Category Archives: Discussion

Too few care homes have sprinkler protection for vulnerable residents

Only one percent of care homes, retirement homes and hostels that fire crews are called to have life saving sprinklers, according to new figures released recently by London Fire Brigade.

In London, there is an average of more than one fire every day in these buildings that house some of the capital’s most vulnerable residents. Brigade bosses are using Sprinkler Awareness Week to call for automatic fire suppression systems (AFSS) to be installed in care homes, high-rise buildings and new and refurbished schools.

London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “It’s a tragic fact that many of the fires  we see involve vulnerable people who have mobility and/or health issues that mean they are unable to escape even small fires and they may suffer fatal or life changing injuries before the fire brigade is even called.

“We need to ensure sufficient and appropriate protection measures are in place to safeguard these people where they live and suppression systems should be part of those considerations.

London Fire Brigade are calling for:

• All new residential developments over 18m in height to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential blocks over 18m in height to be retrofitted with sprinklers
• Sprinklers to be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments
• All new residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be retrofitted with sprinklers

“Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm. If you are housing vulnerable people, you have a responsibility for their welfare and that means ensuring what fire suppression measures you need to have in place.” London Fire Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly

Of the 428 fires at hostels, care homes, retirement homes and sheltered-housing accommodation last year, sprinklers were installed in just five of these incidents.

Three of these fires were fatalities and a further 53 people were injured. There have already been 69 fires in such buildings so far in 2018.

Interim report into the Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety Recommends Change is Needed

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June an independent review of Building regulations and Fire Safety was launched.

The Chair of this independent review has found that a “universal shift in culture” is required to rebuild trust amongst residents of high-rise buildings and significantly improve the way that fire safety is assured.

Dame Judith Hackitt, who was appointed by government to lead released the interim report this week. Alongside her interim report, Dame Judith is calling on the construction industry, building owners, regulators and government to come together to address the ‘shortcomings’ identified so far.

The interim report finds that:

  • a culture change is required – with industry taking greater responsibility for what is built – this change needs to start now
  • the current system for ensuring fire safety in high-rise buildings is not fit for purpose
  • a clear, quick and effective route for residents to raise concerns and be listened to, must be created

In particular the report has identified 6 broad areas for change required:

  • ensuring that regulation and guidance is risk-based, proportionate and unambiguous
  • clarifying roles and responsibilities for ensuring that buildings are safe
  • improving levels of competence within the industry
  • improving the process, compliance and enforcement of regulations
  • creating a clear, quick and effective route for residents’ voices to be heard and listened to
  • improving testing, marketing and quality assurance of products used in construction

Dame Judith has consulted widely in developing her interim report and will continue to do so in the coming months before making her final recommendations.

She continued:

I have been deeply affected by the residents of high rise buildings I have met and I have learned so much from them. These buildings are their homes and their communities. They are proud of where they live, but their trust in the system has been badly shaken by events of the last few months. We need to rebuild that trust.

The independent review will now undertake its second phase of work – including targeted work in partnership with the sector and other stakeholders.

A summit involving government and representatives from the building industry will take place in the New Year and a final report will be published in spring 2018.

London Fire Brigade urges high rise landlords to do more to protect their vulnerable residents from fire

6 months on from the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower London Fire Brigade is calling for landlords to retrofit sprinklers in all high rise blocks and other buildings with vulnerable residents.

Fire Chiefs are also calling for all new high rise buildings to be fitted with sprinklers as standard.

The Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, Dan Daly, said: “Sprinklers are the only system which detects a fire, suppresses a fire and raises the alarm and we believe they are vitally important as part of a package of fire safety measures, particularly in buildings where there are vulnerable people such as care-homes and schools.

“We have long been campaigning about the benefits of sprinklers, which save lives and property and also improve firefighter safety.

What the Brigade is calling for:

• All new residential developments over 18m in height to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential blocks over 18m in height should be retrofitted with sprinklers
• Sprinklers to be mandatory in all new school builds and major refurbishments
• All new residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be fitted with sprinklers
• Existing residential care homes and sheltered accommodation to be retrofitted with sprinklers

The Brigade also strongly advocates the use of sprinklers in:

• All homes occupied by the most vulnerable in our communities
• All other residential properties including hotels, hostels and student accommodation, over 18m in height
• All new London Fire Brigade buildings

The Brigade will continue to promote the installation in the following types of properties throughout London:

• Heritage buildings
• Basements
• Large warehouses

The Brigade address myths around costs

Assistant Commissioner Daly added: “There has long been a myth that sprinkler systems are very expensive and of course costs vary depending on the type of system, but for example in schools if they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.

“There are also self-contained watermist systems which are designed to provide protection to vulnerable individuals who may be at increased risk of fire and have mobility issues which affect their ability to escape. These Personal Protection Systems (PPS) can be installed in one room of a property where a vulnerable person spends most of their time.”

The work being done by Waltham Forest Council includes fitting sprinklers in three of its sheltered housing buildings. The work is being partly funded by a one-off grant from the Brigade’s Community Safety Investment Fund and existing council budgets.

The Community Investment Fund was set up to help protect individuals and communities across London that most need it. More than £2million in fire prevention grants have been awarded from the fund for a variety of projects from smoke alarms and fire retardant bedding to arson proof letter boxes and ashtrays.

 

Fire Door Safety Week is Here

The campaign to raise awareness of the importance of properly specified, installed and maintained fire doors is underway this week.

A door’s a door’s a door, right? No, a fire door is an engineered safety device.

Fire doors are a crucial part of the passive fire protection of every commercial, public and multiple occupancy building.  They save lives and property.

According to the trade bodies, there are about 3 million new fire doors bought and installed every year in the UK, the vast majority made from timber. Fire doors are often the first line of defence in a fire and their correct specification, maintenance and management can be the difference between life and death for building occupants. However, they remain a significant area of neglect, often the first thing to be downgraded on a specification and mismanaged throughout their service life, propped open, damaged and badly maintained. Consequently, Fire Door Safety Week has been created:

  • To raise awareness of the critical role of fire doors, drawing attention to specific issues such as poor installation and maintenance.
  • To encourage building owners and users to check the operation and condition of their fire doors and to report those that aren’t satisfactory.
  • To link together the initiatives of many organisations with common interests in the fire door and passive fire protection industries.
  • To engage and educate people, helping the whole building industry and every property owner to understand the correct specification, supply, installation, operation, inspection and maintenance of fire doors.

Fire doors save lives. Help us raise awareness about the importance of fire doors.  #FireDoorSafetyWeek

What the video here http://firedoorsafetyweek.co.uk/video-specification-installation/ 

Brigade offers free training to motorcyclists to help make capital’s roads safer

As part of the national Biker Down series of courses LFB are offering motorcyclists safety training in a bid to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

Thanks to funding from Lambeth Council, courses will be run on a monthly basis. The training course is set up in partnership with London Ambulance Service, Transport for London and the Metropolitan Police.  Biker Down is available to any motorcyclist  who lives, rides or studies in London.

The Brigade’s Head of Community Safety, Chris O’Connor, said: “When a motorcyclist is involved in a collision, often the first person on the scene is another rider.  The course teaches riders both how they can help if they come across a motorcycle collision and motorcycle-specific immediate aid training, such as how to treat major bleeding and safe helmet removal but also the types of issues to look out for to prevent a crash in the first place, for example, speeding.”

A total of 30 places are available with 15 spaces at each session. Visit the Biker Down webpage for more information if you’re interested in attending a session and to book a place. Forthcoming dates for the training course are:

  • Saturday 30 September
  • Sunday 29 October
  • Saturday 25 November
  • Sunday 28 January 2018.

Biker Down, which was devised by Kent Fire and Rescue Service, involves a group training session delivered by firefighters and LAS Motorcycle Response Paramedics.

Participants receive a certificate of attendance, an immediate aid kit designed to be carried under the seat of a bike and qualify for a discount to attend the Bike Safe London Rider Skills Day scheme.

Paul King, Charlton Ross Director and keen motorcyclist has attended the course and said “any initiative that can help raise awareness of risk and how to deal with the aftermath of an accident is a good thing.  Motorcyclists, like cyclists are a particularly vulnerable group when it comes to road safety and represent a disproportionate number of those killed or seriously injured on our roads.  We at Charlton Ross fully support this training”

Whirlpool finally admit 5.3 million faulty tumble dryers should be unplugged and not used

For months Whirlpool have suggested that despite concerns raised after a number of serious fires, their tumble dryers were safe to use.

Finally after action by London Fire Brigade and Peterborough Trading Standards Whirlpool have updated the advice on their own website.

London Fire Brigade warned in October 2016 that owners of the faulty dryers must stop using them immediately, after one of the machines was found to be the cause of a huge blaze in an 18-storey tower block in Shepherd’s Bush in London.

Various dryers made by Hotpoint, Indesit and Creda between April 2004 and September 2015 are subject to a safety notice about the fire risk, which is caused by excess fluff coming into contact with the heating element.

The advice is now clear ‘If your tumble dryer is affected by this issue then you should unplug it and do not use it until the modification has taken place.

 

Office of Rail and Road report concludes driver only operation is safe

Hard pressed commuters are going to read with interest the recent statement made by the official regulator in relation to Driver Only Operated trains.  This has apparently been at the heart of the unions grievance for months.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, said:

“Following a thorough review of GTR-Southern’s method and implementation of Driver Only Operation, ORR is satisfied that with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place, it is a safe method of working.

“ORR has made some recommendations for further improvements, including ensuring that CCTV image quality is consistently high. GTR-Southern has accepted and is in the process of implementing these recommendations. As the safety regulator we will continue our inspections and are also working with the industry to ensure it reviews and updates its work in adopting best practice procedures, training and equipment in relation to the safe dispatch of trains.”

In an earlier statement Mr Prosser had said “Trains with doors operated by drivers (known in the industry as ‘Driver Only Operation’) have been in operation in Great Britain for more than 30 years. ORR has scrutinised this approach, and our inspectors are satisfied that with suitable equipment, proper procedures and competent staff in place, it is a safe method of working.”

 

Timely reminder about bonfires and fireworks

Fire brigades up and down the country will again be urging us all to take care with fireworks and bonfires.

London Fire Brigade take the opportunity to point out the legal position:

It is an offence for anyone under the age of 18 to possess fireworks in public places and an offence for anyone, other than a firework professional, to possess professional display fireworks.

Police have the power to issue fixed penalty notices to those under the age of 18 caught with fireworks in a public place.

It is illegal to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7am. On 5 November, displays can continue until midnight and on certain occasions, such as New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, fireworks can be set off until 1am.

Firework safety code

  • Only buy fireworks marked with the British Standard Kitemark BS7114
  • Don’t drink alcohol if setting off fireworks
  • Keep fireworks in a closed box and always follow the instructions carefully when using them
  • Light them at arms length using a taper and stand well back
  • Never go back to them once they are lit. Even if a firework hasn’t gone off, it could still explode
  • Never throw fireworks and never put them in your pocket
  • Respect your neighbours – don’t let off fireworks late at night and remember there are laws to follow
  • Take care with sparklers – never give them to children under five. Even when they have gone out they are still hot so put sparklers in a bucket of water after use
  • Keep your pets indoors throughout the evening

 Bonfire safety

  • Build your bonfire well clear of buildings, garden sheds, fences and hedges
  • Never use flammable liquids to start a bonfire and never burn dangerous items such as aerosol cans, paint tins, foam furniture or batteries
  • Don’t leave bonfires unattended. An adult should supervise it until it has burnt out. If it has to be left, damp it down with plenty of water
  • Always keep a bucket of water or a hosepipe nearby in case of fire

London Fire Brigade want Whirlpool to change advice on faulty white goods after tower block blaze

Last week news media across the country reported on a tower block fire in Shepherds Bush.  Dramatic pictures were seen of a blaze that ripped through an 18 storey high rise.   The blaze started in the kitchen of a seventh floor flat and the occupants were in at the time and using their tumble dryer. Thankfully they were uninjured and escaped smoke coming from the dryer. The residents of four other flats in the block have also had to be rehoused following the blaze.

It took 120 firefighters to put it out. LFB fire investigators believe it was caused by a faulty Indesit tumble dryer which was subject to ‘corrective action’ by the manufacturer. It was due to be seen by an engineer.

LFB have gone on to question Whirlpool’s advice to customers who have faulty appliances.

“After this devastating fire we now want the Indesit’s parent company, Whirlpool, to change their current advice to consumers as a matter of urgency.”

Whirlpool’s advice is:

”You may continue to use your tumble dryer whilst waiting for the modification, however, we require that you do not leave your dryer unattended during operation as an extra precaution (i.e. do not leave the house or leave the dryer on whilst asleep).”

LFB and other fire safety professionals want  this changed. Faulty appliances should not be used until they have been fixed.  Its really that simple.

If you have a faulty electrical appliance, unplug it, don’t use it until it has been fixed by a qualified specialist engineer.

Ban on throwing mortar boards is a tired health and safety myth

Back in May it was widely reported that a university planned to ban their students  from throwing mortar boards in the air on graduation day for health and safety reasons. HSE has provided a response to this age-old myth:

Geoff Cox, who heads the Health and Safety Executive public sector team, said: “You’d think universities would study history and do a bit of research before repeating tired health and safety myths like this one. The banning of mortar board tossing on supposed ‘health and safety’ grounds is one of our most popular myths and actually appears in our Top 10 all-time worst health and safety excuses.

“As far back as 2008, HSE made clear the law does not stop graduates having fun and celebrating their success in the time-honoured fashion. The chance of being injured by a flying mortar board is incredibly small and it’s over-the-top to impose an outright ban. We usually find the concern is actually about the hats being returned in good condition.”