Pending remediation of cladding on buildings: new advice on fire safety measures in the interim
Following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in June, the Department for Communities and Local Government has issued new advice for those responsible for fire safety in buildings, on measures required to ensure fire safety while the remediation of cladding on buildings is pending.
The advice, which has been endorsed by the National Fire Chiefs Council, relates to circumstances in which it has been confirmed that the core (‘filler’) within Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) in conjunction with other elements of the cladding system on a building, does not meet relevant requirements of the Building Regulations guidance.
In these circumstances, the guidance states, it is essential that interim mitigating measures are immediately implemented to address the fire hazard.
Local fire and rescue services will continue to work with building owners to ensure necessary mitigation measures are in place. In this connection, the relevant requirement of Building Regulations is that external walls shall adequately resist the spread of fire over the walls.
The new advice details the measures that need to be taken during the interim period, which include:
- The local fire and rescue service should be informed. The service will carry out an urgent inspection with the ‘responsible person’ to ensure that they have identified and introduced appropriate interim measures.
- Check that a suitable and sufficient fire risk assessment has been carried out within the previous 12 months and that the recommendations within the action plan of the assessment have been completed; and also, confirm that there have been no material changes (to the building, the fire safety measures or the occupancy) that could, potentially, undermine the validity of the fire risk assessment.
- Engage with residents of the building to ensure that they fully understand the emergency fire procedures in the building.
- All residents should be surveyed in respect of their ability to evacuate the building without assistance.
- Check there are no potential routes for fire spread from the interior of the building out onto the cladding system.
- Check that, at ground level, or on any balconies, there are no combustible materials (e.g. storage of refuse) in the vicinity of the cladding system.
- Close any car parks in which a vehicle fire could impinge on cladding.
- Check that all flat entrance doors, and doors that open onto escape corridors and stairways, are fire-resisting and effectively self-closing against any resistance of a latch.
- Check all walls that separate flats, plant and store rooms, etc. from escape routes to ensure there are no obvious routes for fire or smoke spread.
- Check that any smoke control systems, including associated fire detection systems, are operating correctly.
- Check all facilities provided for fire-fighters, including fire-fighting lifts and dry or wet rising mains.
- Ensure that there is sufficient roadway access and hardstanding for fire-fighting vehicles attending incidents.
- Residents must be advised to ensure all smoke alarms are present and working in their flat; to report concerns about fire safety measures in the building to their landlord and understand the purpose and importance of any interim measures being taken.
- Cooperate with any commercial premises within the building to ensure they do not impose any significant risk.
The guidance advises that, once the above has been completed, the competent person can assess whether a ‘stay put’ strategy is still appropriate for the building. If the decision by the competent person is temporarily to change a stay-put strategy to one of simultaneous evacuation, then the local fire and rescue service must be informed so they can update their operational procedures.
The competent person will need to take into account a number of factors, which are detailed in the advice.