Category Archives: Fire Safety

Government Launches New Office for Product Safety and Standards

The government has today (21 January 2018) announced the creation of a new national oversight body tasked with identifying consumer risks and managing responses to large-scale product recalls and repairs.

The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will enable the UK to meet the evolving challenges of product safety by responding to expanding international trade, the growth in online shopping and the increasing rate of product innovation.

London Fire Brigade have responded to the announcement:

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Charlie Pugsley said:

“I won’t be able to rest until I know that people can easily check whether or not they have a potentially deadly appliance in their home. We welcome the establishment of the new Office for Product Safety and Standards but their first act should be to establish a single government backed product recall database to make it easier for people to check whether they are using a faulty appliance.

“We don’t even know how many defective white goods there are in use in homes across the UK but we do know there are at least a million Whirlpool tumble dryers with an identifiable defect that has caused over 750 fires in the UK.*

According to London Fire Brigade figures, nearly one fire a day in London involves white goods and in 2016, the Brigade launched its Total Recalls campaign which calls on the government and manufacturers to implement a number of changes to make all white goods safer including making it easier for consumers to find out if they own potentially dangerous goods via a centrally managed recall data base.

What is the Brigade calling for?

• A single government backed product recall database
• Recalls notices to be better publicised to reduce confusion
• Greater regulation of second-hand appliances
• Changes to the way that fridges and freezers are manufactured
• All appliances to be marked with a model and serial number to allow identification after a fire

(*As reported by Whirlpool to BEIS select committee)

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said:

The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety regime and will allow consumers to continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced.

I thank the working group for their efforts to help improve product safety and I look forward to working with them in this new phase.

Neil Gibbins, Chair of the working group, said:

It has been my mission to make the public safe since I joined the fire service nearly 40 years ago. That’s why I’m pleased to see the government respond to our recommendations with concrete steps to ensure the safety of consumers, now and in the future.

The government will continue to work with stakeholders such as consumer groups, manufacturers and retailers to ensure the office coordinates the UK’s product safety regime as effectively as possible.

This will not lessen any of the legal responsibilities that sit with manufacturers, importers and retailers to present safe products to the market, and to take rapid effective action when safety issues arise with their products.

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.

 

Suspended Prison Sentence for Fire Safety Breaches

A Bethnal Green guest house owner who removed the staircase from his property has been hit with a £250,000 fine and a six month suspended prison sentence after being successfully prosecuted by London Fire Brigade.

Fire officers described the ‘City View Guest House’ on Cambridge Heath Road E2 as a ‘potential death trap.’

Mehmood Butt (55) of Mile End was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday (17 November) after pleading guilty to four offences under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.  In addition to the fine and suspended prison sentence he was ordered to pay full prosecution costs of £14,200 and given a nightly curfew of 21:00 – 06:00.

Mr Butt was converting the building into guest house accommodation from a house of multiple occupation. This involved removing the internal staircase to put in a lift and fitting an open external staircase to the rear of the property which would provide the only emergency means of escape.

The work went ahead despite a Building Regulations application for the refurbishment being turned down due to safety concerns by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

Following a visit to the site by building inspectors in March 2014 the Brigade was alerted and fire safety officers visited the premises and issued an Enforcement Notice requiring the inadequate emergency stairs and other fire safety defects to be addressed

2 Serious Fires Caused by Portable Electric Heaters in Less Than 2 Weeks

London Fire Brigade have made renewed and repeated warnings about the risks associated with portable electric heaters, following 2 serious fires in less than 2 weeks in London.  Regular subscribers to this blog will recall a similar warning issued by LFB back in January this year.  electric-heater-warning-after-shop-blaze

In one, four fire engines and around 21 firefighters and officers were called to a fire at a block of flats on Sunbeam Crescent in North Kensington.

Five people left the building via an internal staircase before the Brigade arrived. They were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation by London Ambulance Service before being taken to hospital. Around 15 people evacuated from the rest of the building before the Brigade arrived.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a portable heater being left on overnight.   The flat had no working smoke alarms and so fire was able to develop for some time.

A spokesperson for the Brigade said: “Always unplug unused heaters and other electrical items and don’t leave them on overnight. It’s also crucial to have working smoke alarms in your home. Never leave it to chance that you will discover a fire.

“Everyone should have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of their home and test them regularly. This will give the earliest warning if there is a fire in your home.”

Less than 2 weeks earlier in another part of London, three people had a lucky escape after a heater, which was being kept in a storage room, was accidently switched on causing a fire on George Lane in Hither Green.

Fire investigators believe that something accidently switched on the heater’s isolator switch and then items which were being stored on top of the heater began to smoulder and eventually burst into flames.

Worse still, it is reported that the house had no working smoke alarms and so fire was able to develop for some time before one of the occupants thankfully smelt smoke. All three people were able to escape without injury.

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson is reported to have said:

“Always unplug unused heaters and other electrical items, it’s surprisingly easy to accidently knock a switch on. It’s also crucial to have working smoke alarms in your home. Never leave it to chance that you will discover a fire.

“Everyone should have at least one working smoke alarm on every level of their home and test them regularly. This will give the earliest warning if there is a fire in your home.

Shockingly over two thirds of fatal fires involving heaters are caused by clothing or furniture being too close.  People need to ensure all heaters are standing upright and kept well away from clothes, curtains or furniture.”

The Brigade’s advice for portable heaters

  • Secure heaters against a wall to stop them falling over, or fit wall-mounted heaters
  • Keep heaters away from clothes, curtain and furniture
  • Sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair, especially if you fall asleep
  • Always turn off your heater and allow it to cool before moving it

30th Anniversary of Kings Cross Fire that Claimed 31 Lives

The early evening of 18th November 1987.  The height of rush hour for thousands of commuters and tourists travelling through London.  a fire broke out and ripped through the station concourse, having taken hold in an escalator plant room.

31 people lost their lives that evening, including one of the firefighters who battled to save them, Station Officer Colin Townsley who had entered the station with colleagues to assess the situation.  100 were left injured by the fire and many many more left traumatised.

This weekend and the coming few days will see  numerous news reports and retrospectives looking back and highlighting some of the lessons that could have, should have been learnt from this tragic and horrific event.

Who would have imagined that 30 years on, no more than a few miles across London, another huge fire would break out and cause enormous loss of life once again.

As a direct result of the fire and loss of life that evening in 1987 and following a public enquiry, important changes were made in fire precautions especially on the underground. Wooden escalators were removed and underground staff were trained in recognising what they should do in the event of fire.

Members of the fire brigade, emergency services, victims families and others affected by the blaze will attend a special service on Saturday 18th November 2017 – 30 years on.

Firework safety

Were you aware that:

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.

With the 5th November fast approaching thoughts turn to fire work and bonfire safety.  Most Fire Brigades in the UK provide advice via their websites.  We have summarised below the key points.

  •   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

Attending well organised events you will often have the chance to see better, more spectacular displays than anything you could put on yourself.

 

 

Brigade warns: Avoid Halloween horror and take care with candles

London Fire Brigade are urging party goers to avoid getting an unnecessary fright this Halloween by ensuring their costumes are kept well away from candles and naked flames.

Candles are one of the biggest causes of fires in the home and can be particularly dangerous if you are wearing clothing or fancy dress.

Keep costumes away from candles

Fancy dress costumes often have tassels, capes and other adornments which trail and can easily catch light if they accidentally brush against a naked flame. That is why it is absolutely crucial candles are kept well away from flammable items to minimise the risk of serious fire and injury.

125 candle related fires and 47 injuries

In the last six years during the period between 22 October to 13 November London firefighters have attended 143 fires involving candles, incense and oil burners. During the same period 47 people have been injured in candle related fires.

In a high profile incident in 2015 TV Presenter Claudia Winkleman championed the cause for safer Halloween costumes after her then eight-year-old daughter was hurt when the costume she was wearing caught fire.

Following Claudia’s high-profile campaign, several retailers agreed to increase fire safety standards on all their children’s dressing-up ranges.

LFB top candle and costume safety tips

• Keep candles well away from items that could catch fire like fancy dress costumes
• Only buy children’s Halloween costumes from reputable outlets
• Look for the CE safety mark on outfits
• Place candles on a heat resistant surface, like a ceramic plate
• Never leave a candle unattended
• Always fully extinguish a candle before going to sleep or going out

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/ 

London Fire Brigade makes fire safety plea 100 days on from Grenfell Tower tragedy

One hundred days on from the Grenfell Tower disaster and London’s fire chiefs are using the anniversary to remind landlords and residents about their high rise fire safety responsibilities.
The cause and spread of the Grenfell fire, as well as the response to it, are the subject of an ongoing police investigation and public inquiry but the Brigade says there are key actions housing providers, landlords and residents of high-rise residential buildings can take to help prevent fires from occurring in the first place and to reduce the

Landlords, such as local authorities and housing associations, or building owners are responsible for maintaining up to date fire risk assessments for their buildings. These should identify any risks and hazards, which should be put right, as well as the general fire precautions required for the property.

Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety Dan Daly said:
“One hundred days ago we saw the worst residential fire this country has ever seen. It is understandable people living in tower blocks have raised questions about their safety after such an horrific blaze but although this was an incident on an unprecedented scale, thankfully fires are rare.

“The building owner or landlord is responsible for making sure the building remains safe and this includes everything from ensuring fire doors are properly fitted to keeping escape routes free from clutter such as bikes and push chairs. They must also keep residents informed of what they need to do in the event of a fire.

“Having an up to date and detailed fire risk assessment is the single most helpful thing building owners and landlords can do to improve the safety of their residents and it is a legal requirement.“

Top five safety tips for high rise residents

Fire safety in purpose built flats and maisonettes is dependent on good maintenance and housekeeping and residents also have responsibility to play in supporting that by following this simple fire safety advice

• Make sure fire doors to the front of flats and onto corridors and staircases are kept closed and not left held or wedged open as they are designed to stop the spread of fire. All fire doors should also be fitted with a working, self closing mechanism.

• Don’t store things in corridors or on staircases as this can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job.

• Install smoke alarms and test  them regularly. As a minimum you should have smoke alarms on each floor if you live in a maisonette – in the hallways and the rooms you use the most, plus a heat alarm in the kitchen.

• Be fire safety savvy – extinguish cigarettes properly if you are a smoker and don’t leave candles or cooking unattended

• Make sure you have a fire plan and that everyone in your home knows what to do in an emergency. If you are not sure what the fire plan is for your building contact your landlord or the building owner.