Housing Specification Blog

Fire Risk Assessments Still Inadequate

July 3, 2012 Alexandra Blakeman Innovations

Fire risk assessments must be improved to reduce the threat of fire in high rise flats and apartments. Social landlords are still receiving constant reminders about carrying out thorough and sustained assessments.

Flats ablaze in Croydon. Click on image for original source.

Last year the CIH carried out a survey about the inadequacy of current measures for assessing fire risk in high rise buildings. Despite the findings, one year later limited progress has seemingly been made.

The 2011 survey suggested that almost 25% high rise buildings aren’t adequately assessed or equipped for a fire. Twelve months on, why aren’t landlords being cajoled into action?

Despite the survey’s findings the initial problem still remains; risk assessments are increasingly difficult to police. Their inconclusive nature largely means that they’re carried out as a task of legal necessity, rather than human compassion.

Different landlords take different degrees of precaution and prevention. It is very difficult to measure personal judgement on these matters. ‘Tick-box’ assessments, which are most commonly used, lack the space and scope to consider risk on different levels.

The CIH seminars and survey reacted to one of the most devastating housing fires in recent times. Southwark Council block, Lakanal House set ablaze in July 2009. Following six deaths, it was revealed that a number of the blocks were inadequately assessed and equipped for fire.

In May, Inside Housing revealed that: “On average at least one social landlord a week has been issued with an enforcement notice by the fire brigade in England over the past six months. The vast majority of these were in London. The LFB [London Fire Brigade] confirmed it carried out an audit of 1,642 tower blocks in 2011/12 and that in 66 cases – 4 per cent – it issued an enforcement notice.”

Renovating poorly equipped housing stock is an expensive but necessary task. It is vital that high rise flats are appropriately equipped and assessed because fire has a greater potential to spread throughout the different floors. Compartmentation, the structure used to prevent the spread of fire between levels, is often found to be compromised in older housing stock.

In next month’s Housing Specification, we’re offering an informative Q&A with fire detection specialists Aico. They’ll be offering advice on the best fire and CO detection methods and introducing readers to their interconnected smoke alarm system. With an inbuilt wireless connection, Aico’s alarms communicate using radio frequency signals, rather than traditional hard wiring methods.

In the meantime, if you’ve got any opinions or information on housing fire safety, please feel free to comment below.

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