Fire safety at the top of the agenda

The sectors focus on fire safety has undoubtedly sharpened since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, but what is being done to ensure the safety of our residents and safeguard the future of our housing stock?

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Housing associations are required to carry out fire risk assessments (FRA) across their portfolios and much hard work has gone in to ensuring that this is as robust a process as possible and staff have the expertise needed.

At Midland Heart Housing Officers have completed FRA inspections alongside their housing officer tenancy management duties, but in 2016 we took the decision to recruit a dedicated FRA team, specialising in undertaking suitable and sufficient FRA’s in line with FSO2005.

Having dedicated resource with a vast array of fire safety experience to manage such an important aspect of our work was central to performance improvement, but it is equally important to have the right systems in place to support this.

Over the past two years, we have worked closely with C365 Cloud to develop a bespoke fire module to help us plan our FRA programme.

With this valuable tool and closely monitoring and reporting on our progress, we have seen significant compliance performance improvement.

Beyond the correct systems and processes, the business has undergone a culture shift embedding fire safety management and compliance in the heart of all that we do.

Providing ongoing training for our FRA Officers to gain their IFE qualification ensures the team have the highest possible accreditation but internal training for staff, scheme managers, rangers and caretakers places the responsibility upon us all.

Scheme staff undertake joint FRA’s with fire risk assessors and we make sure our contractors have a responsibility for fire safety too. This joined up approach has seen results.

However, working in a business critical function that is continually changing and evolving it is vital that we keep up to date with industry best practice and learning, going outside of the sector to understand what ‘good’ looks like.

In order to do this we have signed up to a Primary Authority Scheme with West Midlands Fire Service.

This partnership will reinforce and formalise our existing relationship with one of our key stakeholders and enables us to obtain advice on fire safety issues from an enforcer’s point of view.

As well as developing the skills and knowledge of staff that will take Midland Heart further on our journey of achieving excellence in this critical compliance area, this also brings increased confidence in future investments made.

For us fire safety has and will continue to remain at the top of the agenda.

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