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Environment Agency blocks access to waste site over fire safety concerns 18/10/2021

THE ENVIRONMENT Agency has blocked access to land in Birtley, located in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead in Tyne and Wear, in order to reduce the “serious risk” that illegal waste storage can pose to the environment and the local community. A Restriction Order is now in place prohibiting anyone from entering or depositing more waste on the site at Shee Recycling on the Durham Road after waste stored there became a fire risk.

The Restriction Order was secured at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 23 September after Environment Agency solicitor Chris Bunting outlined the case.

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service and Environment Agency officers have visited the site on numerous occasions this year to encourage the operators to bring the site into compliance with fire prevention guidance, including reducing waste volumes and introducing fire breaks between piles of waste.

Items being stored at the site include large oil drums containing hazardous waste, cutting equipment, batteries and fuel canisters, all of which increase the risk of fire outbreak. The site was at a high risk of a fire breaking out if recent activities had continued.

The Environment Agency has now locked the site’s access gate, placing a warning notice at the entrance. Anyone entering the land without reasonable excuse or written permission from the Environment Agency will be committing a criminal offence, as will anyone who tampers with the lock or the notice.

Each of the 17 community fire stations at the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service has the responsibility of assessing which sites in the local area pose the highest potential fire risk to local residents.

After visiting Shee Recycling, crews from Birtley Community Fire Station identified the risk being created by the excessive amounts of recycling materials being stored on the site by the owners.

Creating safer communities

Paul Thompson, Group manager for the West District at the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This case is a perfect example of how the Fire and Rescue Service is creating the safest community by working in partnership with organisations like the Environment Agency.”

Thompson continued: “Our assessment focused on the hazards and probable danger to life if a major incident were to occur on the business premises at Durham Road. This included the need to evacuate residential homes in the surrounding area, the risk posed to transport links and the overall threat to the environment. Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court’s decision to block access to the site shows how seriously all parties have taken this case. We hope this conveys to other businesses in Tyne and Wear that the powers and authority are in place to successfully bring cases like this to court.”

John Crowl, Environment Agency enforcement team leader in the North East, said: “Our priority is protecting the local community and the environment. This Prevention Order has been secured following concerns about the storage of waste at the site and its potential fire risk and after extensive work conducted in tandem with our partners at the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service.”

He added: “The site is close to other commercial properties, the East Coast mainline and Rowletch Burn and poses a significant environmental risk. Unfortunately, despite repeated visits and action from the Environment Agency, the company has consistently failed to adequately address the issues raised.”

In conclusion, Crowl commented: “While most waste sites are operated responsibly, we will take action against those who flout the law.”

*The Environment Agency is working alongside the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service as enquiries continue
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NFCC launches maturity models and Workforce Good Practice Framework 18/10/2021

DEVELOPED IN conjunction with Fire and Rescue Services and based on the principles of the Deloitte methodology, the maturity models and Workforce Good Practice Framework introduced by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) allow Fire and Rescue Services to assess current practice by using a self-assessment tool to determine their current level of maturity.

The tool can be used to assess current practice against a range of different areas, among them: Leadership Development, Recruitment, Learning Organisation, Blended Learning, Performance Management, Employee Recognition, Talent Management, EDI, Well-Being and HR Analytics.

Project executive Ann Millington (chief fire officer at the Kent Fire and Rescue Service) stated: “We’re pleased to bring to fruition the models and Good Practice Framework, which will support Fire and Rescue Services in assessing their current practice as well as identifying potential steps for the future. This isn’t intended to be a ‘tick-box’ exercise. It’s a work in progress and should involve Fire and Rescue Service staff at all levels and across all departments to build a bigger picture.”

Any given Fire and Rescue Service can choose how many or how few areas to benchmark itself against, but should revisit and review periodically in a bid to identify any opportunities.

It’s the objective of the NFCC that the maturity models and Workforce Good Practice Framework will help to drive consistency across Fire and Rescue Services in becoming leading practice organisations. Shared learning is encouraged.

Both the maturity models and the Workforce Good Practice Framework are acknowledged and supported by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services and have been developed as part of the People Programme.

*Further information concerning the maturity models and the Workforce Good Practice Framework can be accessed on the ukfrs site at www.ukfrs.com

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FIA unveils training course on latest revision of BS 5839-9 18/10/2021

THE FIRE Industry Association (FIA) has introduced a new training course focused on the latest revision of BS 5839-9 in relation to emergency voice communication systems. BS 5839-9:2021 both updates and replaces BS 5839-9:2011.

Emergency voice communication systems can be used for different applications, such as communicating with people in refuges, communicating with fire wardens, fire marshals and firefighters in firefighting lobbies and also communicating with stewards at sporting events.

The new course is aimed at those responsible for designing, installing, maintaining and operating emergency voice communication systems and offers delegates Continuing Professional Development hours. It’s relevant for anyone responsible for evacuating buildings, facilities and building managers and building control officers.

*To find out more information and book a place, access the following link: Emergency Voice Communication Systems to BS:5839-9 (fia.uk.com)

EWS assessor registration and EWS-1 Form submissions extended

In July this year, the FIA announced that seven UK lenders – namely Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, Nationwide, NatWest, Santander and TSB – would be covering the cost of making EWS-1 Forms publicly available through the FIA’s Building Safety Information Portal. This offer was due to finish on Monday 11 October.

Having observed significantly enhanced activity on the site over the last several months, the FIA has now offered a limited extension of the free assessor registrations and EWS-1 Form submission period to 12 November.

The continuing collaboration between the lending industry, the FIA and UK Finance means that everyone – including homeowners, prospective buyers, valuers and lenders – can easily access a given building’s EWS-1 Form through a central and secure portal.

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Building safety a “ticking time bomb” if fire cable testing isn’t strengthened 18/10/2021

ONE MANUFACTURER of fire-resistant cabling believes that building safety could remain a “ticking time bomb” if product testing for fire cables isn’t strengthened. Wrexham Mineral Cables has been calling for more stringent testing standards for several years. The business believes too many cables are classified as fire-resistant, yet are not fit for purpose in real-life fire scenarios.

Under current standards, only ‘fire-resistant’ cables greater than 20 mm in diameter undergo testing for direct impact to reflect falling debris and water jet testing on a single test sample. For ‘enhanced fire-resistant’ cables under 20 mm, no direct impact test takes place. The water test is just a spray test, while different stages of each test are conducted on different samples of cable.

Wrexham Mineral Cables believes this situation is putting lives at risk.

The company’s assertion emerges at a time when London’s Fire Commissioner Andy Roe has called for urgent change in the building industry as the number of blocks of flats in London with fire safety failings is now more than 1,000. While a majority of the issues involved are due to cladding, the remainder centre on other fire safety defects. In all of these buildings, the London Fire Brigade has suspended its ‘Stay Put’ strategy.

Testing “needs to be strengthened”

Wrexham Mineral Cables’ commercial manager Steve Williams suggests that testing needs to be strengthened for all fire-resistant cables as part of the construction industry’s wider drive to improve building safety.

Williams commented: “‘Enhanced fire-resistant’ cables play a fundamental role in ensuring that emergency and building-critical systems are supported in the event of a fire. They provide early indication of a fire and keep systems safe, while providing extended time for the Emergency Services to evacuate occupants and ensure critical circuits remain functional for longer periods. This is particularly crucial in high-rise buildings where evacuation times can be extensive or otherwise hindered due to the sheer size of the building.”

He continued: “The tests to which construction products are subjected need to be relevant and relied upon. It’s extremely concerning that ‘enhanced fire-resistant’ cables most commonly being used in fire alarms, emergency lighting, extraction systems, monitoring systems or even back-up generators may not survive fire, water ingress and direct impact. If this is the case, then it follows that building safety will remain a ticking time bomb.”

Raising industry standards

Williams informed Fire Safety Matters that Mineral Insulated Copper Cable is the only fire performance cable that, in historical testing, has survived in temperatures of over 1000˚C, while also being subjected to direct hammer blows and a full water pressure test using a fire hose.

Samples tested have been measured at just 5.7 mm in diameter and maintained their circuit integrity for over three hours.

Further, Williams noted: “We remain committed to raising industry standards. The only way to achieve this is by introducing a higher classification for such products. The Government’s review of current systems for testing construction products is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to ensure the safety of buildings.”

If a cable is required to function in the event of a fire, Williams asserts that each single cable sample must have to pass a true fire scenario test, helping to identify those which can survive, rather than simply resist fire.

“Ensuring that the tests which construction products are subjected to are relevant and can be relied upon is the only way in which we can make buildings truly safe,” concluded Williams.
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LFB signs high voltage agreement with UK Power Networks 12/10/2021

THE LONDON Fire Brigade has signed up to a new agreement designed to keep emergency firefighting crews and members of the public safe when they’re near high voltage electrical equipment.

Electricity company UK Power Networks has created a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which sets out procedures and responsibilities in the event of an incident involving electricity to ensure safe working areas.

UK Power Networks, which distribute electricity across London, the South East and the East of England, will work with the capital’s Fire and Rescue Service to quickly make safe any electrical equipment which would pose a hazard such that Emergency Services-related work can be carried out without delay. An MoU has now been agreed with every regional Fire and Rescue Service in the communities served by the power company.

Peter Vujanic, head of Health and Safety at UK Power Networks, explained: “Working safely and maintaining the safety of the general public and the people who help them such as members of the Emergency Services is our top priority. This Memorandum of Understanding defines protocols which will ensure any incidents involving electricity and fire are dealt with in an effective manner, in turn providing a safe working area for firefighters.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesperson stated: “We’re pleased to work with UK Power Networks on enabling a safer approach to incidents involving its infrastructure. This will make staff attending such incidents from both organisations safer and also assist in restoring essential power supplies.”

NFCC Leadership Project executive

Chief Fire Officer Wayne Bowcock of the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has been appointed as NFCC Leadership Project executive.

Bowcock takes over from previous Leadership Project executive Rebecca Bryant, who retired in September.

The Project Board now comprises the following individuals:

*Wayne Bowcock (Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service): Leadership Project executive

*Johnny Bugg (Home Office): Leadership Project executive

*Ann Millington (Kent Fire and Rescue Service): Leading on the Talent Management project

*Donna O'Connor (Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service): Leading on the Coaching and Mentoring project

*Rod Hammerton (Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service) and Dawn Whittaker (East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service): Leading on the Direct Entry project

*Chris Blacksell (Humberside Fire and Rescue Service): Leading on the Supervisory Leadership Development Programme project

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Mayor of London calls for greater transparency on building safety 12/10/2021

SADIQ KHAN, the Mayor of London, has called on building owners and landlords to help leaseholders by sharing vital building safety information with their residents. More than four years after the Grenfell Tower fire, thousands of Londoners are trapped by the building safety crisis. Some leaseholders have been left fearing for their safety, while others have been unable to sell their homes. Some are facing substantial bills to remediate cladding issues they could not have anticipated when they bought their property.

The Mayor has continuously pressed Government ministers to prevent leaseholders paying simply to make their homes safe, and has lobbied for a levy on major developers to help fund remediation costs, which would raise at least £3 billion.

Khan is now calling on the Government to commit to fully funding non-cladding remediation works, such as the installation of effective sprinklers, where the absence of these systems pose a fire risk. There has so far been no commitment from the Government on non-cladding remediation funds for any building, despite the sector flagging its fears that these issues will present significant costs in the future.

The Mayor frequently hears concerns that residents are often kept in the dark about the safety of their homes. Leaseholders have pointed to challenges in accessing the basic fire safety information contained in building fire risk assessments, with some going as far as to submit Freedom of Information requests to their landlord in order to access information about the safety of the building in which they reside.

Although the Building Safety Bill introduces a statutory responsibility for building owners and landlords to share fire safety information, the Mayor fears that implementation will take too long for flat owners who are already struggling to access this information. Khan believes strongly that voluntary disclosure is the fastest route to improve transparency and safety as well as to rebuild trust between leaseholders and the property industry.

Sharing of EWS-1 Forms

The Mayor is encouraging building owners and landlords to share EWS-1 Forms containing information about the external wall system of buildings, which leaseholders have also experienced challenges in accessing.

EWS-1 Forms have been required by lenders as part of the valuation process. Not having access to these forms affects the mental and financial health of leaseholders, who are in a state of uncertainty about whether they will be able to sell their home. There have also been cases of criminals offering fake EWS-1 Forms in order to take advantage of desperate leaseholders.

The recent ‘Leaseholders Together’ rally saw the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign join forces with the National Leasehold Campaign and the charity Leasehold Knowledge Partnership to draw attention to the issues faced by the country’s 4.6 million leaseholders, among them building safety, cladding, ground rents, service charges and insurance hikes.

Khan stated: “More than four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, the events of that terrible night continue to cast a long shadow over the lives of thousands of Londoners whose faith in the safety and security of their home has been stripped away. The current building safety situation is a scandal and a crisis. It appears that the Government is still not willing to properly address it.”

He added: “We simply cannot go on like this. Building owners must act now to rebuild trust with leaseholders. This can only be achieved through communication and transparency, accompanied by robust changes to the building safety regulatory system.”

Transparent communications “critical”

Geeta Nanda OBE, G15 chair and CEO of MTVH, said: “We fully agree that accurate, timely and transparent communications with residents are critical in responding to the building safety challenges that have emerged in recent years.”
G15 members are investing over £2.9 billion across the next ten years in vital building safety works and have created dedicated teams from within existing resources to ensure that important fire safety information is shared with residents in an accessible way.

“For example,” continued Nanda, “fire risk assessments have been made available to residents upon request as a matter of course for some time. The complexity of the issues surrounding fire safety mean that the process of information sharing needs to be carefully managed. Where housing associations are not the freeholder of a building, it can mean that we are ourselves waiting for information to be provided by third parties before we can then share this with our residents.”

In conclusion, Nanda observed: “We welcome the Mayor’s recognition of the good practice many housing providers have already adopted and we’re fully committed to working together to provide residents with the information they need about their homes.”

Financial ruination

Dave Richards of the London Cladding Action Group commented: “The building safety crisis has blighted the lives of thousands of Londoners. It’s financially ruining people across our city. We’re pleased the Mayor of London is standing with leaseholders and pressing the Government to End Our Cladding Scandal. At the heart of the scandal is the lack of trust in the property industry. The Mayor is right. Trust needs rebuilding and the voices of leaseholders must be heard and then acted upon instead of the scant regard our voices are currently given by the Government.”

Sebastian O’Kelly, CEO of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, informed Fire Safety Matters: “We’re delighted that Sadiq Khan is again showing his support for leaseholders after first joining the cladding demonstration in February last year and then making his decisive intervention last year to boost shared ownership leases up to 999 years.”

O’Kelly continued: “There are more flats in London than anywhere else in the UK and they’re a mess. Leaving aside the near limitless cheating by commercial interests over leasehold, tens of thousands of ordinary families face ruin with building safety costs, while we’re still nowhere near resolving this crisis more than four years after Grenfell. We will be in the same position in four years’ time unless Government takes decisive action to put right badly built blocks and tries to recoup what it can from those who construct these flawed structures.”

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Worldwide fire safety initiative endorsed by United Nations 12/10/2021

A GLOBAL International Fire Safety Standards (IFSS) Coalition comprising upwards of 80 fire safety leadership organisations has launched a 40-page document entitled ‘Global Plan for a Decade of Action for Fire Safety 2022-2032’. The aim is to ensure an internationally consistent approach towards the safety and management of buildings and infrastructure and save lives by reducing risk as well as preventing devastating fires.

The launch of the ‘Global Plan for Decade of Action for Fire Safety 2022-2032’ document is backed by the United Nations (UN) and builds on the International Fire Safety Standard – Common Principles (IFSS-CP) published by the International Fire Safety Standards Coalition in October last year. It follows on from extensive work designed to energise public confidence around the regulation and control of fire safety measures.

The ‘Decade of Action’ delivers a clear goal, a performance-based objectives framework and common actions that align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals that can take place at the individual, community, city, national, regional and global level.

Those sustainable development goals can be defined as follows:

*Pillar 1: People – Actions to help individuals and groups understand fire and what they can do to increase their understanding about it

*Pillar 2: Products – Actions to reduce fire hazards associated with appliances, contents and building components

*Pillar 3: Structures – Actions to reduce fire hazards associated with structures encompassing the planning, design and operational phases

*Pillar 4: Infrastructure – Actions to help enhance firefighting infrastructure

*Pillar 5: Communities – Actions to facilitate sustainable and fire resilient communities

The IFSS Coalition is an industry-led global response to address differing or, in some cases, non-existent requirements in countries across the world when it comes to fire safety. Contrasting approaches have resulted in significant variations in the design, approval, construction methods and operation of buildings and infrastructure, thereby impacting fire risk.

Improvements and consistency

Gary Strong, chair of the IFSS Coalition, said: “We’ve worked hard to produce this globally applicable way in which to bring improvements and consistency in fire safety to buildings and infrastructure new and old, and then reduce the risk to lives. The goal of the ‘Decade of Action for Fire Safety’ movement is to stabilise and reduce the forecasted level of fire fatalities, injuries, economic cost and environmental impact around the world by 2032 despite an increase in population over this period.”

Strong continued: “This new initiative is unprecedented, being the first agreement on fire safety actions on this international scale, with its development supported by the UN in line with its own sustainable development goals. It’s the outcome of extensive work and worldwide expertise on fire safety drawn from over 80 coalition organisations and will bring reassurance that the construction and management of buildings and infrastructure upholds appropriate fire safety standards, with improved training, education and resources all part of the mix.”

*Read the full 40-page report online

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“Firefighters may not be able to tackle all fires” warns Fire Brigades Union 12/10/2021

FIREFIGHTER NUMBERS have, according to the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), now “reached a new low” since the beginning of austerity in 2010. One-in-five firefighter roles that existed in 2010 are no longer in place, with a fall in number of 11,680 roles in the ensuing period.

The figures were obtained by the FBU under a Freedom of Information request and released just prior to Home Secretary Priti Patel’s speech to the Conservative Party’s Annual Conference, which was held in Manchester from 3-6 October.

Since 2010, more than 8,000 wholetime firefighters have left Fire and Rescue Services across the nation. London alone now has 1,112 less firefighters than it did in 2010, with a drop-off in numbers of 615 in West Yorkshire, 631 in Greater Manchester, 551 in Devon and Somerset and 470 in the West Midlands.

Other top line figures unearthed by the Freedom of Information request include a cut of 70 firefighters between 2020 and 2021 alone in Hampshire and 49 in Devon and Somerset.

The overall figure compared to last year for the UK is a loss of 185 firefighters. That represents a 0.4% decrease.  

According to the FBU, the impression that Fire and Rescue Services have been short-staffed to breaking point is evidenced by a range of figures, with response times across all types of fires in England increasing since 2010 and fire audit and home fire safety check numbers in England constantly falling across this period.

In addition, new threats could mean that firefighters will become even more stretched. For example, climate change is thought to have increased both flood risk and the number of wildfires occurring in the UK.

Dealing with incidents

Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, explained: “After years of huge Government cuts and staffing levels falling, there’s now a very real threat that Fire and Rescue Services may not be able to deal with every incident and fight all fires. For example, we’ve heard senior Fire and Rescue Service managers state that the public should lower their expectations that large wildfires can be tackled. The cuts are weakening the day-to-day work of Fire and Rescue Services in every single area. They’re making people less safe. They also pose a threat to the ability to respond to large-scale incidents, and particularly so if more than one such incident were to occur at the same time.”

Further, Wrack noted: “Households deserve to feel protected. We all want to be able to walk past Fire Stations and know that there are enough people in there to protect us. Firefighters will always do whatever they can to save lives. It’s time the Government did the same.”

The Freedom of Information requests were made between April and September this year and represent provisional headcount figures on 31 March of each year. Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service didn’t provide 2021 figures and, hence, its 2020 figures have been held constant.

References

*Source for information on response times https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/response-times-to-fires-attended-by-fire-and-rescue-services-england-april-2019-to-march-2020/response-times-to-fires-attended-by-fire-and-rescue-services-england-april-2019-to-march-2020

**Source for information on audits and home fire safety checks https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/fire-prevention-and-protection-statistics-england-april-2020-to-march-2021/fire-prevention-and-protection-statistics-england-april-2020-to-march-2021

***Source for information on increased flood risk https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/climate/understanding-climate/uk-extreme-events-_heavy-rainfall-and-floods and https://www.lse.ac.uk/granthaminstitute/explainers/how-is-climate-change-affecting-river-and-surface-water-flooding-in-the-uk/

****Source for information on increased wildfires https://www.newscientist.com/article/2272127-wildfires-could-become-a-big-threat-in-the-uk-due-to-climate-change/

Further information on the FBU’s worries over Fire and Rescue Services’ abilities to respond to more than one large-scale incident at a time may be found online at https://www.fbu.org.uk/news/2020/11/02/uk-not-ready-two-national-emergencies-once-firefighters-warn

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“School fire lessons must be learned” asserts Business Sprinkler Alliance leader 12/10/2021

IAIN COX, chair of the Business Sprinkler Alliance, has urged that lessons from school fires must be learned sooner rather than later. Cox’s words of warning emanate at the start of a new academic term where a primary school in Wiltshire has already suffered from a major fire.

Following 18 months of pandemic disruption, students at the school near Pewsey will now face a further period of uncertainty following the blaze which required 70 firefighters to attend the scene and bring the flames under control.

The fire occurred at the Woodborough Church of England Primary School on Friday 17 September. Ten crews of firefighters and an aerial platform from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service were brought in to deal with the emergency.

While the Fire and Rescue Service skilfully managed to bring the incident under control, there was extensive damage realised to two classrooms and also a Staff Room located in the Victorian part of the school. Sprinklers had not been fitted at the premises for fire suppression purposes. As a direct result of this episode, circa 160 pupils have now been temporarily displaced.

Mandating sprinkler systems

Ben Ansell, chief fire officer at the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, is calling on the Government to make sprinkler systems mandatory in all new build and refurbished schools.

Ansell stated: “As a Fire and Rescue Service, we will continue to promote the installation of sprinklers in new and refurbished school buildings. I know that our specialist fire safety team will be working with the management of the Woodborough Church of England Primary School to explore all available options for keeping the site safe from fire in the future.”

Iain Cox observed: “The Government acknowledges that missing lessons has an impact on attainment at key stages, but at the same time is proposing the requirement for automatic sprinkler protection be removed from its BB100 design guide for most new school buildings. The impact of school fires such as this one and the disruption that they cause can worsen students’ results. The Government’s own statistics affirm this.”

The blaze in Wiltshire comes less than a year after three primary school fires in Derbyshire that, to date, have resulted in rebuild costs totalling £27 million (encompassing Fire and Rescue Service costs along with the need for temporary accommodation and alternative travel). None of these schools were sprinkler protected. Installing such fire suppression measures is estimated to cost between 2% and 3% of total build costs. “It’s a small price to pay to save a vital community building,” suggested Cox, “and protect continuing education and achievement levels for pupils.”

Missing the point

Continuing the core theme, Cox noted: “Often, people miss the point that fires don’t have to damage an entire school to cause disruption. It’s all about educational space. The loss of two classrooms at the Woodborough Church of England Primary School cannot simply be made up by using alternative space. There just isn’t enough capacity within the school.”

The damage to the remainder of the school from such a significant fire means that it will remain out of action for a prolonged period of time. “Some may assume that schools are designed to withstand the risks to which they will be exposed whether through fire, flood or theft, etc,” urged Cox. “Too often, though, buildings will be conceived without due consideration as to the impact of those risks during their lifespan.”

According to a 2020 research study conducted by Zurich Municipal, the education sector insurer for 50% of schools and universities across the UK, schools in England have been hit by 2,300 fires in the past five years alone. The business estimates that 390,000 teaching hours could be lost in the next 12 months as a result of large fires, causing disruption for 28,000 children.

Cox concluded: “When you consider the huge costs associated with school fires such as rebuilding, temporary relocation, the loss of equipment and the impact on attainment when it comes to pupils’ academic work, why are we not learning the lessons from these fires and continuing to build schools without key resilience measures such as sprinkler systems being installed?”

The Business Sprinkler Alliance

The Business Sprinkler Alliance was established in 2010. It’s an alliance of fire safety professionals working to protect UK plc against fire. The Alliance aims to highlight the true cost of fire and increase the number of business premises that have automatic fire sprinklers fitted.

Further, the Business Sprinkler Alliance is driving a cultural change such that sprinklers are understood and accepted as being the norm for active fire protection in UK business buildings.

The Business Sprinkler Alliance’s founding members are the National Fire Chiefs’ Council, the European and National Fire Sprinkler Networks, the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association, commercial insurer FM Global and the Fire Protection Association.

*More information is available online at www.business-sprinkler-alliance.org

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Bureau Veritas highlights “crucial” nature of Gateway One regulations 12/10/2021

FOLLOWING ON from the publication of the Government’s Building Safety Bill and its 53 recommendations for driving cultural change and emboldening safety improvements in the construction sector, building control and regulation specialist Bureau Veritas is reminding developers of the importance of meeting the Gateway One regulations now in force across England and Wales.

Introduced back in August, Gateway One requires developers to submit a fire statement setting out fire safety considerations specific to a proposed development with a relevant application for planning permission, and which involves one or more ‘relevant buildings’. This includes buildings that contain two or more homes, educational accommodation or high-rise buildings of 18 metres (or seven storeys) in height or taller.

Gateway One is one of three proposed ‘Gateways’ that developers will need to adhere to under the new plans. The latter are collectively designed to create a ‘golden thread’ of information in the form of a digital record of how a given building has been designed and built and, subsequently, both managed and operated. The remaining ‘Gateways’ are set to be introduced as the Building Safety Bill passes through the Houses of Parliament.

Clear framework

Andy Lowe, technical and training director for building control at Bureau Veritas, explained: “The Building Safety Bill sets out a clear framework for the design, construction and management of high-rise and multi-tenanted buildings in what is the biggest transformation of the building regulation system in our time. While Gateway One largely uses the existing planning permission process, there’s a now a mandatory requirement for developers to submit a fire statement as part of this. That may sound simple enough, but if it’s wrong then this could create delays at the planning stage.”

Under the new regulations, the new Building Safety Regulator (part of the Health and Safety Executive) has the power to issue a ‘stop notice’ on building projects if the ‘Gateway’ processes are not successfully concluded, which may result in site commencement being delayed.

In addition – and in order that developers can meet Gateway One requirements and move into the next set of ‘Gateways’ – the local planning authority must consult with the Health and Safety Executive to provide specialist fire safety input before planning permission is granted. It’s therefore imperative that developers consider all fire safety matters, which may well require independent third party consultation.

Preparing for change

Lowe continued: “Any change in regulation requires a full understanding of the changes being implemented and a need to evolve quickly. Gateway One is mandatory now, but Gateways Two and Three will not be far behind. On that basis, we would urge developers to prepare for those changes now or otherwise risk delays to projects further down the line.”

As a business, Bureau Veritas works with developers as an independent third party throughout the building lifecycle to help reduce risk and achieve compliance. This includes support around the ‘golden thread’ approach and, specifically, on meeting all requirements as part of the ‘Gateway’ process through assistance with safety case reviews and improving the safety of buildings through the design and operation stages.

*For more information on the detail of the Building Safety Bill, practising professionals can access Bureau Veritas’ free-to-view webinar on ‘Understanding the Building Safety Bill

**Additional detail concerning Bureau Veritas’ services may be viewed online at www.bureauveritas.co.uk
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