We are currently undertaking a ‘Building Risk Review’ project – this involves carrying out proactive inspections of all high rise residential buildings to ensure all buildings comply with fire safety regulations and people feel safe in their homes.
The responsibility for fire safety in high rise buildings can be shared between a number of parties. Where we have identified any issues within a building or are notified of a problem by the responsible person, we will work with those responsible to ensure issues are addressed.
We understand that when issues are identified within a building this can cause anxiety, anger and frustration for residents. Even when no issues have been identified within your building you may still have questions about fire safety within your building.
Below are some frequently asked questions on the project:
How do I get information about my building?
If you have questions or concerns about the safety of your building you should in the first instance contact the managing agent or your landlord as they should have been informed if any risks have been identified.
How do I know if my building has dangerous cladding?
Many buildings have some form of cladding system and the majority of these do not present any risk and are essential to ensuring that homes are warm and weatherproof.
Guidance from the Government requires that all buildings assess their external wall systems to establish if they would pose a risk of external fire spread.
If the cladding or external walls system on a building has been identified as posing a risk of external fire spread this will have prompted a review of the fire safety arrangements and in some cases a change to the evacuation strategy.
If you have questions about the cladding on your building you should contact your landlord or the managing agent for the building.
Is my building safe?
Fire safety of any building relies on ongoing management and maintenance – this may mean that some repairs are required to things like fire doors due to normal wear and tear.
Where more significant work is required this will have been discussed with the building owner or managing agent. If you rent your home then your landlord will know about any work that needs doing. If you own your flat you should have been informed of any fire safety concerns and any planned work that is needed.
If the evacuation strategy for the building has changed then residents should have been notified and given guidance about what to do in the event of a fire.
I want to know about evacuation strategies
Most flats are built based on the principle that a fire in a flat should not spread to other areas of the building – this is what underpins the ‘Stay Put’ strategy. With a ‘Stay Put’ strategy only those in the flat of fire origin, and those directly affected by fire and/or smoke, are asked to evacuate.
The alternative to ‘Stay Put’ is a ‘Simultaneous Evacuation’. This is here everyone in the building would evacuate – like you would in most workplaces or in a shop. With a ‘Simultaneous Evacuation’ an alarm will sound throughout the building, failure to evacuate the building upon hearing the fire alarm puts you at risk.
Make sure you know the evacuation strategy that is in place for your building.
The evacuation strategy is there for your protection.
If you have concerns about whether you would be able to evacuate the building without assistance you should notify your landlord and/or the managing agent.
What do interim measures mean?
‘Interim Measures’ is a term used to describe a temporary change or managed practice within the building to make sure fire safety is tolerable.
What is a Waking Watch?
A Waking Watch is used when a building has identified fire safety issues which mean a ‘Stay Put’ strategy can no longer be relied on. For example, issues with compartmentation or risk of external fire spread.
A Waking Watch allows a temporary change to a Simultaneous Evacuation.
Trained wardens are used to patrol the building and on discovering or being alerted to a fire, will raise the alarm for all occupants to evacuate.
National guidance around Waking Watches and changing to a Simultaneous Evacuation can be found here.
What can I do to keep the building safe?
All residents in high rise buildings can do their bit to reduce the chance of a fire occurring and keep the building safe.
Preventing a fire happening:
- Take extra care in the kitchen and never leave cooking unattended
- Never, ever use a chip pan or any other pan filled with hot oil
- Don’t overload electric sockets– most can only take a maximum of 13 amps
- Keep matches and lighters away from children
- Keep clothes well away from heaters
- Put out cigarettes properly and dispose of them carefully
- Don’t charge things like mobile phones, tablets or e-cigs overnight, or longer than the recommended charging time
- If you have a balcony do not use it for BBQs
- Be careful with candles, blow them out before you go to bed and, ideally, only use electric tea lights
Keeping the building (and yourself) safe:
- Make sure you have a working smoke alarm within your flat
- Keep all landings, corridors and doorways clear of obstructions, including rubbish
- Never wedge communal doors open
- Don’t keep things in your home or communal areas that burn easily or accelerate a fire. This includes bottled gas, paraffin heaters or liquid fuel
- Never block emergency access to your building
- Park considerately so emergency vehicles can get as close as possible
- Get to know your neighbours. They may be young, elderly or vulnerable, and need help during an emergency
- The front door of your flat should be a fire door. Do not change this door without consulting with the building management first
We recommend that you test your smoke alarm every week and report any problems within the building to your landlord or building managers.
What should I do if I have concerns?
If you have concerns about your home you should contact your landlord or the managing agent as they should be able to answer questions that you have about the fire safety arrangements.
If you wish to report a concern that you have already raised with your landlord or managing agent, that you do not think is being acted upon you can email INDOCS@syfire.gov.uk and we will look at the issue.
Will the fire service have suitable access in case of fire?
Our firefighters visit all types of buildings to ensure that they have recorded important information on our systems and to identify any issues in relation to access. There should not be a problem for us in accessing high rise buildings if there is a fire.
We do ask that you never block emergency access and that you park considerately so emergency vehicles can get as close as possible.
I want to know about sprinklers
There is clear evidence that sprinklers can be effective in stopping fires spreading and putting them out, ultimately saving lives. Information about sprinklers can be found on our website here.
Where can I find mortgage advice?
If you are considering purchasing a flat any enquiries about the fire safety arrangements and the cladding should be made as part of the conveyancing process and you should discuss this with your solicitor. We are not able to provide information about buildings for mortgage purposes.
What advice is there from the Government (MHCLG)?
You can find out more about the Government’s response to fire safety and the Building Safety Programme here.
I’m a leaseholder in a building where interim measures and remedial work are required. Is there any help or support available?
We sympathise with the situation many leaseholders currently find themselves in. We understand that the stress and worry of living in a building where fire safety issues have been identified can affect both your finances and your mental health.
South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue cannot get involved in or advise about financial disputes and/or matters. Our priority is making sure necessary fire safety measures are in place and remediation works are carried out. Where issues have been identified, we will work with those responsible to ensure the issues are addressed.
Leaseholders should contact their managing agents / building owners with questions relating to issues identified, interim measures in place or remedial works required. If you feel fire safety concerns within the premises are being ignored or not acted upon please contact us.
Where significant issues have been identified, that require interim measures such as a ‘Waking Watch’, national guidance advises consultation with residents and leaseholders to explore cost/benefit options. This guidance can be found here.
Leaseholders can also get free, impartial, legal advice on residential leasehold law from LEASE, a government-funded independent body.
If you feel the situation is impacting on your mental health, please seek help, do not suffer in silence.