Fire safety following Grenfell Tower

The tragic incident in June 2017, at Grenfell Tower, West London brought into focus the importance of fire safety.

After the fire the Council formed a Fire Safety Task Force that brought together officers from the London Fire Brigade and the borough's main providers of social housing.

The task force set up a specialist team of officers to co-ordinate the work of fire safety in Bexley. The team are gathering information relating to fire safety for all shared residential property, schools, care facilities and council-owned buildings to ensure that they meet fire safety standards.

There are some simple tips for you to think about to make sure your home is safe at London Fire Brigade - Fire safety at home.

Other sources of information which you may find useful

Faulty electrical appliances

You can check if your appliances have been recalled using a tool on Electrical Safety First.

Fire Risk Assessments

The LGA guide to fire safety in purpose-built flats provides information about Fire Risk Assessments.

For further information, you can email or telephone 020 8303 7777.

Fire safety in flats

If your flat is being affected by fire or smoke:

  • get everyone out, close all windows and doors and walk calmly out of the building
  • do not use the lift
  • call 999, give your address, the number of your flat and state which floor the fire is on
  • alert your neighbours if possible and it is safe to do so
  • if you are unable to get out of your flat then, find a safe room, close the door and use soft materials to block any gaps to stop the smoke

If you find a fire in another part of the building

Purpose-built blocks of flats are built to give you some protection from fire. Walls, floors and doors can hold back flames and smoke for 30 to 60 minutes.

  • you are usually safer staying put and calling 999
  • tell the fire brigade where you are and the best way to reach you

If you are within the common parts of the building, leave and call 999.

Advice on staying put

The Fire Brigade guidance to ‘Stay Put’, unless your flat is being affected by fire or smoke, is based on the fire protection provided in the building and the walls and doors of each flat.

This has been the case for many decades and, although fires in flats unfortunately occur in normal circumstances the fire usually only affects the flat on fire. However, some smoke may enter corridors when the residents leave the flat on fire, or firefighters enter the flat to extinguish the fire. By ‘staying put’ it will reduce the risk of you entering a smoky corridor unnecessarily and potentially being overcome by smoke. It will also allow firefighters to tackle the fire safely and quickly without being delayed by many residents evacuating down the stairways.

What to look out for in your building

Fire safety in all buildings is also dependent upon good maintenance and housekeeping. 

In blocks of flats, it’s essential that:

  • all flat front doors and doors on corridors and staircases must be self-closing fire doors
  • fire doors must self-close properly, and not be held or wedged open. They are designed to stop the spread of fire
  • things aren’t stored in corridors or staircases. This can block escape routes and stop firefighters doing their job. They can also feed the fire
  • storage on balconies is kept to a minimum
  • everyone who lives in the building knows the evacuation plan. Make sure there are signs that show you how to escape fire
  • make sure the smoke detectors in your flat are all working properly

If you’re concerned about any of these things, contact your landlord.

Cladding on buildings

All the blocks in Bexley meet fire regulations at the time of construction. We can confirm that we don’t have any Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), the type that has been highlighted as being present at Grenfell Tower, in any of the blocks.

Front doors to individual flats

It is very important that the door to each flat is a fire door. If you are thinking of changing the door you will need to check with the freeholder of the building that you are allowed to and make sure that the door is a proper fire door, which has a certificate. No UPVC doors are fire doors so never use those.

Storing of items in the communal area

It’s really important for everyone’s safety to make sure that access to and from the flats is clear. Having items in these areas is generally a breach of the tenancy agreement or lease.

Mobility scooters in the communal area

Cases where there is a resident who needs a mobility scooter need to be looked at on an individual basis but generally these should not be stored or charged in the communal areas. You will need to consult the freeholder if you need a scooter to agree the safest place for these to be stored.

Faulty appliances

To confirm your appliance is affected, please check your model and serial number, usually located on a sticker behind the salad container, or look for the model data label on your appliance. Millions of fire risk appliances are still being used around the UK.

As there is no central register for recalled appliances, manufacturers rely on customers registering their details when they buy an item. If they don’t there is no direct way to contact a customer and many find out about unsafe items by reading about it in the media.

You can check if your appliances have been recalled using a tool on the Electrical Safety First website.

Pan fires

If possible and safe to do so then you should isolate the gas supply by turning the cooker off. If this can easily be done at the stop cock then this is better.

Fire blankets are generally applied to pan fires, do not use water. Take care using a blanket as serious injuries including burns and scalds can be suffered and the fire not suitably cooled before the blanket is removed. Untrained users may also believe they have fully extinguished the fire, but if enough heat remains left in it, it may reignite.

Fire fighting equipment

The presence of fire extinguishers encourages untrained people to attempt to fight the fire rather than evacuate the area/building. We want residents to move away, rather than towards a fire, to a place of safety.

Additionally, a resident may be tempted to re-enter their flat, having collected an extinguisher from a communal area, which is more dangerous than directly evacuating and ensuring the flat entry door is fully closed behind them.

Under current building regulations, every escape route is required to offer at least 30 minutes to one hour’s protection.

Fire exit signs

Fire exit signs are only required if there is more than one exit to the block. Where there is only one exit it does not need a sign. If you are in doubt please contact the freeholder of the property. Residents should be reminded to familiarise themselves with the fire action notice.

Fire Risk Assessments

The purpose of a fire risk assessment is to evaluate the risk to people from fire, taking into account existing fire safety measures, and to determine whether additional measures are necessary.

A suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment carried out by, or on behalf of, the responsible person will help to ensure that the chance of a fire occurring in the areas under the control of the responsible person is minimised. It also helps to ensure that, in the event of a fire anywhere in the block, people can, if necessary, use the common parts safely to evacuate the building. The fire risk assessment will also ensure that appropriate managerial arrangements, such as fire procedures and maintenance of fire safety measures, are in place.

There is no legal requirement for the fire risk assessment to be carried out by specialists, such as consultants. Indeed, in the case of, say, small or modern blocks of flats (eg built within the last 20 years), it can be advantageous for the landlord or other responsible person to use the LGA guide to fire safety in purpose-built flats and carry out the fire risk assessment themselves.

Their consequent understanding of the fire safety design in the building will enable them to manage fire safety better on an ongoing basis. In the case of taller blocks of flats (e.g. comprising more than a ground and three upper storeys), more specialist knowledge may be necessary to carry out a fire risk assessment, particularly if the block was designed and constructed before 1992. However, the decision as to whether to use outside specialists to carry out a fire risk assessment rests with the responsible person. Regardless of who carries it out, the responsible person will be liable to prosecution if, as a result of an inadequate fire risk assessment, people are placed at the risk of death or serious injury in case of fire. Equally, anyone carrying out the fire risk assessment for the responsible person has the same liability. The responsible person is required to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out and will, therefore, be the person who will have a copy. In the case of a block of flats, the responsible person is the person having control of the premises. Typically, the responsible person is the freeholder or landlord but may be a residential management company or a right to manage company.