Five Safety Tips for Block Managers - Post Grenfell
It’s been more than a year since some poor external structural material decisions and poor building management have caused one of the most painful moments in London’s recent history.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy is still an open wound in our hearts. We remained with the pain, the sad memories, and some valuable lessons to learn. However, England still has many things to improve in terms of home safety.
This year, three in four dwelling fires attended by FRSs in England have been in houses, bungalows, converted flats, and other properties — that’s more than 23,000 fire incidents in less than a year.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of recommendations that could improve the safety and peace of mind for leaseholders, tenants, and block managers alike. Whether the property is a house of multiple occupancies, a conversion, or a tower block, implementing even some of these five recommendations can reduce the risks significantly.
1. Functioning Smoke and Fire Alarms
Functioning smoke and fire alarms are of the utmost importance in any household. Smoke alarms are critical in places with multiple kitchens, fireplaces, and other sources of flammable materials functioning.
A professional block manager makes installing and maintaining smoke and fire alarms a top priority. For the safety of your leaseholders or your family, you should check these devices regularly. Moreover, it would help if you wrote down in a diary every time you change batteries so that you can replace them periodically instead of waiting for them to run out.
2. Fire-Retardant Materials
As a property manager, you should make sure all corridors and internal front doors are covered in fire retardant paint for additional protection. Also, you should install fire doors in the appropriate areas.
Flame retardants offer many benefits, so you should consider using them for electrical wires and cables, as well as for insulation materials, such as polystyrene and polyurethane insulation foams.
Note that even if requesting proof is down to the tenant, sourcing fire-retardant furniture, wall coverings, and flooring in communal areas is the responsibility of the property or block management company.
3. Fire Risk Assessment Certificate
The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005 requires an assessment to be carried out in buildings of two or more separate occupied areas. It’s a legal requirement for houses of multiple occupations, converted flats, or blocks of flats.
The management of the common areas is on someone nominated as the ‘responsible person’ — it can be the freeholder, a block management company or managing agent, or a residents’ management organisation.
You must keep the certificate up to date. As a general rule, the higher the number of dwellings, the more frequently you should update the certification. Local fire authorities can carry out inspections to ensure compliance.
4. Signage, Safety Exits, and Fire Equipment
In the case of an incident, all residents should know what to do to protect themselves. It’s your responsibility to mark all escape routes with clear instructions on each floor, maintain all exists accessible, and keep fire doors unlocked. Fire extinguishers and fire blankets should also be available in common areas, as well as within flats.
Your fire evacuation procedures are effective only as long as the people who live in the building are aware of them. If you have non-English speaking residents, provide them with instructions in native languages. This way, you help them understand how to access fire exists and staircases.
Poor property maintenance can generate chaos and clutter in areas that should remain easy to access. Too often we see bicycles in common areas where they limit quick access to the fire exits or escape routes with slip hazards, such as uneven flooring or overgrown yards. Keep your leaseholders safe by keeping fire exits clear of bulk items.
5. Contract Cleaners
Professional contract cleaners provide an extra set of experienced eyes over communal areas. They pass by on a regular basis and their observations can be, quite literally, the lifesaver. Contract cleaners keep signs and safety equipment in place and make sure that the residents don’t block vital fire exits with furniture or boxes.
Rather than an expense, cleaners could be a valuable safeguard. They can help you to keep an eye out for anomalies and also protect the structure itself. Cleaning often is more efficient and cost-effective than doing an annual deep clean, for example.
We Do Our Part
We made a mission out of identifying things that don’t seem right and notifying our clients to help them keep their houses safe.
- As cleaners of communal areas, we keep an eye on fire alarms and check for any damage periodically.
- Our teams always check the exists on their rounds to make sure nothing limits the access to doors and staircases. This way, we add another layer of regular surveillance
- As regular visitors on our clients’ properties, we track and inform about any deterioration of the essential fire-retardant paintwork or flooring.
- We report any fire alarm that has been damaged, defaced or have gone missing as we clean communal areas.
Whether you’re a tenant, landlord, leaseholder, block management company, or any combination of these, measures like the ones described above can help you to improve the overall fire safety.
If you have any concern regarding the communal area maintenance and safety, you should take immediate measures. How many of these tips do you implement on the properties that you manage? Will you like to add more points on what you think should also be included to help others, kindly leave you comment below.