The announcement yesterday of an additional £3.5bn government fund to remove unsafe high-rise cladding will be welcome news for building residents. An estimated 700,000 people in the UK are still living in high-rise buildings with flammable cladding.
Thousands of those tenants and leaseholders across the UK have been subjected to expensive monthly costs for Waking Watch or fire marshall services to ensure 24/7 fire safety. Since the Grenfell tragedy in June 2017, buildings with unsafe high-rise cladding had their ‘stay put’ policy changed to one of ‘simultaneous evacuation’. To enable this, a round the clock Waking Watch service was required, with the cost often passed onto the building’s residents.
A £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund was announced recently for building owners to install Category L5 fire alarm systems designed in accordance with BS 5839-part 1 and NFCC guidance for simultaneous evacuation systems. This would negate the cost of a Waking Watch service but there still remained a high risk from a building fire similar to that seen at Grenfell whilst waiting for cladding removal.
Recent data released states that of those buildings identified as having ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding, 91% of social sector buildings have had their cladding removed. However, in the private sector, only 42% of buildings have had cladding completely removed.
This leaves a high number of people still paying for expensive Waking Watch services and increased insurance premiums whilst waiting for the installation of a fire alarm system and removal of dangerous cladding materials.
Michelle Agius, Managing Director of Eurotech says: “Yesterday’s announcement can only be a good thing. We’ve been working with some of our clients to install fire alarm systems in high-rise buildings over the last few months. Whilst this helps with the ongoing monthly costs they’ve been facing, hopefully this additional funding will help speed up the removal of this dangerous cladding and help them feel safe in their own homes again.”