Fire Safety, Smart Home
Intelligent technology provides housing providers with a stratification of risk so they know how to use their resources most efficiently to identify the most significant need and work more cost-effectively.
Using advanced technology in properties, housing providers can receive instant alarm-activation alerts to support the rapid containment of a fire, contact fire and rescue service and, if needed, prioritise the evacuation of residents services. These rapid alerts could potentially reduce the need for the 400 ‘waking watch’ crews deployed across the country, each costing around £18,000 per building per month. This would enable housing providers to establish a more holistic approach to residents’ safety.
Safety technology won’t necessarily change everyone’s behaviour but with real-time data at their fingertips, residents can be better informed and look after one another. And looking further ahead, greater interoperability will enhance and enrich their lives. In an ideal world, fire safety technologies that connect and empower communities while changing behaviours
and authorities acting on relevant data insights to activate quicker interventions, will reduce the number of fatalities caused by fire down towards zero. But if this is a fantasy, how do we make this a reality in the coming years?
According to government data published in May 2022, there were 280 fire-related deaths in England in the year ending December 2021. While that figure was 60 fatalities higher than the previous year, it was around the expected mark. The number has exceeded 300 only once in the past nine years, the year of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which officially caused 72 deaths. Although the annual figure has seemed to be plateauing around the 250-mark, advances in emerging technologies (in particular, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence) provide a route to smarter fire safety which we hope will see no further deaths caused by fire in the coming years.
There is huge scope for improvement through being able to connect a wide variety of different devices. Through applying technologies such as AI, we can move from passive or responsive fire safety (using alarms to keep people alive and out of fire situations) towards active or preventative fire safety. By employing predictive, AI-powered technology, we can prevent fires even happening in the first place. It gives a fantastic insight into what’s happening in a situation, allowing fires to be more accurately pinpointed and for nuisance alarms to be more accurately rejected.
Developed with support from the UK fire and rescue services, FireAngel Predict® uses a unique algorithm (with a patented application) that spots trends of behaviours logged by smoke and heat alarms, creating a map of fire-safety triggers and categorising properties as high or low risk. Tried, tested and trusted after ten years’ development, Predict® gives visibility of previously-hidden trends in social housing properties, such as alarms activating through the night or devices being removed.
The automatic highlighting of potentially dangerous behaviours to housing providers enables proactive, resident-centric interventions to mitigate risk, while a personalised ‘safe and well’ check by the housing provider’s resident safety team or fire and rescue services helps to prevent a life-threatening event. FireAngel Predict® also processes, sorts and structures real-time data, identifying those most at risk in our communities and removing the need for manual data crawls over spreadsheets by housing staff.
During a trial period in selected properties owned by a large London-based housing provider, it was proven just how effective FireAngel Connected and Predict® can be at protecting our communities from fire risk. Within a few weeks, and without any input or insight from the housing team, Predict® recognised a property as high risk. Following a previous serious fire in this property, it had since been refurbished with the same tenant re-housed in it. Predict® highlighted that a critical fire risk was once again present at this property and when device data was reviewed, it was found there were multiple near-misses.
Having data that highlights risk is key to reducing overall fire risk in our communities, but only when it’s acted on and successful interventions take place. Every day, resident safety teams and local fire and rescue services complete these interventions. However, with limited tools to help them pinpoint those most at risk, it means that vital interventions might sometimes be too late.
Using our market-leading technologies, FireAngel will continue to support the goals of the UK fire and rescue service and the NFCC to prevent fires from occurring.
As a sector, we need to look at the overall quality of life of residents. Fire safety is a critical element of that, as are carbon monoxide and gas safety. But now, we have the technology to look at temperature and humidity in the property, with the potential integration of other care and protection technologies to look after the more vulnerable people in society.
With many routine visitations cancelled due to the pandemic, changing behaviours may have been missed. For example, an individual showing the early signs of an illness such as dementia, which can lead to an increased fire risk, could have easily slipped through the gaps. However, by using IoT to monitor property data over time, housing providers can stay informed of trends and be alerted to when they need to check in with residents.
By integrating with other telecare systems, this intelligent technology can help to provide care and support for tenants who need it most. It also helps to highlight unidentified vulnerable tenants, including those suffering from other conditions which affect their safety, such as hoarding which is connected to 30% of fire deaths in the UK.
Technology can help us understand where the risk is in our communities, drive us in that direction and offer insights to help change behaviours. The most important thing is not giving up on that long-term vision and maintaining that downward trajectory of reduced fire deaths each year. This is why technology and greater collaboration are essential.
By combining intelligent, connected technologies such as IoT and AI with remote monitoring and predictive analytics, housing providers can provide a higher level of fire protection and prevention within the constraints of their current resources.
Find out further details on FireAngel Predict® or get in touch to discover more about our Connected technology. This article was first published in FireAngel’s Guide to Connected Homes, in partnership with Housing Technology. Download the free guide in full here.