What is the Building Risk Review programme?
This is a national effort, led by the Government, to make high-rise residential buildings safer, and give us a better understanding of high-rise residential buildings across the country. It has come off the back of the tragic Grenfell Tower disaster and is now in its second phase.
The first phase of the programme focused on Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding. This saw us, and other fire services right across the country, work with building owners to identify buildings with ACM cladding and report back to the Government.
The second phase, which began in October, involves the inspection of all high-rise residential buildings that are over 18 metres high or have six or more storeys. The target is for all buildings in South Yorkshire that fit this criteria to have been inspected by the end of December 2021.
What is the South Yorkshire Building Risk Review team?
This is the team, made up of experienced fire safety inspectors from within South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, that are carrying out these Building Risk Review (BRR) inspections.
They came together in October 2020, thanks to a specific grant from the Government, and have already started inspecting buildings that meet the criteria.
They have around 200 ‘in scope’ buildings to look at within our county.
What will the team actually be doing?
First and foremost, they are contacting the responsible person for each ‘in scope’ building within the county to organise an inspection to assess the fire safety measures in place.
They will ask some initial questions, and go through a desktop audit process, to decide which buildings need to be inspected first.
They will then physically inspect each building, one by one, and raise any issues they find with the building management.
It’s important to note that the team is there to raise issues and offer advice and guidance. They are not able to physically deal with the issues themselves. As a result of their advice, action may be needed such as the removal of cladding or the introduction of waking watches. It is for the building owners to take such action.
What happens if you find something wrong with a building?
The team will raise any issues they find with the building management and work with them to get the problems dealt with as soon as possible.
In some cases, the team may feel the issues are serious enough to warrant an enforcement notice. This is where serious fire safety deficiencies are identified. Our inspectors, through the notice, will set a time frame for when the remedial work has to be completed.
In the most extreme cases, the team may have to issue a prohibition notice. This is where, using the powers given to us by the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005, we will prohibit the use of the building, or certain parts of the building.
Regrettably, this would involve evacuating residents until the issues are dealt with. People should be assured, though, that it is rare to issue such a notice and we would, of course, work very closely with the building management to get people back in their homes as soon as possible. This option is a last resort and is only used when we feel a building, or a part of a building, is unsafe for people to be living in.
Who is responsible for dealing with issues raised?
As already stated, the building management and owners are responsible for dealing with the issues raised. Our job, as the fire and rescue service, is to raise issues and offer advice on what needs to be done to sort them out. We will then re-inspect buildings to ensure they are safe and that the necessary work has been carried out.
Why has this work not been done before?
It has. We have been inspecting buildings, including high-rise residential blocks, for many years.
This project is simply about accelerating the pace of these inspections so that we can implement the learning from the Grenfell Tower disaster sooner rather than later.
What about other buildings across the county?
Inspections will still take place at other buildings that aren’t ‘in scope’ for this project. We have a wider team of inspecting officers who will be carrying on their work to inspect all buildings in South Yorkshire, regardless of height.
We must stress that all responsible persons should ensure they are fully aware of their fire safety responsibilities, high-rise or not.