‘Fire safety for disabled residents is not a minority issue’ – Using technology to manage fire safety risks in social housing
FireAngel’s Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Nick Rutter, shares why the Internet of Things is set to transform fire safety.
Nick Rutter, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, FireAngel
In the UK, over 14 million people have a disability. Although a proportion will have been disabled since birth or early childhood, many will have developed impairments over their lifetime through illness or injury. Cognitive and physical impairments are factors that can influence the probability of a fire, fire detection and the ability to evacuate the property.
As COVID-19 continues to cause a backlog of hospital treatments, 400,000 people have been left waiting for surgery in the course of a year, millions more could be vulnerable to fire safety risks.
“Fire safety for disabled residents is not a minority issue. Disabilities affect more than one in five people in the UK, and half of those who died in the Grenfell Tower Fire were disabled or children,” says Fazilet Hadi, Head of Policy at Disability Rights UK.
In multiple-occupancy houses, terraced homes, and high-rise buildings, a major fire does not just put a single household in danger but potentially hundreds of lives.
Sakina Afrasehabi, who had severe arthritis and walked with a frame, died on the 18th floor in the Grenfell fire at the age of 65. She was unable to negotiate steps but was housed in the tower because it had a lift, which stopped working on the night of the fire. Afrasehabi’s family believe she would still be alive if the council landlord had made a personal-emergency evacuation plan (PEEP).
“It is not necessarily the disability that makes us vulnerable. Being ignored and left and made to feel invisible is what makes us vulnerable,” adds Fazilet Hadi.
The phase one report of the Grenfell inquiry recommended that the owner and manager of every residential high-rise should be legally required to prepare personal emergency evacuation plans for all residents whose ability to self-evacuate may be compromised.
Additionally, Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent Building a Safer Future report recognised the need for provisions for disabled and other potentially vulnerable people.
The Government has committed to presenting updated PEEP regulations to parliament in October and with new British Standards Institution guidance expected by the end of the year, social housing owners should be ready to give their tenants extra support wherever required.
Whilst evacuation plans are critical in the event of tenants needing to leave the building, there are also new, intelligent ways to help cut fire risks for the estimated 43% of social housing residents who live with a long-term disability.
Using technology to prevent fire risks
Cutting-edge technology that remotelFIAy monitors the home environment 24/7 has the potential to prevent life-threatening events.
Using remote alarm monitoring, Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive data analysis, connected safety technology has the potential to identify a fire risk before it escalates to a 999 call. Not only can the data monitored in real-time alert social landlords to the status of alarms in the property when they are triggered, but also when they need to be replaced.
The more data we have, the more robust the decision can be. I will always support industry developments that help make people safer from fire risks.
Connection to the IoT enables landlords to monitor important features such as the building’s age and condition and the wear and tear of electrical appliances. Being able to combine this information with data on individuals’ physical or mental status is also important. If a person has dementia, is partially-sighted or uses a wheelchair, they may be slow to respond in the event of a fire.
Ian Moore, CEO of the Fire Industry Association, says: “The IoT promises to transform the fire industry. When making informed decisions, data is everything. The more data we have, the more robust the decision can be. I will always support industry developments that help make people safer from fire risks.”
Providing holistic support
Technologies that are already familiar to many tenants, such as panic buttons or fall detectors, can be combined with new sensors that build on traditional fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors to provide holistic support.
With the right solution to combine these sensors and smart devices, social landlords can build a tailored IoT network to detect fire, carbon monoxide, and dangerous temperatures. The network can then send rapid, detailed alerts if it registers heat, smoke or gas – so even if a tenant is unable to call for help themselves, the fire service can be contacted and dispatched at speed.
Identifying vulnerable tenants
FireAngel Connected is a purpose-built cloud solution for fire detection and prevention, with a central dashboard where social housing providers can access device and sensor data. It can be connected via cellular signals for higher reliability than Wi-Fi, to ensure tenants are kept safe even if the internet goes down.
Automatically highlighting these potentially dangerous behaviours to social landlords enables active intervention to mitigate risk with a personalised Safe and Well check by the Resident Safety Team or Fire and Rescue Services to help prevent a life-threatening event.
“The technology developed by FireAngel can give us a much better understanding of risk in the community, helping us to identify vulnerable tenants and adapt our response accordingly to foster their needs,” adds Jason Avery, Assistant Director for Prevention and Protection, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service.
The pandemic has limited interactions with family and care providers, so an individual showing the early signs of an illness can easily slip through the gaps. However, by using technology, social housing providers can help to ensure that everyone gets the help they need, when they need it.
To learn more about how technology can provide a resident-centric safety net, click here and watch this on-demand webinar from Firex.
This article was originally published on IFSEC Global.
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