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Fire Safety in High-rise Buildings – Waking Watch vs Fire Systems

Following the Grenfell Tower fire, new government guidelines were issued for residential blocks of flats having hazardous combustible cladding systems, asking for flammable material removal and the temporary implementation of a simultaneous evacuation strategy.

Fire authorities have attended 300 similar fires at residential blocks since the Grenfell tragedy – actions must be taken to avoid the risk of a repeat disaster.

National Fire Chiefs Council stated waking watch and fire alarm systems are likely to be appropriate to support the evacuation in case of fire, but it indicated a temporary common fire alarm system as the preferable solution.

Waking Watch or Simultaneous Evacuation Fire System?

A Waking Watch is where staff are employed to continually patrol all floors and the exterior perimeter of the building in order to respond to a fire.

In the event of a fire they will call the fire service and assist with the evacuation of occupants of the building.

The National Fire Chiefs Council guidance updated October 2020 states “These key changes to the guidance reinforce both the stakeholder group and NFCC’s firm and long held expectation that building owners should move to install common fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches and the arrangements for existing buildings should be reviewed regularly.  This is the clear expectation for buildings where remediation cannot be undertaken in the ‘short term’.

“Waking Watches have been used prior to this current building safety crisis as a short- term measure in buildings with increased fire risks and should only be used temporarily.  A Waking Watch should not be the first measure to mitigate risk and the Consolidated Advice Note provides guidance on this. We share the very real concerns that residents have about how long some of these measures have been relied upon, and how waking watch is being implemented by responsible persons around the country.”

“This approach should, in almost all circumstances, reduce the financial burden on residents where they are funding the waking watches.

Find out more about the limitations of a Waking Watch Service:

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A Simultaneous Evacuation Fire System

Wireless fire systems are the ideal solution to assist the evacuation of tenants in high-rise residential buildings, quickly detecting fire, efficiently warning to escape, and providing long-term lasting peace of mind.

Our system, is compliant with BS5839 Part1 L5 and uses heat detectors placed in each flat working as “cladding detectors” and with wall sounders in common areas to alert building residents in seconds in the event of fire and to assist with evacuating the property.

Once the dangerous cladding has been removed, and any other remedial works are completed, the system can be easily modified to a BS5839 active fire protection system or a BS8629 evacuation system.

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Cost Benefits of a Simultaneous Evacuation Fire System

It is estimated that more than 500,000 people have been living with unsafe cladding and this means considerable costs for property owners and leaseholders. Waking Watches have been introduced but they very expensive, in some cases charges are running at up to £1500 per apartment per month.

As well as being the safest option a further major benefit of a Simultaneous Evacuation Fire System installation is the cost. The one-off cost of an installed new system is considerably less than the annual cost of the waking watch, typically paying for itself in less than 10 weeks!

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Residents

From inadequate fireproofing, including insufficient cladding and fire door considerations, to ill-equipped fire safety equipment and limitations to escape routes – there are many areas which need addressing.

On top of being in a building that won’t keep them safe in the event of a fire, residents and leaseholders are mostly being lumbered with these waking watch costs, of hundreds of pounds a month, rises in insurance, coupled with an inability to sell or re-mortgage properties, and not to mention the impact on mental health. and well-being.

Many report that ‘Waking Watch’ patrols are not even performing this service effectively.

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Waking Watch Relief Fund

The government has announced a new £30 million fund to pay for the costs of installing an alarm system in buildings with unsafe cladding. Alarms systems will enable costly Waking Watch measures to be replaced in buildings waiting to have unsafe cladding removed.

The fund began accepting applications from 31 January 2021.

Find out more about the Relief Fund and how to apply:

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To discover more and find out how you could benefit from a Simultaneous Evacuation Fire System please complete our enquiry form.