Author : Maryanne Bowring
We’ve written a lot about fire safety this week. We are adamant that residential buildings must be built better – and built back better. The myriad faults revealed by the intrusive testing which has proliferated Since the Grenfell Tower fire must be remedied and never reproduced in future builds. We hope establishing a new Building Products Regulator will help.
However, the majority of fires don’t start on their own and, as we blogged last Friday, residents must take some responsibility for safety inside their own homes. A recent blog from fire specialists Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) who write regularly and in detail on the topic, points out that In order to reduce the number of fires, it is important to understand how they start.
So they took a closer look at the UK fire statistics which are published annually by the Home Office. The figures are compiled from data collected each time the Fire Service attends a fire. The results are interesting. As you might expect, the most common ways that fires start changes very little from year to year. The main causes are:
In 2018/2019, almost half (48%) of the accidental fires in UK homes resulted from cooking appliances and less than 10% from smoking, ie those caused by cigarettes, cigars or pipes. However, only 8% of the fatalities were due to the cooking appliances, while 34% of fire-related deaths in domestic premises were due to the relatively small amount of smoking-related fires. This is because cooking-related fires are more likely to be spotted and acted upon but, despite the obvious danger, people still smoke in bed or fall asleep while smoking in an armchair so fires too often start due to dropped or smouldering cigarettes.
Any fire-related death is one too many. So when property managers and landlords talk to residents, it’s vital that they make clear the dangers of the little things that are easy to overlook – like forgetting to snuff out candles, placing portable heaters too close to curtains or laundry, and children messing about with flammable liquids or matches that should be stored out of their reach. Bedrooms should always be off-limits for smoking. And balconies are a particular flash-point for residential blocks, as evidenced by the horrific fire at Barking Riverside in 2019 when wooden balconies spread a fire at break-neck speed through the low-rise flats.
Everyone working in our industry now understands the urgency of tackling the problems inherent in our building safety regime. But there is a lot residents can do to keep themselves safe and property managers should make this clear every time the subject is addressed. Sadly, even the best fire safety policy is impossible to enforce 100% and accidents will happen. But no matter how much or how little faith we have in their ability to stick to the rules, we must keep talking to residents about fire safety.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
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