Following the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in west London, Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service (NFRS) has been focussing its fire safety and public reassurance work on flats and other high rise buildings in the county.
Working with partners including councils, housing providers and healthcare providers, NFRS staff have been conducting visits and providing specific fire safety guidance to residents and each building’s responsible person, including owners, landlords, and management companies.
A total of 22 high rise residential buildings with a finished floor level above 18 metres in height have been identified in Northamptonshire. Visits have so far been carried out at 11 of these buildings, and the residential high rise target list is expected to be completed by Friday, 7 July.
Activity in high rise buildings
Operational fire crews continue to meet residents to provide fire safety advice and reassurance, as well as making checks to ensure communal areas are free of combustibles, exit routes are clear, and access security is in place and working.
Mark Ainge, area manager (AM) and head of service delivery at NFRS, said: “We have selected residential premises with a finished floor level over a height of 18 metres to help us prioritise our work to provide public reassurance. Our thoughts remain with all those affected by the Grenfell disaster and we are determined to do all we can to ensure people’s safety in our county.”
Ongoing inspection works
NFRS has an existing programme of inspection for commercial and residential premises in Northamptonshire. This work is currently refocused on residential apartment blocks.
AM Ainge said: “Firefighters and officers regularly visit a range of premises to familiarise themselves with the building, occupancy and use. This includes viewing the building layout, special features, access, egress and water supplies, all to assist in pre-planning for emergencies.
“Training is also carried out in a range of buildings throughout the community, including high rise buildings, as part of our normal training and development programmes. You may see firefighters carrying out exercises as part of our ongoing training. One recent session saw us operate our high reach platform, running out hose to the building’s dry riser installation and accessing upper floors with firefighting hose.”
Planning and preparation
AM Ainge added measures have been taken to assist with preparedness and pre-planning for high rise buildings.
He explained: “We have also reviewed our fire engine resource allocation for fires in high rise buildings, which includes multiple appliances and a dedicated aerial vehicle to ensure we have the appropriate resources on-scene in the early stages of any incident.”
Following Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s request for NHS leaders to arrange fire safety inspections of all inpatient accommodation on Saturday, 24 June, NFRS that weekend carried out one visit at Northampton General Hospital.
The following week one specific inspection also took place at Kettering General Hospital. Further visits have since taken place to support the hospital’s work in fire safety.
Understanding fire safety responsibilities
The responsibility for undertaking a fire risk assessment is a legal obligation which sits with a building’s responsible person, such as the owner, landlord or management company. It is this fire risk assessment process which will consider the risks or hazards in a building, and will help inform or support an evacuation or stay put policy.
AM Ainge said: “The responsibility for ensuring a fire risk assessment is up to date sits with the responsible person for the building. If you have any concerns about your building’s risk assessment and fire plan please contact the responsible person, which in the majority of residential blocks and dwellings will be the housing provider, directly.
“In terms of home fire safety checks, we are happy to book visits with householders to provide free advice about keeping you, your family and friends and your home safe from fire. Our teams are very keen to engage with people and we urge anyone who would like to receive advice to get in touch.”
Home fire safety checks
Part of the work currently being done in high rise residential buildings is a programme of door-to-door visits to offer residents a home fire safety check. Repeat visits are being made to ensure all households have been offered a check at a convenient time and in the most appropriate format.
AM Ainge said: “We have visited a number of flats to date and had a 60 per cent uptake on home fire safety visits. We’re very keen to make that figure 100 per cent. If a previous call to your flat has been at an inconvenient time for you, please do make contact so we can arrange a visit to suit your circumstances.
“If you would prefer to conduct your own fire safety check our website contains information about how you can carry this out.”
Request a home fire safety check
Visits can also be requested by calling 0300 1261000 and selecting option 5.
Fire prevention advice
Many fires happen at night when most people are sleeping. Working smoke alarms should wake you if a fire does break out, but you can further reduce your risk by carrying out some simple checks before you go to bed.
- CLOSE INSIDE DOORS at night to stop a fire from spreading
- SWITCH OFF and unplug electrical appliances that don’t need to be used
- SWITCH OFF mobile phones and tablet computers chargers
- CHECK your cooker is switched off
- SWITCH OFF the washing machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher
- PUT OUT candles, incense sticks and oil burners before you to sleep
- PUT OUT cigarettes are double check them, it's best to wet them to be sure
- CHECK your escape routes are clear
- CHECK door and window keys are easy to find in an emergency
- MAKE SURE mobility aids are close to hand for those who require them