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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Public Protection and Housing): 16th January, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

Smoke Alarms and Fire Safety Provision in Blocks of Flats

 

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Members of the regulatory and statutory position relating to the provision of linked smoke alarms in Council owned flats.

Recommendation

1.             That Scrutiny Committee notes the current position with the installation of linked smoke alarms in flats.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To advise Committee.

Background

2.             Following a recent fire in Barry a request was made by the leaseholder to have linked smoke alarms installed in flats. 

Relevant Issues and Options

3.             All Council properties benefit from the provision of hard wired smoke alarms with the majority of these being installed with the benefit of Welsh Office grant in the 1990s.

4.             The Council has not installed smoke alarms in any of its communal areas, except for its sheltered schemes, nor does it have interlinked property alarms between properties within blocks of flats. Significantly all of the properties conformed to Building Regulations at the time of construction and as members may be aware new regulations rarely require retrospective works be undertaken unless there is significant alteration of the property.

5.             Additionally, The Local Authority Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) guidance which has been adopted by all Local Authorities in Wales and the Welsh Fire and Rescue Service, refers to fire protection including automatic fire detection systems in all type of properties from single dwellings to houses in multiple occupation. LACORS is the Local Government body responsible for overseeing local authority regulatory and related services. The properties in Court Road, like the majority of Council owned flats, are purpose built properties containing two flats without a common part.  They would be considered as two single dwellings and not a house in multiple occupation. The automatic fire detection system required in each property is a Grade D: LD3 which is a mains powered smoke detector.  There is no requirement under this guidance for them to be interlinked. 

6.             The Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005 would apply to properties of this type but as there is no common part, the Fire Service would have no powers to deal with the property. All Council owned flats benefit from the installation of hard wired smoke alarms which comply with these regulations. In addition, all smoke alarms in our elderly person's accommodation are linked to the VCAS service via the existing emergency alarm service.

7.             Where common parts do exist the Council, in compliance with the legislation, has inspected every communal area and where necessary developed improvement plans where risk assessments have highlighted fire safety risks. In some instances particularly in some construction types i.e. high rise, these have been undertaken jointly with Fire officers. Where the risk assessment has highlighted high priorities these have been addressed immediately and in other circumstances these will be addressed through amendments to specifications, WHQS improvements or future works programmes.

8.             There are no urgent recommendations to install linked property fire alarms, within the Council's existing properties other than consideration when replacing the existing communal alarm system at Awbery House (high rise flats), nor are there any outstanding enforcement notices concerning compliance with the Fire Safety (Regulatory Reform) Order 2005.

9.             It has been noted that the original construction of the block in Court Road has integral concrete floors, building compartmentation, and separate accesses. This would provide at least one hour protection which should allow sufficient time for the fire service to attend.

10.        In light of the above and in the absence of a legal or statutory requirement to do so the linking of smoke alarms in this case is not highlighted as a priority within the Council's current 30 year Business plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

11.        All Council properties conform to current regulations in terms of fire safety, and the cost of upgrading would be unaffordable and would be above and beyond what is necessary in light of the risks (this is not to minimise the potential consequences but deaths from house fires are extremely rare because the properties are designed to slow down fire spread and to allow safe escape).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

12.        None relating to this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        The Council complies with all related legislation and guidance as set out in this report.  There are currently no legal or statutory requirements on the Council to install linked smoked alarms in Council owned flats.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        The provision of smoke alarms reduces the impact of serious fires within blocks of flats and houses.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        All Council dwellings benefit from Smoke alarm provision and provides reassurance to tenants.  

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        To encourage the development of a diversified and sustainable community by working in partnership to improve the quality of life of the Vale’s residents.

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This report is consistent with the Policy Framework and Budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        The Local Ward Members have been consulted on the content of this report. Whilst Councillor Bronwen Brooks has indicated that she is happy with the report content Councillor Richard Bertin has advised that he would like future consideration be given to the phased introduction of linked up systems including communal areas in flats. He feels that it would be better if we could cover these areas in the interests of safety even if not compelled to do so by law, in order to protect our residents. He has asked that budgetary consideration be given to this matter which he considers as being important.

Background Papers

The link to the Local Government Fire Safety in Blocks of flats Guidance is:

 

http://www.local.gov.uk/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=71e152a6-9e0a-4810-aee6-498167664f79&groupId=10171

Contact Officer

Mike Ingram, Operational Manager, Public Sector Housing

Officers Consulted

Housing Manager

Corporate Health and Safety Officer

Environmental Health Officer

Asset Manager, Housing Services

Building Control

Legal Services - Committee Reports

Accountant - Housing

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing.

 

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