Fire Safety FAQs
These FAQs have been written in response to the enquiries we have recently received on fire safety. The information you need should be here but if not please contact our Housing Service Centre on 0207 7364 5015.
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. We continue to examine the materials used to check for any risk to fire safety.
Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs)
1. a Can I have a copy of my FRA?
Some residents have asked for the FRA for their block. Generally landlords do not publish FRAs as they are ‘form based’ and difficult to read, and often contain issues that need to be investigated first by surveyors to determine what specific works are required. FRAs also contain technical jargon and this terminology often worries some residents unnecessarily. Whilst we are happy to share FRAs, we need to take out some confidential resident information first and, as you can imagine, publishing over 900 FRAs will take time.
It is difficult to provide an accurate timescale at this moment; whilst we have started work on this, it will take several weeks to complete. We will then be in a position to publish these documents on our website, starting with the tallest blocks first.
In the meantime, we are fully informing residents of any fire safety works that are due to commence in the near future.
1. b How are the risks identified by a FRA being dealt with?
All of our 900 blocks have had FRAs undertaken in the last nine months. Almost all of these blocks have been rated as ‘moderate’ risk. However, nine blocks have been rated as ‘substantial risk’. These are Alzette, Modling, Offenbach, Puteaux, St Gilles and Velletri on the Cranbrook Estate, Brewster and Maltings on Barley Mow and Brodrick House. Works on these blocks are due to start in the summer and each block has received a letter detailing the scope and timings of work. Work to Brodick House is due to complete in August. Note that the 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.
We are currently reviewing and prioritising the actions coming out from the FRAs and are building these into a programme of works to be delivered to each block. Our resources and capacity will not permit us to do all the work at once (and most of the work doesn’t need to be done immediately as it is low risk) so we are currently prioritising work. Many actions are routinely carried out by caretaking and NHO staff such as removing any items obstructing communal areas.
1. c 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 and that is the process we are following. We will complete FRAs on high rise blocks annually or when the works identified have been completed.
1. d Who are your qualified fire risk assessors, and are they part of a professional and registered body within the industry?
All our FRAs are carried out by external Professionally Accredited Independent Fire Safety Engineers. Savills are currently our Fire Engineers and carried out the recent set of FRAs to all of our blocks.
2. 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. The Council will act on any government guidance, and comply with any changes to legislation, that arises in future.
Some tower blocks have sprinklers in the refuse chute chambers and these are serviced at the required intervals.
3. Smoke alarms – 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.
4. 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 alarms – and these are tested according to the required testing intervals.
5. 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 a staying put policy. The LFB continues to advise on a staying put policy in nearly all of our blocks at present (this is because it is largely the best way to protect people and helps them fight the fire). We have posted some important information here on our website and would ask all residents to look through this.
6. Is there a need to install additional fire exists?
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 (5).
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.
7. 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.