Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) has responded to concerns about fire safety in high rise buildings and in the months after Grenfell Tower inspected every high rise residential building in Greater Manchester, working with housing providers, local authorities and buildings in private ownership to make sure the right fire safety advice is in place.
We continue to work with housing providers and managing agents to ensure that any fire safety problems are identified and addressed.
In some cases we’ve requested a review of the Fire Risk Assessment or for the building owner/managing agent to identify and inform us what type of cladding system is installed on the building.
The responsibility for fire safety for high rise buildings can be shared between a number of parties – in private blocks the managing agent may have day to day responsibility but overall responsibility is likely to lie with the leasehold management company, the freeholder or be shared by both. Where the building is operated by a social landlord they will normally be responsible for the fire safety.
If you have questions or concerns about the safety of your building you should in the first instance contact the managing agent or your landlord as they should have been informed if any risks have been identified.
Many buildings have some form of cladding system and the majority of these do not present any risk and are essential to ensuring that homes are warm and weatherproof.
If the cladding on a building has been identified as posing a risk of external fire spread this will have prompted a review of the fire safety arrangements and in some cases a change to the evacuation strategy.
If you have questions about the cladding on your building you should contact your landlord or the managing agent for the building.
Fire safety of any building relies on ongoing management and maintenance – this may mean that some repairs are required to things like fire doors due to normal wear and tear.
Where more significant work is required this will have been discussed with the building owner or managing agent. If you rent your home then your landlord will know about any work that needs doing. If you own your flat you should have been informed of any fire safety concerns and any planned work that is needed.
If the evacuation strategy for the building has changed then residents should have been notified and given guidance about what to do in the event of a fire.
Most flats are built based on the principle that a fire in a flat should not spread to other areas of the building – this is often described as a ‘Stay Put’ Strategy.
In Greater Manchester, GMFRS and our partners have adopted a ‘Stay Safe’ message.
If it is necessary to evacuate a building in a fire then this should have been communicated to residents and be reflected in ‘Fire Action Notices’ displayed in the communal areas.
If you live in a building where you need to evacuate in the event of a fire if the fire alarm is raised then you should take the following immediate actions:
- Get everyone in your flat out of the building using the emergency exit routes and stairs provided (don’t use the lift)
- Close all doors behind you
- Get out, stay out, call 999
The evacuation strategy is there for your protection. Failure to evacuate the building upon hearing the fire alarm puts you at risk.
If you have concerns about whether you would be able to evacuate the building without assistance you should notify your landlord and/or the managing agent.
‘Interim Measures’ is a term used to describe a temporary change to the evacuation strategy so that residents are warned about a fire and evacuate the building. This can be done through the use of a ‘Waking Watch’ – trained wardens who patrol the building and carry air horns to warn people of a fire or can activate an alarm or through a fire alarm system which is linked to flats.
Where these temporary arrangements have been adopted GMFRS will have visited the building to make sure they are in place and being managed in line with the Government advice.
Fire Safety is everyone’s responsibility and all residents in high rise buildings can do their bit to reduce the chance of a fire occurring and keep the building safe.
We think you can help with the following:
- Keep all landings, corridors and doorways clear of obstructions, including rubbish
- Never wedge communal doors open
- Don’t keep things in your home or communal areas that burn easily. This includes bottled gas, paraffin heaters or liquid fuel
- Never block emergency access to your building
- Park considerately so emergency vehicles can get as close as possible
- Get to know your neighbours. They may be young, elderly or vulnerable, and need help during an emergency
We recommend that you test your smoke alarm every week and report any problems to your landlord or building managers.
If you have concerns about your home you should contact your landlord or the managing agent as they should be able to answer questions that you have about the fire safety arrangements.
If you wish to report a concern that you have already raised with your landlord or managing agent you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will look at the issue. If you notify us of a concern we may refer it to your landlord or the managing agent to look into, visit the property to carry out an inspection and in some cases we may take enforcement action.
Our firefighters regularly visit all types of buildings to ensure that they have recorded important information on our systems and to identify any issues in relation to access. There should not be a problem for us in accessing high rise buildings in Greater Manchester if there is a fire.
If you are considering purchasing a flat any enquiries about the fire safety arrangements and the cladding should be made as part of the conveyancing process and you should discuss this with your solicitor. We are not able to provide information about buildings for mortgage purposes.