1. Advice for FirstPort Residents
Updated: 07 April 2020
The health and safety of our residents, employees and partners remains our priority. Please be assured that we are continuing to closely monitor the latest Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are adapting our management planning accordingly. We have continuity plans in place and are working with our suppliers to try and minimise any potential impact to the services we offer.
The following information provides updates from our customer communications to keep you up to speed about what this means for your development.
2. How is FirstPort responding to this situation?
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has confirmed that those who cannot work from home should go to work “to keep the country running”. Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), has also offered clarified that work should continue to maintain buildings for sanitation and fire safety reasons.
Based on these clarifications, we’ve continued to adapt our approach on site to follow the latest government advice appropriately. This is detailed in the sections below for the different kinds of homes we manage. We are working quickly to support our customers, employees and suppliers, while acting in accordance with the very latest guidance.
We thank all of our customers for your understanding during what is an unprecedented, and rapidly developing, situation. As soon as we can revert to normal, in line with Government guidance, we will of course do so.
3. Customer services
Our customer support and property management teams are still here to help.
Our customer service team are still answering your calls while working from their own homes. Inevitably, this may slow service at certain times of the day so to help with this, we’ve increased the size of our email team.
So for non-urgent customer service matters, the best way to reach our team is drop them an email:
For property services customers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For former BRAM customers, please email email@example.com
For retirement customers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Visitors and communal activities at your development
In line with the Government’s advice, everyone must stay at home and must follow social distancing guidelines. This means that you should not be having visitors to the development at the present time, and all communal activities should not take place while this Government guidance is in place.
5. For developments with communal facilities and/or site staff
- Site staff: Site staff, such as concierge, handymen and caretakers, will be on site where possible. This will be strictly in line with social distancing measures in our concierge receptions and communal areas. However, we do expect parcels to be delivered directly to properties where possible, in the interest of safeguarding staff and residents. We will only be issuing spare keys on an emergency basis. We also anticipate there may be some occasional gaps in the concierge service due to transport restrictions.
- Bins & refuse collection: We expect your local authority to maintain refuse collections during this time. However, we do need your help to keep rubbish in tied bags and evenly distributed between your development bins please. This is important to make sure that bin collections can take place, and that overflowing waste or dumped bulky items are not left blocking access, and to reduce the likelihood of attracting pests or rodents. Please be aware that if your development has bin stores and/or refuse chutes, we have tried to temporarily relocate bins to street level, where possible and safe to do so, to make sure that bins can be easily collected even if site staff are unavailable and/or further restrictions are enforced by government. A site by site review will take place by our operational teams to arrive at the most sensible compromise for each development. If you notice any refuse issues, please notify your property manager and we will liaise with the local authority and/or key contractors, as required.
- Communal area cleaning, gardening, grounds maintenance & window cleaning: These services will carry on where possible, but with the potential for a reduced frequency due to staff and/or contractor availability. We will be reinforcing to all operatives that they must be strictly following social distancing instructions and must not attend site if they or any of their household have symptoms or have been unwell, in accordance with the latest public health guidance.
- Lifts: Our main lift contractors have confirmed that they will only be carrying out site visits for entrapments and emergency call outs. We would therefore encourage you to use the stairs rather than the lift if this is possible or you are able to do so. If you do need to use the lift please make sure you do not share it with anyone outside of your household in order to adhere with social distancing requirements. In the event of a lift failure please use the emergency call point in the lift and call emergency services on 999 if there are no staff on site.
- Communal systems: If there is a communal heating system at your development and this were to breakdown, please be aware that response times to repair this are likely to be delayed but will be attended to as soon as possible. Please use your domestic immersion heaters where possible.
- Emergency access to communal amenities: A set of keys for emergency use by authorised contractors to access communal amenities and services has been left with a volunteer resident in case there are any issues with staff being able to get to your development. These will only be used if it is necessary to check the heating system, plant room, water boosters or any other vital systems behind a locked door. This does not include any keys for individual properties.
- Gyms, swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms: Unfortunately, we have had to close these facilities until further notice in line with the government advice to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus.
- Fire safety: During this time emergency services are likely to be stretched, so please do take extra care to reduce the risk of fires by making sure that:
- No items are left in stairwells or corridors
- All rubbish is placed in bins – please do not leave refuse in communal areas
- All fire exits are kept clear
- You and all persons in your household know the evacuation procedure in the event of a fire in your property
- Please check that the smoke detectors within your property are operating correctly
- Please be vigilant: Whilst we are all adjusting to these new circumstances, please help us and yourselves to reduce any opportunistic crimes. Please make sure your possessions are locked away, doors are kept closed, and report any acts of vandalism or suspicious behaviour by strangers to the police.
- Essential reactive maintenance: We are working to make sure that essential services, for instance reactive maintenance to breakdowns, leaks or electrical faults, or pest control can still be undertaken wherever possible by our contractors.
- Services still continuing: Your property/development/estate manager will still be available to support you. Wherever possible, I will be attending the development to ensure high standards are maintained and to manage the site team. They will be strictly following social distancing instructions and, where possible, will try to avoid the use of public transport to travel to the development. This may impact their available hours at the development, but they will continue to be available as usual during working hours even if I they are not on site. Our head office support teams are still working hard to support all of our customers and are continuing to quickly adapt our approach in line with the evolving Government advice. We will continue to:
- Work closely with our main framework contractors to ensure our supply chain can still support our developments for any reactive and high priority call outs during this time.
- Manage the buidings, terrorism and any other relevant insurances for our development.
- Manage your development bank account, held in trust for you and your neighbours.
- Manage your annual accounts and budgets.
- Support your site staff so that they are able to come back to work for you after these restrictions are lifted.
- Planning ahead to make sure high site standards can be resumed as soon as possible once restrictions are lifted.
6. For estates
- Grounds maintenance: Based on the latest guidance, grounds maintenance services will continue wherever possible but with the potential for a reduced frequency due to staff and/or contractor availability. We will be reinforcing to all operatives that they must be strictly following social distancing instructions and must not attend site if they or any of their household have symptoms or have been unwell, in accordance with the latest public health guidance.
- Essential reactive services: We are working to make sure that essential reactive services can still be undertaken on estates developments wherever possible. These would include reactive support for any urgent issues with:
- Pump stations
- Sewage treatment plants
- Complete street lighting (if managed by FirstPort)
- Electric gates
7. For retirement developments
Updated 2 April 2020
We wanted to give you an update on the actions we’re taking to make sure you are safe and comfortable, and how we will continue to support you through this evolving situation.
Here’s some of the steps we’ve taken so far:
- We’re keeping developments in the best possible condition to stop any virus spreading. We have asked our cleaners to concentrate on high touch areas such as door handles, lift call buttons, and stair rails. We also deep clean if ever we have a reported COVID-19 case at a development.
- We’ve made some changes to the way we operate to meet Government guidance, such as cancelling in-apartment services and all non-essential maintenance work that involves a contractor entering the building. However, all vital safety equipment testing, such as fire panels and warden call systems, are continuing. We also recognise that having a nicely maintained development to enjoy when you are not allowed to go out as much is of real value, so we will continue to allow outside grounds maintenance and window cleaning, subject to the contractors maintaining social distancing.
- We know how much you value the role of your Development Manager. They are a key part of the life of a development and running the building, supported by our Area and Regional Managers, and our customer contact centre. As you know, your Development Manager is continuing to work from your development at the current time in line with the Government guidance on essential roles and self-distancing. We’ve tweaked some of their duties in order to observe distancing guidance, such as cancelling in-apartment services, but they continue to complete important development safety checks and daily checks on all our residents remotely from their office using the warden call system or telephone. They are also on-hand to provide support and guidance to you if you’re struggling during self-isolation.
- We’re helping you to follow the Government’s social distancing guidance by closing our communal lounges and setting up Laundry room rotas. We’re also asking you to only travel in development lifts with people you live with.
- We’ve provided all our residents with practical advice on how they should follow social distancing guidance, reminding them to maintain the two-metre rule and follow good hygiene practices.
Keeping mentally and physically active
We want to help you to keep your minds active and healthy whilst you’re self-isolating. We are providing weekly packs during this period containing puzzles, colouring sheets, and tasty recipes.
We’ve also been working with our Life & Style Editor-in-Chief, Rosemary Conley, on a selection of ’exercise at home’ videos. The first videos are exercises that you can do while seated, so are suited for people of all ages. These are available on our residents’ blog.
8. For Assisted Living retirement developments
As well as the retirement considerations above, we have introduced additional measures for our ‘Assisted Living’ retirement developments:
- Housekeeping: In our efforts to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, we have taken the decision to suspend all housekeeping services until further notice. This will allow our house keeping staff to focus on other duties, such as enhanced cleaning of communal areas and supporting residents with their laundry.
- Catering services: Unfortunately it is not possible to keep restaurants open whilst maintaining the social distancing guidance. We are continuing to offer our residents a cooked meal by tray to their apartment.
- 24-hour management cover: Please be assured we are making sure our contingency plans allow for us to continue to provide a 24/7 service, even if multiple staff are off sick.
- In-apartment services: All in-apartment services will be cancelled (e.g. pull cord testing) until the Government advises we can reduce isolation or social distancing. The Estate Manager’s daily checks on residents will continue – this can be done without physical contact, and with social distancing observed.
9. Useful information
With more people staying at home, drainage systems can come under strain and be more prone to blockages. Please can we ask that non-biodegradable items, such as baby wipes, sanitary towels, nappies and cotton buds, are not flushed down toilets or disposed of in sinks to avoid blockages and any significant costs that can occur when issues arise. Please can these items be thrown away or recycled instead.
As you know, this is a developing situation and we would urge you to refer to the Government advice to stay up to date with the latest information and guidance:
If you think you have Coronavirus symptoms:
- Please follow the NHS and Government guidance about how to self-isolate
- Please call the NHS 111 advice line, or use the 111 online Coronavirus service available at: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19
- Follow the advice given to you by the NHS 111 service
If you are diagnosed with Coronavirus:
- Please follow the NHS and Government guidance about how to self-isolate
- Please notify our customer service team*
Please refer to the links below for the most update to information from the government and NHS about the Coronavirus situation in the UK:
NHS guidance on preventing the spread of germs:
We would encourage all residents to be mindful of the NHS advice on how best to prevent the spread of germs as they can live on some surfaces for hours. To protect yourself and others:
- Always carry tissues with you and use them to catch your cough or sneeze.
- Bin the tissue and, to kill the germs, wash your hands with soap and water, or use a sanitiser gel.
* For customer services, please call 0333 321 4080 or 0333 321 4045, if you were formerly a BRAM customer please call 0333 005 0227, or if you’re a retirement customer please call 0333 321 4041.
Due to the ever-changing situation, at some points in the day you may need to wait longer than usual to speak to one of our team. If your query is not urgent, please consider emailing the team on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org instead and we will get back to you as soon as possible.