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
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
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
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 the
inspection, it was noted that a front door was not the recommend
type under current guidance. The Fire Service stated that they
would highlight this to the resident and write to the Responsible
Person which could be the leaseholder or the landlord.
The Group questioned the approach taken during
any visit in relation to signage. The Fire Service stated that note
would be taken as to whether the signage was adequate, they would
point out if it was faulty or did not work and follow this up with
the relevant responsible officer. The Group queried whether signage
was looked for in different formats such as different languages or
braille and stated that signage had to meet the needs of the
residents. The Fire Service also confirmed that fire alarms were
not always used in blocks of flats as they were not intended for
The Fire Service confirmed that they did more
than a basic look but that it was not usual to consider the
demographic of the residents unless the building was designed for a
specific need such as a nursing or retirement home in which case
the signage would be specific to residents’ needs.
It was also confirmed that all residents were
given a booklet informing them of areas such as electrical issues
and anything that could affect them in an emergency. This booklet
was produced in several languages but not in braille. It was also confirmed that Fire Service Officers
providing training and advice would take time to ensure that
residents understood the information contained in the booklet and
that they were comfortable with any processes.
The Fire Service stated that in Birmingham
there was an agreement regarding Houses in Multiple Occupation that
if a tenancy agreement changed that the Landlord would let the Fire
Service know and they would arrange to carry out a safe and well
visit with the new residents. This was built into the tenancy
The Fire Service stated that they had a very
good relationship with Wolverhampton Homes and that visits had been
done and areas for improvement pointed out and timescales agreed.
Visits were also often made on an interim basis to see how
improvements works were being carried out and in some cases
Wolverhampton Homes had invited the Fire Service back to monitor
progress. Should deadlines not be met
then the Fire Service would enquire as to the reasons and if
progress was still not made then enforcement action could be
Some concern was raised by group members that
tenants should not be treated differently to leaseholders and that
it would be unfair to expect them to abide by more rules than those
who owned their own properties. The Fire Service responses that it
made no difference to them who or n what capacity the person was
who lived in the premise, everyone was treated in the same way.
The Group queried the role of the Fire Service
in relation to the fitting of cladding and it was confirmed that
the Fire Services might comment on what the building regulations
said or if they saw something in breach of regulations but cladding
was not something that was checked during a fire safety audit.
The group considered whether there should be a
disability access audit as standard especially as local authorities
moved more towards the independent living agenda.
The Group requested clarity as to the stay put
advice that had been given in relation to Grenfell. The fire
Service stated that this advice was given when a block of flats was
not designed for simultaneous evacuation and that stay put had been
proven to work in the past and that this advice had been reiterated
at tenant meetings.
The Group moved on to considering access
issues for the Fire Service when attending a call and whether in
most cases they could get close enough to the building. The Fire
Service stated that the same procedure was followed whether the
call be for a pan fire or if flames were spreading outside of the
windows. A pre-determined number of officers would be sent to the
scene and plans would be put into place. If these plans did not go
as expected, then this would be fed back in and new plans put in
place. If the fire crew could not get the required access, then
this would again be fed back into the process and fed into any
plans for that area. It was confirmed
that a hydraulic platform wold only reach up to 6 floors and a high
rise was classed as 8 floors and above. Again, this was an area
that had been reconsidered and when looking at cladding all
building 6 floors and above were considered.
The Fire Service stated that following
Grenfell each brigade had been given a list (there were 600
nationally) showing those buildings which had been identified as
cladded. West Midlands Fire Service was at the centre of this
operation and were liaising with every fire service across the
country. The Fire Service had visited every single block within a
week to check areas such as access and egress and whether the
cladding was aluminium composite.
There was close liaison with the operational
side with response officers looking at their activities considering
what had happened and ensuring that all residents were kept
informed as to what they were doing. Council representatives also
met with the Fire Service at the majority of the tower blocks to
help reinforce the message and the work being carried out. If there
was cladding on a tower block the advice was then to send a sample
to the national testing body and if the cladding failed, then the
tower block would be revisited with the Responsible Person and a
plan of action drawn up.
It was noted that there was some overlap in
legislation regarding responsibility for communal areas. The Fire
Service was the enforcing body and where something was discovered
in breach of the regulations then the Landlord would be informed.
The group queried who was responsible for front doors and it was
stated that this depended on the lease agreement, the enforcing
authority would still be the Fire Service but who was being
enforced against could differ.
The Group queried who was in charge in an
emergency fire situation and it was confirmed that this would be
the Incident Commander. The Incident Commander would make a
tactical plan and if they felt that the situation was escalating
they could bring in whatever resources were required to manage the
It was stated that there was currently a very
good working relationship between the Fire Service and
Wolverhampton Homes with no apparent weaknesses.
The Group queried the data that the Fire
Service would have in an emergency and it was stated that crews now
had mobile data terminals that allowed them to access data from
visits and safe and well checks and included information in access
and road width and the type of premises that was on fire (e.g.
The question of sprinklers was raised and the
Fire Service stated that yes, they would recommend but only in the
same way that they would recommend adequate compartmentalisation as
part of ensuring a building had adequate fore precautions in place.
Caution was also given to wait until the final report into the
Grenfell Tower fire before making recommending and major fire
initiative and the cause was still to be determined.