Council owned high rise - fire safety FAQs
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 is the same material as used on Grenfell Tower. We've carried out additional precautionary inspections of all our council blocks, and have published cladding, insulation and fire safety details for all blocks on our 'high rise cladding, insulation and fire safety information' page.
Do any council high rise buildings have cladding made from material currently being tested by the UK Government?
None of our council high rises have cladding made from Aluminium Composite Material (ACM), which is being tested by the UK Government. The government is currently only testing ACM material.
You can also read the letter from the Department of Communities and Local Government to local councils and housing associations about safety checks.
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 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 range of different kinds of cladding used in residential and commercial buildings. Cladding can be used for a number of 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 of our high rise blocks have full cladding, and a further three have some form of cladding, mostly on the side. See our high rise cladding, insulation and fire safety information for more details.
Do any council high rise buildings have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower?
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.
What did you do as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire?
We took a number of actions to reassure concerned residents that our highest priority always has been and always will be their safety. We sent text messages to tenants of high rise council housing with cladding, and council housing staff personally hand delivered information letters to tenants and leaseholders living in all council owned high rise.
We conducted joint inspections with East Sussex Fire & Rescue Services (ESFRS) of all our high rise blocks, prioritising all those with cladding in the weeks following the Grenfell fire.
We also commissioned Bailey Partners to carry out an independent survey to double-check our buildings provide tenants with extra assurance, which included inspecting samples of cladding from a number of blocks. This survey is now complete and the report to the Housing Fire Health & Safety Board confirmed the findings of our joint inspections.
We 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 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. All our high rise buildings were re-inspected following the Grenfell Tower fire by both East Sussex Fire & Rescue and the council.
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 have published the fire risk assessments on our high rise cladding, insulation and fire safety page.
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 the nationwide inquiry.
What is the council doing for private sector owned high-rise buildings?
Working with ESFRS, we have contacted the 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 progressing with resident consultation, procurement and installation at St James's 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 affects 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 common ways clear?
Common ways such as corridors, lifts, stair ways, and entrance ways should be kept clear and free from any items or rubbish. For the safety of tenants and leaseholders, we are removing any bulky items and putting them into storage.
How are you keeping tenants informed?
We sent a text message and housing staff hand delivered a letter to the 20 high rise blocks with cladding in the city on Friday 20 June.
We have also since sent further letters along with a copy of our fire safety leaflet and a printed version of this FAQ.
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, and updating residents through our tenant and leaseholder newsletter Homing In.