Council owned high rise - fire safety FAQs
22 June 2017 update
We're updating the following questions and answers as new information becomes available. We'll also provide updates to tenants and leaseholders on Twitter and through text alerts.
Video on fire safety in flats
Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in London in June 2017, Councillor Warren Morgan, Leader of the council met with health and safety council officers to find out about keeping tenants and leaseholders safe from fire in council tower blocks.
Frequently asked questions on fire safety
No cladding on our tower blocks are the same material used on Grenfell Tower. Read this fire safety FAQ for more info.
What caused the Grenfell Tower fire in Kensington, London?
The cause of the fire and the tragic results are currently under investigation and part of a public inquiry. Together with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, we’ll be monitoring closely all information on the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Over the coming days, weeks and months, we will continuously review our own properties and practices in light of the outcomes of the investigation, official government advice and the public inquiry called by the Prime Minister.
What counts as a 'high rise' building?
A building that is more than 18 metres or six storeys high.
What is cladding and why is it put on high rise blocks?
There is a wide range of different kinds of cladding used in residential and commercial buildings. Cladding can be used for a number of different reasons, including improving the thermal performance of buildings, modernising and changing appearance. A number of high rise blocks in our council-owned housing stock have had a form of cladding called 'External Wall Insulation' fitted to address repair issues, provide extra insulation and reduce heating costs for tenants.
How many council-owned high rise buildings are there?
Brighton & Hove City Council owns 43 high rise buildings in the city.
How many council high rise buildings have cladding?
Twenty high rise blocks have full cladding, a further three high rise blocks have some form of cladding mostly on the side.
Do any council high rise buildings have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower?
We can confirm that none of the cladding on council high rise blocks are made from the same material, or supplied by the same company, as the cladding on Grenfell Tower.
Do any council high rise buildings have cladding made from Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) currently being tested by the UK Government?
What are you doing as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire?
As of Friday 16 June, the council has taken a number of actions to reassure concerned residents that our highest priority always has been and always will be their safety. A text message was sent to tenants of high rise council housing with cladding, and council housing staff have personally hand delivered an information letter to tenants and leaseholders living in those buildings.
We have conducted joint inspections with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Services (ESFRS) of our high rise blocks, prioritising all those with cladding.
The council has also commissioned an independent survey to double check our buildings so we can provide tenants with extra assurance.
We will continue to work with ESFRS on reviewing our policies, practices, and property in light of any information and learning from the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
I have cladding on my block and I am worried - what should I do?
We understand that this is a worrying time for residents. However, the risk of fire has not increased and the council have undertaken additional checks as a precaution.
What fire safety procedures do you have in place?
All our blocks of flats are checked on a regular basis and fire precaution work is carried out whenever required. High-rise flats are built to be fire-resistant and walls, ceilings and doors will hold back flames and smoke.
East Sussex Fire & Rescue Services also carry out test simulations in council housing, and work together through the Housing Fire Health & Safety Board.
More information on fire safety is available in our leaflet for tenants and leaseholders.
What action is taken when a fire risk assessment is done and recommendations are made?
Once a fire risk assessment is completed, the recommendations are discussed with a sub-group of the Housing Fire Health & Safety Board, who then agree a time scale for actions.
Do you work with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Services (ESFRS)?
We have a very good working relationship with ESFRS through the joint Housing Fire Health & Safety Board, and are conducting joint inspections and reviews of our buildings.
Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London, the board is continuing to meet regularly.
How often do fire risk assessment inspections for council-owned high rise tower blocks take place?
Fire risk assessments for council tower blocks take place every year.
When were council high rises last inspected?
All our high rise buildings were inspected in 2016 as planned, and seven have already been inspected this year on schedule.
Do we have fire safety certificates for each building?
Fire safety certificates were discontinued in 2005. Instead we conduct fire risk assessments.
Will you publish your fire risk assessments?
We are currently working to publish the results of our additional precautionary fire risk assessments.
Are you working with the UK government on fire safety in high rises?
The council is co-operating fully with the UK government as part of this nationwide inquiry. We are working hard to provide information to them, and they have also offered to help check council high rise buildings.
What is the council doing for private sector owned high rise buildings?
We take all fire safety very seriously and are currently concentrating our resources on council-owned high rise blocks. In the coming days and weeks we will be working with owners of private blocks to ensure we have the necessary information to make their blocks safer.
What council high rise buildings have sprinkler systems installed?
A pilot sprinkler installation at Somerset Point was completed in 2016. This project was match funded between Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
The council has also invested in retro fitting sprinklers to other properties including Evelyn Court and homes of vulnerable residents who may be at greater risk of fire.
Will sprinkler systems be installed in other council high rise buildings?
We are moving forward with resident consultation, procurement and installation at St James House which will also be match funded by East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service.
At the same time we are developing a business case for match funding of a sprinkler installation to Essex Place.
In addition, sprinklers are being installed as part of the extra care scheme at Brooke Mead as part of the New Homes for Neighbourhoods programme.
In the longer term, we will be reviewing the use of sprinklers, taking into account latest technology and future government guidance
Will sprinkler systems be installed as standard in new proposed high rise buildings?
We will also review our Asset Management Strategy and our New Homes Design Specification to take on board any learning or new regulation.
Do you have a 'stay put' policy?
We do not have a 'stay put policy'. Guidance from East Sussex Fire & Rescue services is for delayed evacuation.
If there’s a fire in your own flat, you should get out, stay out and call 999.
However, if there’s a fire elsewhere in the building, you are usually safe in your own flat with the doors and windows closed, unless heat or smoke is affecting you.
The Fire Service will evacuate you. When the Fire Service consider it safe for you to evacuate the building, they will tell you to leave. Their guidance will be reviewed in line with any national government review.
How are you keeping tenants informed?
On Friday16 June we sent a text message and housing staff hand delivered a letter to the 20 high rise blocks with cladding in the city.
Further letters and a printed copy of our fire safety leaflet will be delivered week commending Monday 26 June, along with a printed version of this FAQ.
On Saturday 8 July, we will update the citywide conference tenants meeting.
Will you be providing any further information to tenants?
As new information becomes available or questions asked, we will be updating this page. We are looking to publish further information on cladding types, fire risk assessments and general safety information in the coming days and weeks.
Stay up to date by checking www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/fire-safety-in-flats.
We'll also provide updates to tenants and leaseholders on Twitter and through text alerts.