CIH: Fire safety needs to be ‘clear and concise’ in wake of Grenfell

Revised Scottish Government publications on fire guidance are said to have the potential to “create confusion” for tenants.

BV_Managing fire risk

The safety of people living in high-rise flats across Scotland has been the focus of a public consultation launched by the Scottish Government in April.

Calling for views on how to simplify the guidance available to everyone who lives in high-rise flats, the Scottish Government has today (16th July) released the publication of revised fire safety guidance for landlords across the country.

The consultation also sought views on proposals for a public information campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of leaving rubbish or unwanted items in common areas within high-rises.

The consultation was implementated as part of the Scottish Government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire in London in 2017.

Responding to the consultation, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) Scotland has welcomed the publication of revised guidance but has called for the Scottish Government to ensure that fire safety messages for residents are clear and consistent in the wake of Grenfell.

In its response, CIH Scotland cited concerns that information proposed in the fire safety advice for high rise residents around the ‘stay put policy’ does not match with the current advice from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), and that this has the potential to “create confusion” for residents.

CIH Scotland has also called for the fire safety advice to include a clear rationale for the stay put policy to ensure that residents fully understand its purpose and to make it clear that they will not be prevented from evacuating their homes in the event of a fire in a neighbouring property if they choose to do so.

CIH Scotland has also welcomed a renewed focus on the importance of keeping common areas clear to avoid the risk of fire spreading but has warned that while many landlords make a concerted effort to outline the rules in tenancy agreements and other communication, these can be particularly “challenging to enforce”.

Commenting on the response, CIH Scotland’s policy and practice officer Susanne Flynn said: “We recognise that fire safety regulations are already stringently applied in Scotland but CIH Scotland is supportive of any measures which seek to improve understanding and increase awareness of fire safety for both tenants and landlords.

“The publication of revised guidance also provides landlords and other building managers with a timely opportunity to review their existing fire safety measures.

“An awareness raising campaign to highlight fire safety risks in common areas is also a welcome step but this must be clear about the approach taken to keeping common areas clear and why this is so important for residents.”

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