25 Aug 2022
I have been involved in public housing for over 50 years, 35 of them as a senior manager. Following the Lakanal House fire, I became increasingly interested in fire safety and after many years of advocating sensible solutions to fire safety issues I recently became an associate of the Institute of Fire Safety Managers.
The number of recent changes in the law affecting social housing is unprecedented. To fully understand the fire safety implications myself, I created a simple summary of those affecting housing managers between now and 23 January 2023. The summary, detailed below, is an alternative blog providing a useful summary for housing professionals on the legislation changes to be aware of and what these mean in practice.
Secure information boxes are required in all buildings over 18 metres or 7 storeys (high-rise buildings), they must contain:
Design and materials of external walls:
Floor plans and building plans for all high-rise buildings:
Lifts and essential fire-fighting equipment. In all high-rise buildings, monthly checks will be required for:
Guidance will be issued to specify which pieces of equipment are subject to a visual inspection or other checks. It is not intended that specialists will be needed for the checks. The fire and rescue service must be told (as soon as practicable) if a fault cannot be resolved within 24 hours.
Wayfinding signage: all high-rise buildings (new and existing) must have signage and flat and floor numbers visible in low light. This will also be required for all new buildings over 11 metres tall.
Information for residents: Responsible person(s) in all multi-occupied residential buildings will need to provide residents with key fire safety information, which must include:
Visibility of information for residents: the responsible person(s) must ensure the above information for residents is:
Fire doors in properties over 11 metres tall the responsible person(s) must:
The regulations will also require the responsible person(s) to provide information to residents on the importance of fire doors to a building’s fire safety. This will be required in all multi-occupied residential buildings which have two or more sets of domestic premises and common parts. The minimum requirement is for the responsible person(s) to undertake an inspection of the doors to identify any obvious damage or issues.
When conducting fire door checks, the responsible person(s) should assess:
If any issues are identified from these checks, it might be appropriate to undertake more detailed checks of doors (or the self-closing device) if any damage is identified from the initial inspection. This could include engaging a specialist.
Other requirements and recommendations
Personal Emergency Evaluation Plans (PEEP) and Emergency Evacuation Information Sharing (EEIS)
Whilst we await details of the responses to the consultation, it would be sensible to ensure Person Centred Fire Risk Assessments (PCFRAs) are already being completed in sheltered blocks, as well as those blocks with a waking watch. Having a process in place to reduce the risks for mobility impaired residents and a plan for an assisted escape ought to be in place for all properties (including properties on the ground floor) should it becomes necessary.
Maintenance issues New regulations coming into force from 1 October 2022 require:
There is a consultation underway on electrical testing which proposes a requirement for electrical safety tests every five years. If this is not already in place, it would be sensible to review how void electric checks are recorded and begin to plan to introduce these checks across all properties.
Jan Taranczuk is the strategic housing advisor at Plumis, a chartered CIH member, and an associate of the Institute of Fire Safety Managers.