Latest Fire Safety News

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European Commission publishes smoke toxicity study report paving the way for further work to collect data and develop solutions

8th March 2018

Brussels, 26 January 2018

The European Commission published the final report of its study to evaluate the need to regulate on the toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires. The conclusions of the report and its consultants, the BRE, state that “clear definition of terminology is lacking” and “the type and format of data collected varies across Member States, and, at present, statistics on smoke toxicity are not collected and therefore the effectiveness of potential measures cannot be assessed.”

FSEU commends the work done by the European Commission on this study, which must be a first step towards further work. FSEU urges the European Commission to seize this opportunity to put forward a clear work plan for smoke toxicity, starting with data collection, and stands ready to support this work. FSEU firmly maintains its conviction that once the missing data is available, a European system for testing and classification of the toxicity of smoke from construction products should be developed to ensure a step change in people’s fire safety in buildings.

The Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), a new platform convened by the European Commission and launched in October has data collection as one of its five work streams. FSEU sees the FIEP as a great solution to collect data on smoke toxicity across EU countries and get a full picture of the issue. It will provide a solid basis for the European Commission to create, as suggested in the conclusions, “an agreed European system for testing and classification, with regulations and requirements at national level”.

Lastly, FSEU is happy to see that the study rightly identifies the danger of smoke being able to enter safe zones and/or escape routes, and looks forward to this issue being considered in new or amended regulations.

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It’s not too late to make your New Year’s resolution!

10th January 2018

Many people see January as an opportunity for a fresh start, and keeping you and your loved ones safe should be top of the list. Maybe circle the first of every month on your calendar and tick it off when you have tested your smoke alarms?

Do you have enough smoke alarms in your home?

The recommendation is at least one at every level in your house.  Last year, in nearly half of all fires in the home where the smoke alarm did not go off, the reason was the alarm was not placed close enough to detect the fire.  Missing or flat batteries were another major cause.

Testing your alarms only takes a few seconds and can saves lives, giving the few extra seconds you need to escape in a fire. While the majority of homes across the country now have an alarm fitted, most people are not aware that the average alarm has a lifespan of ten years and then needs replacing.

Keeping your alarms in working order:

  • Make sure there is at least one smoke alarm on every level of your home;
  • Test your smoke alarms by pushing the button every month;
  • Check that your smoke alarms are less than 10 years old;
  • Fit smoke alarms on landings and hallways and near bedrooms.  Also consider in rooms which have electrical appliances – e.g. a heater or charger – or other fire risks;
  • Take a moment to check on your loved ones who may need help to ensure they’re fully protected.

Alan Gilson, Community Safety Prevention Manager said: “At this time of year, many people will be thinking of what they can do – big or small – tomake a fresh start and improve their lives, homes and wellbeing.  Smoke alarms can offer vital protection for you and your loved ones, but most people simply fit and forget – they don’t know if it might be coming to the end of its lifespan or not working at all.

“For most of us, there is nothing more important than keeping our loved ones safe and secure. So if your alarm is getting past its best or your top floor is missing an alarm of its own, make your New Year’s resolution to fit new ones, test them on the first of every month and protect your loved ones in 2018.”

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Smoking related fire deaths rise in London

8th March 2018

Most fatal fires are started by discarded cigarettes, matches and lighters according to Fire Facts, the London Fire Brigade’s comprehensive annual review of fire data. The report covers up to the end of 2016 and does not include the tragic Grenfell tower fire that happened in June last year.


So many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented

Overall fires are down, but the Brigade remain concerned about the number of fatalities and injuries from fires that are largely preventable such as those caused by smouldering cigarettes, unattended candles but also faulty white goods such as fridges and freezers.

London Fire Brigade Director of Operations Tom George said:

“Last year, there were around 11 smoking related fires per week and at least one smoking related fire fatality every month. These are often small fires started when people have fallen asleep smoking or have been drinking and smoking. It’s not uncommon for people to have died in these sorts of fires before the alarm is even raised.

“So many of these deaths and injuries could have been prevented either by switching to vaping or, providing personal sprinkler systems and fire proof bedding for the most vulnerable.

“This shows how important our community safety work is. Modern firefighting is about stopping fires happening in the  first place, prevention is much than better cure.

“These figures show that there is still more prevention work that can be done and the Brigade is keen to maximise its partnership work with local authorities, health providers and community groups. Far too many older and vulnerable people are dying unnecessarily in avoidable fires due to mobility issues or because fire detection systems are just not in place or working properly.”


Homes need multiple smoke alarms so that they are properly covered

Last year crews carried out around 84,000 home fire safety visits where they fitted smoke alarms, provided safety advice and worked with councils and housing providers to provide fire proof bedding and other practical equipment. The Brigade’s focus is to visit vulnerable people who have lifestyle characteristics that put them at greater risk from having a fatal fire.

The Brigade wants to see homes with multiple smoke alarms so that they are properly covered. Smoke alarms should be fitted in all rooms where fires can start, including rooms where you leave electrical equipment running like satellite boxes, computers or heaters; any room where you smoke, and anywhere you charge your mobile or laptop. As a minimum you should have smoke alarms on every floor – in the hallways and the rooms you use the most, plus a heat alarm in the kitchen.

The report found that:

  • Half of accidental fatal fire deaths in the home were caused by smoking
  • Kitchen appliances caused 419 fires last year, up 15 on the previous year
  • There were more fire related injuries caused by cooking than smoking and candles combined.


Fewest primary fires since records began

Fire Facts also shows that there were 10,587 ‘primary fires’ in 2016, the fewest since official records were logged in 1966. Primary fires include all occupied building fires, those involving casualties or rescues and any that require five fire engines or more.

Primary fires are down by over 50 per cent from their highest point in 2001 (22,655) when the Brigade’s community safety strategy started. This changed the Brigade’s focus from being a permeably reactive emergency responder to a more proactive service with community fire safety at the core of its activities. Since then primary fires have reduced on average by around 850 fires per year and all other fire categories have shown a consistent downward trend.

The Fire Facts series gives the public more access to key London Fire Brigade data. It is divided into four sections: long term trends, where fires happen, fires in the home and fires in other buildings. The report also finds;

  • The busiest time for fires in London is 7pm with the quietest being 6am.
  • Most fires start in the kitchen but are less likely to be fatal, most fatal fires in the home start in the living room but this is often where people are asleep.
  • 1976 had the greatest number of fires followed by 2003, 1989, 1995 and 2001.
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FPA 1 day course – Managing Fire Risk in Tall Buildings

15th January 2018

London 5th February

The event is aimed at all those concerned with the safety of their tall buildings regardless of age, structure or use. It will be of particular benefit to those with responsibility for residential premises including blocks of flats, hospitals, halls of residence and hotels.

The seminar will take place on Monday 5th February from 10.00 – 16.00hrs in London, at the Cavendish Conference Centre.

The seminar will be formal input from our industry experts and an opportunity to ask your questions:

  • What are your legislative obligations in terms of fire risk assessments?
  • What does a competent assessment look like?
  • Tall buildings, fire safety and evacuation policies.
  • Are sprinkler systems the answer?
  • What are the other passive fire safety systems we should be using to
    – limit fire and smoke spread?
    – protect escape routes, occupants and our building stock?
  • What role do the fire and rescue services play in terms of fire prevention, rescue and extinguishment?

Who should attend?

  • Local Government
  • Fire Risk Assessors
  • Architects
  • Project Managers
  • Quantity Surveyors
  • Fire and Facilities Management
  • Hospital Trusts
  • Housing Associations
  • Insurers and Brokers
  • Fire and Rescue Services
  • Hotel and Conference Centre Management
  • Schools and Tertiary Education

For more information and booking click here

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Firefighters, researchers and European institutions look for solutions to the growing issue of firefighter’s cancers

24th November 2017

Cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths amongst firefighters, accounting for approximately 60% of all deaths. MEP Pavel Poc has been fighting for the recognition of cancer as an occupational health issue for firefighters. Together with the European Parliament’s Members Against Cancer (MAC) Group, and in association with Fire Safe Europe, MEP Pavel Poc hosted a roundtable to debate the issue of occupational cancer in firefighters and explore solutions.

Prof Eero Pukkala is the Director for Research at the Finnish Cancer Registry. He led a study on 16,422 Nordic firefighters, and reported 2536 cancers. It showed an increased risk for several types of cancer, including prostate cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, and cancers linked to asbestos such as mesothelioma.

Dr. Anna Stec, Associate Professor at the University of Central Lancashire, led a study on firefighters and their work environment in the UK. “Firefighters have the most hazardous job”, she says. “Firefighters are exposed during the fire, after the fire, short term and long term. Multiple exposure to different carcinogenic substances and multiple routes of exposure (through inhalation, through skin absorption) are increasing their risk of getting (several) cancers.”

Tommy Kjaer and Pieter Maes are both firefighters.For them, the issue is an everyday reality.

Tommy is the president of the the Danish Firefighters against Cancer Association. “I have been working with the issue of cancers in firefighting since 2010” says Tommy, “and study after study show the same thing: firefighters get cancers at a higher rate than the general population. I don’t have any doubt that the toxic smoke is the biggest long term enemy for firefighter’s health. The silent killer. We need MEPs to help us save lives and to keep us healthy. We need proper large scale testing of building materials and we need the toxicity of smoke to be tested and labelled.”

“We have an image problem” adds Pieter. “There is a gap between the public perception of what a firefighter’s job is and the reality. Being a firefighter is never running through fire: it is it crawling through thick smoke. The smoke is hot, it is flammable, it is blinding. It is also increasingly toxic, and only a little amount of materials can create huge amount of smoke. Our challenge is to perform and stay healthy in these smoke-filled conditions.”

Dr. Ondřej Májek of the Institute of Health Information and Statistics of the Czech Republic (ÚZIS ČR) believes that using the Czech National Healthcare Information System to conduct a study would help them to better understand the firefighter’s cancer problem and find solutions. He has been faced with strong obstacles but has hope that the EU will hear his call to use the data from health information systems across Member States to help people.

The proportion of cancer deaths for firefighters has been growing steadily from the 1970s to the present, in tandem with the increase in synthetics and plastics in homes and buildings. Testing and labelling the smoke toxicity of construction products is a first step in having safer, healthier firefighters. The EU needs to admit there is a problem and act to regulate smoke toxicity.

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Statement by Fire Safe Europe following announcement by the European Commission of a Fire Safety platform

10th November 2017

September’s announcement by Commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska (DG GROW) that the European Commission will rapidly establish a platform for Member States and stakeholders to discuss fire safety issues, exchange data and best practices is a good decision for improving fire safety in buildings in Europe.

As Fire Safe Europe has been saying since 2011, a EU fire safety platform will allow countries to learn from each other and ensure that EU policies incorporate fire safety where appropriate. We stand ready to support the European Commission in developing the platform and look forward to concrete results from the first meeting to be held on October 16th.

With the support of the many Members of the European Parliament who took part in today’s plenary debate, we will continue to work on developing a European Fire Safety Strategy that puts people first, and to campaign for crucial legislation on measuring and labelling smoke toxicity of construction products as well as fire-safety testing of building facades.

This statement can be attributed to Juliette Albiac, Managing Director of Fire Safe Europe.

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London’s fire chief talks to BBC Breakfast about importance of sprinklers in schools

30th October 2017

Only four new and refurbished schools installed sprinklers, despite the Brigade’s recommendations last year. The Brigade was consulted on 184 London schools being refurbished or built and our advice to install sprinklers was taken in only four of these cases. Recent Brigade figures show there were 759 fires in London schools between 2009 and July 2017 and sprinklers were only installed in 15 of these cases.

London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton told BBC Breakfast this morning about the importance of sprinklers in schools.

Commissioner Cotton said: “Fires in schools cause major disruption to pupils. Breakfast and after school clubs are cancelled and often, a costly repair bill could have been avoided.

“If they are incorporated from the design stage, sprinklers are around 1% of the total build cost.” The interview took place at Stanley Park High School in Carshalton, which suffered a fire in 2013 that was suppressed by a sprinkler system.

Last month, the Brigade renewed its calls for sprinklers to be installed in residential high-rise buildings and schools. Fire crews are called to more than 80 fires a year in London’s schools and in most cases, sprinklers are not fitted – meaning millions of pounds are wasted repairing fire damage and also water damage from fire crew hoses.

The Brigade has long been campaigning for sprinklers to be mandatory in schools, as they are in Scotland and Wales.

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Fire Door Safety Week

26th September 2017

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service is supporting National Fire Door Safety Week (25 Sep – 1 Oct) to promote the important fire safety message of fire doors save lives and property.

Mark Earwicker, Head of Technical Fire Safety, said:
“Fire doors are proven to reduce the risk of fires spreading and increase the chance of people evacuating a building quickly and safely. They provide critical protection inside buildings and especially in escape routes (stairs and corridors) in high-rise properties. But fire doors can only offer this protection if they are working correctly and are not propped open. Our priority is to keep everyone safe and well. We offer free home safety visits to all residents in Essex, and also visit commercial buildings to advise on how businesses can reduce the risk of fire and ensure staff safety.”

Fire doors
Important information about fire doors:

  • They are typically designed to withstand fire for up to 30 minutes
  • They are a legal requirement for flats which open onto communal areas shared with other tenants. This is to make sure crucial escape routes are protected if a fire breaks out.
  • They are designed to automatically close behind you in the event of fire, holding flames back and stopping the spread of the fire and toxic smoke into escape routes, corridors and other flats in the block

If you live in a purpose built block of flats and are unsure whether your flat front door or doors which open onto communal areas meet the correct fire door safety standards contact your landlord.

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Kent emergency service chiefs pledge to unite against dementia

30th August 2017

Emergency services chiefs from across Kent and Medway have joined forces to unite against dementia by signing a joint strategic commitment to work towards building a more dementia friendly county.

Read more…

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Fire chief re-issues fire safety tools to help councils keep buildings safe

18th August 2017

Following the Grenfell disaster, the London Fire Brigade has reissued three fire safety tools designed to help housing providers check that their buildings are safe.

Read more…

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