Whether you are an established landlord in the social or private sector or a first-timer letter, understanding fire safety and effectively communicating it to tenants is both legally and morally indispensable.
To get to grips with this, there are a range of resources available online such as the government published LACORS, BS 5839: Part 6. For a brief guide without the jargon, consult our Social Housing Toolkit, our Landlord resources page or our printable fire safety handout.
Installing fire prevention measures in rental accommodation is the combined responsibility of the landlord and the tenant. It is therefore vital that landlords make the responsibilities – and repercussions – of each party clear. Communication is key, especially when it comes to conveying the common causes of fire, highlighting the ways tenants can prevent them, and what to do if one should occur.
Understanding the problems
According to research by Fire Statistics England, 50% of accidental fires that happened in domestic premises between 2014/15 were caused by cooking, 36% through the misuse of appliance equipment and 6% were caused by smokers’ materials.
The bulk of electrical fires were the result of faulty supply to wiring, cabling and plugs; while larger appliances like washing machines, tumble dryers and dishwashers were also common culprits. However, even unexpected items like mirrors left in direct sunlight can cause a fire – as a report by the London Fire Brigade found in 2015.
This research is echoed in the Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s SAME Campaign. Compiled over ten years, the data found that smokers (41%), those drinking alcohol (40%), people with mobility issues (50%) and the elderly (74%) were most at risk of dying in a fire.
Other vulnerable individuals are children, those with disabilities or living with an illness such as dementia. For those with mobility issues, landlords must install extra protection in the home; for instance, implementing a LD1 category system (outlined in BS 5839: Part 6), or providing extra technological devices such as Stove Guard or low frequency sounders.
How do you communicate fire safety?
Once landlords have identified the fire hazards and installed appropriate fire safety measures, the next step is sharing this information with all of the tenants. Landlords should distribute information like that found in our “Kitchen Safety Guidelines for Tenants - A Handout for Landlords” blog post and our Fire Safety in the Kitchen eBook to all tenants, regardless of the type of rented accommodation and duration of stay.
Children should also be educated about fire safety and there are many ways to approach the subject without causing distress. As a landlord, you could advise that tenants walkthrough escape plans with their children, or present routes as a game. Conversely, landlords could provide child-friendly handouts that children can colour in as they learn.
Only working alarms save lives
“Only working alarms save lives” is a mantra landlords should share with tenants to remind them to regularly check that their alarms are working. To provide minimum protection, private landlords in England should ensure that smoke alarms are installed on every level of rental premises in escape routes such as the hall and landing. All alarms must be aligned with BS 5839: Part 6 and relevant Building Regulations. For our guide to alarms and where to fit them, click here.
Landlords should advise their tenants to check their fire and heat alarms weekly, to clean them with a soft brush-fitted hoover every three months and to be aware of their expiry dates. To make the process easier, we produced a step by step guide to installing our SONA range of alarms, which can be found here, and is ideal for sharing with tenants.
Safe and Well Visits
Finally, the key to good communication is regular contact with tenants. However, landlords can also opt for fire safety checks conducted by a local Fire and Rescue Service. Such checks are local-authority dependant, but most offer ‘Safe and Well Visits' or similar services that are geared at educating and advising tenants about fires and general well being in the home. We recently interviewed Rabinder Dhami, prevention manager at Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service, about their Outreach vehicle, a full account of which can be found here.
Landlords must take their duty of care seriously to ensure all parties are able do their best to prevent fires. Education and awareness are intrinsic to this effort and, alongside the advent of ever-improving fire prevention technology, the risk of dying in a fire at home is steadily decreasing. To learn more about fire safety, with a particular focus on preventing fires in the kitchen - the most dangerous room in the home - please download our free kitchen safety eBook today.It includes both a handout for tenants, and information for landlords.