Fire safety in housing
In response to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, Fife Council has established a Fife Multi-Storey Blocks Review Group, which includes representatives from Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.
The council owns 12 multi-storey blocks in Fife. The insulation materials used as part of our cladding systems are either a stone wool insulation board, or a phenolic board. Our cladding systems all achieve a Class 0 rating or a BRE135 classification. This means that the cladding systems are fire retardant and do not promote flame spread.
These locations have already been over clad:
- Broomhead Drive, Dunfermline - 3 blocks, 12 storeys, 213 flats. Construction approved 1960. 12 storeys - cladding completed 2014 & 2015. Works carried out by CMS
- Ravenscraig, Kirkcaldy - 3 blocks, 14 storeys, 258 flats. Two blocks commenced construction in 1964, the third in 1968. Cladding completed 2013 & 14. Works carried out by Scottish gas.
- Swan & Memorial Courts, Methil - 2 blocks, 14 storeys, 148 flats. Swan Court construction commenced 1968. Cladding completed 2012. Works carried out by ISG. Memorial Court construction commenced 1968. Cladding completed 2012. Works carried out by ISG.
The following multi-storeys do not have cladding at the moment:
- Park View, Kirkcaldy - 1 block, 8 storeys, 48 flats, construction commenced 1954. Cladding not yet planned
- Forth View, Kirkcaldy - 3 blocks, 8 storeys, 141 flats, construction commenced 1956. Cladding due to start June 2018.
Raeburn heights Glenrothes – 1 block – 61 dwellings, construction commenced 1967. Cladding to commence in June 2018 under government HEEPS: ABS scheme.
Update - 14 June, 2018
John Mills, Head of Housing Services reflects on the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower tragedy at North Kensington, London.
"It is hard to believe that on 14th June 2017, we experienced the worst fire in a residential development in the UK with the loss of 72 lives at Grenfell, North Kensington, London. The images on our TV screens were heart-breaking and shook us to our core. How could this happen, and how could so many people have perished in what appears to have started as a fridge fire on the 4th floor of the Tower Block?
"These are questions now being examined by the UK Public Inquiry - we need to know what caused the fire and how it spread so quickly to prevent so many escaping the inferno. Our reaction in Fife was to trigger Housing Services and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service to quickly contact all tenants and residents of the 13 Tower Blocks in Fife, to offer reassurance that the fire safety regulations in Scotland were superior to those in force in England. Our insistence that our Tower Blocks in Fife are safe and do not contain the same over-cladding materials as those used at Grenfell has been borne out by materials testing and inspections of the Tower Blocks.
"We are reassured that the materials we have used meet the required building and safety standards, and will resist the spread of fire that happened at Grenfell. All materials used meet national standards and building regulations."
- British Board of Agreement approval
- Building Regulations for use above 18m throughout the UK
- Building Research Establishment standards
Mr Mills continued: "In the 12 months since the tragedy, we have re-assessed our Tower Block Cladding with suppliers, and Scottish Fire & Rescue. Our position has not changed. We are confident our fire safety procedures and materials used are safe.
“There is a robust management regime in place which ensures that regular fire risk assessments are carried out and that all fire-fighting equipment is regularly maintained. In the multi-storey flats, we carry out at least annual fire inspections and safety checks, working with Fire Scotland, and in accordance with fire safety regulations. We are currently working through a programme of annual updates.
"Following Grenfell, our Housing Officers and colleagues in the Fire service worked tirelessly to visit all tenants and residents over a remarkably short period of time to offer advice and face-to-face discussion of concerns. The overwhelming feedback from tenants and residents was of re-assurance.
"I quickly convened a “Tower Block Review Group” comprising council services and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service. Our Group of experts working through a programme of actions which will enhance even further the safety of the Tower Blocks. We have committed an additional £1.5m of expenditure on new doors, signs, improvements to ventilation, and common areas. We are also committed to enhancing the management and security of the flats through improved concierge and care taking support for tenants and residents. This will take some time to scope and bring proposals to Councillors and Tenants, but we would hope to be in a position by September to have that discussion.
"I have worked closely during this time with the Community & Housing Services Convener, Councillor Judy Hamilton. She has been a strong support for me and staff and this has been really welcomed."
Councillor Hamilton commented: “On the first anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, we are hearing harrowing stories coming from the Public Inquiry. We stand in solidarity with the people who have lost family members and with those who have lost everything including their home. It brings home the importance of listening to our tenants and working closely together. The Head of Housing will bring forward proposals for consultation with our tenants in September We have embarked on a programme of enhanced safety and improvement works to ensure we have the best living environments for tenants and residents.”
The Tower Block Review Group has been delivering actions that further ensure safety by building in enhanced preventative measures. This includes:
- Working with tenants and owners to upgrade doors in Ravenscraig, Kirkcaldy to 60 minutes fire resistance
- Replacing fire doors in all our Tower blocks where they did not meet the 60 minute standard
- Making sure that exit routes give maximum protection from smoke through improved ventilation
- Linking all the fire alarms to a national centre for immediate response in case of emergency
- Regular fire safety training for caretakers and concierge staff in the Tower Blocks blocks
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has confirmed that the “stay put” policy remains the safest option for residents in our blocks, until they are told by the firemen to move. We have had a few, minor fires in our high rises, and to date all have been safely contained within the flats.
Our next update will be in September following an update on the work of the Tower Block Review Group to Community & Housing Services Committee at the end of August.
Update - 31 August, 2017
Members at Community and Housing Services Committee received an update on the actions taken to date.
A multi-agency Tower Block Review Group was set up following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Since then, the Review Group has met regularly to co-ordinate and support the Fire Risk Assessments of the Fife Council Tower Blocks.
There have been further meetings with Tenants & Residents Groups at all Tower Blocks and information updates are available for the public online at www.fifedirect.org.uk/firesafety
Cllr Judy Hamilton, Convener for Communities and Housing Services said: “The safety and well-being of council tenants and residents is our primary concern. Since the Grenfell tragedy, the Council, Tenants Federations, Tenants & Residents Associations, and Scottish Fire & Rescue Service have spent a great deal of time on seeking to reassure all tenants and residents that living in our Tower Blocks is safe.
Feedback from these discussions and home visits has been positive and tenants and residents feel generally safe.
“The Council will take on board lessons arising from the Public Inquiry in ensuring its Emergency Planning is robust to ensure it meets the needs of tenants and residents in any future emergency in Fife.”
Click here for a full copy of the report.
Update – 12 July 2017
The Tower Block Review Group met last Friday (7th July) to review:
- the re-assessed Fire Risk Assessments for the 12 Council-owned Blocks
- advice letters from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service containing a number of recommendations to the Review Group.
The Review Group with Corporate Health & Safety support has concluded its discussions. The Group has concluded that:
Tower blocks are safe and meet the building regulation and fire standards
Fire safety precautions in our high rise multi-storey flats are considered to be safe, existing designs and control measures meet the standards required by building regulations with the exception of the installation of some non-fire rated flat entrance doors and minor ongoing repair and maintenance issues. Building regulations require that fire safety measures are to the benchmark standards at the time of construction or alteration.
All safety measures should be to an enhanced standard over and above regulations
The Council has taken a proactive approach and, in consultation with Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is implementing a program of enhancing fire safety precautions across all multi-storey high rise flats and where practicable control measures are to be upgraded to building standards required for new buildings.
Planned improvements include:-
- Fire doors upgraded to one hour fire resistance
- Automatic smoke control in stairwells
- Water drench systems to be fitted in bin stores
- Fire alarm and detection system fitted in bin store and laundry with connection to remote alarm receiving centre
- External mobility scooter storage ‘pods’
In addition to the above enhancements to Tower Blocks, intrusive investigation is underway to confirm effective compartmentation of some service ducts. Concierge fire safety training and tenant information is to be refreshed and Fire Risk Assessment findings published by the end of this month on Fife Direct.
A comprehensive Action Plan is being finalised and works will be visible this week in some of our Tower Blocks to start the agreed programme.
Update 29 June, 2017:
For Fife Council Multi-Storey blocks, there is a robust management regime in place which ensures that regular fire risk assessments are carried out and that all firefighting equipment is regularly maintained. Equally, any improvements have been carried out with the highest regard to fire safety.
More detailed information aimed at addressing the concerns of residents are noted in the pages for each complex.
- Each tenant in a high rise block has been visited by their Housing Management Officer.
- Fire Scotland have also undertaken visits.
- Initial site inspections have been carried out by the review group
- Meetings have been held with all affected tenant and resident groups – further meetings with the residents are being arranged
- Although checked periodically, all dry risers will be rechecked to ensure they are fully operational
- All private landlords have been visited by Building Standards & Protective Services together with Fire Scotland.
Update 21 June, 2017:
Head of Housing Services, John Mills said: “The Review Group has been set up to discover if there are any health and safety improvements the council can make to further reassure tenants in Fife’s multi-storey blocks. And we will be writing to all affected tenants this week to explain the steps we’re taking."
Action in week ahead:
- letter to all affected tenants
- Housing Management Officers will visit each tenant in a high rise block
- Fire Service will visit all blocks
- Review Group inspections of cladding and health and safety procedures
- meetings will be held with all affected tenant and resident groups
- dry risers will be rechecked to ensure they are fully operational
Activity will focus first on the multi-storey blocks (over 18m high) that have already been over clad, and those in the 2017/18 over cladding programme. The Review Group will then move on to visit low-rise flats and other properties over the next 12 weeks.
See SFRS advice about fire safety in multi-storeys or, for more general fire advice, see www.firescotland.gov.uk
This video shows a test carried out on different types of insulation cladding. In Fife we use either stone wool or phenolic insulation boards.