Freelance journalist

Author Bio ▼

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.
July 11, 2022

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FIREX 2022

What’s next for fire safety in the social housing sector?

A leading panel of experts took to the stage for a packed out session at FIREX International in May to examine the challenges in improving fire safety in the social housing sector. Jamie Hailstone provides an overview of the discussion.

Introducing the session, Andy Frankum, Chair of the National Social Housing Fire Strategy Group said there is a “lot of change” going on in the sector with new regulations coming out from central government, but he said the ultimate goal remained making sure that residents are safe.

FIREX-SocialHousingSeminar-22

The first speaker was Tina Mistry, Relationships Manager at Aico, who said the business recently commissioned some research by the Centre of Economic and Business Research, to look at the fire safety requirements and standards right across the UK.

“The reason we did this was that we sat down and looked at all four nations, and we found there’s no single document that looked at all the standards or regulations associated to homeowners and social renters, or resident engagement strategies,” she told the delegates.

Another aspect of the research was examining the economic impact on the financial impact of fire, which included data from a YouGov survey. “This was about the human impact of fire, because that’s one thing that’s always forgotten.”

Mistry said that when people normally think about the direct consequence of fire, it is in terms of fatality or an injury, or property damage, but she added there are other indirect costs, like people taking time off or relocation. She said the research calculated the indirect and direct cost of a fire equates to £31,600.

She added a lot of time and effort goes into dealing with situations once a fire occurs, but a more proactive approach with education, engagement work could reap large benefits in the long-term. “Standards and regulations are great, but actually so is looking at an issue from the human angle,” she concluded.

The next speaker was Elspeth Grant, CEO and expert personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) adviser at Triple A Solutions, who spoke around the lack of progress around PEEPS for disabled people.

“Why are we discussing it? At the end of the day, the Fire Safety Order is pretty clear. The legal requirements of articles 14 and 15 are that all relevant persons in a premises can move away from immediate danger and evacuate the building as safely and as quickly as possible. That’s a legal requirement,” said Grant.

She quoted research by the University of Leeds and Phil Murphy, using Home Office provided data from Fire and Rescue Services Incident Reporting System, that shows that it is an average of 25 minutes from a 999 call that firefighters are in a position to undertake a primary intervention at a high level.  She explained that the same research, showed that after spending 20 minutes in the vicinity of a fire and toxic gases, you are more likely to have a fatality than you are to be rescued.

“If you look at Grenfell, we know that fatalities went up because family members would not abandon their disabled relatives, and in fact, neighbours tried to protect their neighbours,” Grant added.

Neil Yeomans, Head of Property Safety at the Orbit Group, was also part of the discussion, arguing that the sector has focused on “tick box exercises” for too long, which has led to a silo mentality.

“One of the things I would recommend for anyone from a housing association is to stay away from tick box exercises and instead move towards a culture of safety, which the Government’s safety regulator has been very clear about,” said Yeomans.

 

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