Council to install water sprinklers in 6,400 homes in 100 high rise blocks

Published: 23 June 2017

More than 100 high-rise housing blocks in Wandsworth are to be fitted with sprinkler systems in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster it was announced today (Friday).

The council has taken the decision to retro-fit this additional fire safety measure in all its tower blocks of ten storeys and above.

This work will commence as soon as possible. 

The sprinkler systems will be fitted inside each flat in the 100 blocks, covering some 6,400 properties in total.

Wandsworth Council leader Ravi Govindia said: “The dreadful and tragic events at Grenfell House have brought this issue into sharp focus and although we do not believe there is a specific risk to any of our high rise properties we are simply not prepared to take a chance.

“We will therefore be fitting water sprinklers to every home in these 100 blocks as quickly as possible so that our residents can be reassured that everything that can be done is being done to protect them, their families and their homes.”

Wandsworth Borough Fire Commander Darren Munro added: “I very much welcome this announcement. This is a big commitment from Wandsworth and we will continue to work closely with the council to make sure the borough and its residents are as safe as possible.” 

Until sprinklers can be fitted the council is to step up fire safety measures at two high rise blocks in the borough which have been fitted with the type of external cladding that has now come under scrutiny. 

These are Sudbury House and Castlemaine Tower. Both have experienced serious fires in recent years and in both cases the fires were contained within individual flats and did not spread anywhere else, suggesting that the design of the building, the method of installing the cladding and the materials used, stood up to the fire and prevented its spread to other parts of the building.

Sections of the cladding have been taken from both buildings and sent to Government labs for testing. 

Until the results are received back from the Government’s scientists, the council will deploy two fire marshals who will remain in these two blocks 24 hours a day as an additional safety measure.

These fire marshals will be able to react immediately if there is an emergency. They will also carry out regular six hourly checks of all stairwells, corridors and other communal areas to ensure they remain free of any combustible materials and also free of any obstructions that could hinder evacuation and escape.

They will conduct regular checks of fire safety equipment such as dry-risers and make sure self-closing fire resistant doors are in full working order.

Every property will also be visited to make sure that residents have working smoke alarms. If they do not the council will provide these free of charge.

The marshals will also ensure people know and understand the fire safety procedures for their blocks and in particular their routes to fire exits. 

They will also ensure that fire safety posters and signage in communal areas remain clear and free of graffiti and arrange their immediate replacement if any are defaced or damaged

And in conjunction with the London Fire Brigade, the council will regularly inspect parking areas to make sure there’s sufficient access for firefighting vehicles.

Residents will be kept up to date of any further development through the issue of a regular newsletter.

Director of Housing Brian Reilly said: “We do not yet know the exact cause of the terrible scenes we witnessed at Grenfell House. These facts will start to become clear as part of the police investigation and Public Inquiry and we are absolutely committed to quickly learning any lessons that may emerge. 

“We are taking absolutely nothing for granted, which is why we have made the decision to install sprinklers in all our high rise blocks. The safety of our tenants and leaseholders is of paramount importance.”

The council is also repeating its earlier advice to residents of high-rise blocks:

• Make sure you have a working smoke alarm in your home – these will be provided at no cost
• Check your smoke alarm is working every month
• Keep balconies free from clutter
• Don’t leave rubbish or bikes in communal areas or obstruct escape routes
• Make sure you know where your nearest fire exit is 
• Do not smoke in common areas of the block
• Always fully extinguish cigarettes smoked in your home and dispose of them carefully and safely