July 2017

We have been asked by some of our customers about fire safety following the tragic fire in Grenfell Tower last week, and we wanted to issue this update and guidance in response.

What is FirstPort doing to manage safety in the buildings that it manages?

Even though, of course, no-one can guarantee a world without accidents it is reassuring that a well-designed, well managed building performing as it should and with effective compartmentation will normally be a safe environment. Even though in-apartment fires can, and do, happen it is very rare for there to be a tragedy like Grenfell Tower.

Long before the Grenfell Tower fire FirstPort has been focused on minimising and managing safety risks across the residential developments that we manage. Health & Safety is absolutely our first priority, is covered first in our business reviews and training, and is the focus of our people and our contractors wherever they work. We already regularly fire risk assess the developments that we manage using independent fire safety experts, and we act on any recommendations that they make. We have had our safety approach independently audited as recently as the start of this year, and we were rated a 5* safety organisation by the well-regarded British Safety Council.

We understand that the investigation into the cause of the tragic Grenfell fire may take some time. We are monitoring guidance and advice as it emerges in line with the investigation and are responding to it. The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority. We carry out fire risk assessments using fire experts as well as undertaking property inspections and using specialised contractors to carry out checks and maintenance in order to comply with fire safety law.

Are the proper safety guidelines being followed, and what needs to change post Grenfell Tower?

We follow the current legal and best practice guidelines. We continually review fire safety procedures and fire safety management and will monitor Government and Fire Authority advice, as well as advice from the Local Authorities and the Health and Safety Executive. Of course, until the investigation concludes or more specific guidance emerges it would be too easy to speculate on lessons from Grenfell Tower, but we will continue to monitor the advice and will apply any lessons once findings from the incident become known.

Is a ‘Stay Put’ policy safe?

Homes are built with fire compartmentation, which is designed to resist the passage of fire between the walls and doors until the fire services arrive. In this way, the fire service are given plenty of time to assess risks and ensure that, if needed, any evacuation is managed in a safe and orderly fashion. In addition, the communal corridors and escape passages are often equipped with smoke ventilation systems to improve conditions for means of escape and fire-fighting by limiting obscuration and toxicity in the common escape routes.

We understand that there are concerns around the ‘Stay Put’ policy, and the following is the guidance from the London Fire Brigade:

“If there is a fire inside your apartment leave, closing the door behind you and call 999. If there is a fire elsewhere in the building, and not inside your own apartment their advice is to stay put. The Fire Service will carry out an evacuation of the other apartments if necessary.”

Further information can be found on www.london-fire.gov.uk/staying-in-or-going-out.asp

Specifically what are you doing now given the concern about cladding on high rise blocks?

We are following Government guidelines and taking samples of cladding that is of the aluminium composite type. These samples are being sent in to the Government’s testing laboratory. In addition we are using fire safety experts to inspect our high rise buildings of six storeys or more in more depth to check for any other risks. If any cladding is found to be suspect we will respond immediately in accordance with the national guidance, working with the local fire authority, on actions required and make any changes to our fire strategies that are necessary to keep our residents safe.

What can I do to help with fire safety where I live?

It is recommended that all residents re-familiarise themselves with the fire strategy for their building; please take a moment to identify your fire action notice and read it (this is generally located near to entranceways within each block).

Residents can also help with the following:

  • Each flat should be fitted with a smoke detector. Please do check where yours is and that it is functioning correctly. Fire/smoke detectors situated within the apartments are the responsibility of the Leaseholder to ensure they are fully operable; we would suggest testing the sounders on a monthly basis as a minimum.
  • Fire doors should not be propped open.
  • Extreme care should be taken when using candles or any naked flames. Take special care not to leave cooking unattended.
  • It is paramount that cigarettes are extinguished and disposed of correctly, and not discarded over balconies. Smoking is not permitted in the communal areas.
  • Riser cupboards must always be empty of any items.
  • Always ensure corridors, stairways, means of escape, and common areas are free from any obstruction that could hamper evacuation if an emergency.

We want to reassure you that we take your safety very seriously and were already carefully applying safety standards at all of our developments. Following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, we are completing all of the cladding checks and further checking all of the high rise blocks. We will advise if any specific action or change is needed. Meanwhile, we will continue to track any findings or new guidelines given once the full facts are known. Working with you, we can continue to ensure your homes are happy and safe places to live.

Should you have any concerns regarding the above please contact your Property Manager.