Agenda item

Fire Safety Update

Minutes:

Alison Napper gave a presentation on this issue and made the following points:

 

·       Details of the arrangements from last year were provided in addition to the significant changes that had now been made

·       Prior to 2022, investment amounting to on average £2.5 Million a year had been made to address any concerns related to fire safety which was a very high priority

·       High rise blocks had been prioritised as high risks with the safety of fire doors prioritised

·       There were 62 high rise blocks in Bristol and around 450 low rise homes. Within 2 years, an assessment of risk across Bristol City Council properties had been made including communal areas

·       An independent ACM cladding independent assessment for high rise blocks had never been made. ACTION: Alison Napper to follow up on Nigel Varley’s previous request for a response to concerns about the impact of vents spreading smoke through flats

·       An external company would be carrying out the fire risk assessments

 

ACTIONS: Alison Napper to address the following issues raised by HMB members – (1) fire marshals not closing fire doors as required in some flats and in some instances fire doors being wedged open – AN to remind fire marshals of their responsibilities (2) fire doors not being smoke proof as there were gaps underneath them where carpets had been removed

 

·       Last year there had been a number of significant changes with lessons continuing to be learnt from the Hackett Report and the Grenfell fire

·       Guidance issues earlier last year had not included an assessment of external walls. Therefore, an assessment was required to address this. 4 blocks in Barton Hill had shown issues with cladding following further surveys in March 2022

·       There had been a fire and fatality in Twinell House and a fire in Eccleston House with EPS contributing to the spread of the fire

·       A new Waking Watch and Simultaneous Evacuation Policy was being implemented for 38 EPS clad blocks ie NOT a Stay Put Policy with the changes communicated to residents through a variety of means and new programmes being developed for this approach

 

In response to Board Member’s concerns at the length of time it could take to replace all cladding, Alison Napper confirmed that all expanded polystyrene EPS would be removed with temporary arrangements being put in place if required.

 

Board Members also noted the following issues:

 

·       An incident of arson in 2006 in which the cladding had initially turned black but was otherwise unaffected and did not spread.

·       Bristol City Council had historically taken a very risk averse approach. It was therefore disappointing to see that the cladding which had previously been installed appeared to eb a greater risk than what had replaced it. The impact on residents’ ability to feel safe in their own homes should not be underestimated

 

Alison Napper further stated that:

 

·       A new Fire Risk Assessments Company would start in February 2023 and would be delivering new programmes of work relating to waking watch, alarms, sprinklers and EPS Removal

·       A proposal would be submitted to Full Council for the following capital expenditure - a 10 year timeframe would be operating under which all EPS cladding would be removed at a cost of £46 Million over 10 years, with further funding for a sprinkler installation programme, Waking watch and Simultaneous Evacuation Programme

·       Following the introduction of new Fire Safety Regulations in 2023, changes were proposed in respect of building plans, external walls, secure information boxes, fire safety equipment, way finding signage, notice boards + annual confirmation communication to residents and a new inspection programme for fire doors

 

Board members expressed concern about the following issues arising from this:

 

·       proposals for simultaneous evacuations as an interim measure and how they would be implemented to avoid safety problems

·       the likely opposition to sprinklers which could soak most contents in flats when they were deployed and the need for engagement with tenants prior to their installation

·       The importance of fire marshals being advised about any tenants’ Personal Evacuation Plan (PEP) and that each tenant had the right to see their own PEP

·       Most communal rooms needed to be upgraded to make them fit for purpose

·       The mains connected fire alarm system in one black had not been checked since before the pandemic ACTION: Alison Napper to check with Christine Jory

 

In response, Alison Napper confirmed that

 

·       Vulnerable Residents - most fire wardens knew their residents well and had information concerning all vulnerable residents. This information was also shared with the Fire Service and Bristol emergency service.

·       Fire Officers - There were significant numbers of fire officers who would tackle the fire and assist residents to evacuate buildings safely

·       Cladding removal - The removal and replacement of cladding would all be carried out as part of the same process. Whilst there may be a gap between these two, this process would be carried out quickly to ensure that flats were less cold and prevent damp and mould

·       Renovation and Upgrades – other works would be carried out at the same time as the cladding work

·       Sprinklers – It was acknowledged that a great deal of communication was required with residents. Since they were activated by heat levels, the trigger mechanisms for them were very different to smoke alarms