Update by Minister Eoghan Murphy on Task Force in response to Grenfell

The following statement was issued by Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy on Wednesday 116th August 2017 (see Link here).  Statement to follow:

“What happened in Grenfell was a tragedy. We do not have any Grenfell-type towers in Ireland, in terms of height or density of occupation, but the state does have a duty of care when it comes to fire and life safety, particularly to those who are housed by the state. I take that responsibility very seriously, hence my decision to establish a Fire Safety Task Force following the Grenfell tragedy, to make sure that our citizens are safe from similar risks.

That Task Force is working on a number of areas, two of which are probably of greatest importance – an inspection by local authorities of fire detection, alarm and escape measures in all multi-storey social housing, and a programme of identification by fire authorities of all buildings of more than 18m in height with cladding systems (this includes residential buildings, as well as hospitals, schools and other buildings) and overseeing of fire safety assessments of these buildings.

The Task Force has met on a number of occasions and will continue to meet, with an initial report on its work due by the end of September. However, I wanted to provide an update as to what that work has achieved to date seeing as the initial inspection and assessment work has been conducted, with some work still to be concluded.

Good progress has been made and I want to thank the local authorities and the fire authorities for their cooperation. The initial work of the Task Force and the inspections of buildings, systems and cladding materials will be reported in full in September. Some deficiencies relating to adequacy of  fire alarm systems have been identified, thankfully in only a very small number of buildings, and work has commenced to address these. Insofar as cladding systems is concerned, regular updates from the UK’s own testing programme are also being monitored by the Task Force. Our own assessments will be concluded by the middle of November. Work that has been done to date does not give rise to any immediate concerns because of fire protection measures.”

Inventory and Inspection of Local Authority Multi Storey Social Housing Buildings- Initial Findings

Local Authorities were asked to assess multi storey social housing buildings’ fire detection and alarm systems, emergency lighting systems and common escape routes, including corridors, stairways and emergency exits.  Multi storey buildings are those with two storeys or more containing multiple dwelling units.  This assessment is to include both establishing the presence of systems and routes and also testing their functionality.  There has been a strong response from local authorities to the request for identification of Multi Storey social housing buildings and inspection of their early warning systems

  • 1250 multi storey residential buildings have been identified. (65% of buildings are in the four Dublin local authority areas
  • 526 of these buildings have external common escape routes and have been assessed as not requiring early warning systems. (This assessment will be reviewed by the Task Force)
  • For the remaining 724 buildings Local Authorities have confirmed that for 571 buildings inspected, early warning systems are in place and fully functional.
  • The remaining 153 inspections are scheduled for the remainder of August, including a small number of buildings where deficiencies have already been identified and works to address them are in progress.

Multi Storey Buildings with Cladding – Initial Findings

The Department issued circular FIRE 05-17 on the 4th of July, 2017 to fire authorities, requesting details of buildings of more than six storeys, or more than 18m in height.  Replies have been received from all 31 fire authorities.  Preliminary replies have identified 847 buildings in Ireland, of more than six storeys, or more than 18m in height – 372 are residential, and 475 non-residential.

Residential Buildings

  • Residential buildings include flats or maisonettes, residential institutional uses (hospitals, nursing homes, homes for old people or children, school or other similar establishment providing accommodation), and other residential uses (including hotels, hostels, guest buildings, residential colleges, halls of residence).
  • Local Authorities have identified 91 residential buildings at this height fitted with cladding systems.
  • Fire authorities have required fire safety assessments in 91 cases – to be provided by mid-November.
  • Non Residential Buildings
  • There are 171 non-residential buildings at this height fitted with cladding systems
  • Fire authorities have required fire safety assessments in 111 cases – to be provided by mid-November.

Next Steps

The task force continues to meet, and is assessing  the initial survey findings, as well as the results from the outstanding 172 multi storey residential inspections due for completion in August.  It will also provide an overview on issues arising from the fire safety assessments for the 202 higher buildings (6 storeys or more or 18m height or more) once these have been completed later this year.

As part of its ongoing work the task force will also develop other aspect s of the  response to the Grenfell tragedy.


Note to Editors

Other Actions Taken

  • Local authorities were requested to review fire safety in the multi-storey social housing sector and to report back to the Minister’s Department by 19th July 2017;
  • The Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) have been requested to notify all landlords of their responsibilities and obligations as landlords in terms of ensuring that their properties fully comply with fire safety requirements. An information notice on fire safety has gone up on the RTB’s website and a further fire safety information leaflet will issue to all landlords in  the coming days;

A Building Control Management System (BCMS) alert was issued to all 57,000 registered users of the BCMS to remind those involved in works to existing or new buildings of the need to remain vigilant in relation to compliance with the Building Regulations and in particular to Part B Fire Safety.

Other posts of interest:

Officials refuse publication of Fire Safety Strategy for Defective Housing

Minister Murphy has “no plans” for new Safety Advisory Board

‘Does our Housing Minister know how many homes are at risk of rapid fire spread?’ Cian O’Callaghan

Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland | CJ Walsh

Dept. of Housing withhold Fire Review into timber frame housing | Irish Examiner 

Kildare Fire: Safety concerns arise from Celtic Tiger ashes | Irish Examiner

Local Authority knew of estate fire fears for 12 years | Sunday Business Post

“More dog wardens than Building Inspectors” | Look Back 18 

Possibility of Grenfell Tower-type fire exists in Ireland | CJ Walsh

The Price Of Allowing Developers To Self-Certify | Broadsheet.ie

Donegal Mica + Render | “State Fails to Protect Family Homes” Seanad

Cracking up: the legacy of Celtic Tiger Ireland | Independent

“How many more Irish homes are in breach of Fire Regulations?

Defective schools | Are our children safe?

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