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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Fire safety: what should housing organisations be thinking about?


Debbie Larner, our head of practice, takes a look at some key considerations for housing organisations following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.

It is too early to speculate about the causes of the tragic incident which happened at Grenfell Tower on Tuesday evening. What is clear is that something went disastrously wrong.

It will take some time for us to get the true picture of what actually happened and why, but the tragedy has understandably put fire safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that a fatal fire has occurred in a residential tower block. In 2009, a fire swept through Lakanal House, in Camberwell, which killed six residents and injured many more.

After that fire we worked closely with the Chief Fire Officers Association with the aim of raising awareness of fire safety issues across our sector and highlighting practical approaches that could be taken in relation to fire prevention and safety. This work culminated in a joint briefing which can be found here. (Please note this briefing was written in 2011 and in some cases information on specific regulations is now out of date - we will update this briefing in due course.)

We highlighted some really fundamental things that landlords should be doing.

These included:

  • Ensuring that fire risk assessment are conducted regularly – by a competent person qualified to undertake the assessment
  • Prioritising actions in response to the risk assessment
  • Devising a schedule which prioritises remedial work that needs to be done in response to the risk assessment and setting timescales for these
  • Working with fire and rescue services to carry out home fire safety checks
  • Installing hardwired smoke detectors in all properties
  • Consider whether properties are suitable for the retro fitting of sprinklers
  • Communicating in different ways to residents the appropriate action to be taken in the event of a fire.

These measures and many more remain essential – fire prevention and fire safety precautions are fundamental and when properly implemented can save lives.

We are ready to work with the sector to learn lessons from this tragedy and will be looking at how we can strengthen the sector’s understanding by updating our advice and support.

Debbie Larner is head of practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing.

For more information on fire safety click here.

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