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Advice for residents: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Residents’ queries

1. Advice for FirstPort Residents

Updated: 4 August 2020

The health and safety of our residents, employees and partners is always our priority.  We are continuing to closely monitor the latest Government advice on Coronavirus (COVID-19) and are adapting our management strategies in line with this guidance.  We have continuity plans in place and are working with our suppliers to try and minimise any potential impact to our services.

We’d like to thank all of our customers for your understanding during this unprecedented time.

2. How is FirstPort responding to this situation?

It’s important work continues to manage and care for your development.  Inevitably, there may be some temporary adaptations in place to make sure social distancing guidelines and Government restrictions are followed during this period.  These are detailed in the sections below which explain what it specifically means for the different kinds of homes we manage.

As lockdown restrictions begin to be  eased, our visiting property managers are recommencing site inspections – internal and external. For any services that  have been delayed or impacted by lockdown restrictions, we have plans in place to restore the standards our customers expect as soon as we can in line with Government guidance.

FirstPort staff who only work for a specific development have been continuing to be on-site to support their residents during lockdown, although there have been adaptations to their routines to make sure they’re able to comply with social distancing guidelines and can avoid public transport wherever feasible.

3. Customer services

Our customer support and property management teams are still here to help you.

We are gradually increasing the numbers of people in our offices in line with government guidelines. Where our customer service team are working at home, they are still answering your calls. Inevitably, you may experience a  slower 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 enquiries, the best way to reach our team is by email:

For Property Services customers, please email help@firstport.co.uk

For Bespoke customers, please email bespokehelp@firstport.co.uk

For former BRAM customers, please email cscare@firstport.co.uk

For Retirement customers, please email retirementhelp@firstport.co.uk

4. Visitors and communal activities at your development

The Government guidance on how you can see people that you do not live with while protecting yourself and others from coronavirus is available here.

The Government advice is to try to limit the number of people you see – especially over short periods of time. The risk of transmission is also higher indoors, so you should take extra care to stay as safe as possible.

 

5. Fire safety

According to the National Fire Chiefs Council, firefighters are called to a greater number of domestic fires at times when more people are at home – such as evening, weekends and bank holidays.  So while we’re all at home much more than usual at the moment, we wanted to share some helpful tips to help you minimise the risk of fire:  click here to read more.

Balcony barbeques – understanding the risks

As the weather improves we know it’s tempting to use your outdoor space for barbeques, but we ask that you please do not use your balcony for barbeques under any circumstances for your own safety and the safety of your neighbours.

Lighter fuel, matches, gas canisters and hot coals are potentially extremely dangerous and when they are used in a small space, several storeys above ground level, they pose even greater risk. Also, if you inadvertently start a fire that damages your flat or a neighbour’s property, you may find your insurance policy will not cover you.

This advice is in line with that of the London Fire Brigade (LFB). They have dealt with 550 barbecue fires across London in the last three years and have issued some advice on their website, which you can read here.

6. 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. Our site teams are aware that they must not come to work if they or anyone in their household is showing symptoms of Covid-19. During this time, we are asking for parcels to be delivered directly to properties where possible, in the interest of safeguarding both residents and staff. 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. Our operational teams have conducted a site by site review to find the most sensible compromise for your 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. Cleaners have been advised to make sure they focus on high touch areas like door handles, lift call buttons, and stair rails.
  • 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 that you only share the lift with other members of your household. 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: Following the Government relaxation around leisure facilities, the majority of our gyms and pools are now open but with some changes to opening times, and limits to the number of residents that can use these facilities at any one time to make sure we are following the latest government guidance. Saunas and steams rooms remain closed at this time.
  • 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 by our contractors wherever possible.
  • Services still continuing: Your property/development/estate manager will still be available to support you. Wherever possible, they 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 they are not on site.
  • Following relaxation of government guidelines, we are now conducting internal and external inspections of properties and re-starting works of an internal nature at developments with social distancing being strictly observed at all times.
  • 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, and to allow building maintenance works that can be safely carried out while observing social distancing to continue.
    • 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 safely carry out their duties.
    • Plan ahead to make sure that any delayed works can be resumed as soon as possible once restrictions are lifted, so that any impact on high site standards can be quickly restored.

Please be vigilant: Please help reduce any opportunistic crimes by making sure your possessions are locked away, doors are kept closed, and report any acts of vandalism or suspicious behaviour by strangers to the police.

7. 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

8. For retirement developments

  • 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 know how much our residents value the role of their 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. Development Managers are continuing to work from our retirement developments 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 any residents who may be struggling.
  • With the Government’s guidelines now allowing for more people to return to work with social distancing in place, we’ve re-started works of an internal nature at developments, but with social distancing being strictly adhered to at all times.
  • We’re helping residents to follow the Government’s social distancing guidance by closing our communal lounges and setting up Laundry room rotas.  We’re also asking residents to only travel in development lifts with people within their household.
  • 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 our residents to keep their minds active and healthy whilst self-isolating. For the first 14 weeks of lockdown,  we provided weekly entertainment packs containing puzzles, adult colouring sheets, and tasty recipes.

We also worked with our Life & Style Editor-in-Chief, Rosemary Conley CBE, on a selection of ‘exercise at home’ videos.  The first videos were exercises that you can do while seated, so are suited for people of all ages.  These are available on our residents’ blog.

9. For Assisted Living retirement developments

Our plans are focused on the safety of our residents and employees, and also making sure we are complying with the latest government guidance to make us ‘COVID-19 Secure’. Following a full risk assessment, and in response to the relaxation of government restrictions, we have re-started housekeeping and catering services at the majority of Assisted Living developments.

We understand that there may be residents who are still shielding and alternative plans will be made for them so that they can continue to avoid contact with employees or residents.

With both services, we have only re-introduced them at developments where we are sure there are no confirmed cases or residents with symptoms. If we are made aware of a suspected case of COVID-19 at a development, we will revert back to pausing these services.

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.

10. 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 contact us as follows.  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 instead on the appropriate address below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible:

Property Services: help@firstport.co.uk or 0333 321 4080

Bespoke: bespokehelp@firstport.co.uk or 0333 321 4045

Former BRAM customers: cscare@firstport.co.uk or 0333 0050 227

Retirement: retirementhelp@firstport.co.uk or 0333 321 4041

Payments line: 0333 321 4079

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