I feel it is an important time to comment on what has been a much talked about topic in recent months, that is: Fire Safety in Apartment Blocks.
In October, 2011 we learned of the major fire safety risks at the 187 apartment complex, Priory Hall in Donaghmede which included inadequate fire resistant materials and an inadequate fire detection & alarm system amongst others. This resulted in residents being evacuated and rehoused.
This week we learned, that up to 300 houses and apartments in another north Dublin housing estate; Belmayne, are in need of extensive repair work due to fire safety problems. According to an article in Thursday’s Irish Times, an inspection by Dublin Fire Brigade revealed defects in the timber framed construction of the houses which means they cannot meet fire safety regulations. For more on this story, please click here. This news comes as the deadline was reached (Friday at Noon) for submission of suggestions to the Department of the Environment on how to improve fire safety in apartment blocks. What is shocking, is that this comes over 20 years after the introduction of the Building Control Act of 1990. Had all of the terms of this act been enforced, I may not be writing this article today!
Fire in apartment blocks is a REAL risk and it is exasaberated by the mere complexity and use of the building itself. I only have to look back to Friday 20th January this year, when a fire destroyed the Kennedy Plaza apartment block in our town of New Ross, Co. Wexford. Whilst, no one was seriously injured, residents are still feeling the pain and coming to terms with what has happened and worst still what could have happened.
The introduction of The Multi – Unit Development (MUD) Act which came into effect on April 1st 2011 now places an obligation on the owner’s management company to provide a statement setting out the fire safety equipment installed in the development together with maintenance arrangements. Whilst this is a very welcome development for residents of such blocks, it may do little to improve safety measures without proper enforcement.
Following Friday’s deadline we now await the government’s proposals to be published. This will most likely be sometime later in the year. God know’s what we face in the intervening period. We truly hope not another Stardust. What we need now is a real committment in terms of resources for enforcement and we need it quickly.
However, whilst we can apportion blame to government, builders, architects and service providers, my point in writing this article is to drive home the reality – that we all have a responsibility for fire safety, that is each and everyone of us, whether that be in our home, our place of work or our profession. Fire safety cannot and should not be compromised.
I urge you to take that responsibility today! As any road user has a responsibility for road safety, you too have a responsibility for fire safety. Look around you and consider what steps you can take as an individual to improve fire safety? Perhaps its the testing of the smoke alarm in your home, the preparation of an evacuation plan, testing of fire extinguishers or the reporting of fire hazards in your workplace. We all need to do our bit to make fire safety a priorty! Don’t delay…..
Author: Brendan Stamp, Tech IEI, IS3218:2009 Qualified
Managing Director Guardian Fire & Security