With the recent tragic events of Grenfell Tower and the media full of stories of fires breaking out it is hard not to feel vulnerable whether you live in a house, flat or are working in an office.
What can the board of directors or managing agent do to mitigate the risk?
In the first instance, the main thing is not to panic, in the year 2015/16, the Fire Brigade were called out to 529,000 incidents with the majority of these being non-fire related. Indeed, it was considered that the fire incidents were on a downward trend since 2003/4 when there was over a million fires reported.
Notwithstanding this, it is true that the most common causes of fire, other than those started deliberately were due to domestic incidents and therefore it seems even more important to ensure that everyone is more aware of fire hazards both in common areas and within their own demises.
It would seem obvious that a managing agent should check that a fire risk assessment has been undertaken and the recommendations acted upon.
However, in the midst of all the other issues that have to be dealt with, these are sometimes not reviewed.
Therefore, a starting point is to review that the fire risk assessment is still valid and that all action points have been dealt with. If not then it is best practice to either get this reviewed by a competent assessor or if the building has undergone a material change like adding a lift or a new floor that a new risk assessment is instructed.
Simple steps to fire safety
It is always prudent to send out the fire evacuation plan to occupants each year and to remind them of the obvious catalysts like not leaving candles unattended, checking that they always extinguish lit cigarettes/cigars etc and ensure that they switch off all electrical items such as ovens, irons and hair straighteners.
Not so obvious is the requirement to ensure that you have a suitably rated fire door and if you are unsure it would be a good idea to speak to your managing agent who should be able to put you in touch with the appropriate person to confirm this and carry out necessary remedial works. It may seem yet another expense but one well worth it if it makes the difference between being safe in your flat for longer.
Perhaps the most difficult issue to address is leaving items in communal areas, especially where occupants have bikes, push chairs, mobility scooters, wheelchairs or even children’s trikes. We all know the dread of carrying up heavy items up staircases especially where there is no lift and it seems so much easier and security conscious to leave items in a communal area until you need them. Particularly if the regulations state that you should not carry items up the stairs.
However, there is no doubt that the blocking of the common areas impedes the fire brigade when trying to carry out their duties and can stop safe egress from a building. All in all it is a much better idea to ensure that all items are kept in your flat.
For more advice on Fire Safety please refer to the ARMA guidance Note regarding Fire Safety in Flats which is available here.
If you are interested in how MIH Property Management can support you with residential or block management then please get in touch.