Safety rules tightened after fatal house fires

Fire & Fire & Rescue East Sussex.
Fire & Fire & Rescue East Sussex.

A string of fatal house fires have triggered a review of safety rules in Brighton and Hove’s council-owned homes.

Fires have led to the death of five people in the city over the past six years, and although not all the fires were in council properties officers and firefighters have prepared an updated policy reflecting rule changes and safe ways of tackling new properties.

In the past year two people have died in house fires, one of them in a council block.

Community campaigner Chris Cooke died in a fire at his home in Essex Place, in Brighton, in February last year, while nurse Alan Phillips died at his flat on the corner of Upper St James’s Street and Charlotte Street, in Kemp Town, in July.

A report to members of Brighton and Hove City Council’s Housing and New Homes Committee said: “Between 2011 and 2016 there have been 4,076 fires in the city resulting in five fatalities, 190 casualties and 62 rescues.

“During 2016 there have been 20 fires within the council-owned stock, tragically with one fatality.”

The report said: “The policy formally confirms the delayed evacuation procedure that we follow in purpose-built blocks where residents, if not directly affected by the fire, should remain within their property until advised otherwise, usually by the emergency services.”

It also said: “A review of mobility scooters, across the city was started earlier this year, assessing the storage options available for those tenants continuing to park in common ways.

“Advice from ESFRS (East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service) is that scooters should not be parked in the common ways of residential blocks where they would block escape routes.”

Work was taking place, councillors were told, to help those affected find appropriate ways of storing their scooters.

The report added: “Alongside this policy we have also

- updated our clear common ways procedure

-started work on a vulnerable tenants and fire safety process – this will ensure that our most vulnerable tenants are assessed and an overall risk management plan and measures are put in place to support them and minimise fire risk

- installed a sprinkler system in Somerset Point with further schemes subject to committee decision

- agreed a cooker cut-off pilot which will take place in one seniors housing scheme

- reviewed mobility scooter storage options across the city

“A project group is working on a protocol in respect of hoarding. The purpose is to enable targeted multi agency support to vulnerable residents of Brighton and Hove who are known to hoard.

“The group are formed of the fire service, mental health services, adult social care, housing, GPs and others, to develop a unified approach to resolving high-level hoarding cases.

“The fire risks to property, the person, neighbours and fire fighters are higher where hoarding exists.

“ESFRS and the police are working with housing to develop information and agree processes to enable safe supportive resettlement of vulnerable high-risk incoming tenants.

“There are instances where an incoming tenant will not have lived independently, possibly for years, and instead received intensive support to manage their accommodation.

“For example, those leaving supported housing, hostels or prison are to be provided with additional support and visited where required to enable safe independent living.”

The committee approved the policy on Wednesday (January 18).