Agenda and minutes

Scrutiny Review Group - Fire Safety - Tuesday, 19th September, 2017 9.30 am

Venue: Ground Floor Training Room. Civic Offices

Contact: Julia Cleary  Email: 01902 555046

No. Item


Apologies for Absence


Apologies were received from Cllr Miles and Cllr Sweetman.


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest.


Draft Terms of Reference for Group pdf icon PDF 73 KB

[To agree the scope and terms of reference for the Group]


The Group considered its remit and boundaries and the Chair clarified that the Group would be considering buildings owned by the Council and also those that were outside of Council control.

Areas for discussion could include clarification as to who was responsible for checking buildings and requirements on leaseholders. The Chair confirmed that the Group would be able to make comments on areas that could then be fed back to Government even if the decision was outside of the Council’s remit.

The Chair also confirmed that that the Fire Service could not be paid to check the buildings as they also had an enforcement role.

It was stated that in the past the Fire Service had been familiar with all of the buildings and that knowledge such as where the fire hydrants were was vital. The Chair agreed and stated that the Group needed to understand how processes were being managed, were the people managing them suitably trained and who was doing the monitoring (including during any modernisation processes).

The Group agreed that it was important to understand how the Council dealt with any immediate aftermath to an incident and whether emergency planning procedures were in place and tested. Important areas included ensuring that people had ready access to accommodation.

The Group indicated a need to find out what the data held by the Council and by Wolverhampton Homes was like and whether we could accurately advise how many people were resident in each flat.

The Group also queried what training was provided for residents.

The Group also commented on the responsibility of the Landlord to provide adequate fire evacuation procedures for residents and stated that not all residents would be able to read evacuation notices and that some deaf residents would require vibration pads and visually impaired residents might require notices to be in braille or to have flashing detector alarms rather than just sound alarms.



Resolved:      That the Terms of Reference be agreed.


West Midlands Fire Service

Jason Holt – Station Commander, Fire Safety, Birmingham and Black Country South



The Group wecomed Jason Holt – Station Commander and Pardeep Raw - Team leader for Black Country North fire safety team - Watch Commander.


The Fire Service had two main areas of focus which were prevention and protection.


In relation to prevention, representatives of the fire Service would go out to businesses to ensure that premises were safe for employees. Operational crews would also carry out safe and well visits with the aim of visiting every domestic dwelling across the West Midlands.


The question was raised as to whether specific staff were assigned to dwellings where vulnerable people lived and it was confirmed that there was a Vulnerable Persons Officer who would be assigned once a vulnerable person had been identified.


The question was raised as to whether the Fire Service were aware of how successful they had been in visiting the 36 tower blocks in the City and whether there were any additional constraints in visiting tenants rather than private home owners.


It was stated that in a tower block the Fire Service would have jurisdiction in the public areas only so could look at areas such as fire escapes and compartmentalisation. As with private dwellings, people living in tower blocks would request a free visit from the fire service.


Site Specific Risk Inspections (SSRI) were also carried out in targeted areas such as tower blocks and every tower block had been highlighted and wold therefore be visited. During the visit the Fire Service would make themselves available to residents and safe and well visits could be carried out there and then or future appointments made.


The Fire Service Confirmed that resources were not an issue and that resources would be planned to accommodate public need. It was confirmed that statistics relating to safe and well visits were available if requested.

The Group recommended that communications regarding the safe and well visits could be increased as there were people who thought they were not entitled to them and confusion over other similar providers who charged for such a service.  The Group agreed on the importance of getting the message out that the service was available, it was provided by the Fire Service and that it was free.


The group agreed that Councillors could help to promote the service in their wards.


The Group queried what the Fire Service did during an inspection.

It was stated that during a SSRI the response side of the service would go out on the fire engine and evaluate means of escape and access, how many residents were in the block, where the water supplies were and any other areas required for a response to a fire. In relation to protection audits were carried out under the Fire safety legislation of all communal areas, every fire door would be checked, stairwells checked and all areas of compartmentalisation.


However, it was confirmed that what went on behind the door of a private dwelling fell under different legislation. The Group queried what would happen if during  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.


Wolverhampton Homes

[Lesley Roberts – Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Homes and Simon Bamfield – Head of Stock Investment]



The Group welcomed Mrs Lesley Roberts – Chief Executive of Wolverhampton Homes and Mr Simon Bamfield - Head of Commercial Services and Stock Investment.


The question was raised as to who was responsible for fire safety at Wolverhampton Homes and it was confirmed that there was a policy which specified how this responsibility was delegated. At the moment, the responsibility and duty of care sat with the Stock Investment Manager who was a specialist member of staff for fire safety and he was supported by specialist health and safety officers.


The Chair raised the question of training in relation to these staff and it was stated that the Stock Investment Manager (Myk Kazuba) had great support from external partner organisations and in particular Sam Bunch, a fire safety consultant from Jacobs who was an ex fire fighter and Graduate Member of the Institution of Fire Engineers (Mr Bunch also held a NEBOSH General Certificate and IOSH Fire Safety Management qualification). It was also confirmed that there was a specialist fire safety advisor within the Health and Safety Team and that this officer liaised regularly with the Fire Service.


The question was raised as to whether the officer with responsibility for carrying out the risk assessments had access to information as to where the disabled tenants were and whether the officers carrying out the training had disability access training or awareness of disability access needs.  It was stated that there was a good general awareness of disability access issues and that in 2010 a piece of work had been carried out to look at accessibility in high rise blocks and that this was continuously under review (an example of this was new signage being put up at a lower level).


Mr Bamfield also stated that the fire risk assessment procedure was very prescriptive and focused on the inhabitants in the block of flats and their ability to escape safely.   It was also confirmed that the concierge staff had very good relationships with the residents that they looked after.


The question was then raised as to the training provided to the concierge staff and that if there was a fire what their role would be. Mr Bamfield confirmed that the Fire Service would take control in the event of a fire and that the concierge staff would be on site to provide what information they had in relation to the residents. It was confirmed that the concierge staff had training in relation to areas such as the use of evacuation chairs and had some experience of evacuating residents as there had been a number of different incidents over the years such as floods. 


Mrs Roberts confirmed that separate fire safety training would be provided for concierge staff and that this was scheduled for December and would be carried out by a reputable company.  Mrs Roberts also confirmed that there had been general training on fire safety to dated and that the Manager was a former fire fighter. The role of the concierge  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Health and Safety


The group welcomed Mr Phil Reilly - Health and safety Advisor at the City Council.

Mr Reilly was a Health and Safety Advisor and acted as a liaison between the Council and Wolverhampton Homes. Mr Reilly confirmed that the Housing Management database was shared with the fire Service and that within 12 hours the Council as landlord was informed of any incidents or fires and that all information was then be passed onto the relevant department.

Mr Reilly stated that there was a Social Housing Fire Safety Group part of the remit of which was to monitor any repeat incidents to ascertain if these were due to vulnerable residents who needed additional support or guidance.

Mr Reilly stated that following the Grenfell fire he had met with the Fire Service and carried out an audit and inspection of the high-rise blocks.

The question was raised as to what action was taken if the Fire Service reported problems in accessing a block of flats. Mr Reilly confirmed that when carrying out a Site-Specific Risk Inspection (SSRI) consideration was given as to whether the appliance and platform could gain access and that if there were concerns then this was tested and appropriate action could then be taken. The question was raised as to whether a hydraulic platform had visited the Graiseley Estate, Mr Reilly stated that he would check this.

Mr Reilly confirmed that he had a very good relationship with Wolverhampton Homes and that the Chief Executive was very proactive in her approach to fire safety.

Mr Reilly stated that prevention was the first directive and agreed that sprinklers were useful in some situations but as yet there was no evidence that having sprinklers would have prevented what happened in Grenfell. The Chair stated that some residents felt that they were being ignored in their requests for sprinklers due to cost. Mr Reilly responded that there had been 4 incidents recently when communal alarms had sounded and that all residents had stayed put and followed the advice given, there was no evidence that they would try to evacuate the building unless directed to by the Fire Service. 

Mr Reilly stated that when he had visited all the blocks with the fire Service after the Grenfell Fire he had been reassured by the faith that the residents had in the service and advice being provided to them and that they did not appear concerned or voice any worries. 

The Group queried whether Mr Reilly was aware of any plans to carry out fire alarm tests to ascertain how residents would react and to ensure that they were aware where the muster points were. Mr Reilly stated that there were no plans he was aware of but that this was a good idea to help reinforce the stay put policy and to ensure that residents knew what to do and where to go in an emergency. Mr Reilly confirmed that he would provide a written response regarding evacuation and muster points.



Corporate Landlord

[Neal Shore – Corporate Landlord, Compliance Officer]


The group welcomed Mr Tim Pritchard – Head of Corporate Landlord and Mr Neale Shore - Compliance Officer.

The Group welcomed Mr Pritchard and Mr Shore. Mr Pritchard confirmed that the remit of Corporate Landlord included the Council’s assets, facilities management and projects and works. Mr Shore stated that there were 165 corporate properties and 58 community schools and that the department was currently in the process of ensuring that these had a managed fire risk assessment programme in place. Corporate Landlord had only recently taken over the function for the buildings in June 2016 and for the schools in April 2017 so work in relation to this was still in the early stages.

The Chair queried what action had been taken since the Grenfell fire to check the cladding on school buildings. It was stated that the Council was awaiting information to be returned by the schools and as yet very little information had been received. Mr Shore confirmed that 10 fire risk assessments had been commissioned and that this was a rolling programme through 2018/2019 by the end of which assessments would have been carried out on all schools. Academies were not currently part of the rolling programme which was just looking at the 58 community schools. Mr Shore also confirmed that the focus now was on properties where people were resident rather than business properties. 

A query was raised in relation to fire risk assessments and the Civic Offices especially in relation to disabled people and barriers that that had breaks in them. Mr Shore stated that he would provide a written response in relation to this.

Mr Shore confirmed that Corporate Landlord were also working closely with Mr Sam Bunch, a fire safety consultant from Jacobs who was an ex fire fighter and Graduate Member Institution of Fire Engineers.

Mr Pritchard stated that now Mr Shore was in role that data and information could start to be collected to enable the team to understand how things stood now but it was confirmed that areas of high risk were being addressed with immediate effect.

Mr Pritchard confirmed that a questionnaire from the Department for Education had been completed and that this covered all community schools and that the Council were fully compliant with this. It was confirmed that the survey had dealt with buildings that were four storeys and above or that were residential.

Regarding buildings such as i10 it was noted that there was cladding and that this had been assessed by Mr Bunch who had also evaluated the evacuation plan and fire risk assessment and advised that at the moment this was sufficient and no further action needed to be taken. The Chair agreed that cladding was acceptable if mitigating systems were in place and that buildings needed to be looked at holistically. The Chair did however state that the cladding should be tested and it was confirmed that this would be the case if there was any uncertainty as to its composition. Unlike residential  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.