Fire Safety FAQs

Fire Safety FAQs

These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) have been written in response to the enquiries we have received on fire safety and following a review by the Tenants and Residents Association.  The information you need should be here but if not please contact our Housing Service Centre on 020 7364 5015.

1. Who can I report fire safety concerns to?

In an emergency, dial 999 for assistance but do not use this number for any other reason. The London Fire Brigade provide lots of advice on fire safety measures and you can view information on their website at london-fire.gov.uk or you can call them on tel: 020 8555 1200 or email: info@london-fire.gov.uk.

You can also report any concerns you have on commercial properties such as shops beneath flats to the London Fire Brigade or to the Council’s Corporate Health & Safety and Civil Protection Unit on 020 7364 4171.

If you have any fire safety concerns for THH properties, please contact our Housing Service Centre on 020 7364 5015 who will be able to assist you.

2. Cladding – What type of cladding have we used and do we have any blocks with similar cladding to Grenfell House?

We can confirm that none of the buildings owned by the Council and managed by THH have the Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) which was the system installed at Grenfell Tower.

All cladding (cladding meaning full building over cladding such as external wall insulation) installed on our buildings in recent years has used mineral fibre cladding which is fire proof. This product was tested rigorously before being installed and had been certified as safe.  There are two examples in east London of fires in blocks of flats where this type of cladding has been installed.  In both cases the cladding did not catch fire or spread fire up the block. In other words this type of cladding performed in a fire in exactly the way it was designed to perform. 

There are some low-rise blocks refurbished before the Decent Homes programme (before 2010) that have other insulating material on the outside. These materials are not the same as used at Grenfell Tower.  THH has inspected cladding on the buildings it manages and has discussed the investigation findings with the Council.  Whilst cladding used on blocks is not considered to cause any risk, there are two blocks, Malting and Brewster Houses where the Council have agreed to remove cladding as a precautionary measure to eliminate any risk and this will be completed by April 2018.  

3. Can I have a copy of my Fire Risk Assessment (FRAs)?

We are happy to share FRAs however we need to take out some confidential resident information first and, as you can imagine, publishing over 900 FRAs will take time. The first batch have been published and can be seen here where you can search for your block. More will become available over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, we are fully informing residents of any fire safety works that are due to commence in the near future.

4. How are the risks identified by a FRA being dealt with?

All of our 911 blocks have a current FRA and 902 of these blocks have been rated as ‘moderate’ risk. Nine blocks have been rated as ‘substantial risk’ andthese are Alzette, Modling, Offenbach, Puteaux, St Gilles and Velletri on the Cranbrook Estate, Brewster and Maltings on the Barley Mow Estate and Brodrick House.  Works on these blocks have started and each block has received a letter detailing the scope and timings of work. Work to Brodick House is due to complete in February 2018with works to the remaining ‘substantial risk’ blocks being delivered by the Summer of 2018..

The ongoing Decent Homes programme has reduced a lot of fire risk by installing fire rated front doors and smoke alarms for tenants We have been addressing the issues raised in these FRAs in order to reduce any risk of fire in these blocks and have taken additional steps including extra caretaking, increased refuse collection and patrols.  Many actions are routinely carried out by caretaking and NHO staff such as removing any items obstructing communal areas and testing communal alarm systems.

The Council have allocated £26m for fire safety works which is double the amount allocated previously.  This will ensure that all fire safety works identified in the latest round of FRAs will be complete within four years.  We have reviewed the actions identified  in the FRAs and are building these into a programme of works to be delivered to each block based on priority (as most of the work doesn’t need to be done immediately because it is low risk or is a recommended action for consideration).

5. How often should FRAs be carried out?

Up-to-date FRAs on all THH managed blocks have been completed to provide a basis for a large programme of fire safety works.  The guidance states that once the identified works are completed, another assessment should be completed.  The FRA usually states when the next assessment will be completed and this can be annually or two years based on the risk of the block.

6. Who carries out the Fire Risk Assessments for THH?

THH have engaged Savills for the last two years to complete Fire Risk Assessments and they are industry recognised, professionally accredited and independent fire safety engineers.  They are a British Approvals for Fire Equipment (BAFE) registered company. The BAFE scheme has been developed by a group of industry experts to help the building’s Responsible Person meet the requirements for Fire Risk Assessments under the Regulatory Reform Order (Fire Safety) 2005. This Scheme was launched in May 2012 and it is designed to give assurance to those commissioning Fire Risk Assessments and provide confidence in the quality and relevance of the services being provided.

The format THH use is a Publically Accessible Specification (PAS79) and is considered by the Chief Fire Officers’ Association to be a suitable way to record Fire Risk Assessments  In addition, THH have a number of trained Fire Safety Surveyors to complete inspections of fire safety concerns and complete assessments. 

7. Sprinklers - will these be fitted to blocks?

Current regulations in England mean that only buildings constructed since 2007, and which are taller than 30 metres, are required to have sprinklers fitted. All of the Council’s high-rise blocks were constructed before 2007 and are protected by a system known as ‘fire compartmentalisation’. This is the sub-dividing of buildings into a number of fire protected compartments protected with fire doors which restrict the spread of fire.

We are very aware of the debate about retro fitting sprinklers to older blocks and are exploring this in detail with the Council. THH note the London Fire Brigade support for sprinklers to be retro fitted in areas of risk such as kitchens (and not for example in communal corridors and staircases).  The Council will act on any government guidance and comply with any changes to legislation that arises in future.  The priority for fire safety works is to make sure the fire compartmentalisation of each block is maintained which means completing any fire stopping work. 

Some tower blocks have sprinklers in the refuse chute chambers and these are serviced at the required intervals.

8. Smoke alarms inside properties – how do I get a smoke alarm fitted to my property?

If you are a THH tenant and you do not have a smoke alarm please order one through our website at my.thh.org.uk and click on MyTHH or call our Housing Service Centre on 020 7364 5015 (option 1).

If you’re a leaseholder, we strongly encourage you to fit smoke alarms in your property.

If you are a leaseholder and rent your property out, you must follow safety regulations which include gas and electrical tests, fitting smoke alarms and follow all fire safety regulations.  More information can be found here.

The LFB will provide battery smoke detectors to leaseholders if requested by the resident.

Tenants and leaseholders should test their smoke alarms regularly and the LFB advise testing them monthly as a minimum.  There are many different types of alarm but all should have a test button which can be pressed.  Never disconnect a smoke alarm, take the batteries out or try testing it by any other means than using the test button.

9. Fire and smoke alarms – Are we fitting fire alarms in blocks/ communal areas and how often are these being tested?

The majority of communal areas in blocks do not have or require fire or smoke alarms due to the blocks having a ‘stay put’ policy. A small number of blocks of certain sizes and designs are required to have communal smoke and fire alarms – and these are tested according to the required testing intervals. 

10. Stay Put policy – Can I have a copy of the fire safety advice for my block?

We have taken advice from the London Fire Brigade on the best way to keep residents safe in the event of a fire. LBF have released some very good video clips covering circumstances surrounding the Stay Put policy. The LFB continues to advise on a Stay Put policy in blocks at present and this is because it is  the best way to protect people and helps them fight the fire. We have posted some important information here on our website regarding general fire safety advice, how to prevent fires occurring and what you should do in an emergency and would ask all residents to look through this.

11. Is there a need to install additional fire exits?

Our existing means of escape from fire are reviewed in the FRAs to ensure they are fit for purpose.  Constructing an additional means of escape is generally not realistic and will probably not be economically feasible due to the design of the block. There is currently no requirement to provide additional means of escape from fire following the recent FRAs.  Please also refer to the Stay Put section above (Question 10).  

Note that all fire doors installed in common areas meet the FD30S standard (which is resistance from fire and smoke for 30 minutes and this is the requirement in the current regulations). In some cases we have installed doors of a FD60S standard (a higher resistance of 60 minutes) depending on the specific construction of the block.

12. Will you put firefighting equipment into the building?

We have considered this and discussed the matter with the LFB and have come to the conclusion that this will not increase residents’ safety.   LFB advice is that they do not want residents to try to fight fires.  If equipment was provided then there would be a need to regularly to train residents on its use and it means there are additional obstacles in the corridors. Extinguishers are often vandalised or used to prop fire doors open which actually increases fire risk to residents.

The LFB regularly inspect blocks and their fire-fighting equipment such as dry risers.  The LFB gather information about each block which will be available on a screen in the fire engine so they will know things like building dimensions and layouts, number of homes and where the entrances and exits are.

13. Fire safe flat front doors – what do residents need to have?

All flats in blocks which have a front door opening onto a fire escape route need to have a fire compliant front door and door frame which is resistant to smoke and fire for 30 minutes to keep residents safe.  The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 covers the common areas of blocks of flats (lobbies/stairs/landings) and is designed to protect occupants of flats against the risk of fire.

THH have been providing fire safe front doors and door frames to tenants and will continue to install doors until all are complaint. 

Leaseholders will be aware from their lease that their front door and door frame is their responsibility and that they have a duty to make sure that their front door and frame is fire safe. THH will be checking to make sure leaseholders front doors and door frames are complaint. We have provided more information on fire safe doors here including how to check if your front door is fire safe.

Tenants should also have a fire safe door on their kitchen.  If this is not the case or it is missing, tenants should contact our Housing Service Centre on 020 7364 5015 so it can be recorded and added to our door installation programme.

14. Keeping you and your neighbours safe – how can I play my part?

It’s important for all of us to do all we can to stop fire spreading and to keep ourselves and our neighbours safe.  Keep shared areas clear for you, your visitors, your neighbours and fire fighters should they need to attend in an emergency.  Do not keep flammable materials inside your property on balconies and this includes BBQ.  You should never have a BBQ on your balcony or next to a building.  Keep balconies clear of combustible materials and do not use white goods on balconies.  Tenants and Leaseholders should never undertake alterations to properties without first seeking the consent of THH who can advise on whether permission can be granted and the safest way of carrying out works.   

Do not dump bulk items in communal areas which could be set alight or cause an obstacle.  The Council provide a free service to remove bulk refuse so please use it.  Report any dumped rubbish and those who have dumped it to our Housing Services Centre – THH will investigate with a view to taking enforcement action against those who put other people in danger.

15. Hoarding – what should I do if I have hoarding tendencies or know someone who does?

High levels of clutter make it much easier for a fire to start and create a greater risk of fire spreading, increasing the risk of injury and death. It can also make it very difficult to escape and can lead to difficulties for firefighters tackling the blaze.

THH are keen to work with people who have hoarding tendencies to help them stay safe in their homes and keep those around them safe.  Please get in contact with THH or let us know if you have any concerns – there’s lots of help available.  

The LFB are also asking for people with hoarding tendencies, their friends and family to get in contact with them to arrange a free home fire safety visit. The visit will give firefighters a chance to work with a person who might have a dangerous amount of clutter in their home and make sure they know what to do if there is a fire and how to escape.

16. Grills and gates – where are these allowed?

No grills or gates are allowed across shared areas on enclosed balconies and walkways or where they cover cupboards that contain services such as electricity supplies.  Grills that are already there will be allowed on shared open balconies and walkways for end flats only because it does not affect other properties. In this case the residents should have their own escape route planned in the event of fire, and should have grill keys kept in a place that is known and accessible to other people in the property. If there is an extra grill across the flat entrance door, this must be removed.  No other grills across shared open balconies and walkways will be allowed as these can affect other residents’ access. No new grills will be permitted.

Where THH are installing of have installed the new fire safe front doors, residents will be asked to remove the security grill.  This is because the new fire safe front doors are ‘secure by design’ and offer the highest protection available against unauthorised entry.

17. Parking – where should I avoid parking?

Please park in marked areas and do not obstruct roads ways which will cause access issues for the Fire Brigade.  Parking in the way causes delays.  The Fire Brigade have been known to turn cars on their side when responding to emergencies.  Please do not be the one to delay the London Fire Brigade.  THH will be making routine inspections and taking action against people who park in the way.

18. Shared areas – what should I be doing and can you give me some examples of what’s not allowed?

Open shared areas are to be kept completely clear; no items are permitted except fire resistant door mats.

These items are not allowed:

  • permanent or heavy furniture and constructions;
  • washing lines across walkways;
  • bicycles (including in stairwells); and
  • plastic storage sheds.

In open shared areas, small items like pot plants are allowed on the condition that they are made of material that does not burn easily and they should not take up more than 20% of the communal walkway width. 

Do not hang washing lines on or attach anything to pipes in communal areas as this causes damage.  Any damage to pipework can be reported to our Housing Services Centre.  If you are concerned about the condition gas supply pipes on the outside of buildings then please report this to National Grid on 0800 688 588.