Housing and land

Fire safety in flats and in homes with external wall insulation

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London last week, Powys County Council Housing Service sets out details in respect of fire safety in flat-based accommodation blocks.

There are a series of stringent fire safety measures in place and the devastating events in London serve to underline the importance of these measures. There will inevitably be detailed reports and recommendations coming out of the proposed public enquiry into the fire at Grenfell Tower and we will take those on board and review policy and practice at that time.

On Wednesday last week, there was a routine meeting of the Housing Health and Safety Group.  This group discussed the Grenfell Tower fire and implications for properties owned by Powys County Council.  In particular the Group reviewed our use of external cladding. The service confirmed that the insulation material used in our external wall insulation is an expanded polystyrene system, with a render finish applied to the external face. However, the way in which the material is encapsulated on our properties is very different to the way it was reportedly used at Grenfell Tower. The external wall insulation product is fixed to the dwellings with no significant void between the property and insulation, this means there is no continuous void to act as a chimney or oxygen source. The product is encapsulated within a render finish which should increase the fire resistance of the insulation system; this insulation system is certified by the British Board of Agreement.  

 In addition, one of our properties which had been clad in this material experienced a fire in the last year, and whilst the interior of the property was badly damaged, the exterior cladding resisted the fire and remained undamaged.  Therefore, we are reassured of the safety of cladding we have fitted to our properties.  At this meeting the Group also discussed the need for clear assessments of fire safety in the planning, commissioning and delivery of major refurbishment works, this will be taken forward by the relevant team.

The current arrangements around fire safety in blocks of flats owned by Powys County Council Housing are as follows:

 

  1. The Service works closely with the Fire Service to ensure we have a robust fire safety management plan in place.  There is a Joint Fire Safety group (Housing and Fire Service) that meets regularly to discuss policy and practice around fire safety
  2. The Service has a clear policy for fire safety
  3. The Services undertakes periodic fire risk assessments on all of our blocks of flats, based on a risk assessment of each block
  4. The Service undertakes periodic visual inspection of all of our blocks
  5. The Service attends to maintenance and management issues as they arise
  6. The Service have carried out improvements to all of our blocks ensuring fire doors are fitted, blocks are secure, the stairways are clear and well lit, smoke detectors and emergency lighting are maintained where these are fitted.
  7. The Service retains a capital budget to carry out installation and updating of communal fire alarms and smoke detectors and emergency lighting in dwellings as recommended by fire risk assessments
  8. The Service assesses our vulnerable tenants, referring them to the Fire Service for home fire safety visits, this is  where the Fire Service offer free fire safety advice in the tenant’s home
  9. Where the Service has tenants with poor mobility we develop a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan with them and share this with the Fire Service
  10. The Service has a “stay-put” policy for many of our residents in blocks of flats who cannot leave the building themselves – this is based upon the advice from the Fire Service.  Our flats form fire-proof compartments where fire cannot readily spread from room to room and flat to flat.  This will give the Fire Service time to safely evacuate tenants
  11. The Service holds periodic estate clean-up days to assist tenants in disposing of bulking items of rubbish that might otherwise cause a fire safety hazard

Finally, it should be noted that there are no high rise blocks in Powys, the highest block being four stories. This means that neither Powys County Council nor the Fire Service, face the same challenges in Powys as faced by those services involved in the London tower block incident.

Our Housing Service supports residents across Powys in lots of different ways. It isn’t just about houses, it’s about helping people feel safe, secure and warm in their homes. 

Here are some Powys residents speaking about how the service has helped them and their families.

 

 

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TO CONTACT THE HOUSING SERVICE

Ring – 01597 827464

Email – housing@powys.gov.uk

Write to – Housing Scanning, Powys County Hall, Llandrindod Wells, LD1 5LG

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   You can contact the appropriate service by following the links above. Contact details or contact forms are on each page.

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