Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Housing Associations Fire Risk Assessment Information in Tower Hamlets

By on June 26, 2017 in Housing, Tower Hamlets

There is a wide variation in the quality of Fire Risk Assessment information that is available on the websites of major Housing Associations in Tower Hamlets a survey by LW shows.

While all Housing Associations have written directly to tenants few have published detailed information available to everyone that explains what, if any, Fire Risk Assessments they have undertaken since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

What is a Fire Risk Assessment?

A fire risk assessment is “a process involving the systematic evaluation of the factors that determine the hazard from fire, the likelihood that there will be a fire and the consequences if one were to occur. There are both qualitative and quantitative methods of risk assessment that can be used.” (Source: C.S. Todd & Associates Ltd)

The LW survey only includes the larger providers of social housing – you can find a list of all social housing providers in Tower Hamlets here on the Tower Hamlets Council website.

This is a purely subjective survey of the level of information provided to the general public and the ease of finding it. Our staff do have professional expertise in the area of Information Architecture and User Experience Design.

Bland statements

Too often we found a bland statement that started with condolences to those affected by the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower then platitudes such as these below:

“We want to reassure all residents that their safety continues to be our top priority, and that we have robust measures in place to ensure the fire safety of our properties.”

Or…

“I would like to reassure all our residents living in purpose built blocks of flats that their buildings are safe.”

And…

“We take our responsibilities as a landlord very seriously, especially in the area of fire safety and over the last year have been focusing on completing a number of fire safety related repairs and checks.”

And this…

“We take the safety of our residents seriously and have carried out a wide range of fire safety improvements over recent years to ensure our homes meet modern standards.”

The phrases above are little different to that below:

“We carry out regular fire risk assessments within the communal areas of the blocks. The purpose of these is to highlight any fire safety risks within these areas enabling us to take the necessary action to remove or reduce these. These assessments look at the block’s existing fire safety measures, how they are maintained, the inspection regime and identify the appropriate evacuation plan for the building. “

The only difference being that the last assurances are from the Kensington & Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (TMO) fire safety page – Kensington & Chelsea TMO being the organisation responsible for Grenfell Tower.

Grenfell Tower

Fire Risk Assessment Information Survey Results

The survey results are categorised as Detailed, Basic or No Information. Only one Housing Associations provides detailed information, six provide basic information and ten seem to provide nothing.

Detailed Fire Risk Assessment Information

East End Homes is the only major social housing provider in Tower Hamlets currently providing detailed information of Fire Risk Assessment work undertaken since Grenfell Tower Fire.

This may be in part because of the problems found at Denning Point. The full statement from East End Homes can be found here.

List of Fire Risk Assessments carried out by East End Homes

  1. Beckley House [pdf] 2MB
  2. Berkeley House [pdf] 2MB
  3. Denning Point [pdf] 2MB*
  4. Ennerdale House [pdf] 2MB
  5. Galleon House [pdf] 2MB
  6. Gordon House [pdf] 2MB
  7. Grafton House [pdf] 2MB
  8. Hatton House [pdf] 2MB
  9. Shearsmith House [pdf] 2MB
  10. Stockholm House [pdf] 2MB

For further information on the issues with Denning Point please see below.

Basic Fire Risk Assessment Information

  • Circle Housing (includes Old Ford & Thirty Three Housing) Clear statement that states that “We are undertaking inspections of all our high rise properties and any properties with cladding, with the immediate priority being buildings of ten storeys and above. This includes a technical building specific review of any cladding, plus all fire safety and housekeeping arrangements. This will be followed by reviews of those buildings of between six and nine storeys and then those of five storeys and under with cladding.”
  • L&Q (London and Quadrant) – Fire safety statement extremely difficult to find, a search on “fire” returns no results. When found the information says that “We will visit all our blocks of six storeys or more to review the fire risk assessment and the buildings safety and aim to have these completed by Friday 23 June”. Results of these inspections not found Monday 26th June 2017.
  • East Thames (Part of L&Q Group above) ‘In light of recent events, we will be taking extra measures to ensure the safety of your home. We will visit all our blocks of six storeys or more to review the fire risk assessment and the buildings’ safety and aim to have these completed by Friday 23 June.’ Results of these inspections not found Monday 26th June 2017.
  • One Housing Basic information = ‘Following the speculation that other high rise blocks or blocks with cladding may be at greater risk, we have carried out reassessments on blocks of that description. The recent reassessment confirms that the current fire safety guidance has been followed and is fully up-to-date for our high-rise blocks or blocks with cladding.’
  • Swan Housing Association ‘Our refurbishment of the towers at Bow Cross in Tower Hamlets did not use the same external cladding as that on the Grenfell Tower. We are contacting residents at Bow Cross to confirm this. Our properties at Oldchurch Park Romford are new build properties which have not been over clad and do not use the same external cladding as that on Grenfell Tower.’
  • Tower Hamlets Homes ‘All of our blocks of flats (more than 900 in total) have had a Fire Risk Assessment carried out in the last nine months by qualified fire risk assessors. ‘

No Fire Risk Assessment Information

Cladding issues found at Denning Point Commercial Street

After the Grenfell Tower fire the Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) wrote to all local authorities and housing associations requesting detailed information about tall buildings they manage, in particular information on any residential tower blocks that had been clad with ACM (Aluminium Composite Material) panels.

The DCLG requires that immediate tests are undertaken on any residential block which have ACM panels and samples are sent to the Building Research Establishment (BRE) which is running 24 hours a day so that test results are available as soon as possible.

On Thursday 22 June, following submission of a sample of an ACM cladding panel from the 23-storey Denning Point tower block in Commercial Street, East End Homes was told that the cladding does not fully comply with the requirements of the testing.

On 23rd June East End Homes and the London Fire Brigade (LFB) carried out a full and immediate Fire Risk Assessment at Denning Point. The Fire Brigade noted no issues.

24 hour fire patrols are now in place in all communal areas of Denning Point.

“Government needs to step up the inspections”

Rushanara Ali MP

Last week Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green & Bow asked the Prime Minister to reform the Localism Act so resident’s complaints are dealt with properly and speedily.

Interviewed on Sunday Politics London this weekend she said (39:50) “There is a bigger issue that I am not confident that this [inspections of blocks] is being done systematically.

The cladding issue is, I think, being inspected systematically but we had a fire in my constituency yesterday in a lower-rise building without cladding and I am really concerned that the Government needs to step up the inspections and support across blocks that could have wider issues.  I flagged up these issues through the Communities and Local Government Committee during the last year and we need to look at this much more widely.”

Today Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced in Parliament that a total of 75 tower blocks have now failed safety tests. 

LW Comment

When starting our survey we genuinely thought that after something as abhorrent as the Grenfell Tower Fire every Housing Association would have realised that few are now trusted by those they are charged with protecting and would have turned away from corporate speak (“We take our responsibilities as a landlord very seriously”) and might have at least made an attempt to be open and direct.

It seems not – with the notable exception of East End Homes.

We also thought that as the fire safety of social housing is currently an urgent national issue that every Housing Association would have immediately carried out new Fire Risk Assessments and then published this fact and the resulting information in a way that was accessible to all.

Wrong again.

Now schools and hospitals across the country are being subjected to through tests.

Every organisation that owns or manages buildings needs to understand that the days of them being taken at their word are over.

You are no longer trusted.

Each statement relating to the safety of the public made by these organisations has to be challenged and tested. The only way that this can be done is if public sector organisations are forced, by law, to improve the quality of the information they publish.

On several occasions LW has argued the need for better and more detailed data such as dull and dreary (but essential) payments by the Council to their suppliers.

Who the Council pays and why is handy for tracking down corruption but it is not a matter of life and death.

Full, timely and detailed information about the homes we live in is.





 

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