of flats.
This is not an issue of costs or cost saving; it is to ensure we comply with the best practice guidance provided to us. As a landlord we have had fire authorities, from London and across the country, issuing us with formal requests to remove communal fire alarms where they have visited a particular block and where they are not required.
Where a block of flats or a residential building operates a ‘stay put’ policy, having a communal fire alarm system fitted causes confusion and is against the ethos of the ‘stay put’ procedure.
Should the position on the installation of fire alarms be reviewed and changed by the Government Building Control bodies or the fire services, we will of course move with the advice to ensure we are in line with the best practice guidance in place.
Why are there no fire extinguishers in my block? Why have you taken away the fire extinguishers from my block?
We provide portable fire extinguishers based upon guidance given to national landlords by fire authorities as well as guidance published within relevant fire safety standards. This issue is not related to costs or cost saving.
The fire extinguisher industry, the fire service, and fire safety guides all provide the same clear message, only those people who have received suitable training should attempt to use portable fire fighting equipment. There is no expectation that residents will engage in fire fighting activities, and it is neither feasible nor practical to provide training to residents.
Untrained persons in a fire situation should remove themselves to a place of safety and call the emergency services.
Any resident can choose to purchase portable fire fighting equipment such as a fire blanket or a multipurpose fire extinguisher for personal use within their home. If you do, we encourage you to carefully read the instructions and guidance provided, never to take risks in a fire situation and evacuate the building as soon as possible.
Why have you never carried out a fire drill at my building?
We work closely with the fire service to ensure our approach to fire safety management is in line with what is current best practice guidance.
This advice is that it is not practical or feasible to undertake fire evacuation drills in purpose built residential blocks. The approach to be adopted is that in conjunction with the fire service residents are provided with information and advice on fire safety and what to do in the event of a fire in their home.
How can I be sure that I’m safe in my flat?
As landlords we have in place a process of block inspections that are carried out by a professional fire risk assessment company. They advise us on any issues to be addressed in the block to maintain the best possible level of fire safety.
We also work closely with the fire service to ensure our approach and advice to residents is in line with what is deemed best practice for residential housing blocks.
However, we would reiterate that if you have a fire in your flat or are in any way threatened by a fire in your block you should immediately leave the building.
How can you still advise people to stay put in a fire?
The advice for residents on what to do in the event of a fire is still based on what is the best practice guidance we receive from the fire service. This advice it is produced and promoted nationally by fire services.
Why haven’t you fitted sprinklers in tower blocks?
As landlords we are guided by Building Regulations and advice from government departments on what facilities are required to be fitted within our blocks. Should the position on the installation of residential sprinklers in existing buildings be reviewed and changed by the Government Building Control bodies, we will move with the advice to ensure we are in line with the best practice guidance being communicated.
Do you take fire safety seriously?
The safety of our residents is and has always been of paramount importance to us. The fire at Grenfell Tower has shocked and deeply saddened all of us, as it has the whole country. We equally are seeking clarity and information from official sources as to how such a truly terrible fire could have occurred.
As other housing organisations, we are using all available lines of communication to seek answers, and we are equally concerned that these answers cannot be provided at this time.
We have long standing working partnerships with fire services around the country and have always engaged proactively to ensure we are managing fire safety in line with the guidance provided by the professional fire industry and fire services.
Older housing blocks do not always have the same level of fire safety as would newly built properties. This doesn’t mean they are unsafe, and in recognition of the specialist nature of assessing any risks to our residents we have employed professional fire risk consultants to carry out fire risk assessments on all of our properties.
We will ensure compliance with any recommendations that are made by the fire services and DCLG.
We fully recognise the devastating effect a fire can have and working to achieve a safe environment for residents is a priority for us. We would encourage all residents to assist in keeping themselves and their blocks safe by following all fire safety advice being provided and reporting any issues within your building.