Fire risk assessments for council owned properties

What is a Fire Risk Assessment (FRA)

Fire risk assessments are required to be carried out by landlords to establish what they need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe. They will normally involve an inspection of the communal areas of a building which will identify any work that needs to be carried out to improve fire safety. Southwark Council, defined as the responsible person in law, must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of all council-owned premises.

During a fire risk assessment, the following things will be included in the assessment:

  • emergency routes and exits (ensuring they are adequate for the building, its use and occupancy and kept clear)
  • fire detection and warning systems
  • firefighting equipment
  • smoke ventilation/clearance systems
  • suitable signage
  • staff training
  • firefighter facilities and access
  • the needs of those considered most vulnerable such as the disabled, elderly and children.

Which areas of a block of flats are inspected for the purposes of the FRA

The statutory requirement only specifies that an inspection of the common areas is undertaken (corridors, staircases, lobbies etc.) and, as a general rule, a fire risk assessment of common parts will be adequate for most buildings.

However, where there is any reason to question the fire resistance of external walls or panels, or any other separation elements found inside the building, an appropriate compartmentation survey will be undertaken. This is particularly important in the case of converted buildings, timber framed structures and any structure that has been subject to major refurbishment or other intrusive work over the past few years. 

Does every block of flats managed by Southwark Council have an FRA

Yes, and they are all up to date. We have published the high rise blocks (seven plus storeys) online for everyone to view.  Southwark Council has a very large number of council properties and has always been transparent in providing a copy of the FRA for any block on request. You can do this by applying online.  It may take up to 30 days to send you the FRA and we ask for your patience once you have submitted a request.

How often does an FRA need to be carried out

For our high rise blocks (blocks of seven storeys and above), sheltered housing units, hostels, tenants and resident community halls, traveller sites and our one extra care unit, we undertake yearly assessments. All other sites are inspected regularly, based on the previous Fire Safety Surveyor’s assessment of the building. For those sites, the time between assessments can vary between one and three years depending on the risk rating of the building. This is acceptable to the enforcing authority (London Fire Brigade) who we work very closely with on all fire safety matters.

There is no defined statutory timescale as to how often buildings should be assessed. However, the assessment should be regularly reviewed often enough to keep the assessment up to date with any changes to the risks to the premises. Some specific matters in the legislation would automatically trigger a review, so a fire risk assessment is a continuous process and audited if changes to any premises are made.

If nothing changes in the block, we still check the validity of each assessment yearly and where there are ‘trigger points’ such as a significant fire in the block, the completion of major works or a query from an individual that raises genuine concerns. In this instance, the building is inspected and the assessment is repeated.

What information is given to the council that is not given to residents

The information you see on the FRA is the same information given to everyone else in the council.  We do not withhold any information and this document provides full accountability.

Who carries out the FRAs

Southwark Council has its own in-house, highly experienced and qualified Fire Safety Team and the document carries the name of the individual who assessed the building and the date the fire risk assessment was completed. 

Why are there still a number of tasks shown as outstanding on the FRA

Different tasks are given different ratings and timescales in which they should be completed. We understand the need to comply with any tasks associated with fire safety as quickly as possible.

In some cases, by the time you view the document online, or following a request for the FRA, some of the outstanding tasks may have been completed, but not yet updated on the public copy of the assessment. 

The FRA you have viewed is in a PDF format and will not necessarily show the very latest updates as tasks are being actioned continuously.  Southwark Council has its own copy of the documents you are viewing and ensures the ones on the website or sent to you are updated to reflect when tasks have been resolved as soon as possible.

I live in the block and have noted an issue that is not in the FRA

The FRA is a snapshot in time and will only account for what the assessor noted at the time of their audit. The responsibility for fire safety is all of ours and not only do we expect council staff to report any issues during their checks and walkabouts but we expect residents to report issues too. We must ensure that everyone works together to keep our buildings safe.

What can I do to keep my building safe from fire

Unfortunately, we do still sometimes have fires in our blocks. These buildings are designed so that each flat is a compartment and will keep that fire from spreading to a neighbouring flat for at least an hour.  In order to keep you, your family, friends and neighbours safe please follow these simple rules:

  • keep common areas clear so that should residents need to escape a fire in an emergency, or firefighters need to enter the building, they are able to do so. The removal of all items from the escape routes will help to guarantee sources of fuel or trip hazards are eliminated
  • where your door is fitted with a self closing device, do not remove it.  If it is faulty please report it on 0800 952 4444. This ensures a fire is confined to a flat once the resident has escaped, and does not spread into the common areas.
  • report any fire safety defects  such as a fire door not closing properly to Repairs on 0800 952 4444
  • keep your internal doors shut at night. Any door - provided it is good fitting - will keep a fire in a room whilst you make your escape from your home
  • do not store white goods such as fridges, freezers, washing machines etc. in your hallway at home.  Do not charge electrical items in this area, particularly while you are asleep.
  • please be careful if you use candles or tea-lights, this is a very common cause of fires at home. Ensure that you never leave a burning candle unattended
  • if you smoke, please make sure you extinguish cigarettes properly
  • do not overload electrical sockets
  • test your smoke detectors weekly.  If you do not have a smoke detector contact the London Fire Brigade on 0800 028 4428.  They will fit a free smoke detector and give you home fire safety advice
  • do not park your vehicle over a fire hydrant or in a place which is likely to prevent easy access for a fire engine to your home or estate
  • take your rubbish directly to the bins provided. Do not leave rubbish in the communal areas or outside the building where it can be subject to arson. Don’t dump it, bin it
  • if you have a private balcony, keep combustibles to an absolute minimum
  • attend your tenant and residents’ meetings, be informed and talk to your Resident Services Officer to ensure you are involved with decisions about your estate

Useful information

 

Page last updated: 20 September 2018