Home In focus Fire safety in Knowsley

Fire safety in Knowsley

by Laura Johnston

What are we doing?

Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in London on Wednesday, 14 Jun 2017 when a fire started in a 24 storey residential block of flats and rapidly spread, fire safety is on everyone’s minds.

Whilst fire risk assessments and procedures are in place and regularly checked, the council has been working with partners to ensure the appropriate checks and inspections have taken place and records are up-to-date. The below information summarises the questions we have been asked and our responses.

How many tower blocks are there in Knowsley and who owns them?

There are 19 residential tower blocks in Knowsley – 12 are managed by First Ark, five by Villages Housing and two are privately-owned and managed (the landlord of each of these two is Tuscola and the managing agent is Regent Property Management). Whilst the council does not own any of these buildings, we are working with the owners and the Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service to ensure that appropriate fire risk assessments and safety measures are in place.

Has ACM cladding been found on any of these buildings?

ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) panels were used on Grenfell Tower in London. Whilst the investigation is in its early stages, there is a suggestion that the ACM cladding used on Grenfell Tower contributed to the quick spread of the fire.

Each owner of the tower blocks completed a checklist for the Department for Communities and Local Government which concluded that ACM cladding was not used on any building.

What is the advice should a fire break out in a high rise building?

Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service and the high-rise property owners have been providing guidance and advice to anyone who lives in a high-rise property or those who may be responsible for people living in a similar property.

Advice to residents of high-rise properties, purpose-built flats or maisonettes is to have at least one smoke alarm fitted and test it regularly; know your escape route; and plan what to do if there is a fire inside your home or somewhere else in your building. Advice on what to do if a fire breaks out.

  • Never assume that someone else has called 999 – make the call yourself from a place of safety.
  • You should follow the specific escape plan for your building and, if there is lots of smoke, crawl along the floor where the air should be clearer.
  • Always use the stairs rather than the lift and call 999 as soon as you are in a safe place.
  • If it is too dangerous to follow your planned escape route because stairs and hallways are full of smoke, ring 999 and stay inside the safest room.
  • Keep the doors closed and use towels or bedding to block the smoke at the bottom of the door. Anyone living in high-rise accommodation, or who may be worried about vulnerable loved-ones living in high-rise accommodation, can call Fire Service Direct for advice on 0800 731 5958 or email fireservicedirect@merseyfire.gov.uk Relevant and current Home Office Guidance including Fire Safety in purpose-built blocks of flats can be found here.

What is the home fire safety advice I should be following?

From installing smoke alarms, preventing kitchen fires through to planning your escape route, you can find everything you need to know on keeping you and your home safe in the Government’s fire safety in the home booklet – available to download here.

In the event of a fire:-

  • Don’t tackle fires yourself. Leave it to the professionals.
  • Keep calm and act quickly – get everyone out as soon as possible.
  • Don’t waste time investigating what’s happened or rescuing valuables.
  • If there’s smoke, keep low where the air is clearer.
  • Before you open a door check if it’s warm. If it is, don’t open it – fire is on the other side.
  • Call 999 as soon as you’re clear of the building.  999 calls are free.

If your escape route is blocked:-

  • If you can’t get out, get everyone into one room, ideally with a window and a phone.
  • Put bedding around the bottom of the door to block out the smoke.
  • Call 999 then open the window and shout “HELP FIRE”.
  • If you’re on the ground or first floor, you may be able to escape through a window.
  • Use bedding to cushion your fall and lower yourself down carefully. Don’t jump.
  • If you can’t open the window break the glass in the bottom corner. Make jagged edges safe with a towel or blanket.

Are checks being made on council owned buildings?

Yes, the council has started the process of assessing all of the buildings it owns and manages. This is being done on a risk based approach with high rise properties being the first priority.  There have been no problems identified to date in any of the council high rise properties, fire risk assessments are up to date and evacuation procedures are regularly tested.

Is the council also liaising with the owners of other commercial buildings?

The initial priority is any building that is more than 18m high and used for residential purposes.

Businesses that have over 250 staff and/or are in high rise (including the hotels) have been contacted and all have provided details of their in-house fire safety checks and resilience measures.