Wolverhampton Homes and West Midlands Fire Service joined forces today, Wednesday 23 June, to undertake a fire training exercise at a tower block in the Boscobel area of Wolverhampton. The training, which lasted a total of 3 hours, saw 5 households volunteer to be evacuated from the block.

Wolverhampton Homes, which manages 22,000 properties on behalf of the City of Wolverhampton Council, including 36 tower blocks, teamed up with the fire service to run the exercise to test the effectiveness of their combined fire safety practices, policies and procedures. The training will also highlight any potential for learning that will improve their response to emergency situations. 

The exercise was supported by over 40 staff from Wolverhampton Homes and the fire service, and compliments the housing company’s fire safety improvement programme, totalling in excess of £60 million, which is upgrading flats across the city with new and improved fire safety measures, including new fire doors, sprinklers, and enhanced fire detection systems over the next 4 years. 

The exercise comes shortly after the fourth anniversary of the Grenfell tragedy, which claimed the lives of 72 people in 2017. 

Shaun Aldis, Chief Executive for Wolverhampton Homes said: “The safety and wellbeing of residents remains our top priority. We work closely with the council, West Midlands Fire Service, and other partners across the city to identify potential fire risks and put solutions in place to ensure these don’t escalate into an emergency situation. 

“We recently appointed a new Building Safety Manager, who brings with him 20 years’ experience in fire safety across the public and private sectors, to lead our approach to fire safety in our properties. 

“The exercise today demonstrates the effectiveness of our close working partnership. I would also like to thank residents for their full support and co-operation; without which today’s event would not have been possible.”

Wolverhampton Homes consulted with residents in advance of the exercise and tenants pledged their support by volunteering to take part in a mock evacuation. 

Joanne Smith, local tenant and member of the Boscobel Tenants and Residents Association said: “I’m so glad I took part. It really opened my eyes to the speed and urgency the fire service work to when dealing with emergencies. 

“I was really pleased to be involved and I hope they were able to learn from the experience as I know I did.” 

James White, Station Commander from West Midlands Fire Service, said: “We're grateful to the city council and Wolverhampton Homes for the opportunity to stage this exercise – one of many we conduct year round at various locations, including high rise buildings. 

“We aim to get to serious incidents that pose a risk to life or property in just 5 minutes. When our crews arrive, it's vital they keep themselves and others as safe as possible while they tackle a fire as assertively and effectively as they can. 

“Our firefighters and our Fire Safety teams do a lot of work to familiarise themselves with such buildings, and we work very closely with owners and landlords who have legal responsibilities to ensure a building's fire safety. 

“Exercises like this help our crews to hone skills that could literally save lives, properties and businesses. We hope they also help to reassure residents.”

Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Greg Brackenridge attended the training exercise and said: “As Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton, and also Chair of West Midlands Fire Authority and former firefighter, I have a vested interest in today’s exercise. 
“It was a privilege and an honour to witness the fire service at work. Their personnel conducted themselves with speed and professionalism while assessing the situation and taking the appropriate assertive firefighting action.  
“The City of Wolverhampton has an excellent track record of working with the West Midlands Fire Authority, Wolverhampton Homes and external partners to assess risk, devise and implement solutions, and educate communities on matters surrounding fire safety.
“I’m so pleased that Wolverhampton Homes was able to support the fire service with today’s training, and I look forward to them putting their learning into practice.”