Category Archives: Fire Safety

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.

Brigade warning on No Smoking Day

London Fire Brigade report that 8 people have died in fires related to smoking in London in the last 12 months, according to new data.

The new figures have been released to coincide with national No Smoking Day and the Brigade is continuing to urge people to switch to vaping or better still stop smoking altogether to avoid the risk of dying or being hurt in a fire.

In the last five years, there have been an average of 22 fires every week linked to smoking. Since 2013/14, there have been 5,978 fires in London linked to smoking, 416 people have been injured and a total of 76 people have died.

Dan Daly, the Brigade’s Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety, said: “So many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented either stopping smoking or by switching to vaping.

“We would rather people didn’t smoke at all but if they do, vaping is a safer option. There is a common misconception that vapes are a fire risk but the reality is they have caused a very small number of fires – normally because the device is broken or it’s being charged by a faulty charger. Smoking on the other hand is a killer.

“Common causes of smoking related fires are people falling asleep while smoking or discarding cigarette butts or matches that have not been properly extinguished.”

The people who die in smoking related fires are often the most vulnerable who live alone, including the elderly, those with mobility problems, illnesses, drink or drug dependencies.

Family members, carers and neighbours of those who smoke are also urged to look for early warning signs that someone could be at risk of having a fire related to smoking and ensure that they have working smoke alarms fitted, especially in rooms where they smoke.

Assistant Commissioner Daly added: “Burn marks on carpets, furniture, clothing and bedding are often the first obvious signs that someone could be at risk of a smoking related fire.

“We would urge anyone in contact with smokers who notice these tell-tale signs or has any concerns to request a Home Fire Safety Visit from London Fire Brigade and visit our website for practical advice on how to reduce fire risk.”

A reminder from LFB for residents of flats

London Fire Brigade have advice for residents of flats and maisonettes on their web site.

If you live in a purpose-built maisonette or flat your landlord must provide you with fire safety information, including an evacuation plan.

If any building refurbishment or redecoration work is done to your flat or building, or defects are identified that could enable fire spread, your landlord must update your evacuation plan, and let you know about any changes.

What to look out for in your building

Fire safety in all buildings is also dependent upon good maintenance and housekeeping.

In maisonettes and blocks of flats it’s essential that:

  • all flat front doors and doors on corridors and staircases must be ‘self-closing’ fire doors
  • fire doors must ‘self-close’ properly, and not be held or wedged open. They are designed to stop the spread of fire
  • things aren’t stored in corridors or staircases. This can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job. They can also feed the fire
  • storage on balconies is kept to a minimum
  • everyone who lives in the building knows the evacuation plan. Are there signs that show you how to escape fire?

If you’re concerned about any of these things, contact your landlord.

Check out their advice here 

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.