How at Risk are Tower Blocks from Fire?

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Following the Grenfell Tower fire last year, the government has asked for widespread fire risk assessments of tower blocks across the country.

The results are unsettling with trade magazine Inside Housing reporting that hundreds of tower blocks in England have safety flaws.

While, after Grenfell Tower, cladding remains and important issue, there are other flaws reported that could lead to blazes spreading and engulfing entire buildings.

Inadequate Standards

Fire risk assessments at 436 social housing blocks revealed that 268 of them had damaged fire doors, or fire doors which would not close properly or were of an inadequate standard. This is nearly a third of the total blocks assessed.

Inside Housing has also reported that 71 of the blocks either had no emergency lighting or not enough of it in communal areas and stairwells – essential for assisting in the safe evacuation of a building in the event of a fire.
Furthermore, at 73 of the blocks, findings were that residents had been offered either no fire safety information, or the information they did have was incorrect or unclear.

While fire experts recommend annual checks, there is no legal requirement covering around 4,000 tower blocks across England for building managers to carry out fire risk assessments within a specific time-frame.

Insulation Layer Risks

While, since Grenfell Tower, cladding on blocks has become a key issue, resulting in calls for wider testing, insulation may also be a potential source for fire to spread.

Insulation between tower block walls and external cladding may be just as, or more, combustible.

Typically, insulation layers are thick and lie behind aluminium cladding on 140 tower blocks in England. They have not been tested.

There is therefore a suggestion that focussing on cladding is only dealing with half the problem, with insulation layers having the potential to combust.

Scotland Yard has stated that both the cladding and insulation from Grenfell Tower failed its safety tests. There is a theory that the 50mm gap between the thick layer of insulation and the cladding acted like a chimney, drawing hot air up the building to ignite the cladding.

Is Your Building at Risk?

For a comprehensive fire risk assessment, contact Comply at Work and make sure you’re managing your fire risk.