Fire safety is a natural concern for people living in tower blocks, and all the more so if you have restricted mobility.
Your landlord is responsible for ensuring that, in case of a fire, there are safe emergency exit routes and plans that set out how everyone can leave the building as efficiently as possible.
Social housing has a higher than average number of tenants whose mobility is restricted. When a landlord conducts a Fire Risk assessment for your block, it should include careful consideration of every tenants’ abilities and needs.
Plans should not assume everyone in the building is able bodied – your landlord should be aware of the individual needs of every tenant in the block. If you think your landlord doesn’t know about any mobility issues that may affect your ability to make an exit in an emergency, you should tell them.
Under the Equalities Act 2010, all safety measures should be as effective for disabled tenants as for everyone else. Disabled tenants must not be put at any disadvantage, and this includes the ability to get to safety if a fire breaks out.
In England and Wales, your landlord has a responsibility to conduct a regular fire risk assessment, and in Scotland this is strongly encouraged.
This assessment should consider the situations of the actual tenants living in the block at the time of the assessment. The landlord must make sure that any tenants who may have particular mobility or awareness issues are as safe as everyone else.
This might include:
If there people in any of these categories in your tower block, fire safety measures must be put in place to make these tenants as safe as everyone else.
For example, deaf tenants who cannot hear a fire alarm may need a flashing light or vibrating alarm in their flat.
If there are wheelchair users in the block, fire escape routes must not contain steps and the corridor/doors must be wide enough for them to pass through with ease.
Ideally, the landlord should speak to or visit each tenant so that they completely understand their needs and their level of mobility. They can then draw up a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP).
You don’t have to be disabled yourself to take action: you could do so on behalf of a neighbour, if they are happy for you to do so.
Or if you are disabled and you don’t feel able to act by yourself, consider meeting up with other residents and asking them to join in.
Claddag are an action group campaigning for safe fire evacuation plans and equipment for disabled residents – find out more about their work here.
Whether you are acting alone or as part of a group, the first thing you should do is write to your landlord .
Point out the areas which you believe to be unsafe, and ask whether disabled tenants’ needs were considered in the most recent Fire Risk Assessment.
You can adapt and use this letter.
If you do not get a response, you might also contact the fire and rescue service to let them know you think that the tower block is not safe for everyone.
You can use this letter.
Your local councillor may be able to help – try emailing them.
You might possibly also contact the Environmental Health department of your local council. Here is more information about that.
If you are having problems getting any change to happen, it could be a good story for your local media.
Tools you can use
Tools you can use