Help improve fire safety

Tower Hamlets Housing Forum and London Fire Brigade are working together to promote fire safety in our borough, and we want to involve residents in getting the message out.
 
We are making a series of short films where you can discuss your fire safety concerns or issues that you’ve experienced with someone from London Fire Brigade. They will offer advice and guidance to help you.
 
The content that we create will be used across social channels and partner websites to promote fire safety and signpost residents to further sources of information and advice.
 

We are looking for up to 10 community contributors, from a range of backgrounds to represent the diversity of Tower Hamlets.
 
We will be offering a £50 voucher, as  a  thank you to everyone who participates in the project.
 
Closing date for applications 31 March 2022

For more information, contact: Lisa McCann,

 Fire Safety Team Leader

t. 07984451667

e. lisa.mccann@thh.org.uk

Door functionality

After writing to councillors, MP and THH, to alert them to design features of the new doors, THH have now confirmed that they will speak with AD about options. Our local Member of Parliament Rushanara Ali has also confirmed she is supporting this issue.

New doors – locking mechanism

The manager of AD Construction Group has now found the time to speak to me over the phone and tried to explain remotely how the new doors work.

What bothers me is that in none of the paperwork we received from either Tower Hamlets Homes or AD Construction was there any specification of the locking mechanism.

Apparently fire-proof is the overriding functionality of the doors at the expense of safety and crime prevention – in my view anyway.

As far as I understand it, the doors do not close when they shut. You can re-open them simply by pulling down the door handle, even from the outside.

You will have to lock the door with a key each time you go out for any reason.

Otherwise imagine you just want to pop to the rubbish chute, just get something from the car or pick something up from nearby, your door won’t lock when it closes from the outside. Anybody can re-open your door by pulling down the handle, unless you lock it with a key each time you go out.

Of course that will cost you a few more seconds each time you leave, it might also be more complicated having to put down your bags and lock the door instead of just trusting in the door to lock itself. And hopefully you do not forget to lock those doors as otherwise anybody can just open it from the outside. Apparently changing the locking mechanism would make the fire-proof certification of the doors invalid. I think that is hilarious if not ridiculous.

From the inside, there is no lock for a key, there is a type of knob.

Not sure how you make sure that nobody can open the door from the outside if you have to lock it to be closed but you can’t put a key on the inside.

It seems rather tedious for forgetful people, young people, old people who may not have the presence of mind to lock the door each time they step away from their front door.

I have tried to get a viewing on those doors to see for myself but that can be end of this week, start of next week. Apparently Tower Hamlets Homes has already approved those doors without ever giving out specifications as to their functionality.

I think you got to assess risk by taking the whole circumstance into consideration. Of course such doors are ideal for a highly volatile, high risk environment like a high-rise tower block but in ground-floor dwellings, which do not have any other security monitoring in place, a door that doesn’t lock, increases the risk of attack and burglary immensely.

In a high-rise all intruders get monitored with CCTV systems and there are additional door entry systems but street facing properties without entry systems will be exposed to a much higher risk from intrusion and people can be followed into their flats easier and that increases the risk for vulnerable people being less protected rather than more.

Of course in high-rise blocks there is no other way of entry than through the main door but in ground level dwellings and houses there are many other entry and exit points that help escape from a fire.

It seems illogical that as long as you don’t take a fire risk, any other risk seems tolerated.

Masterdor replacement

Thanks to the swift actioning of the problem with door replacements, a building insprector came to see me today and explained that those doors, which were installed roughtly 10 years ago around our estate were made by Masterdor, the same company that supplied doors to Grenfell Tower, which were found to fail the fire safety test.

That, of course,is a very good reason to change our doors according to government advice.

Luckily the inspector was very interested in Residents’ safety and promised me to look into the problem with letterboxes. I mentioned to him the problems residents have in the blocks near the Regents canal and he will look into this early next week.

I have been offered an appointment to see the new doors and visit the site office of the company installing them.

Through the chat we had I learned that the new doors by default do not automatically lock when closing and I was very concerned about this.

I have been told that anybody has to request a self-locking lock on the door. A door that doesn’t automatically lock when it closes will give an extra opportunity for a thief to come in. Many people forget to lock doors. I said that all doors should have self-locking mechanisms unless specifically requested and not the other way around.

door replacement program

Please see an up-date to this post here.

Today I need to express concerns about the latest door replacement program carried out by the housing provider Tower Hamlets Homes.

All tenants have been offered those doors and currently I am trying to ascertain whether tenants are going to be forced to have those new doors or get threatened with loss of tenancy if they don’t.

The door replacements are taking place on a frequent basis. We’ve had 3 in as many decades.

Firstly we had those chest-nut brown wooden doors with brass letter slits and door knockers. The chestnut door frames are still around most blocks.

Please scroll through the images to compare the quality of the doors.

Door two please see an up-date to this post on this page. Apparently they are Masterdors and were in Grenfell.

Secondly – see on your left, and less than a decade ago tenants had new fire-proof and police approved security doors installed. Those doors have a triple secure letter box with inside and outside strong letter flaps. The doors are metal lined and have multi-lock mechanisms. They are also very heavy.

Now, we have received another program of door replacments. Those new doors are already installed for tenants in the blocks around the Regents Canal – Sewardstone Road and I am very concerned about their quality.

Cleland, Goodrich, Kemp and Piggott houses have the doors below.

All that’s between a fire and the outside is a flimsy brush.

When I recently handed out leaflets all around the estate I notice the flimsy letter boxes on those new doors. There is a thin pin going across the outside of the letterbox and on that hangs a letter box flap.

Unfortunately on many doors the flap has fallen off. This leaves the door without any flap and there is a brush-type fender across the inside of the letterbox, with no letter flap on the inside of the door. Here both the letter flap and the pin holding has already come off.

There is very little to stop a fire from coming out through those doors’ letter boxes.

It is beyond my understanding how Tower Hamlets Homes can describe those doors as fire-proof.

I have placed an enquiry with Tower Hamlets Homes asking whether tenants will be forced to have those low quality new doors.

Door replacement program

Letters came through our doors from Tower Hamlets Homes, informing us that they will replace all doors of tenanted properties.

Quite amazing that the old doors are not fire-proof as they were put in not so long ago. It’s good to know that our landlord is vigilant and recognises and addresses dangers from fire hazards.

Of course leaseholders are expected to certify that their own doors are also fireproof.

I wholly welcome such an improvement to our safety and hope that all works can be carried out without problems.

All residents are asked to be espcially aware of nuisance callers during times of improvement works and always ask for identification prior to admitting callers.

 

Achieving climate targets and safety

The UK government has committed to reach climate targets by 2050 and there is the suggestion to replace all gas central heating with hydrogen central  heating.

blaze blue blur bright
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That is a very long-term prospect but still relevant to us as it will cause major change if that indeed becomes reality.

I suppose for all council owned homes this will be installed by the landlord but all other homes would need to be changed by the owners.

That is just a estimation of what is to come and indeed of interest and I will follow this discussion with interest.

The government will serve a recall notice onto Whirlpool to recall all tumble dryers, look out for this as it may affect quite a few of our residents.

 

Fire safety advice

From Tower Hamlets Homes

We thought it would be useful and timely to share some information with you regarding a recent spate of fires that have occurred both London wide and locally in Tower Hamlets.
The London Fire Brigade have recently advised us that there have been seven fires across London in the last three weeks started by discarded cigarette butts. We have recently had three fires in and around Tower Hamlets’ properties caused by accidental/avoidable circumstances (one was caused by a candle and the other two from discarded cigarettes, possibly thrown from a flat above and blown onto a balcony and shed below). With the the hot weather forecast to last at least for another month, I thought it was timely I contacted you to ask for your help to keep residents alert to fire safety in the home and hopefully avoid further fires occurring.
The following advice is from the London Fire Brigade and reflects the causes of fires occurring recently in London:
 make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home
 keep balconies free from clutter
 please don’t leave rubbish or bikes in communal areas or obstruct escape routes
 make sure you are familiar with your building and know your nearest exit in case you need to leave the building (note that your block is a ‘Stay Put’ block and therefore doesn’t have sounding fire alarms)
 if you are a smoker please do not smoke in common areas of the block as this is dangerous and against the law too
 always fully extinguish cigarettes smoked in your home and dispose of them carefully and safely*
Detailed fire safety advice is available at thh.org.uk including videos on fire safety which I’d be happy to make available to be shown at TRA meetings.
Next week we will be writing to all THH residents with this advice. We’ll also be reminding them about smoke alarms.
 If they are a THH tenant and you do not have a smoke alarm please order one at My.THH.org.uk or call our Housing Service Centre on 020 7364 5015.
 If they are a leaseholder, we strongly encourage you to fit smoke alarms. If they rent their property out, they must follow safety regulations which include gas and electrical tests, fitting smoke alarms and following all fire safety regulations. More information can be found at gov.uk/privaterenting. And alerting them to the LFB providing free smoke detectors.

* Putting cigarette butts into dried out flower pots without extinguishing them can cause a fire that can spread to neighbouring properties.

Also recommend not to have barbeques on balconies.

THH safety assurance

Following the tragic and shocking events at the Grenfell Tower block, which prompted some residents to post on Facebook how concerned they are for our safety, Tower Hamlets Homes has posted letters of assurance through letter boxes yesterday.

In our block all tenanted flats and houses have wired in fire alarms. Also residents can additionally install personal fire alarms in their rooms.

Free Fire brigade safety checks can be booked by phoning 0800 028 44 28, you will get a free fire alarm installed by the Fire Brigade.

People are advised to NOT have bulky inflammable goods stored on their balconies and keep all public walkways and areas free of rubble.

Caretakers constantly monitor the estates for safety. Here at Rosebery caretakers have moved away external rubbish and recycling bins from the building.

Breeze blocks

I think breeze blocks in kitchens are very important, both at the top and bottom of an outside wall, as they can prevent a build up of gas.

Most flats in the estate have gas supplies and even though most modern appliances have all sorts of safety measures built in, the breeze blocks still give a steady flow of air around our kitchens.

In some ground floor flats broken breeze blocks allowed pests into flats. I have noticed that most bottom breeze blocks in ground floor flats in Rosebery House have been made much smaller; also top breeze blocks were covered with kitchen cupboards; but will meet with a building inspector today to discuss the issue further.

Each resident should check whether their breeze blocks allow the air venting in their kitchens. In many cases the bottom breeze blocks vent the area behind the kitchen wall where gas cookers are located.