2. Executive Summary
This summary presents the key findings from the Scottish Government's consultation on Stengthening Fire Safety in High Rise Domestic Buildings. The focus of the consultation was on four of the Recommendations from the Ministerial Working Group on Building and Fire Safety Post-Grenfell.
1. Specific fire safety guidance aimed at all residents of high-rise domestic buildings.
2. Introduction of Scottish guidance concerning Fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats.
3. Introduction of Scottish guidance concerning fire risk assessments.
4. A fire safety campaign relative to common areas.
The Scottish Government publicly consulted on four of the recommendations. The consultation was live via an online survey via Citizenspace from 24 April to 17 July 2019 and copies provided on request and responses included. In total 70 responses were collected from 35 individuals and 35 organisations with an interest in fire safety in high rise domestic buildings.
2.2 General findings from the consultation
Part 1 - Fire Safety Information for People Who Live in High Rise Domestic Buildings
There was a preference for information to be given to residents in leaflet form but there was also support for a mix media approach when distributing information. It was felt that it was important to ensure that the information is accessible to all.
Respondents also felt that the information needed to be easy to understand by people with a range of language skills. It should be made available in other languages and formats.
The majority of respondents were supportive of the guidance; agreeing that it provides good information on stopping fires from happening, provides good information on what to do if a fire starts and aids understanding of fire safety.
Clarity was required around safety of electrical appliances and around making specific warnings impactful so that they are adhered to.
Clarity was also required when it came to 'stay put' advice. Respondents had major concerns that they were receiving conflicting advice on 'stay put'. Information needs to be clearer on when to evacuate the building.
With regards to processes to report fire safety concern some respondents did not know if there was a process in place or if it worked. They were also unsure whose responsibility it should be to monitor the process.
Respondents would like more information on action they should take in general. There seemed to be a lack of information provided to tenants by Residents Associations and also due to absentee landlords.
Part 2 - Fire Safety Campaign relative to Common Areas
Respondents welcomed information to encourage people not to leave items in common areas, but it was acknowledged that there may be people that would ignore the guidance.
Some respondents welcomed the idea of supporting the information with hard hitting images. This being said a few organisations highlighted that there should be a balance between the images being hard hitting and not causing concern or anxiety for residents.
A campaign to provide information on not leaving items in common areas was thought to be a great idea. Respondents felt a multimedia campaign would be the best approach to take.
It was mentioned by respondents that a mechanism or method of reporting items in common areas would help. In general, a caretaker/concierge or contacting the Local Authority was the current way of reporting items but no structured or formal mechanism exists.
A suggestion was made to have SFRS reinforce the importance of not leaving items in common areas as people were more likely to listen to them compared to a landlord.
Eight out of thirty-nine respondents (21%) didn't know if there is a process for the removal of items and others that knew there was a process didn't know if it worked. Reasons for this are unclear. Clear guidance on processes would be useful.
With regards to a method for providing information on keeping common areas safe, it was felt that via a noticeboard/poster was the best option following by SFRS home visits and printed information from the landlord when moving in.
Part 3 - Fire Safety in Existing High-Rise Domestic Buildings Guidance, including Fire Risk Assessments.
On the Fire Safety in Existing High Rise Domestic Buildings Guidance, of those responding the majority responded that it was clear;
- who the guidance was aimed at
- how it should work in practice
- how to prevent the impact of fires
- how to reduce the impact of fires
The guidance was praised for being very helpful and also useful to support information sessions. It was also felt that information around physical fire safety was particularly important and useful.
Common areas were a key theme in this section with multiple mentions; 58% of those that factor/manage properties knew if there was a process for the removal of items in common areas and only 59% were confident the process works. Difficultly around keeping them clear of items was commented on and that more emphasis should be placed around removal of items, in the guidance.
The majority of respondents felt that there were clear reasons for fire risk assessments and that the 7-step method was also clear. However, the responsibility and competence of those carrying out the fire risk assessments were discussed - who would carry them out? Will they be properly qualified?
It was also mentioned that fire safety within high-rise buildings should be everyone's responsibility including the residents.
Examples were given of further information to include - best practice examples, ban on smoking, clarity of electrical testing guidance and installation, zero tolerance for items in common areas, continual review and update of the guidance.