Social housing provides accommodation to some of the most vulnerable people in society, with 43 percent of tenants having a long-term disability. This can be a mobility disability, sight or hearing loss, learning difficulties, or a combination of a few.
People with a disability may not be as safe in their homes as other tenants, especially in life-threatening conditions – such as a fire. They may be unable detect a traditional fire alarm, or are unable to escape unassisted. It is therefore crucial that fire safety products and procedures are carefully planned and specific to the disabled tenant’s needs. This will ensure they have the best protection possible.
Social Housing Best Practice
Under the Equality Act (2010) and the Regulatory Reform Order (2005), social housing providers have a responsibility to ensure disabled tenants are not placed under unfair disadvantage, and can safely leave the building in the event of a fire. In compliance with this legislation, the primary process is to undertake a thorough risk assessment.
A disabled tenant may live in an adapted property or possess a host of technological devices, so it is important to consider these during the assessment. Work closely with the tenant, acknowledging their specific needs and requirements. This may involve conducting an interview, having a consultation call, or involving other accountable personnel such as an occupational therapist. It is essential to identify and evaluate all the risks, and so create a suitable and sufficient risk assessment around these.
Safeguarding disabled tenants
As designated by the risk assessment, smoke, heat and carbon monoxide alarms should be appropriately placed throughout the house. These can be mains powered and interlinked with wireless technology, meaning that if one is triggered, all other alarms and ancillary devices are activated. In addition to an alarm control unit, this creates a manageable enhanced fire safety system that provides the earliest possible warning to a disabled tenant, and is much better than a stand-alone alarm..
Additionally, installing a 10 year sealed-for-life alarm removes the need for a disabled tenant to replace the battery themselves. This may have otherwise been difficult to do, infeasible or forgotten about.
Low Frequency Sounders
BS 5839-6 code of practice, at the time of publishing stated "Regrettably, there is probably not ready alternative" to high frequency smoke alarms. However developments since then has meant that new technology can provide a better level of protection.
For tenants with a mild to moderate hearing loss, low frequency sounders can be wirelessly interlinked with the smoke and CO alarm system. Resonating low frequencies alarms are more easily heard, and will therefore provide additional protection in the event of a fire. It is also has additional benefits in being more likely to wake up high risk individuals such as children, elderly tenants and those under the influence of alcohol.
Strobes and Vibrating Pads
For tenants who are deaf, or have severe hearing loss, it can be helpful to incorporate a combination of strobes and vibrating pads in the home. A strobe provides a visual warning during waking hours, whereas the vibrating pads provide a physical disturbance during the night. A vibrating pad can be placed under a mattress or pillow, and is advisable for those who take their hearing aids out at night. These safety products can, again, be used in conjunction with wirelessly interlinked smoke and CO alarms to ensure maximum safety.
A Sona stove guard can be used on electric cookers in the homes of high risk tenants. This is a highly effective and intelligent appliance that can identify dangerously high temperatures/ quickly rising temperatures and immediately shut-off a cooker.
In our Stove Guard video, you can see the effectiveness of this appliance in preventing a pan of oil catching fire.
To find out 7 benefits of the Stove Guard click here!
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Ensuring an adequate air supply to gas cookers and clean hobs are significant measures in reducing the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning. Disabled tenants may find it hard to do this, or be more prone to forget, so it is essential to install a suitable mains powered carbon monoxide alarm system. Of course, do bear in mind that the causes of carbon monoxide poisoning are not limited to the kitchen, and can in fact occur for a variety of reasons around the home. To find out more, see our Project Shout blog post.
It can be distressing living with a disability, so it’s crucial that all possible safety measurements are in place. Education is also key, and the vulnerable individual, plus any other accountable staff or neighbouring tenants, should all be made aware of the best practice and how they can help in the event of the fire.
For more information about fire safety in social housing for disabled tenants, download our free eBook below.
If you are interested in provide tenants with a fire safety handout, please see our Fire Safety In The Kitchen eBook here.