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Fire and rescue services: knowledge and understanding of materials used in high-rise buildings

Theme 1

Fire and rescue services: knowledge and understanding of materials used in high-rise buildings

Last updated: 16 May 2022

Recommendation

33.10a

That the owner and manager of every high-rise residential building be required by law to provide their local fire and rescue service with information about the design of its external walls together with details of the materials of which they are constructed and to inform the fire and rescue service of any material changes made to them.

Progress date:

18 May 2022

Responsible for completion:

  • Government

Progress

Status

In progress

The Government consulted on its proposals to implement this recommendation in its Fire Safety Consultation (carried out in 2020). The Government responded to the consultation last year (link).

The Fire Safety Act (FSA) achieved Royal Assent on 29 April 2021. The Act clarified the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Fire Safety Order) as including the external walls (including cladding and balconies) and flat entrance doors for premises containing two or more sets of domestic premises.

The Government commenced the Fire Safety Act on 16 May 2022. This provides new guidance in support of the Fire Safety Act and launched the Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool (FRAPT).

This will now remove legal ambiguity and require responsible persons to update Fire Risk Assessments to take account of external walls and flat entrance doors. The FRAPT will help responsible persons identify which buildings should have their Fire Risk Assessments updated first.

In the last thematic update (published in September 2021), we reported that Government intended to lay regulations under article 24 of the Fire Safety Order in Autumn 2021 to implement this recommendation. Ahead of laying these regulations, Section One of the Fire Safety Act 2021 needed to be commenced.

Commencement of the Fire Safety Act has allowed the Government to lay The Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (available on legislation.gov.uk).

Under the Regulations, the responsible person of a high-rise residential building must prepare a record of the design of the external walls of the building including the materials from which the walls are constructed. The Regulations also require the record to contain details of the level of risk which has been identified by the fire risk assessment and the mitigations have been taken in relation to that risk. The responsible person must send this record electronically to their local fire and rescue service. A template will be provided to assist the responsible person in preparing this record.

The Regulations will become law after a period of 40 days from 18 May subject to parliamentary approval. This will happen on 8 July 2022.

In order to allow responsible persons and the Fire and Rescue Service time to prepare and for supporting guidance to be published on the new duties imposed by the regulations, the new duties do not commence until 23 January 2023.

 

Recommendation

33.10b

That all fire and rescue services ensure that their personnel at all levels understand the risk of fire taking hold in the external walls of high-rise buildings and know how to recognise it when it occurs

Progress date:

April 2023

Responsible for completion:

  • Fire and Rescue Services

Progress

Status for fire and rescue services

In progress

Status for London Fire Brigade

Complete

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) report that to fully address recommendation 33.10b, fire and rescue services should review all training products to ensure that the hazards associated with external wall system failures are identified, including those related to Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding, are covered, and then carry out training and assessment of all staff on how to identify control measures to respond to the hazard of fire spread in external wall systems.

In March 2022, the NFCC surveyed all fire and rescue services (with the exception of the London Fire Brigade) in England about their progress against this recommendation:

  • 40% of services (17 services) have completed this recommendation and have trained all relevant staff using NFCC products. This includes updated NFCC guidance and a suite of building information sheets to help services embed the lessons associated with fire spread on external walls of high-rise buildings. This represents a 17% increase from the previous NFCC survey completed in July 2021.
  • 55% of services (24 services) reported they will have completed training and assessment by the end of April 2022.
  • 5% of services (two services) have not yet reviewed existing training. One service has no risk associated with high-rise residential building risk in their area, and follow neighbouring service procedure, their inspection teams have appropriate training. The other service consider the existing training products to be suitable, so have focused on making changes to other areas, but intend on reviewing training when capacity allows.

The NFCC has produced a number of guidance documents and training materials to support services. These cover: 

  • High rise residential buildings and building failures
  • Impact of fire or firefighting on structural elements or structural frames
  • Impact of fire or firefighting on structural materials
  • Partial or structural collapse: Fires in buildings
  • External fire spread
  • Undetected fire spread
  • Fire spread breaching a compartment
  • Fires in buildings greater than 18m

London Fire Brigade has reported that it has completed recommendation 33.10b. All of the Brigade’s operational and control staff have received training to recognise and understand the risks involved in fires taking hold in the external walls of high-rise buildings and how such risks may be mitigated to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters.