Friday, 12 August 2011

Social housing blocks 'unsafe in fire'

Three-quarters of all social housing blocks are potentially unsafe in a fire, according to a survey questioning managers responsible for ensuring buildings are properly maintained.
A similar proportion of housing managers are not confident that their blocks have had a proper fire risk assessment, according to the study, carried out jointly by the Chief Fire Officers Association and Chartered Institute of Housing.
The findings will further raise concerns that fire safety in social housing, particularly in high-rise blocks, remains a significant problem even two years after the Lakanal House tragedy in Camberwell.
Six people, including three children, died on 3 July 2009 when a blaze swept though the 14-storey south London block. While an official report into the cause has been delayed pending a still-running police investigation, fire experts who examined Lakanal's sister block concluded that decades of botched modifications to the 1959-built structure massively compromised its ability to contain fires, allowing the flames to spread at speed vertically and laterally, trapping residents.
Following the fire the Chief Fire Officers Association and Chartered Institute of Housing organised a series of safety seminars for professionals in the social housing sector, during which they polled participants about the blocks they managed.
A total of 400 people were surveyed at the first three events, all in England, using an anonymous, push-button vote system. Asked before the seminar whether they believed their buildings were "fit for purpose" regarding fire safety, 45% agreed. After the expert briefing this fell to 27%.
Similarly, while 40% were initially confident they had carried out proper fire risk assessments on their housing stock, this dropped to 25% afterwards.

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