Thursday 6th July, 7pm – 8pm
A short talk was arranged by WCHT and Herts. Fire & Rescue with an opportunity for residents to voice concerns and ask questions about fire safety in their homes, with particular emphasis on the high rise blocks.
Station Commander Jim Moran opened proceedings by introducing himself, Watch Commander Adair, Fire Prevention officer Mr. Jim Attenborough and the crew of White watch from Garston fire station.
Mr. Moran spoke in some detail about the main causes of fire in the home, which are smoking and cooking.
Since the introduction of the smoking ban in public places there has been something of a shift in peoples smoking habits, with more choosing to smoke outside which for residents of high-rise accommodation often means out on balconies. He suggested that those who did so may wish to consider a small bucket of water or sand to extinguish smoking materials in – there have been incidents where cigarettes have been discarded over the side of a balcony and have blown back on to a balcony elsewhere on the building and started a fire. He cited one such incident in 2016 at Munden View. Thankfully, nobody was hurt on that occasion. He also commented that the use of barbecue equipment or other cooking apparatus on balconies to be ill advised.
In respect of kitchens, the most common sources of fires in recent years had been unattended grills or hobs. He advised that build ups of grease should be avoided on or around surfaces and that residents should avoid leaving open cooking devices unattended. People should also be aware of things around the cooking appliances – combustible materials like tea-towels or a stray curtain which might be blown onto a heat source.
Electrical fires continue to be an issue – people should look out for signs of burning on plugs and chargers – if any signs are apparent then the device should be disposed of immediately. If any electrical appliances are causing mains to trip, they should be isolated and looked at by a competent person before being re-used as this is often a sign of something seriously wrong.
Mr. Moran also mentioned the ability to register your white goods (fridges/freezers/washing machines/dish washers/tumble driers) with the manufacturers when installed. Doing this means that owners can be contacted if any issues are found with equipment later on and remedies need to be made or product recalls are issued.
He also mentioned people being aware of how and when they used candles – consider surfaces they place the items on before lighting them and also look at what may be around the candle – is there anything that could catch light?
If you have any concerns about fire safety in your home, the Brigade are able to come and talk to you – give them a call to arrange a visit.
In respect of the fire strategy for the high rise blocks, he explained that a “stay put” policy had been designated and that the buildings had been designed and built with this in mind. Whilst it was understood that residents may wish to evacuate if they became aware of an incident in a neighbouring flat and that it was absolutely their option to do so, mass evacuations can be problematic for the Brigade when they come to tackle the blaze. For more information on “stay-put” and high rise fire strategy in general, please see the Herts. Fire and Rescue website for their “High Rise Flats: What you Need to Know” pages.
Advice was given on the regular testing of the smoke alarm in each flat – residents should test them at least monthly and report any failings to the landlord immediately. Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue will come and fit battery operated alarms free of charge if asked, should any residents have concerns.
Mr. Moran also stated that the responsibility for maintaining a safe building falls to the landlord and that any issues or concerns should be reported to them for resolution – for example internal fire doors that don’t close or a fire exit door that won’t open or is blocked.
There was then a period for residents to ask questions of the brigade and also several members of the WCHT on an individual basis.