Social landlords staying silent on fire safety
- Three months on from Grenfell, new research reveals that tenants still feel left in the dark when it comes to fire safety
- 40% of renters say there is not a clear fire escape route displayed in their building
- Majority of tenants (55%) do not feel fully prepared on what to do in the event of a fire
- Just 10% of social landlords have been in touch in person since Grenfell to discuss fire safety measures
Shocking new research has revealed just how little action has been taken since the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy, which killed around 80 people.
The research, released to mark Fire Door Safety Week (25 September – 1 October), shows that since the fire in the West London block in June, just 10% of social landlords have been in touch with tenants in person to discuss fire safety measures.
Those renting through local authorities are significantly less likely to have had the reassurance of contact from their landlord (10%) than private renters (23%).
Basic fire safety measures are lacking with four in ten (40%) renters saying there is not a clear fire escape route displayed in their building, and more than a third (39%) admit they have seen fire doors propped open.
More than two in ten people (21%) have noticed damage to their building’s fire doors and almost a fifth (18%) of renters have reported a fire safety infringement or concern to their landlord but almost a quarter (24%) waited weeks for a response.
The majority of tenants (55%) say they do not feel fully prepared on what to do in the event of a fire and almost a quarter (24%) of adults surveyed feel more nervous/anxious about living in a rented apartment since the tragedy and the issues it exposed with regard to fire safety.
This Fire Door Safety Week, the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has put together a free toolkit of resources to help landlords and their tenants with fire safety advice.
Hannah Mansell is spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week, as well as BWF technical manager, chair of the Passive Fire Protection Forum and a trustee of the Children’s Burns Trust. She says:
“This new research shows that social housing landlords and building owners still have a long way to go meet their fire safety responsibilities. It is astounding to learn that in the last three months so little has been done to address the concerns of tenants and residents.
“Many people do not realise that the real job of a fire door is to hold back fire, smoke and toxic gases, delaying the spread around a building and keeping the vital means of escape route clear. They only work properly if they are specified, manufactured, installed and maintained correctly, and of course, closed when a fire breaks out. This is especially important in high rise buildings, houses of multiple occupancy and other types of shared sleeping accommodation.
“Checking fire doors should be part of a regular fire risk assessment. This should examine all aspects of fire safety management, including active and passive fire protection measures, signage, means of escape and the specific fire plan procedures.
“There needs to be crystal clarity about the Responsible Person and a total transformation of attitude towards fire safety of tenants in rented accommodation. Our focus for Fire Door Safety Week in this pivotal year is to ensure all landlords and tenants have the knowledge and resources they need to stay safe.”
Dany Cotton, London Fire Commissioner who oversaw the fire and rescue service’s response at Grenfell Tower, says:
“London Fire Brigade fully supports Fire Door Safety Week. This is an important campaign which drives home the potentially life saving role that fire doors play in buildings, especially residential buildings such as tower blocks. It is extremely concerning that the lives of the public and our firefighters are still being put at risk by poorly maintained fire doors and people acting irresponsibly by removing self closers or by keeping doors wedged open.
“Good fire doors help stop fires from spreading. Fires that spread put more lives at risk and I would urge everyone to check that their fire doors are properly maintained and kept shut. Remember they don’t just protect you, but everybody in the building.”
Paul Fuller CBE, chief fire officer of Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and chairman of the Fire Sector Federation says:
“It is simple. Proper fire doors save lives, but only if they are correctly made and installed, and certainly not if they are wedged open or in disrepair. Too often our officers walk into a building and see fire doors in an appalling state. We do what we can to advise and enforce the responsibilities of a building owner, but it is time for the Responsible Person to really step up. That’s why we are supporting Fire Door Safety Week – there can be no excuse, all the resources you need to promote door safety are there on the website and free to download.”
Fire Door Safety Week, a national campaign now in its fifth year, is run by the BWF, the BWF-Certifire Scheme and the Fire Door Inspection Scheme, in partnership with the Government’s Fire Kills campaign. It aims to raise awareness about the role of fire doors in preventing life changing injuries and the legal responsibilities of managing fire door safety.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire, on 30 August the Government issued new advice for tenants and residents, outlining the following steps to take regarding building safety:
- In the first instance, contact the landlord or building owner with any concerns.
- If still concerned and not receiving reassurance, then contact the relevant local authority or local fire and rescue service for advice.
- Contact the Department for Communities and Local Government building safety team by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the research
Independent research was commissioned by the British Woodworking Federation, and conducted by Atomik Research. 1,001 renters across the UK aged 18-65 in the UK were surveyed in August 2017.