In light of the tragic fire at London's Grenfell Tower, the council, working with Wolverhampton Homes and specialist organisations, has been undertaking an ongoing review of fire safety measures across buildings owned or managed by the council.
A range of information is provided below for City of Wolverhampton residents, to provide reassurance about the safety measures already in place and to advise on the additional steps being taken to ensure that all practical measures are being taken to minimise risk.
This information will be updated regularly to ensure that residents can access current and accurate information.
High rise residential (housing) buildings
Residential (housing) buildings are managed by Wolverhampton Homes, an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMO) which was set up in 2005. Wolverhampton Homes manages 23,000 homes, including 36 high rise tower blocks (high rise buildings are over 18 metres (59 feet) or more than six storeys in height).
Wolverhampton Homes has undertaken a range of investigations, focussing on 6 blocks which are fitted with rain cladding type systems. Samples of cladding were sent to a Government approved testing laboratory and the cladding passed. Please refer to the Wolverhampton Homes website (www.wolverhamptonhomes.org.uk) for the latest information.
Residential (non-housing) buildings
The council operates 7 residential (non-housing) buildings, offering short stay accommodation, respite care and adult & children residential accommodation. All sites have had a new fire risk assessment undertaken in 2016 or 2017.
None of the buildings are over 18 metres high and none have a rain cladding type system.
There are three WV Active leisure centres operated by the council. All sites have had a new fire risk assessment undertaken in 2016 or 2017.
The Central Baths and Aldersley Leisure Village are mainly brick and glass clad.
Bert Williams has a rain cladding type system, however the insulation used behind the cladding has been established to be non-combustible.
Other council buildings
No significant issues or concerns have been identified to date following a review of other council buildings. Minor issues, identified during the ongoing fire risk assessment programme, are addressed quickly to further improve fire safety.
The Department for Education launched an online survey to help form a view on the safety of school buildings. The survey was completed on 30 June 2017. The survey covered all school buildings that the council maintains and is responsible for (This excludes Voluntary Aided schools and Academies who have been contacted separately) and paid particular attention to buildings that are four storey or above and/or have residential accommodation.
There is only one school that meets these specific criteria, due to residential accommodation on site. The school has no cladding on the residential area.
Fire risk assessments
Fire risk assessments are required by law and the council ensures that fire risk assessments are in place for all council buildings. The assessments are reviewed and updated as required, for example where there are changes to the structure or usage of a building. In most cases, fire risk assessments are undertaken by external fire safety experts.
Actions are identified in the fire risk assessments to improve fire safety, for example upgrading fire alarms or reviewing evacuation procedures. The council undertakes actions as recommended, naturally dealing with higher priority actions first.
Fire safety measures within council buildings
Ongoing fire safety measures at council buildings include ensuring:
- Fire alarms are tested every week.
- Regular fire safety inspections are carried out.
- Evacuation drills are undertaken, at least annually
- Fixed and portable firefighting equipment is provided and regularly tested and serviced.
Fire marshalls are trained for all buildings.
The safety of all our residents, employees and users of council buildings is of paramount importance.
The council is committed to ensuring that all actions required to maintain and improve fire safety are undertaken. This includes responding to government advice and any future changes to regulations.
Fire Scrutiny Group
The Council has set up a fire scrutiny group to assess how the Council has responded to the Grenfell Tower Fire. The group has made a number of recommendations, some of which are being undertaken straight away and others which are awaiting the outcome of the Public Enquiry into Grenfell Tower. Recommendations being undertaken include;
- Fire safety training to be arranged for Councillors and everyone else responsible for fire safety.
- Qualified Council staff to visit community schools to check compliance with fire safety regulations and fire risk assessments. Whilst this does not directly apply to Academy, Voluntary Aided and Free Schools, non-community schools are encouraged to take advantage of this resource.
- Checking any buildings with cladding, for type of cladding and overall fire safety
- Ensuring robust emergency planning arrangements continue to be in place.
- Joint visits with West Midlands Fire Service (WMFS) to check emergency services access to flats, key council buildings and high risk schools.
- Promoting "Safe & Well" visits by West Midlands Fire Service. These visits can be of benefit to anyone who wants help in improving fire safety in their home.
Recommendations awaiting the outcome of the Public Enquiry include;
- Pressuring central government to change legislation and to lobby for funding to fit sprinklers in all schools and high-rise buildings.
- Ensuring that only the highest rated fire retardant materials, including cladding systems, is fitted to new buildings or refurbished buildings.
- Regarding Planning and Building Regulations, investigate the possibility of conditions being introduced for all new buildings and refurbishments to require that sprinklers and automatic fire detection be fitted.
The Council is working closely with schools to ensure that the highest standard of fire safety is maintained. This includes undertaking fire assessments for all community schools and getting community schools to demonstrate that all regular safety checks are being undertaken.
Following a fire at “The Cube” in Bolton, in which High Pressure Laminate (HPL) cladding panels were reported as being involved, the Council has checked council buildings and schools for the presence of HPL cladding.
HPL cladding was found to be present in three maintained schools, and one Academy School. All these schools have been inspected. Fire risk assessments have been reviewed and fire safety arrangements changed where required.
The Council has also written to all other Academy schools, recommending that schools check for the presence of HPL cladding and review emergency arrangements.
The Council will continue to monitor for further developments.