Fire safety a top priority in high rise flats

A new sprinkler system is being installed in a high rise social housing block as part of a drive to improve fire safety for residents.

The installation of the retro-fit fire sprinkler system at Marsden Court, Leeds, is the only one in West Yorkshire, and will ensure the highest level of protection to all residents and substantially reduce damage to buildings in the event of a fire.

Retro-fitting involves a sprinkler system being installed in existing older buildings rather than during the construction stages of a building.

Following the installation of the sprinkler system in the block, which includes 71 flats, a city-wide review of all high rise blocks will take place to determine if it is feasible to install in other blocks throughout the city.

As well as the sprinkler system, low level signs indicating floor levels and exits are also being installed which would help people find their way out in the event of smoke-logged corridors and assist fire fighting.

Two residents volunteered to be the first to have the system installed.

Margaret Adamson, one tenant in Marsden Court said:

“I knew they had to try it out in one of the flats to know that it would work and I was more than happy to let them use mine for the trial. I’m pleased it’s been completed, I now have peace of mind knowing the system will kick in if a fire was to start.”

Councillor Peter Gruen, Leeds City Council executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services said:

“The safety of our residents is a top priority for the council and we want to make sure we are offering the best possible fire protection.

“I would like to thank the two residents who agreed to taking part in the trial and offering for their properties to have the new technology installed first.”

Dave Walton, Assistant Chief Officer for West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said:

“High rise social housing blocks create a number of specific and unique fire safety and fire fighting challenges that may not exist in other properties. Recent tragedies involving the loss of Firefighters’ lives in high rise premises in other parts of England have generated many lessons to be learned.

“The fact that Leeds City Council is undertaking this project shows that lessons are being learned in order to prevent such events happening in the future.”

Notes to editors:

Background from West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS):

Following the deaths of two Firefighters in a high rise block of flats in Southampton in 2010, the Coroner made a number of national recommendations under Rule 43.

The following two are of particular importance to housing associations.

There should be an obligation to:

• provide signage to indicate floor levels both in stairwells and lift lobbies in high-rise premises, to assist the emergency services.

• consider the retro-fitting of sprinklers in all existing high rise buildings in excess of 30m in height for social housing providers.

To discuss the fitting of sprinkler systems contact WYFRS Head of Fire Engineering Planning & Licensing, Nigel Charlston on 01274 473896.

For media enquiries, please contact;

Cat Milburn, Leeds City Council press office (0113) 247 4450

Email: Catherine.milburn@leeds.gov.uk