Manchester Sustainable Communities Press release
Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt
PDF download, click here: Manchester Sustainable Communities Hackitt Press Release 17 05 2018
Fire Safety in Flats
Staying put in a block of flats when there is a fire in the building carries with it some irrefutable risks. The toxic gases caused by a fire involving the contents of your average domestic setting are plentiful and poionous enough to kill many people beyond the room and flat where the fire originates. As with many ‘Stay Put’ blocks the risks such a startegy give rise to are mitigated by, amongst other things, barriers of compartmentation designed to prevent the spread of fire and highly poinsonous gases into neighbouring flats, common areas and escape routes.
The founder of MSC (Phil Muphy) is a tenant in a 23 storey block of flats with a ‘Stay Put’ fire procedure. The block is fifty years old, has 24 storeys, has a single escape staircase and does not have cladding fitted. The block had a major refurbishment nearly a decade ago. The refurbishment included installation of ventilation ducting, new bathroom plumbing, new kitchen plumbing and a new communal heating system throughout. Collectively the works gave rise to the need for careful and diligent reinstatement of fire stopping throughout the block because the refurbishment saw compartment barrier walls throughout the building penetrated on every level and in every flat.
Many similar buildings have had refurbishments that bring with them a need for careful and competent reinstatement of fire and smoke compartmentation barriers, bearing in mind compartments were designed into the building as a critical element of the stay put policy. It can be reasonably asserted now that all older blocks of flats, that have undergone major internal works, should be subject to a thorough and intrusive Fire Risk Assessment to ensure the compartmentation has been correctly maintained. In many of these blocks the compartmentation has not been properly monitored or assessed even once in the decades since they were built.
Here in reverse chronological order are snapshots of Phil’s fight to have his block competently examined and repaired to ensure an acceptable standard of fire safety respecting the risks to residents that come with a Stay Put policy.
BRE Leaked Report – the 13 pages
Thirteen pages from the leaked BRE Report, relating to the causes of the #Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, in a PDF.
Do High Rise Residents Feel Safe at Home?
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service hosted an event last night (28/03/18) for tenants of private high rise blocks. BBC Radio Manchester asked me what it might take to help high rise tenants feel safe in the high rise homes where they, and their families, must sleep at night (thanks and credit to Euan Doak and the BBC):
Let’s make preventable fatalities in high rise flats a thing of the past.
All families deserve to feel safe when they’re sleeping at night. #ThreeSteps to Fire Safety in high rise blocks, please sign this petition: https://www.change.org/p/uk-parliament-threesteps-to-fire-safety-for-families-living-in-high-rise-flats
Proper Fire Door Checks
This short video looks at a common and dangerous fault found in the fire stopping surrounding fire door sets that form part of a compartment wall. Regular expanding foam is found to have been used in combination with regular silicone sealant to fill and seal the gap in between the frame and the wall. This seriously reduces the effectiveness of the door to prevent the passage of hot gases and fire, also the expanding foam produces poisonous gases when exposed to heat.
1st March 2018: Following a Freedom of Information Request GMFRS have published a summary of thier findings. Less than a quarter of the 489 high rise inspections were found to be broadly compliant:
|GMFRS High Rise Flats – Compliance Inspections|
High Rise Inspections
|Notice of Deficiencies||66|
The spreadsheet can be downloaded here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/high_rise_compliance_checks_sinc
14th Jan 2018: Trafford Housing Trust did not offer any specific information relating to the issues raised. Thier reply can be seen by clicking here (pdf): Trafford Housing Trust Fire Safety Mismanagement Further Observations.
The trust have not contacted me personally or invited me personally to meet them. It’s very sad but clear that Trafford Housing Trust have shown no interest in working constructively together to achieve better levels of high rise fire safety management.
7th January 2018: Here is a second report concerned with High Rise Fire Safety Management at Stretford House, examining the ‘new’ Fire Risk Assessment for Stretford House. Trafford Housing Trust have stated several times that they would carry out a Type Four Fire Risk Assessment of the building. This assessment in fact sees them going back on that promise by instigating a Type Three assessment without realising that in doing so they would get an assessment carried out by a person with a skill level appropriate to assess ordinary, low risk workplaces. Click this link to download a copy of the report:
After the awful tragedy at Grenfell Tower I took a close look at the #FireSafety inside the high rise block that I live in. What I found shocked me. I put it into a report you can download here, Examining Fire Safety Management at Stretford House:
The importance of good High Rise Fire Safety Management (HRFSM) has never been clearer.
My advice to managers of high rise flats, following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, is simple and unequivocal: building managers need to follow the clear advice from the Chief Fire Officers Association, immediately: Fire Safety Risk Assessment Guidance
Bring in the high risk experts to assess their High Rise Fire Safety Management in residential tower blocks and get suitably intrusive Fire Risk Assessments that acknowledge the high life risk.
Starting now, the very clear guidance from the Fire Risk Assessment Competency Council (that can be downloaded here) needs to be adopted and understood by Building Managers. The competency of the risk assessor is absolutely key to improving HRFSM.
Assessments are the cornerstone of a fire safety strategy. Assessments that are fully recognising the true level of life risk and accepting the demographic of tenants (in tower blocks across the country at any time there are residents that are, unable to get out of bed, elderly people, disabled people, people that can’t use stairs, people with serious mental health problems, people with substance misuse problems, and people with any combination of those things) will be the foundation of their fire safety management reviews. Thorough assessments will upgrade the protection afforded to high rise tenants.
It is time that our politicians did more than illustrate a clear knowledge of the risk factors through published guides. It’s time they did something about them through enforcement measures.
The government guidance recognises the horrendous reality without batting a regulatory eyelid: Housing Health and Safety Rating System (appendix 5) quotes a fact “An adult living … in a building of three storeys or more is roughly 10 times more likely to die in a fire than an adult living in a two storey house.”
MSC is working with high rise residents, high rise building managers and landlords, and fire safety officers, urging them to accept what we already know: high rise flats are a high life risk.