SCA calls for ‘holistic approach’ to high rise fire safety

SCA calls for ‘holistic approach’ to high rise fire safety

THE SMOKE Control Association (SCA) welcomed the government’s recent consultation on sprinklers, but ‘reaffirmed’ its stance on improving building safety in an ‘all-inclusive’ way.

Last week, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) announced proposals that ‘would ensure more sprinklers in new high-rise blocks of flats’. Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick and building safety minister lord Younger stated that the proposals would see sprinklers ‘installed in new high-rise blocks of flats’, and formed an ‘important step forward in the government’s commitment to ensuring residents are safe in their homes’.

The main element of the consultation – running until 28 November - is to reduce the building height ‘for when sprinklers are required’ from 30m and above to 18m ‘or other relevant thresholds’, while a new protection board is being set up ‘immediately’ between the Home Office and National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to ‘provide further reassurance to residents of high-risk residential blocks that any risks are identified and acted upon’.

About £10m of funding a year has been made available to support this board, which will provide ‘expert, tailored’ building checks and inspections ‘if necessary’ on all high risk residential buildings in England by 2021. It will operate until a new building safety regulator is established, and until legislation on a new building safety regime is introduced.

The board will ‘ensure building owners are acting on the latest safety advice’, keep residents updated and that interim measures ‘are in place’ for all buildings clad with combustible aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding. Its work will be informed by data collection work by local authorities to identify cladding types, and funded by another government contribution of £4m.

In turn, from 12 September the application process for the £200m fund for removing ACM from privately owned buildings will be opened ‘to accelerate the pace’ of removal and replacement. The consultation on the sprinklers and other measures will last 12 weeks, and forms ‘part of the first proposed changes to building regulations in England covering fire safety within and around buildings’, including introducing emergency evacuation alert systems for use by fire and rescue services.

London Fire Brigade welcomed the consultation and reiterated that sprinklers are a ‘simply way to save more lives and reduce the risks to firefighters’. Now, the SCA has welcomed the consultation but reiterated a call for an ‘holistic approach to fire safety in high rise residential buildings’, and ‘reaffirmed its stance’ on improving building safety via an ‘all-inclusive approach to fire safety systems’.

While it was ‘encouraged’ at the progress being made following Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building regulations and fire safety, the SCA said it would ‘like to see further developments in the implementation of fire safety solutions that can work alongside sprinklers to better protect residents’.

David Mowatt, chairman of the SCA, commented: ‘When it comes to fire safety in high rise buildings it’s vital that we take a well-rounded approach in considering products and systems that can reduce the spread of fire, keep escape routes clear, improve access for the fire services and ultimately save lives.

‘The SCA has previously held joint discussions with the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association in order to review shared aims and objectives and will continue to promote a collective approach to raising standards in the fire safety industry.’