Council reassures residents on fire safety in tower blocks

Date: 
Friday, 16 June, 2017
Number: 
17-33

After the major fire at Grenfell Tower on Wednesday (14 June 2017) Harlow Council is reassuring its residents living in tower blocks about the fire safety measures it takes.

Fire safety is a top priority for the Council and it works closely with Essex Fire & Rescue Service to regularly review fire safety. Essex Fire & Rescue Service has approved the approach the Council takes in its tower blocks, supported housing and temporary accommodation.

These are the fire safety measures the Council has in place for its 14 tower blocks:

  • Fire safety risk assessments are completed every two years in line with legislation. Outcomes from these assessments are prioritised and included in the Council’s annual programme of works.
  • Weekly and monthly management inspections of tower blocks are carried out by Council Officers. Any actions are recorded and dealt with as a priority. This includes removing any flammable materials stored in communal stairwells and areas, such as dumped rubbish, as well as checking evacuation arrangements and the position of signage. There are no outstanding actions from any recent inspections.
  • Each tower block has a fire safety action plan. These are published on the Council’s website with guidance posted on noticeboards in communal areas. A copy of these plans is given to all new tenants and leaseholders.
  • Two tower blocks (Netteswell and Pennymead) have fire alarms which are tested regularly. Installing fire alarms in all tower blocks has not been identified as a requirement from fire risk assessments.
  • Smoke detectors are fitted within every Council home and serviced annually. In some cases homes also have heat detectors as well as smoke detectors.
  • Communal doors and internal doors to flats are fire resistant and these are renewed as required following fire risk assessments.
  • Emergency lighting and lighting conductors within tower blocks are part of the Council’s regular inspection programme and are compliant and certificated.

Out of the 14 high-rise tower blocks only Brenthall Towers have had cladding fitted to them in the late 1990s. This cladding is made out of solid, “non-combustible” materials with the system and materials used complying with building regulations. This cladding is not the same design as used on the Grenfell Tower.

To provide extra reassurance Council Housing Officers will be hand-delivering letters to all tower block residents next week. Information and advice will also appear in the next edition of the Council’s magazine Harlow Times which is out next month.

Essex Fire & Rescue Service is reminding everyone that they carry out home fire safety visits to anyone living in Essex completely free of charge, where they will run through escape plans and fit smoke alarms, if required. To book a visit call 0300 303 0088 or book online at: www.essex-fire.gov.uk/Home_Fire_Safety/​

Essex Fire & Rescue Service has also provided specific safety information about high-rise accommodation and this can be read at: www.essex-fire.gov.uk/news/Safety_advice_for_high-rise_residents

Councillor Mark Wilkinson, Portfolio Holder for Housing, said:

“My heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with everyone affected by this awful tragedy in North Kensington. The local community there and across the country, including the Harlow community, are doing what they can to support the families affected.

“We know this tragic event is likely to concern our tower block residents so we want to provide reassurance at this time on the measures we have in place.

“Our fire safety plans are always under review and we will continue to work closely with the Essex Fire & Rescue Service to ensure the safety of residents living in our tower blocks.

“We will be following the proposed public enquiry and full investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire very carefully and I am sure that all social housing providers, including Harlow Council, will respond to any recommendations to changes in the building and fire regulations."