NFCC publishes COVID-19 waking watch guidance
THE NATIONAL Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) updated advice for building owners and landlords on operating waking watches during the pandemic outbreak.
Inside Housing reported on the NFCC’s update to this advice, specifically on ‘how to operate the waking watch fire safety measure’ during the outbreak, outlining the steps building owners and landlords ‘should take to ensure that buildings are kept safe in the coming months’. Landlords should ensure that waking watch operatives ‘adhere to Public Health England’s social distancing rules’, and should consider installing communal fire alarms if staff numbers fall due to isolation.
In turn, it stated that the pandemic will result in ‘higher occupancy and vulnerability’ due to people, including potentially infected individuals, ‘staying at home for longer periods of time’, meaning that maintaining a waking watch in an at risk building ‘would be more essential than ever’. Its advice has always maintained that waking watches should be temporary measures ‘until dangerous materials are removed from a building’, but the ‘slow pace’ of cladding removal has seen some in place for years, at high cost to leaseholders.
The NFCC advice stated: ‘If, due to coronavirus, there are challenges maintaining waking watch coverage, those responsible will need to implement suitable alternative interim arrangements. Dependency on numbers of staff can be reduced through the installation of a common fire alarm. Competent persons, RPs [registered providers] and fire safety officers should familiarise themselves with the social distancing guidance from Public Health England, to ascertain how this might be applied to enable waking watches to remain in place.’
Its update also advised fire and rescue services (FRSs) to take a ‘balanced approach’ to fire safety for each property, as well as supporting building owners ‘by recognising potentially higher public health risks in buildings from the threat of coronavirus’. However, it maintained that it is still the duty of FRSs to enforce the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ‘even in these difficult times’.