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Editor, IFSEC Global

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Adam Bannister was Editor of IFSEC Global from 2014 through to November 2019. Adam is also a former Managing Editor at Dynamis Online Media Group.
September 14, 2015

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Student Accommodation Under the Spotlight as Fire Door Safety Week Remembers Sophie Rosser

Student accommodationStudent accommodation should be a major concern for the fire safety industry, research commissioned for Fire Door Safety Week suggests.

Government statistics have already revealed that not only do 80% of all fire-related fatalities occur in dwellings – with 39,139 such fires and 260 deaths between 2013-14 – but, according to West Midlands Fire & Rescue Service (WMFRS) figures, people living in rented or shared accommodation are seven times more likely to have a fire.

The WMFRS numbers also revealed that a 81% of university students are reported to regularly undertake activities that pose a fire risk in their accommodation. Some 514 fires were recorded in student accommodation in Great Britain in 2012.

The shortcomings of fire safety provision in student accommodation were tragically exposed in August 2012 when 23-year-old student Sophie Rosser died in a fire in a block of flats in London’s Canary Wharf. An inquest heard that her death could have been avoided if a self-closing fire door, which became stuck on the warped floor, had closed properly.

The Fire Door Safety Week Research, which was conducted by Atomik Research for the Fire Door Inspection Scheme, revealed that two thirds of parents with children living away from home confessed to not knowing what constituted fire-safe accommodation, while 29% admitted that neither they nor their offspring checked a property’s fire safety before they rented or moved in.

Canvassing around a thousand parents with children living away from home in a rented property, shared house or student accommodation the survey also showed that only 25% felt very confident that their son or daughter had been given fire training or instruction and properly understood the fire safety measures within their home.

Twenty percent of respondents had little, if any, confidence in other housemates’ fire safety awareness.

Fire stats by building | Create infographics

The tragic death of Sophie Rosser underlines the urgency of this issue. Her father, Julian Rosser, who is supporting Fire Door Safety Week, believes the law is to vague and needs clarification.

“The awful thing about Sophie’s death is that it was so avoidable,” he says. “Had the entrance fire door to her apartment not stuck on the warped flooring and been wedged open, her young life would not have been taken from her.

“I would like to see the law changed to make it much clearer who the ‘Responsible Person’ is in every multi-occupancy building so that it is obvious whose responsibility it is for statutory and regular fire door inspection. This would allow the law to have much sharper teeth to deal with offenders.

“In Sophie’s case, after three years no prosecutions have been brought and the Coroner was frustrated in her attempts to allocate the blame to any particular person or organisation.

“I wholeheartedly support the objectives of Fire Door Safety Week and will keep campaigning for the necessary changes in the laws governing the frequency of inspection of fire doors and their proper installation and maintenance.”

 

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