The safety of our residents and visitors is of the utmost importance to us as landlords. We have collated a list of frequently asked questions, in connection with fire safety in the blocks that we manage, which you can see below.
Is your cladding the same as on Grenfell Tower
No. We have cladding on two sites (Lancashire Hill and Mottram St). The specifications for both are that they are non-combustible.
Is your cladding being tested
Yes. We are having both types tested to give residents reassurance. The Government has prioritised tests on cladding like that on Grenfell Tower, though, so we expect our results to take a little time. We will reassure residents of those blocks as soon as we get the test result back.
Will you be putting cladding on any other blocks
We have no plans to put cladding on any other buildings for the time being.
What do fire risk assessments entail
We do Level 1 fire risk assessments on each block every 5 years. These include checking things like: means of escape; alarms and detection systems; emergency lighting systems; fixed fire fighting systems; emergency signage; fire service access and water supplies. Although these assessments are still valid, we are in the process of having our risk assessments done again by independent experts who are professional fire engineers to help reassure residents.
What else have you done to reduce the risk of fire
In 2014 we used independent experts who are professional fire engineers to carry out a Level 4 fire risk assessment of each of our multi-storey blocks. These are much more in depth than Level 1 because they check behind walls, etc. We have spent £4.9m on putting in additional fire safety measures as a result of these assessments. Much of this has been about enhancing ‘compartmentation’ to prevent fire spreading.
On the 28th June, our staff along with the Fire Brigade carried out routine fire safety visits at Mottram Street and Lancashire Hill -the Fire Brigade were really happy with the checks. We will be carrying our more checks over the next few weeks, and we will keep you updated.
Do you have a ‘stay put’ policy
Ours is a ‘stay put unless affected by smoke or fire’ policy which is in place until the Fire Service arrives to tackle an incident. We are confident that this remains the right advice. When the Fire Service arrives it will decide whether to evacuate the building or not, depending on the circumstances, and it will manage that process. We had a fire safety campaign in the blocks last year and have used posters and leaflets to remind our residents of this advice.
Do you have sprinklers in flats or communal areas
No. We have focussed on compartmentation to prevent the spread of fire. This is something we are reviewing in the light of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and a feasibility study is underway to explore the issue.
Are there sprinklers in all the bin rooms
Yes. And automatic closers at the bottom of each refuse chute to ensure they do not act like a chimney.
How can residents get independent fire safety advice
Residents can have a free home assessment from our partners in the Fire Service. The number to call is 0800 555 815 or visit www.manchesterfire.gov.uk
If my house has been rendered will this need to be tested like the cladding
No. The two systems are very different and rendering is just external plastering, with a decorative finish which is normally smooth or pebble dashed in finish. The materials used are all fire resistant and non-combustible.
Are you doing further fire safety checks
Yes, we are working very closely with the Fire Service, and we are carrying out Fire Safety visits to all of the blocks that we manage. These visits include checking the safety of:
- Fire doors in communal areas and in a sample of flats
- Corridors and stairwells
- Rubbish chutes and bin rooms
- Service risers which carry water to every floor to fight fires
- Plant rooms
Residents at the blocks have been kept up to date with when the safety checks have happened to provide reassurance. The Fire Service have been happy with the safety of the blocks and we continue to be carrying out daily checks with our Caretaking Service.
What are you doing about the bin chute fires at Hollow End
Following the irresponsible behaviour of a small number of individuals in the block, causing a recent spate of fires in the bin room we and the Police are pursuing a number of leads – and we will take legal action against those responsible.
We arranged for short term security cover in the block, pending the installation of security cameras to cover the entrances to the bin chute rooms (which as of 6 July is underway).
We have kept residents up to date with and have asked them to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to the police on 101 or to call us immediately on 0161 217 6016 (option 4).
When will the blocks with cladding know if the cladding is safe
Samples from the tower blocks with cladding at Mottram Street and Lancashire Hill have been taken. We are very confident that these panels are safe – and are not the same material as at Grenfell Tower. We do however, want to be able to offer you the highest possible level of reassurance.
There is a lot of information in the media about the testing, and we know that this can be confusing.
The laboratory tests that the government is currently doing were not designed to test panels like ours in ‘real life’ situations so we are talking with the Building Research Establishment about whether we can do a more rigorous test.
This is likely to take some time as our cladding is deemed to be low risk. We will be keeping residents updated as soon as we can.
If you live in a multi-storey block and have any worries about your safety you can contact your block support officer, caretaker or call us on 0161 217 6016.
You can book a Home Safety Check or for further free home safety advice please call Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue on Freephone 0800 555 815 or visit www.manchesterfire.gov.uk You can also speak with your Housing Officer for more information.