Fire Safety, Social Housing

How could connected fire safety technology stretch the £57m Waking Watch relief fund?

Following the housing secretary setting out his proposals to fix the building safety crisis more than four-and-a-half years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, could technology help cut fire risks?

The Government has outlined its position that no leaseholder living in a building above 11 metres tall should have to pay a penny towards dangerous cladding removal.

Speaking to Parliament, Michael Gove outlined his plan to raise £4bn from developers to cover the cost of remediating buildings between 11 and 18 metres.

He also announced the Waking Watch Relief Fund will be bolstered with an additional £27m – doubling the fund to £57m – to cover the cost of installing alarm systems in high-rise buildings to end or reduce the need for waking watch patrols – which in some cases cost over £20,000 per building per month.

Does the funding go far enough?

Waking Watch Relief Fund

The additional funding will bring some relief to leaseholders living with the financial burden of waking watches and the emotional toll of waiting months, or years, for their buildings to be made safe.

Questions remain, however, on whether the extended fund will stretch far enough and provide help to all those who need it.

Social housing providers cannot access support from the fund for waking watch costs on properties where there are tenants rather than leaseholders. As a result, waking watch costs are taking up vital funds that would otherwise be invested in repairing and maintaining existing homes and building more social housing.

The cost of employing one person to carry out waking watch duties 24 hours a day exceeds the average one-off cost of installing a fire alarm system in three to six months, depending on the hourly rate charged.

The National Fire Chief Council has advised that building owners should move to install fire alarms as quickly as possible to reduce or remove the dependence on waking watches.

However, those who fall outside of the fund will continue to face excessive costs, “an inability to sell or re-mortgage their properties, financial stress and unacceptable impacts on mental health and wellbeing” according to official Simultaneous Evacuation guidance.

A smart approach to reducing fire risks

As it becomes clear that a change in fire safety strategy is essential, industry experts are looking at alternative strategies that can maximise fire safety while minimising costs.

Nick Rutter, Chief Product Officer at FireAngel, says: “Connected technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help cut fire risks within the parameters of an existing budget and offer residents, building safety managers and landlords more intelligent ways to manage their properties.”

FireAngel’s accredited installation and remotely connected smoke, heat and CO alarms eliminate the need for additional drilling and electrical work, halving the average cost of alarm installation in a two-bed, two-story property from around £1,200 to £400-600 per property.

The smart fire safety systems can cut costs and remove the need to physically access properties, with maintenance data and risk analysis for each device and property reported via an intuitive dashboard.

Data monitored in real-time can alert leaseholders, developers and social housing providers to the status of alarms in a property, for example, if triggered or in need of maintenance, in turn, eliminating wasteful visits, time and administration fees.

Pinpointing risk behind closed doors

Waking Watch Relief Fund

Built on 15 years of IoT expertise, FireAngel’s unique connected solution creates a network that can detect fire, carbon monoxide and dangerous temperatures. The network can then send rapid, detailed alerts if it registers heat, smoke, or gas – so even if a tenant cannot call for help themselves, the fire service can be contacted and dispatched at speed.

Equipped with FireAngel’s patented Predict™ technology, the solution can highlight trends and patterns of high-risk behaviour. For example, it can show if a tenant’s alarm is triggered frequently due to electrical appliances overheating, prompting early intervention from a housing officer or a home fire safety visit from the Fire and Rescue Service.

“The Government Waking Watch Relief Fund generally covers the upfront capital costs of installing a Category L5 fire safety system, designed to monitor a specific high-risk area. However, fire safety guidance is evolving at a rapid pace.

“Our devices comply with LD1, the highest level of domestic protection available, future-proofing properties from regulatory changes and an average £100 fee per callout to update devices to meet new standards,” says Nick Rutter.

The ability to cut costs while raising fire safety standards can relieve the economic burden, improve residents’ quality of life, and prevent a fire before it becomes a 999 call.

“Looking to the future, a combination of IoT, robust fire detection and alert systems and evacuation plans could replace the need for waking watches completely, helping tenants who fall outside of the relief fund feel safe in their own home” adds Nick Rutter.

Choose a connected solution

Waking Watch Relief Fund

FireAngel are leading the way in IoT and AI innovations through the development of advanced safety solutions tailored to the needs of housing providers.

Our adaptable and future-proofed solutions are powered by unique, patented technology – transforming the future of fire safety and offering the most reliable and efficient solution that protects all.

Why not find out more about our connected technology today?