Sprinkler systems should not be an optional ‘nice to have’
Colette McKune, Group Deputy Chief Executive, outlines ForViva's commitment to ensuring tenants feel save in their homes.
When the London fire brigade commissioner, Dany Cotton, called for sprinklers to be fitted in tower blocks in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we listened at ForViva Group. There are 1,300 people living in ForViva’s high-rise tower blocks and we have been underlining our commitment to ensuring they feel safe in their homes.
Retrofitting sprinklers into all 17 high-rise blocks in the North West represented a significant investment of £5 million, but after speaking to tenants and leaseholders, consulting with regional fire safety experts and reviewing the options, it was one that we felt was essential.
We were amongst the first landlords in the country to commit to fitting sprinklers and as Theresa May adds her voice to Inside Housing’s call for this to be compulsory, we are taking the opportunity to share our learnings and experiences with others taking the same step.
As landlords, we all know how challenging it can be to be granted access to someone’s home, but we are proud of our partnership work with Protect24 which has ensured tenants have been kept in the loop every step of the way and understand the project and its importance.
To date, 100% access to apartments has been achieved, demonstrating the impact this on-going engagement has played in facilitating the programme. Importantly, this has all been completed with no disruption to tenants who have been able to stay in their homes while the work takes place.
The retrofitting programme has been a large but hugely important undertaking for the Group and is on track to be complete by March 2019.
The investment is part of a wider approach for us to give tenants peace of mind about their safety. This includes type 4 fire risk assessments, robust compartmentation, fire alarms, clear signage, fire awareness visits to homes and a prescriptive testing routine for fire equipment and sterile area checks to ensure a truly safe approach.
The Prime Minister, Inside Housing and others are urging all landlords to follow suit. Liberty, part of the ForViva Group brought housing organisations together in London last month to debate how landlords can strengthen fire safety measures and work with tenants to ensure they feel safe in their homes.
The best practice event, delivered in partnership with the HQN, generated significant discussion around key issues including the recommendations of the Hackitt Review and regulation, the difference between mist and sprinkler systems, tackling the issues and challenges of retrofitting sprinklers, costs, engaging with tenants and much more.
It was clear that there was a firm commitment from the sector to take action and to learn from the experiences of others to put tenant safety at the heart of any approach to fire safety.
Liberty and the HQN will be continuing the debate at another best practice event in Birmingham on 23rd October to provide a further opportunity to learn from others and gain insight from asset management and fire safety experts. For more information and to register visit the website.