Sprinkler review for high-rise homes
Thousands of residents will benefit from safer homes under proposals that would see sprinklers installed in new high-rise blocks of flats, the government has announced
The proposals are an important step forward in the government’s commitment to ensuring residents are safe in their homes, a Home Office spokesperson said.
The government is consulting on reducing the building height for when sprinklers are required from the current 30 metres (approximately ten floors) and above to 18 metres (approximately six floors) or other relevant thresholds.
A new Protection Board is also being set-up immediately with the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council to provide further reassurance to residents of high-risk residential blocks that any risks are identified and acted upon. The Communities Secretary has made up to £10 million a year of funding available to support the Board who will provide expert, tailored building checks and inspections, if necessary, on all high-risk residential buildings in England by 2021. The Board will operate until a new building safety regulator is established to oversee the new regulatory regime for buildings and legislation on a new building safety regime is introduced.
Their work will ensure building owners are acting on the latest safety advice and keeping residents updated and that interim measures are in place in all buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. This work will be informed by current data collection work of local authorities to identify types of cladding on high-rise residential buildings, for which government is providing an additional £4 million funding.
The government has opened the application process for the £200 million fund to accelerate the pace of the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM from privately-owned buildings.
The Secretary of State for Housing, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “Residents’ safety is our utmost priority and we are making vital improvements to ensure buildings are safe. I have listened to concerns on sprinklers from residents and building owners and our proposals are an important step forward in shaping the future building safety standards.
“The new Protection Board will make sure building owners don’t flout the rules, as well as ensuring fire safety risks in other buildings are being addressed.”
Speaking on the £200 million of funding for private building owners to remove unsafe cladding, the Secretary of State said: “Government funds are available for private building owners to remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding, and let me be clear, inaction will have consequences and I will name and shame those who do not act during the course of the autumn.
“There is no excuse for further delay – and for building owners to fail to take action now would be frankly disgraceful.
“The 12-week fire safety consultation on sprinklers and other measures forms part of the first proposed changes to building regulations in England covering fire safety within and around buildings.”
It also seeks views to introduce an emergency evacuation alert system for use by fire and rescue services, alongside other fire safety measures. Building Safety Minister Lord Younger said: “I’m determined to ensure buildings across the country are safe for residents and the opening of our private sector fund and commitment to new building safety legislation is an important step in driving that forward.
“This government is acting and I’m calling on all building owners and developers to step up and make any changes needed to ensure their buildings are safe.”
Fire chiefs welcome sprinkler review for high-rise homes
The National Fire Chiefs Council has welcomed the government announcement which will see sprinkler protection for new high-rise blocks and a consultation on reducing the building height requirement for sprinklers
The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) has welcomed the announcement of government proposals which will see new high-rise blocks of flats protected by sprinklers and consulting on reducing the building height for requirement of sprinklers, from the current 30 metres (approximately ten floors) and above to 18 metres (approximately six floors) or other relevant thresholds.
NFCC Chair Roy Wilsher commented: “NFCC has lobbied for the more widespread use of sprinkler systems, most recently in our response to the government consultation on Approved Document B in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.
“We are delighted that government have made this commitment to improving fire safety. This announcement and consultation will go some way to bringing legislation in England closer to that which already exists in Scotland and Wales.
“NFCC has played a vital role in providing advice to government and will continue to do so with the announcement of the creation of the Protection Board which I will Chair.”
“MHCLG, senior fire leaders, the Home Office and Local Government Association will meet this month for the first Protection Board meeting. There has been a commitment from MHCLG of £10m investment in fire protection to support the work of the Board, it is hoped that this will support fire and rescue services as they aim to improve building safety.
“Lastly NFCC is pleased to see that at last the government is opening the application process for the £200m fund to accelerate the pace of the removal and replacement of unsafe ACM from privately-owned buildings. The removal of non-compliant ACM cladding systems is long overdue and we hope to see remediation completed soon.
“NFCC is pleased to see this announcement – which will go some way to help people feel safer in their homes – a right which should be available to all.”
Brigade responds to government’s announcement on sprinklers in high-rise buildings
London Fire Brigade has welcomed the news of the government’s consultation on the use of sprinklers in new high-rise buildings at 18 metres and above
Dan Daly, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “We welcome the news that the government have listened to our concerns on sprinklers and intend to consult on the inclusion of sprinklers in new residential high-rise buildings at 18 metres and above.
“For over ten years, we have lobbied for more buildings to have sprinklers as it is a simple way to save more lives and reduce the risks to firefighters. The current guidance accompanying building regulations states that all new residential buildings over 30 metres should have sprinklers installed and this is not good enough.
“Sprinklers provide much needed time when a fire breaks out in any building with people in it. They are the only system that tackles the fire immediately and they protect people and properties. Modern fire suppression systems target the seat of fire rather than an entire building. The impact of fire on people’s lives and property far outweighs the monetary cost.
“The Brigade will do all it can to explain the life and property saving value of sprinklers during this consultation.”
In the Brigade’s submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on its consultation on Approved Document B of the building regulations, LFB called for automatic fire suppression systems, which includes sprinklers, to be fitted in a number of buildings including:
- All-purpose built blocks of flats, or at the very least all blocks over six storeys.
- All homes where vulnerable people live.
- All buildings housing vulnerable residents such as a care homes or sheltered accommodation.
The Brigade also submitted a separate consultation response to the Home Office’s call for evidence in relation to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Among the key areas the Brigade has been calling for review is for Automatic Fire Suppression Systems (AFSS) such as sprinklers to be mandatory in a range of buildings, particularly in all buildings housing vulnerable people and in schools.
As part of the Brigade’s #SprinklersHit campaign, the Brigade urged Londoners to write to their MP and ask them to support the Brigade’s calls.
Call for holistic approach to fire safety in high-rises
The Smoke Control Association has backed the recent government announcement outlining plans for a review on sprinklers in high-rise buildings but has reaffirmed its stance on improving building safety by calling for an ‘all-inclusive’ approach towards fire safety systems
This latest announcement outlines the government’s intention to move forwards in considering options for reducing the height threshold at which sprinkler systems would be required from the current requirement of 30 metres to a lower height threshold. The consultation is also asking for views on proposals to change Approved Document B in order to improve wayfinding signage in blocks of flats and the provision of evacuation alert systems for use by the fire service.
Although the Smoke Control Association (SCA) is encouraged at the progress being made following Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations on fire safety reform, it would like to see further developments in the implementation of fire safety solutions that can work alongside sprinklers to better protect residents.
David Mowatt, Chairman of the SCA, comments: “When it comes to fire safety in high-rise buildings it’s vital that we take a well-rounded approach in considering products and systems that can reduce the spread of fire, keep escape routes clear, improve access for the fire services and ultimately save lives.
“The SCA has previously held joint discussions with the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association in order to review shared aims and objectives and will continue to promote a collective approach to raising standards in the fire safety industry.”
Project SHOUT reports rise in carbon monoxide poisoning
Cases of suspected carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning have increased by a third over the past five years, a report by campaign group Project SHOUT has revealed
Data from the UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) shows that cases rose steadily from 2,450 incidents in 2014 to 3,249 in 2019*. The FRS is usually one of the first emergency services on the scene in the event of a CO leak.
The worst affected regions include:
Project SHOUT says that with an estimated two-thirds of homes unprotected by an alarm, around 40 million people are at risk. It is calling for people to ensure CO alarms are placed in the correct locations – between 1m and 3m away from any fuel-burning appliance as well as in highly populated areas such as bedrooms and living rooms. It also recommends purchasing a CO alarm that complies with British Standard EN 50291 and carries a British or European approval mark, such as a Kitemark, to ensure you are protected and also to make sure gas appliances are installed and serviced regularly by a qualified GAS SAFE registered engineer.
Further research by Project SHOUT has revealed that over one third (35 per cent) of people would not recognise the symptoms of CO poisoning at all. Eighty per cent of residents in properties that DO have an alarm admit that they have no idea whether it works or not as they never test it.
Approximately 50 people die each year from carbon monoxide poisoning and thousands more are treated in hospital.
In October 2015, legislation came into force that required private landlords to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in every property that had a solid fuel burning appliance, such as an open fire or log burner. The legislation however does NOT cover gas appliances such as a gas boiler or gas hob, something Project Shout is campaigning to change.
*The data was gathered via Freedom of Information requests to fire and rescue services.
More than a million homes in London given free fire safety advice and smoke alarms
Firefighters in London have carried out a million home fire safety visits – with more than a quarter of the city’s population receiving free advice about how to keep safe
The milestone makes London Fire Brigade the first fire service in the country to have visited a million homes and more than two million residents.
Home fire safety visits (HFSVs) were introduced in London in April 2005 in a bid to prevent accidental fire deaths and injuries in the home as well as to reduce the number of fires occurring. The scheme aims to encourage changes to behaviours which commonly cause fires.
On the day they were introduced, 80 HFSVs were carried out across London and now firefighters and fire safety officers reach more than 80,000 homes a year to give advice on prevention, detection and escape routes. They also fit smoke alarms for free where needed.
To mark the millionth HFSV, Commissioner Dany Cotton visited Beckenham resident Mrs Eileen Morgan along with a crew from Beckenham Fire Station’s Blue Watch. They talked to her about fire prevention and gave personalised advice about the common causes of fire, how to carry out bedtime checks and what to do if there is a fire.
Commissioner Cotton said: “The number of fires at residential properties has been reducing over time which is largely thanks to our prevention work with communities to educate them about the dangers of fire in the home.
“Our HFSVs have changed a lot since I was a frontline firefighter and it was great to join Blue Watch and meet a resident who was so pleased to welcome us and who we were able to give practical tips to on how to stay safe in her home.
“I’m really proud my staff have given potentially life-saving advice to more than two million Londoners and I’d encourage anyone that hasn’t had a visit to get in touch and book one.”
Mrs Morgan said: “I was very pleased to see the fire engine turn up outside. I’m 92, registered as blind and I live alone, so it made a very jolly afternoon having the firefighters visit, who were all so pleasant. It was also lovely to meet the Commissioner and to see a woman in that position – she was just one of the team.
“I was so impressed when one of the firefighters, who was very tall, just got the smoke alarm and fitted it to the ceiling. They did a wonderful job and it’s a pity that some people are unaware of these visits being available.
“I am honoured to help mark the millionth visit. They say everyone gets 15 minutes of fame in their lifetime and I’ve waited 92 years to get mine – and what a great cause to get it with.”
The Brigade hopes to launch an online interactive home fire safety visit, where residents will be able to get virtual advice tailored to their home and situation.