Fire and electrical safety

 

Keeping you safe in your home is our top priority at GreenSquare. 

As a responsible landlord, GreenSquare has a legal duty to ensure that a fire risk assessment is carried out to identify and remove any fire risks and hazards, or to reduce these as far as possible.

In our blocks of flats and similar sites, we make sure that fire risk assessments are up-to-date and that there are appropriate smoke detectors, fire alarms, fire doors and other fire safety measures in place. 

We also regularly review any fire risks, as well as the procedures for preventing and reporting fires. How regularly fire risk assessments are carried out depends upon the type of building and the level of risk placed upon it.

We are part of a Primary Authority Scheme with Oxfordshire County Council Fire and Rescue Service. This means we have a legal partnership with them to give us consistent and reliable advice about managing fire safety in all our homes.


This page includes information on:

 

Your fire safety responsibilities

There’s a lot you can do to protect your family and your home from the danger of fire.

Do your monthly checks

  • Test your smoke alarms and any carbon monoxide detectors at least once a month by pressing the test button. If the alarm doesn’t sound, replace the battery. If you have a mains-powered smoke alarm fitted, contact us immediately so we can arrange to fix it. This is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Check your electrical appliances to make sure there’s no evidence of faults, or loose or exposed wires. Don't overload electrical sockets.
  • Avoid running appliances like washing machines or dryers at night or when no-one’s about.
  • Regularly clean lint from tumble dryers.
  • Don’t burn candles in your home and keep soft furnishings away from anything that generates heat, including light bulbs.
  • Take care in the kitchen – don't leave cooking unattended and keep electrical appliances and leads away from water.
  • If you smoke, make sure you stub any cigarettes completely out.

Make an escape plan

  • Smoke makes it almost impossible to see when you're trying to escape. Make a plan of how you’d escape if a fire did break out, and then practice it with your family.
  • The best exit is usually the nearest exit but have a back-up plan in case it's blocked. You could include any ground floor windows in your plan.
  • Make sure everyone knows the escape plan.
  • Keep keys near doors and windows so it’s quicker to get out. (For security reasons, don’t keep them within reach from outside.)
  • If there’s smoke, keep as low as possible as the air will be clearer.
  • Check doors before you open them – if they’re hot, there’s fire on the other side, so use your plan B exit.
  • If you’re the last one out, close the door behind you to slow the progress of the fire.

 

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Fire alarms and fire extinguishers

Fire alarms are serviced regularly by trained, competent specialists. If you believe your fire alarm is not working, please contact us and we will have engineers attend urgently.

Fire extinguishers are usually not required in the common areas of blocks of flats. This is because it is potentially more dangerous for a resident to leave their flat and attempt to fight the fire using an extinguisher with no training. It is safer to leave the building.

Untrained people in a fire situation should go to a place of safety and call the emergency services.

Residents can choose to purchase portable fire-fighting equipment, such as a fire blanket or a multipurpose fire extinguisher, for personal use in their home. If you do, we encourage you to carefully read the instructions and guidance provided, never to take risks in a fire situation, and evacuate the building as soon as possible.

 

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Fire safety in flats and shared buildings

Managing the fire safety for our taller buildings is obviously a key focus. We classify high rise blocks as those of six storeys and above; we have a register of all these properties and are undertaking inspections of all them.

  • Don’t prop open fire doors – they’re there to stop the spread of a fire. Let us know if you notice any damage or faults to fire doors or self-closer door fixings, so that we can fix them.
  • Keep all exits and communal corridors clear. If you notice others are blocking corridors and you’d like us to speak to them, please let us know.
  • All shared communal areas must be clear of any items including rubbish, storage and personal items. This is so that there is no risk of fire starting in the areas, and so they do not create a blockage or hazard to the escape routes.
  • If we become aware of items left in communal areas, we'll remove them.
  • Keep mobility scooters out of corridors or near exits.
  • Do not smoke in the common areas.
  • Know the fire safety arrangements for your block. Do you know what the evacuation policy is? Read the fire action notice for your building and, if you’re not sure, please contact us.
  • Never use a lift to escape – you could become trapped.
  • If you have elderly or vulnerable neighbours, consider how you could safely help them in an emergency.

 

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Staying safe and  'stay put' policy

Each GreenSquare building has its own fire action plan, which will be clearly displayed in the communal areas. We ask you to familiarise yourself with the policy and follow the directions given.

The advice for residents on what to do in the event of a fire is still based on best practice guidance that we receive from the fire service. This advice is produced and promoted nationally by all fire services.

  • If a fire starts in your flat, get everyone out, close the door behind you and leave the building. When you are safe, call 999.
  • If a fire starts in a communal area, leave the building using the safest route and call 999.
  • If a fire starts in another flat, stay put unless your flat is being affected by fire or smoke. There is fire protection provided in the building and the floors, walls and doors of each flat.

When you stay put, you reduce the risk of entering a smoky corridor unnecessarily and possibly being overwhelmed by smoke. Staying put also means firefighters can tackle the fire safely and quickly without being delayed by residents coming down the stairways.

Ultimately, it is your decision as to whether you stay put or leave the building. If you have a fire in your flat, or are in any way threatened by a fire in your block, you should immediately leave the building.

 

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Balcony fire safety

This guidance has been developed to ensure that our homes are safe and in response to the ‘Advice Note on Balconies on Residential Buildings’ issued by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in June 2019. 

Recent fire incidents that have been reported in the press have highlighted vulnerabilities where properties have balconies, particularly when they have been used for barbeques. As the safety and well-being of our residents is our primary concern, GreenSquare will continue to minimise risks to our customers. 

Balconies and patios offer an invaluable outdoor space and can be an ideal place for socialising for many of our residents. However, a significant number of balcony fires start from the unsafe disposal of smoking materials and the misuse of barbecues. In addition to this, the risks are heightened because winds are stronger and can be less predictable at greater heights.

If you live in a home with a balcony, you should keep it clear. If a fire breaks out on your balcony, it could spread much faster than a fire inside your building.

Inside buildings, there are walls and doors that can contain a fire, and a limited supply of oxygen to keep the fire burning. Outside there’s an unlimited supply of oxygen and a fire can quickly be blown by the wind, spreading it upwards and outwards. This puts balconies or flats above you at risk. 

However, there are simple steps you can take to keep you, your family and your neighbours safe.

You should not store anything on a balcony other than a suitable, non-flammable table and chairs. Combustible materials, which are items that can ignite and burn, should not be stored on a balcony or patio.

The following provides further details about what activities are permitted on balconies, or patios located under balconies:

  • Barbeques – one of the biggest risks is the use or storage of barbeques on a balcony or patio. The risk caused by embers and cooking fats is compounded by the fact that barbeques are often left unattended. This applies to all barbeques or similar cooking devices whether gas, charcoal or electrical, and includes disposable barbeques.
  • Patio/balcony heaters – any type of heater is not permitted to be used.
  • Smoking – carelessly discarded smoking materials can easily set fire to other combustible items and, therefore, smoking is not permitted.
  • Candles – the use of candles, tea lights, tiki torches, or any similar product which uses a naked flame and/or fuel (wax or oil,) are not permitted.
  • Storage of combustible materials – items which can ignite and burn should not be used or stored. This includes gas, liquids and solids. 
  • Balcony screening/curtains – items such as fabric, bamboo, straw, and rattan or wicker screens are included as combustible materials and are not permitted.
  • Carpeting – carpets or rugs, no matter what their material, are also considered as combustible materials and are not permitted.
  • Laundry – drying washing on balconies is permitted during daylight hours, but must not be left unattended and it should not be draped/hung over the balcony railings. When you are not at home, any laundry must be removed from the balcony. This includes airing rugs or carpets.
  • Electrical items – please don’t run extension leads from within your home to operate electrical items.
  • Plants – real plants can be put on balconies but only if they are looked after and kept in good condition. They must not overhang the balcony or be higher than the balcony railings. Care should be taken to use natural dirt and planting material that is not flammable. Some fertilizers and potting material are combustible when placed in heat or sun and should not be used. Fake plants are not permitted, nor are hanging baskets or trellis on balconies, patios or on any other part of the building.
  • Furniture – only furniture designed for use outside should be used.
  • Rubbish and recycling – most refuse and recycling has a combustible nature and should not be stored on a balcony or patio.
  • Bicycles – please don’t store bicycles on a balcony.

Please note that the fire and rescue services also advise residents to avoid storing combustible materials, smoking and barbecuing on balconies because these can all help fires spread rapidly. 

Take a look at your balcony now. Is there anything you need to do to make it safer?

 

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Front doors – does yours close properly?

Fire safety is important in all homes. Where there are lots of people all living under one roof such as a block of flats it is even more important. A fire in one home could spread. Fire doors are there to protect you and anyone else that lives in the property.

If you live in a flat, front doors are particularly important fire doors because they protect you, and everyone else in your block, not only from fire but also from smoke. We routinely inspect fire doors to make sure they meet the required standards - however, you can also help.

In the Grenfell tragedy smoke spread through the building because some fire doors did not shut properly. Every fire door, including flat front doors and doors into stairwells in blocks, should be fitted with a self-closing device.

The most common type of closure is the one mounted to the top of the door like in picture 1, below. However, there are other types including ones that are more concealed inside the door – like the one in picture 2. In some sheltered schemes flat front doors will be fitted with the type of self-closer in picture 3; this allows the front door to open and shut easily but when the fire alarm goes off this shuts your flat front door automatically. If you are not sure, please speak to your community officer or house manager.

If you live in flat or bedsit we would like you to do three simple checks:

Check 1
Is there a self-closing device on your flat front door?

Check 2
If you open your front door and let it go, does it shut by itself (without any help from you) by the time you can count to twenty?

Check 3
Does the door close all the way into the door frame? It shouldn’t stay open at all. For example, sometimes they can get stuck on the lock or stick on the frame.

If you answered ‘No’ to any of the questions in the box to the left please contact us as soon as you can so we can come and make sure your door closes properly. Call customer services on 01249 465465. Sometimes we find that people have disconnected the self-closure because the older-style ones can make the door feel heavy. If you have any concerns about your door please let us know.

Never block a fire door or wedge it open.

If you live in a house with three floors (often known as a town house) you should carry out the same checks on all the doors leading onto the stairwell. This is to allow people to escape down the stairs safely in the event of a fire.

 

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Electrical safety

Millions of people in the UK expose themselves and their families to potentially fatal electrical accidents in the home by making simple blunders.

However, there are a number of simple visual checks that you can carry out yourself:

  • Make sure that your plug sockets are not overloaded
  • Ensure that plugs and sockets are not damaged
  • Check that visible cables and leads are in good condition
  • Check that your light fittings are not visibly damaged and that downlighters are in good working condition
  • Check that you are not storing combustible materials around your fuse box, electricity meter or electrical intake
  • Don’t use the top of the microwave for extra storage
  • Never trail cables under carpets or rugs
  • Never take mains-powered electrical items into the bathroom
  • Always switch off your electrical items when they are not in use
  • Regularly test the RCD in your fuse box, by pressing the test button

 

Further information about electrical safety at home is included in this information leaflet produced by the Electrical Safety First charity.

 

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‘Safe and well’ visits

Fire service ‘safe and well’ visits help reduce the risk of fire in your home – checking and fitting smoke alarms and helping you make a fire escape plan, for example.

Firefighters can also provide advice and support on health and wellbeing:

Wiltshire 0800 038 2323
www.dwfire.org.uk/safety/safe-and-well-visits

Gloucestershire 0800 180 4140 
www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/glosfire/your-safety/safe-and-well

Oxfordshire
www.365alive.co.uk/cms/content/request-safe-and-well-visit

(These websites also have lots of other useful information and tips about staying safe in your home.)