Nation’s poorest are at greatest risk from fire, warns fire door safety campaign
• 10 years since new fire safety laws came into force, Fire Door Safety Week shines spotlight on fire safety in rented flats.
• Half of tenants have never been given emergency fire plan information for the building they currently live in.
• Only around a quarter of tenants living in flats (28%) feel completely safe from fire.
• The situation is worse for lower income tenants earning £25,000 or less, compared to higher income tenants.
• Do the 5 Step Fire Door Check, say campaigners.
• London Fire Brigade says: Know The Plan for your building.
New data released today for Fire Door Safety Week shows that the poorest in society continue to be at greatest risk from fire, with lower income tenants more concerned about fire safety where they live, less informed about how to protect themselves, and less able to move away from perceived danger.
Just a third (35%) of the lowest income households renting flats say they have been given information on the emergency fire plan for the building where they live, compared to 88% of tenants on incomes over £100,000 a year. Those on incomes of £25,000 or less are much less likely to feel completely safe from fire (27%) than those on incomes above £80,000 (44%).
But two out of every nine (22%) households with incomes under £25,000 living in rented flats who have concerns over fire safety are unable to move because they can’t afford to.
More than half of all tenants (58%) and over 70% of lower income tenants have no idea who the 'Responsible Person' is for the building where they live – the person to whom they should usually report their fire safety concerns. And worryingly, 15% of all tenants living in blocks of flats who have got fire safety concerns have never reported those concerns to anyone at all.
The research reinforces the urgent need for greater fire safety education among tenants, private landlords, housing association and council housing managers, says Hannah Mansell, spokesperson for Fire Door Safety Week and trustee of the Children’s Burns Trust.
Fire Door Safety Week runs from 26 September – 2 October 2016 and aims to raise awareness of the critical role that fire doors play in protecting property and saving lives, and to stamp out bad practice. The campaign is organised by the British Woodworking Federation, the BWF-Certifire Scheme and the Fire Door Inspection Scheme, in partnership with the Government's safety campaign Fire Kills.
Hannah Mansell says:
"Fire safety in private and public sector rented housing, especially Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and older, less well maintained blocks of flats, continues to be a serious challenge. Yet these are often homes for the people with the fewest choices about where they live and the least opportunity to move.
"We frequently see fire doors in blocks of flats in a poor state of repair; fire doors that won't close; fire doors that have been wedged open. This is, of course, just one aspect of fire safety in these buildings, but good fire doors are often a sign of good fire safety generally. We are
urging all tenants to carry out a simple 5 Step Fire Door Check
as a matter of urgency, and to report any concerns to the Responsible Person, most likely their landlord, straightaway."
The Government’s Chief Fire and Rescue Adviser, Peter Holland CBE, says:
“Fire doors perform a vital role, but only if they are properly specified, installed, managed and maintained. The message is simple. If you see a problem, don’t walk past – that goes for doors that are wedged open, damaged or badly fitted. Report it to your building manager or landlord or to your local fire and rescue service.”
Part of the safety message being promoted to tenants this year is also about knowing what the emergency fire plan is for the building where you live, as it may not be what you assume. London Fire Brigade has made this the focus of its Know The Plan campaign
which targets tenants in high rise or purpose built blocks of flats.
Dan Daly, Assistant Commissioner for Fire Safety at London Fire Brigade, says:
"Living in a high rise or purpose built block of flats is no more dangerous than living in a house, but it's important to know that your fire plan should be different. If there is a fire elsewhere in the building but not inside your home you're safer staying in your flat unless the flames, heat or smoke are affecting you.
"Flats and maisonettes are built to give you some protection from fire - a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 60. Walls, floors and well maintained fire doors will hold back flames and smoke for a time. If you leave your flat you could be rushing into choking smoke, the fire itself or firefighters using equipment to bring the fire under control in another part of the building."