Mount Wise Towers fire safety update

Mount Wise Towers fire safety update

Mount Wise Towers fire safety update – 14 July 2017

We have written to Mount Wise Tower residents today to assure them that their safety remains our top priority and reassure them that the additional safety measures we have put in place in the Mount Wise Towers continue to ensure that the Fire Risk Assessment remains valid.

I also want to update you about the ongoing works to further improve safety in the Mount Wise Towers:

Following on from our last statement when we shared the timetable of works, more individual home fire safety checks have been completed, so I want to say thank you to residents for allowing us into their homes to carry out these important visits.

The extra fire safety measures we have shared previously are:

  • We are continuously reviewing our Fire Risk Assessment in liaison with Devon & Somerset Fire Rescue Service
  • We have implemented 24/7 fire watch patrols of the Towers by security teams
  • We have carried out checks to ensure all fire doors remain in place and closers are fitted and operating as they should be
  • We have undertaken works to improve fire protection to the stairwells of each Tower as an extra fire safety measure

Extra smoke and heat detectors

We began fitting heat detectors to communal areas of the building from 28 June. This work is now almost completed and we will begin fitting heat detectors inside flats from Monday 24 July.

This will take a number of weeks to complete and these are in addition to the existing smoke detectors already in resident’s homes and as an extra fire safety measure.

We will be writing to residents again to let them know when all the alarms have been fitted and the system is active so they know what to do if they hear an alarm.

Sprinklers

Work to fit new sprinkler systems to the Towers is underway. A site visit by the manufacturer has taken place and designs are being drawn up now. It will take two more weeks to complete that work before we can begin planning the best way to fit the systems with the least amount of disruption for residents.

Cladding update

You may have seen in the media recently that further tests on ‘whole’ cladding systems are being undertaken by the Government.

These additional tests will help establish how different types of aluminium composite material (ACM) panels behave in a fire, in combination with different types of insulation. We are waiting to hear the results of these as we continue to carry out additional safety work.

Our most recent Fire Risk Assessment completed within the last week continues to assure the safety of residents whilst work to fit the extra fire safety measures takes place.

Our residents’ safety and peace of mind continues to be our highest priority.

John Clark

 

Mount Wise Towers fire safety update and works timetable – 28 June 2017

This is an update on Mount Wise Towers Plymouth following the Grenfell fire and Camden Council’s subsequent decision to evacuate their Chalcots estate after a number of issues were identified during an inspection with the Fire Service last Friday, which prevented them assuring their residents’ safety.

We wrote to residents of the Mount Wise Towers on Saturday 24 June to reassure them that we would not be evacuating the Towers because:

  • We have been working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service since the Grenfell Tower fire and have carried out a number of site inspections to ensure we have satisfactory fire safety measures in place.
  • We have reviewed our Fire Risk Assessment and been able to incorporate the requirements of the new Central Government guidance with extra fire safety precautions, meaning we are able to assure our residents’ safety.

We made a commitment last Thursday to remove the combustible elements of the cladding from the Towers as an additional precaution and have been developing a programme of works since then to achieve this at the earliest possible opportunity.

Whilst we are committed to removing and replacing the cladding of the Towers as soon as possible, this is a large and complex programme of works. The specialist consultants we are working with have identified a target date for the removal of the existing panels by the end of November 2017. They are continuing to develop a further programme of works to replace the panels with a product that is compliant. All works are subject to the availability of contractors and materials, regulations and permissions, as well as weather conditions.

Throughout this programme of works, we will continue to review the Fire Risk Assessments for the Towers to ensure our residents’ safety. In addition to the works to remove the cladding we are continuing with our work to further improve the fire safety of the building by installing heat detectors and a sprinkler system in each of the Towers.

I also want to remind you of all the measures we have in place to ensure our residents are safe.

  • Continuing reviews of our Fire Risk Assessments
  • 24/7 monitoring of the Towers by security teams
  • All doors compliant with fire regulations
  • All PCH owned-homes fitted with 60 minute fire doors in the Towers
  • Mains-wired smoke detectors/alarms
  • Non-combustible Rockwool insulation used in cladding at the Towers
  • Regular management inspections
  • External consultant advice on Fire Safety
  • Checks to ensure door closers are fitted and operating as they should be
  • Extra fire protection installed to the interiors of the stairwells of each Tower

Timetable of works

Wednesday 21 June Contractor of sprinkler system appointed (after ongoing talks from earlier in the year) and sprinkler system ordered
Thursday 22 June Commitment to remove cladding from Towers
Friday 23 June Stage one tender for the main contractor to arrange the removal of the cladding from the Towers issued
Contractor appointed to complete the installation of heat and smoke detector system throughout Towers, beginning with alert system in lobbies and communal areas – detailed plan for individual flats to follow
Monday 26 and Tuesday 27 June Survey work started on panels and windows to prepare for removal of cladding.
Wednesday 28 June Installation of fire alarm system and heat detectors begins in communal areas on each floor
Scaffolding design company appointed to draw up plans to fully scaffold and weather proof the Towers
Friday 30 June Deadline for return of tenders for main contractor to remove cladding
Wednesday 5 July Main contractor appointed for works to remove cladding
Mid July ·         Design of scaffolding required to surround Towers

·         Design of the sprinkler system – installation dates of sprinkler will not be known until designs received from contractor

End of July ·         Scaffolding tender submissions (likely three contracts at once)

·         Appointment of scaffolders

·         Erection of scaffolding begins on site (it will take at least 8 weeks to be fully completed, weather dependent)

End of September ·         Target for completion of the erection of scaffolding

·         Work to remove panels begins (it will take at least 8 weeks to be fully completed, weather dependent)

End of November Target for completion of the panels removal
December Installation of the non-combustible cladding begins. Until the system to be used is identified, we cannot confirm timescales.

We have been in regular contact with our residents and have hand delivered letters throughout the last week to keep them informed of developments. They received a copy of the timetable last night and we reassured them further that they will not need to move out of their homes whilst the work to install the additional fire safety measures is undertaken.

The Devonport Live café also remains open and is staffed by officers from the Council, Fire Service, police and of course PCH to provide a multi-agency response to this situation.

I hope it’s clear from our swift action that the safety and welfare of our residents remains our top priority.

John Clark, CEO

 

Update following decision by Camden Council – 23 June 2017

We are aware that Camden Council has taken the decision to evacuate their Chalcots estate following a joint inspection with the Fire Service earlier today.

We would like to reassure residents that we will not be evacuating the Mount Wise Tower blocks.

We have been working with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service throughout the week and have carried out a number of site inspections to ensure we have satisfactory fire safety measures in place . We have reviewed our Fire Risk Assessment and been able to incorporate the requirements of the new Central Government guidance and have additional fire safety precautions in place, which mean that it is not necessary to evacuate the towers.

We will update residents immediately if we receive any further information that changes the situation for us here in Plymouth.

The safety and welfare of our residents is, as always, our top priority.

John Clark, CEO

 

Statement from John Clark, CEO about the Mount Wise Towers – 21 June 2017

Earlier this week we wrote to Mount Wise Towers residents to advise them we were removing a panel from the towers to be sent for testing.

This was as an immediate response to the Government’s instruction. We have now been informed of the result by BRE.

The test was carried out on the sample panel of the outer layer of the cladding of the Towers. It has been found to be aluminium coated with a polyethylene core, which has been rated as category 3 under the new controlled test conditions. The fire rating scale goes from 0 to 3 (with 0 being the highest safety score and 3 being the lowest).

We know from previous inspections and fire risk assessments that the Rockwool insulation that makes up the inner layer of the cladding of the Towers is not combustible and has the highest fire safety rating (0 rated). This factor has not yet formed part of the Government’s test.

The system used at the Towers is not the same system reported to have been used at Grenfell Tower.

However, in light of the new information and guidance we have received from Central Government, we will be removing the combustible elements of the cladding from the Mount Wise Towers as soon as possible.

At PCH, we already have the majority of the fire safety measures outlined in the further guidance issued by Government this morning in place, which we have shared in our previous statement. 

We are taking some extra and immediate fire safety precautions outlined in the new guidance from today including:

·         We have completed a further review of our Fire Risk Assessment

·         We have implemented 24/7 monitoring of the Towers by security teams

·         We are completing further checks today to ensure all fire doors remain in place and closers are fitted and operating as they should be

·         We are installing additional fire protection to the interiors to the stairwells of each Tower today as an extra fire safety measure

There are elements of the guidance that will take longer to implement, but which we are also acting on immediately. They are:

·         Installing heat detectors into every flat in addition to the current mains-wired smoke alarms. The process of buying and installing will begin today and will be completed over a number of weeks.

·         A sprinkler system will be installed in each of the Towers. Feasibility tests were completed in February to ensure it was possible to fit a sprinkler system in each building and we have ordered them today. It will take a number of months before this is fully complete.

We have written to Mount Wise Towers tenants individually to inform them of this.

The cladding installed in 2000 met with all the fire and building regulations at the time and the action being taken now are precautions in response to the new information and guidance being issued by Central Government.

We are working closely with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service and Plymouth City Council on assessing risks, sharing information and responding to the latest information from the Government.

Anyone who is worried or has any questions should call us on 0808 230 6500.

John Clark, Chief Executive Plymouth Community Homes

 

Statement from Sue Shaw in response to the Grenfell Fire – 15 June 2017

Sue Shaw, Director of Homes, Neighbourhoods and Regeneration, said: “Firstly, we extend our deepest condolences to those affected by the tragic incident in Kensington.

“We take the safety and wellbeing of our residents extremely seriously and all our tower blocks are fitted with many fire-safety measures, including mains connected smoke alarms and fire doors that considerably exceed the statutory requirements. We take these legislative responsibilities relating to the prevention of, and escape from, fire extremely seriously.

“We also take an individual approach to vulnerable residents, working closely with colleagues in the Fire Brigade to tailor specific measures to keep people safe. Our policies, processes and fire risk assessments are all up to date; designed by our dedicated Fire Safety Manager, a fully qualified Fellow of the Institute of Fire Engineers, as well as external consultants and we undergo regular external audits.

“It is important that we do not speculate on the causes or spread of the fire at Grenfell until the full facts are known. I can confirm that we have not used the same cladding system as reported to have been used at Grenfell.

“We concentrate hard on fire prevention, and are never complacent. We have a learning approach to incidents, and when there is clarity about the causes of the Kensington fire we will formally consider whether there are additional measures that we can add to further improve our already-compliant position.

“I would encourage any residents to speak to their housing officers, who are regularly in the area, if they have any further questions.”

Block fire safety measures

  • Fitted with a minimum of 30 minute fire doors
  • All PCH homes are fitted with 60 minute fire doors in tower blocks (law requires 30 mins)
  • Mains wired smoke detectors/alarms
  • Individual fire risk assessments for each block
  • Non-combustible Rockwool insulation used in cladding on tower blocks
  • Regular management inspections
  • External consultant advice on Fire Safety
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