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Fire risk assessments
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An MOT for a building’s fire safety.
If you own a car over three year’s old you must have it independently safety checked every year. Likewise, the Council is required by law to carry out fire risk assessments (FRAs) on all of its social housing. How regularly FRAs are undertaken is dependent upon the type of building and the level of risk that the assessor places upon it. FRAs can take place every few months to two years and is also subject to change as circumstances vary.
FRAs identify potential fire risks found at the time the assessment was carried out and the measures that should be taken to minimise or eliminate that risk. Some of the key things FRAs look at are the safety and integrity of exit routes, the structural measures in place to stop or slow down the spread of a fire and whether there is anything inside the building that could start, accelerate or spread a fire.
They’re carried out by fully accredited professionals, who use an industry standard checklist – this checklist is used for all FRAs across the country. The national FRA checklist will not, however, include some of the things you might expect. For example, it does not require fire or smoke alarms to be tested and does not include anything relating to the outside of the building, such as cladding or external wall insulation.
We’re carrying out a full review of fire safety, including the areas not covered in FRAs, such as cladding and insulation, to ensure all of its properties are safe. Where additional works have been undertaken on our properties they are to comply with building regulations and are checked accordingly once works are complete.
The Council are always looking for ways to improve its fire safety measures, including FRAs. That’s why we’ll be working with residents, after this year’s FRAs have been reviewed, to launch a new and enhanced way of carrying out FRAs that will ensure that they are better tailored to Hackney estates. Receiving feedback from residents as to what the enhanced FRA needs to assess will be key to this new process.
FRAs can cover sections of buildings or entire blocks, depending on their construction and design. There are 1,800 FRAs covering all of Hackney’s housing. All of these FRAs are up-to-date, however as part of the fire safety review, the Council has committed to reviewing all of these within the next three months to ensure the safety of the building and residents.
Fire hazards are categorised according to their potential consequence and probability, and rated 1-5, with 1 being the most urgent. Any potential risks rated are reviewed and then prioritised in terms of the work required to resolve the issue. The types of risks could range from the removal of combustible items within the building, to fixing fire doors or smoke vents that are damaged or not working.
Priority 1 hazards will be resolved within 1 month, priority 2 with 6 months, 3 within a year and priorities 4 and 5 will be resolved in the next refurbishment.
FRAs are useful documents, providing an overview of any potential fire safety issues in a building, but they by no means provide a complete picture as to whether a building is safe or not. Like a car’s MOT, FRAs provide a snapshot of what was found at the time of inspection. For example, it might highlight a bike or some rubbish obstructing a hallway as a hazard, but that hazard might be removed hours or days later. Similarly, an FRA will not pick up on hazards in place after the FRA is completed – for example, if a fire door is damaged in between FRAs. This is why it is important that residents report any concerns they might have about fire safety.
Very few other councils have published their FRAs because they do not provide a complete picture and may make some people more anxious, however following the fire at Grenfell Tower, the Council wants to give residents as much information as possible about fire safety in their home. Due to the number of FRAs, the Council will be publishing them in batches as this will provide a range of FRA documents that represent all of our buildings types. Residents will also get a feel for what is being done generally as opposed to certain types of buildings all together.
If you have any questions about specific FRAs please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.