Fire Safety, Social Housing

Connected technology: Protecting the most vulnerable from fire risk in social housing

How could connected technology help protect vulnerable social housing residents?

According to the London Fire Brigade, a third of people who die in fires every year are looked after by a carer. Combined with an estimated 43% of social housing residents living with a long-term disability, more needs to be done to ensure they feel better protected from fire risk.

Both the Equality Act (2010) and the Regulatory Reform Order (2005) require social housing providers to ensure residents with disabilities are not placed under unfair disadvantage and can safely leave their home in the event of a fire.

However, cognitive and/or physical abilities that may arise in ageing populations are factors that can influence the probability of a fire, fire detection and the ability to extinguish it or evacuate the property. UK Home Office statistics indicate that those aged 60 and over are also the most over‐represented age group in terms of deaths in fire dwellings.

Protecting and providing for an ageing population

The charter for social housing residents: social housing whitepaper, published in November 2020, sets out the actions that the UK Government will take ‘to ensure residents in social housing are safe, are listened to, live in good quality homes, and have access to redress when things go wrong’.

Brought about by the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the whitepaper provides an opportunity to raise the bar on standards in the social housing sector.

To comply with UK legislation, social landlords are required to undertake a sufficient and thorough assessment to identify and evaluate the risks, which should also take into consideration any adaptations that could be made to the property and/or any technological devices that could be installed to enhance safety.

Following the Government’s published response to the consultation on Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans (PEEPs) in high-rise residential buildings concluding that it will not make any legislative requirements for disabled or vulnerable people to be provided with PEEPs, connected technology provides an alternative solution for keeping residents safe.

Connected technology provides a real opportunity to raise the safety bar and support intentions set out in the social housing whitepaper. The introduction of connected systems can be used to gather critical information relating to an individual’s status, which can help inform a social landlord, so they can act responsibly and promptly rectify any issues in the home environment before they escalate into anything more serious.

It also empowers residents to stay better informed about the safety systems in their own homes. Being able to report concerns quickly and easily and to see prompt action from the social landlord when required provides residents with greater reassurance.

connected technology

Managing and maintaining properties remotely

One simple install safeguard can be achieved by interlinking alarms with wireless technology, so that if one is triggered, all the other alarms and ancillary devices are activated, alerting a person with impaired hearing to a fire more quickly. This enhanced fire safety system provides the earliest possible warning to a tenant and is much more effective than a stand-alone alarm.

However by using connected technology, social housing providers and the fire services can deliver an even higher level of protection by connecting remote alarm monitoring, IoT and predictive data analysis to potentially identify a fire risk before it becomes a 999 call.

Data monitored in real-time is sent to a platform that alerts social landlords to the status of alarms in a property not only if they are triggered but also if they are in need of maintenance.

Connection to the IoT enables social landlords to monitor important features such as the building’s age and condition as well as the wear and tear of electrical appliances. This information can be combined with critical data on individuals’ physical or mental status. If a person has dementia, is partially-sighted or uses a wheelchair, they will be slow to respond in the event of a fire and may struggle to escape from the property unaided.

Through continuous analysis of the entire environment and by using predictive AI such as Predict® technology to identify trends and patterns, connected technology provides landlords with an accurate and up-to-date risk assessment delivered to one platform.

Choose a targeted, tailored, person-centred approach

Using connected technology, a person-centred approach can be applied to fire safety procedures and systems. Adopting this approach means targeted safeguards can be implemented, managed and maintained according to a vulnerable resident’s individual needs, helping to support many of the requirements set out in the charter for social housing residents whitepaper.

Discover more about connected technologies and the advantages they could bring to you and your residents, get in touch with our expert team.