Ensuring fire safety in residential buildings with flammable cladding
The UK Government recently announced a new £30 million funding scheme to support the costs associated with buying and installing fire alarm systems, as a cost-effective alternative to the waking watch patrols that are enforced in many high rise residential buildings with unsafe cladding.
The fund builds on updated guidance published by the National Fire Chief’s Council (NFCC) that recommends a change in fire safety strategy from a ‘Stay Put’ to a ‘Simultaneous Evacuation’ evacuation strategy, supported by the introduction of temporary protection measures, such as ‘Waking Watch’ or a fire detection system, until the cladding is removed.
Whilst Waking Watch, when established and operated in accordance with NFCC guidance, is an acceptable risk mitigation strategy, if the remedial works are expected to take longer than 12 months, the NFCC strongly recommends the installation of fire alarm system as a more reliable, safe and cost effective solution to a Waking Watch.
National Fire Chiefs Council Chair, Roy Wilsher commented:
“We welcome this new Waking Watch Relief Fund, which will help to reduce the financial burden for some leaseholders having to fund the costs of waking watches. It has been our firm and long held expectation that building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible and this funding is a positive step.”
Waking Watch vs Fire Alarm System: How do the costs compare?
Remedial works can be lengthy and Waking Watch costs are ongoing. In research undertaken between June to September 2020 by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, the costs of employing a person to carry out Waking Watch duties 24 hours a day exceeds the average one-off cost of installing a fire alarm system in three to six months, depending on the hourly rate charged.
According to their data, the charge for a Waking Watch can vary between £116 to £499 per dwelling per month based on the hourly charge per warden across different parts of the UK.
In addition, some buildings require more than one person to carry out Waking Watch duties, while this doesn’t take additional charges into account.
Additional charges for equipment, facilities, accommodation and services can also be applied and, in most cases, the cost must be covered by the leaseholder, leaving many tenants at risk of bankruptcy.
What should you do next?
Installing a fire alarm system is a one-off cost with relatively low ongoing annual maintenance charges and typically delivers cost savings of more than 50% in the first year, rising significantly with each subsequent year.
BBC Fire & Security can help you choose the correct fire detection & alarm solution for your building by explaining the differences between each system type, to ensure you are well informed to be able to offer the maximum protection for the residents.